Jordan Jeffers

Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Whispers in the Earthquake

In Stories on July 7, 2011 at 1:21 AM

The (fake) story behind the name of this blog.

Let’s say you are a thirty-five year old woman. You are single and pretty, in a sort of quiet, past-your-prime kind of way. Every morning you go to work, to a daycare full of other people’s children, and you try to keep yourself from loving these children – though, as a general rule, you suck at this.

At three o’clock every afternoon you go home. You sit at your desk. You read a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes you just look out the window, down into the garden of the church across the street, and watch the gardener trim the hedges, or water the flowers, or wipe the sweat off of his forehead. (“His ‘brow'” you always say in your head, since no one ever says the word “forehead” in books. and no one ever says the word “brow” in conversation.)

Every day at five, without fail, he hangs up his hoses and gloves, turns one eye towards your window, smiles a little, and gives you a lazy wave. You give him a tight wave back, a gesture very close to your body.

This wave is the foundation of your love.

The gardener is not a handsome man. He is forever stooping, walking about with a hunch in his back, never bothering to stand straight. He smokes. He spits with clock-like regularity. He is always very poorly dressed, and works with an expression half-way between dull and mildly gassy. In short, he is a thoroughly undesirable match for a quiet, sensitive beauty like yourself, even if you are a bit past-your-prime.

Yet for some reason (perhaps because you’ve seen it happen so frequently in your books) you love this gardener desperately, and want to talk to him. You have learned so many things from your books, things that the children (God bless their precious hearts, their beautiful, pudgy little faces) simply can’t understand, things about words and God and violence and fear and absurdity and weeping and oh – All kinds of things! An idea grows in your mind, a whisper and a roar, to share everything you have learned, everything you think about wisdom. Who else can you talk to? Mother is impossible, after all. The other women at the daycare are all married and happy. Of course they are.

But the gardener doesn’t look happy. He can’t possibly be married, can he? (You have strained your eyes looking at his hands for a ring, but it is too far, even with your corrective lenses, not that that would prove anything if he did or didn’t, you tell yourself). Can he be married? You feel certain that a married man would not understand.

But a bachelor, and a man of the earth…He might understand. He must understand. Five years you have watched him, five years you have waved your tight wave at his lazy half-smile, and that must count for something, that kind of loyalty. And besides, you are out of his league, right, so shouldn’t he be flattered to talk to you? Well shouldn’t he?

And so one day, at 4:55 PM on a party-cloudy day in mid-April (a moment which is, without a doubt, the exact center of every person’s life) you walk down your stairs, your hair tight to your head, and walk across the street. You see the gardener look up towards your window, looking for you. He starts to give his lazy smile and lazy wave,and then he sees that you are not at the window; you are not above him anymore. There you are crossing the street instead, smiling.

His face drops from bland into full-on gassy, and he waves rather lamely at you, and spits, waiting. You wave back and hell, you’re going to spit too, now that you’re doing crazy stuff (well, maybe not), but you are going to talk to him and tell him what you think about the character of a man who stands up straight, and maybe he’ll get that that’s your way of saying I love you. Maybe he’ll just get it the way you’ve wanted people to get you for your whole life. So you open your mouth to speak and you say “Hello, my name is-”

But here’s the earthquake. What? Yes the earthquake, “the big one” as they say in NASCAR, and the ground is rolling under your feet and the earth cracks open all around you and the gardener is terrified, falling to his stomach and putting his hands over his head to protect his thick skull from falling glass. The noise is tremendous, shrieking stone and snapping brick and shattering windows, car alarms screaming in fear, dogs howling, people shouting, buildings collapsing, electrical wires snapping and whipping through the air, sparking on steel fences and catching a roaring sheet of flame in the dry grass that crackles madly in the howling wind.

And here’s little you in the midst of a cacophony, trying to keep you balance, still whispering your memorized speech about posture to the man on the ground you’ve never met, a man showing far more intelligence than you are right now, a man who really, truly might get you, might love you, might come over for a beer some day. If only he could hear you.

But he can’t. Not unless he looks you in the eye, and peers real close, and hears the way you’re looking at him.

And what, my friend, is the likelihood of that?

Jordan Jeffers is a graduate student and future famous novelist. If you want to offer him a book deal (or if you just want to chat), write to him at whispers.earthquake@gmail.com.