Granite Street
                  Essay by Jennifer A. Howard

      In general, the house numbers in my town get bigger as you head north.  But
a couple blocks of my street are all out of order.  One house south of me, the
traveling salesman with the hot tub, is 1598, then I’m 1590, then the next place
north, the one with the pet pig, is 1710, then 1650.  After that there are no houses,
just an empty field, until the major cross street, after which Granite Street
becomes respectable and people mow their lawns diagonal and don’t keep their
snowmobiles outside in the yard all summer.  There, the houses go 1942, 1950,
1958, and on, all tidy.  It’s just my part of the neighborhood where the three-year-
olds play in blow-up kiddie pools with no one watching and teenage boys rev and
rev their trucks but they don’t go anywhere.  I don’t have a truck or a pool, but
my grass is too long and my rosebushes grow untended and the garage could use
a coat of paint.
      My parents went to Japan the summer I turned 17 but I stayed home from
that vacation.  In Tokyo, they told me when they came back, houses are
numbered in the order they were built in an area rather than by their position on
a street.  With no knowledge of the neighborhood’s history or a detailed map,
you either wander until you find what you’re looking for, or you ask someone
walking by to point you in the right direction.  That summer, I was tired of
traveling with them and wanted to be with my friends.  I stayed home and got
drunk for the first time, on cheap vodka and orange juice, and spent my first
hangover marching with the City Band in a Fourth of July parade two towns over.  
The other French horns and I shared a line with the bassoon, right behind the
trombones, all of whom were over 75 and too slow to keep up with Miss Rapid
River, flouncy and waving in the convertible in front of us, and missed a turn.  At
some point our whole band, and the grand finale float behind us, found ourselves
alone on a street off the parade route with no audience, the houses quiet because
everyone had walked over to where the parade was.  We stopped playing in
staggered moments of understanding.  We let our instruments swing in our hands
and walked the side streets all the way back to our bus.
      While I was riding the bus home, my parents were in Tokyo, trying to find
the house of a friend.  They were probably puzzled, like people who drive past
my house once or twice before they stop following the numbers and look instead
for my car in the gravel driveway.  It wouldn’t be until years later, fitting myself
into this neighborhood, that I’d wonder if I should have been with them that
summer, lost too and maybe a little tipsy from my first sake.  I imagine us leaving
the restaurant and my dad hailing a taxi.  Next to me on one side of the back seat,
my mom is looking down, folding messy paper cranes in her lap so she can teach
her students when she gets back home.  On the other, my dad flashes back a
guilty peace sign through the window to schoolgirls in blue uniforms walking
home.  I’m settled between them.  Our quiet taxi driver doesn’t speak English but
he recognizes the address.  I don’t know where I am any more than my parents
do, but we’ve put ourselves safe into the hands of somebody going in the right
direction.           




                            ____________________________


Jennifer A. Howard’s work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Quarterly
West
, Southeast Review, Sycamore Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Night
Train
, Literary Mama, and other journals, as well as the Norton collection
Flash Fiction Forward.


On “Granite Street”:   
There are a lot of bad parents in fiction and nonfiction, which isn’t surprising.  
Like Janet Burroway says in
Writing Fiction, “Only trouble is interesting.”  
But in this piece, I wanted to look at my own folks another way, as people
who really did have my back, even when I might have not been doing
everything right.


Previous page      Apple Valley Review, Spring 2010      Next page
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Contemporary Literature
 

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 5, Number 1
(Spring 2010)

Copyright © 2010
by Leah Browning, Editor.

All future rights to
material published
in the
Apple Valley
Review
are retained by
the individual authors
and artists.

www.applevalleyreview.com