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The Essay
Show #317
La casa de cinco ventana
David Gunn

The house sits alone atop a grassy, windswept knoll. It appears squat and uncomfortable, as if it is hunkering down to protect itself from the elements, especially astatine and protactinium, which have been seen skulking around the neighborhood. To the untrained eye, as well as to many trained ones, the house doesn't conform to any known architectural style. It isn't a cape or a ranch or a yurt or a wikiup. One realtor once spent nine weeks sifting through all of the adjectives in the Oxford English Dictionary and was still unable to propose a suitably vivid word for the house. He ultimately called it "indescribable," supplanting the last syllable with an interrobang. Both the grass that surrounds the house and the wind that buffets it are gray, but the color of the house itself is ... indescribable. Rather, it changes, flowing from one hue into another, tracing the component color span of the spectrum. One door and five windows are visible. The door is five feet from the ground. There are no steps to it that would facilitate entry or even imply that entry is welcome. The five windows are all on the side of the house in perpetual shadow, one in the precise middle and the other four equidistant from it in an X pattern. From the outside, the windows seem otherwise normal, even nondescript, but from inside, the view is quite different. Each window looks out onto a unique universe.

The uncomfortable demeanor of the house is no doubt due to its location at the confluence of these five universes, for they are all compulsively argumentative, and the slightest manifestation of annoyance in one is liable to destabilize the others. For the moment, the house has fostered an uneasy peace among them all. In contrast, the house -- perhaps because of the inherent stress of the job, or perhaps because of the incessant wind rattling the eaves, causing sympathetic vibrations in the crustaceans that dwell there -- keens. It keens on a succession of frequencies that mimics its constantly changing color. The atmosphere encompassing the knoll typically remains a muted shade of taupe during daylight hours; however, when the hue of the house shifts from yellow to orange, the sky above it lights up like a demented pinball machine and glows orange, too.

A small man in a show business suit approaches the house. He is small to the point of being imperceptible to the naked eye. But since all eyes in the immediate vicinity are fully clothed, he is merely small. He is much bigger than the crustaceans, however, and they congregate curiously in a pile beneath the eave-used-for-food-gathering to observe his approach. In the 79 years since the crustaceans crash landed on the knoll and sought shelter under the eaves of the house, they have learned to gauge the indigenous life forms by evaluating five distinct properties: liquidity, temperament, aroma, plus two criteria that have no conceptual equivalents on earth. In all those years, though, they have never quite acclimated to the hateful wind.

The man pauses a dozen feet from the house and sniffs. There is a tang in the air. The crustaceans smell it, too. The man glances up as the sky color abruptly switches from taupe to orange, an orange not of lunatic pinball but of Tang® orange-flavored breakfast drink mix. The air shimmers, and the specter of a large five-pound pail of the product briefly materializes above the house, then vanishes. The sky is again taupe. The house is any number of colors. The keening follows suit -- it slips behind the man; then, as he approaches the window side of the house, it laps at the lapels of the man's suit jacket. Standing on tiptoe, he is able to peek through the lowest window. Bright light from within -- actually, a polarized refraction from the universe onto which that window looks -- prevents him from discerning anything inside the house. The man can see only his own reflection: he looks smaller than he had imagined. Being so close to the house, the man can clearly observe the pigmentation on the wall change from one color to the next. At one point, it is precisely the shade of the ruins of the city of Ur, but a moment later it is well on its way to the far side of chartreuse.

The wind blows the smell of Tang® away from the house, and the crustaceans can at last stop holding their collective breath. Their sensory organs again alert, they instantly detect a new aroma, one not autochthonous to the earth. It emanates from the window into which the man is futilely peering. It is a dangerous smell seeping from another universe, the one really annoyed because of the proximity of the irritating keening, which has wrapped itself around the man like a cheap suit. Troublesome odors trickle from the four other windows, and the crustaceans in the eaves resign themselves to another inter-universal squabble for which they unfortunately have front-row seats. As the house begins to absorb and redistribute unimaginably paradoxical energies that are causing the ambient air temperature to approach solar flare levels, the crustaceans hang on for dear life, their oft-battered carapaces whipping about like toy pennants in a cosmic wind tunnel.

Well, this fracasso, is apt to go on for a while, longer than this part of the 317th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar can comfortably accommodate. So tune in again next week for the potential dénouement of this housewarming tale. Till then, we can while away a couple of hours in the significantly cooler House of Kalvos.