It wasn’t easy to live in the woods, especially when we wanted the light on our heads. If only to know shoal and wave and dune. Maybe The Mountain thought so. Or maybe not. Maybe The Mountain was too busy pointing his chair in the direction of the house he’d lost to think any of us deserved such things.
So we did what we could to convince The Mountain. We fed his hummingbird with a dropper. We built an enclosure for his baby deer. We bandaged The Mountain’s wounds after he fell asleep one night, but when he caught us tending to him, he brushed us away. When we walked him through the hospital we’d built for the animals, he said, you’re cold and ruthless. His tone couldn’t have been further from fury which made it that much harder to take. And when we tried to lift our heads to meet his eyes, we couldn’t see past his disappointment, big enough now to blot out the country we’d built in his name.
That of course made us work all the harder. In the coming days we broke some bones, we fused them back together. We worked 24 days and nights to build a suspension bridge–the highest in the world at that time–across the water to the house he’d lost. He let us drive the pylons into the muck even though he must have known we were wasting ourselves. We needed to do something with our love, or whatever it was, which could have taken the whole town down if we hadn’t committed to giving ourselves up first.
One day it came to us that he wanted us to hurt him back. There was no other way out of it–he wanted us to destroy him. We weren’t the kind of children who were wont to hurting back. We knew such children existed but we wanted to believe in peace. So one day, with a regret greater than our names, we walked to the store and rented the biggest cannon they had on hand. It took all our might to push it out the door, to roll it up the slopes to the jungle. We lit the wick, we counted to ten and put our hands over our ears. The turmoil roiled inside our heads, so much louder than the sound of the blast, which split The Mountain into a thousand pieces. We tried our best not to catch the flying pieces, but we couldn’t help ourselves. We put him underneath our hats, we put him inside our pockets, but not before we kissed every third piece, although he tasted of aluminum.
Were we surprised when The Mountain reassembled himself in front of our eyes? Not really. Somehow the mountain got even bigger after he’d been split apart. When he calmed himself down and took in what we’d done to him, he laid us on the slab and lifted a piece of himself from his pocket. My God, he said, lifting his eyes in confusion. And just before the rock met our faces, we felt the force that he’d summoned calm us from deep within, and The Mountain went flying apart for good.
Paul Lisicky is the author of LAWNBOY, FAMOUS BUILDER, THE BURNING HOUSE, and two forthcoming books: UNBUILT PROJECTS (Four Way, 2012) and THE NARROW DOOR (Graywolf, 2014). He is the New Voices Professor in the MFA Program at Rutgers-Camden.