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Seth Chapman Burgett

Big House

Big House Seth Chapman Burgett

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Seth Chapman Burgett

Big House

Birdy’s parents have this lakehouse in

million elementary kids have grabbed it’s

Somewhere, The Ozarks. We are there now,

edges in their graspy fists to play the giant,

or rather, I am with Birdy on the lake in his

primary colored parachute game. They are

boat, and it is senior year, and this week-

ecstatic. This is truly a spiritual, religious

end/boat ride is the last thing this specific

experience for elementary kids. The para-

group of twenty-somethings will probably

chute game is So. Much. Fun. These kids on

ever do together. The boat needs gas, and

the edges are shaking the lake up and down

we are making the long way across the lake

and up and down like the reveling hedonists

to fill up. I am hoping that I am not prone to

they are, so that the waves don’t really move

emptying my stomach while sailing, boat-

steady along the water, but vacillate crazily

ing, or whatever we’re doing, like Birdy’s

between

girlfriend, Liz, emptied her purse earlier:

peaks. I don’t know how we weren’t thrown

all over the counter, strewing little purse-

off into the sky to land hard in the forests

things everywhere, looking for chapstick

making up every horizon. Way, way off, back

because she didn’t want her lips to burn. I

behind us, beyond the pumping fabric of the

am thankful because the wind has kicked up

water, there is just the smallest opening in

some decent waves. Birdy has to drive slow

the shoreline, hiding another water way. We

or else the small boat hits these waves hard,

came from there.

deep

depressions

and

splashy

so hard I feel bad for the boat, we must be hurting it. I am also thankful because other

I have to turn my body back around to

boats, huge boats, keep spitting out enor-

look ahead of us and, oh praise God, the

mous wakes from their engines. The water is

water is calmer somehow, maybe because

lifting us up, letting us down, and in the very

it is shallow. Birdy looks anxious though,

center of my brain matter, right beneath the

which makes me feel anxious too. We are

top of my skull, I feel this weird magnetic

headed into what is, from what I can gather,

resistance every time the water pushes us up

a cove. On either side of the cove, these huge

or we slide down another wave.

(seriously, huge) docks, each with gas pump stalls, line the shore all the way to my right

Apparently,

Lake

People

have

gas

and my left. All of the stalls are empty.

stations like Land People have gas stations.

The docks look skeletal, and I can’t see past

Birdy tells me they are the same, just float-

them. My only vision into the cove is this tiny

ing. He also says we are almost there. I

space in between each dock through which

realize we have just crossed a huge space of

boats may enter and exit. They do so now,

open water. I have to turn my whole body to

small john boats, boats like ours, and mean,

look back behind us. The water looks like a

yacht-like barges. Birdy guides us into the

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Big House

Seth Chapman Burgett

cove, and as we get closer, I realize that I am

enough that I have to kind of tilt my head

a bit of a ninny. The tiny space was not tiny,

to see the top, and at the top, an enormous

but indeed it was huge.

party is getting seriously down to really bad Top-40 mash ups. I imagine it to be the

So, we pass through this mighty cavern

Lake of the Ozarks version of Mount Olym-

between each side of the cove and the whole

pus, and those people are the Greek, Lakey

place opens up. I have never been to an

gods. The raised elevation of the shore

on-lake gas station. I have also never been to

combines with my evangelical Christian

what this cove seems to be. It is a hotel-cove,

sense that heaven is somehow upwards, in

it is an on-lake-gas station cove, and, from

the clouds, and generally above me, so that

the collision of sound between Top-40 hits

I am suddenly overwhelmed by this visceral

and bad, radio versions of hard rock, I decide

feeling that I am in hell, looking up towards

it is also a party cove. These multi-coves are

heaven, and missing out on a great deal of

weird places. For one, the gas station is on

fun, and no, I am not invited. It takes me a

the right side of the cove. Docks stretch to

bit to process this, and I decide that I am not

the shore on the right side of the cove, and

missing out because those people up there,

lead to what is apparently the Jack Daniel’s

up in this little cove-heaven, enjoy alcohol

Hotel. I’m not kidding. There is a huge black

way, way, way more than I do. I’m thinking it

and white Jack Daniel’s label. I wonder how

would take a lake of alcohol to supply all of

this works out practically. Does the tooth-

this demand.

paste taste like whiskey? Is there whiskey shampoo? Instead of warm cookies and

So we boat and bob our way right up next

coffee in the morning, do they serve shots of

to the gas-station docks, on the Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel’s for that morning pick-me-up?

side of the cove. It is a sticky situation

The hotel has a nice pavilion which creates

because other boats also need to fill up. You

an open space between the hotel, the docks,

can’t just stop on water, but people still try to

and then the water where Birdy and I bob.

zoom in to get a good place in line. Complicating it all, some of the boats are huge, with

A band in the pavilion is sound checking,

the passengers’ heads peeking out some

obviously the source to one half of the sonic

eight feet above my own. I feel that miss-

cacophony banging around. The other half

ing out feeling again and am sure we will be

of the reaction is blasting from the opposite

crushed by one of these giant cruisers.

side of the cove, on our left. On that side, the shore rises almost immediately out of the water. Concrete stairs switchback to the top where things level out again. The shore rises

I ask Birdy, “How much to fill up one of those?”


Seth Chapman Burgett

Big House

He says, “Most people here seriously

mous belly and his man starts to get back into

either deal drugs or are in massive amounts

the boat. The sonic cocktail of boat engines,

of debt.”

the Jack Daniel’s Hotel Band, the big man grunting his way into his boat, the bad top-40

“Oh.”

mashups, and Birdy’s silence garnishing it all makes me sad. I find the girl who every-

We’re in line, or whatever semblance of a

one calls a dock girl very pretty, maybe even

line boats can manage to form, and a girl in

beautiful, but I also feel guilty, because

a bikini top, which is blue, and those really

that’s why the on-the-lake gas station put

tight jean shorts somehow turned into even

her at the end of the dock.

smaller cutoffs is refueling us one by one. The sun isn’t so bright anymore. She pushes

Time has passed. Now, it is dark. The

her sunglasses to the top of her head. The

wind died along with the light, and we picked

two dark eyes stay in place holding back

up the rest of everyone some time ago. I sit

most of her hair, and the breeze takes care of

on the bow to taste the wind and lake-spray

the rest, tossing loose

kicked up when Birdy

strands.

hits

Birdy

later

a

wave

harder

tells me she is a dock

than he’d like to. We

girl, that this is a thing

are cruising through

at lakes, and that basi-

the water. I can feel the

cally, she’s just there

night sliding over my

to be in a bikini and

skin, and the night is

short jean cutoffs. The

a cool breeze, and the

men in the boats, all

time is slow. Some-

much older, keep flirt-

one is talking behind

ing with her and ogling

me, and even though

not-so-secretly.

The

this boat is probably no

of

more than twenty feet

money, tips, gas, and

bow to stern, whoev-

weird

exchange

the duet between Jack

er’s voice that is fades

Daniel’s Hotel and party-cove heaven, all

into softness like when the night around you

makes me uncomfortable.

fades away as you are staring into a campfire or watching the sunrise or cruising along in

A man and his enormous belly are now

Birdy’s lake at night.

talking to this girl. The hotel band’s music blares on. The Greek gods parties. The enor-

He makes small adjustments to avoid the

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Big House

Seth Chapman Burgett

little blue and green lights marking other

yesterday. I answered. I am thinking about

ships making passage from somewhere to

this now, on the boat, in the dark, past all of

somewhere else. The only other lights on

these homes.

the lake are log-cabin yellow, cast across the water like fishing line from enormous on-shore homes. Silhouettes of trees, dark

“Seth, what if money didn’t matter. What would you do?”

against the light and the glass, cross and scatter these giant windows, so that the lake-

Birdy eases the boat a little. We pass two

shore homes are not homes, but Cathedrals,

small lights. The lights are on another boat,

and the windows are not glass, but stained

which fades back into our wake.

glass that is stained with gold. They stand out like campfires nestled back, deep into

“Lauren, I’d buy a house. I would buy a

the forested shores. And like little fires, they

house bigger than everything. Bigger than

are inviting, promising warmth, coziness,

anyone can imagine, with rooms and secret

and good feelings of safety and never having

passage ways and iron spiral stairs. I will

to worry again. We pass one of these, one

invite all of my friends over, and to get in,

window is as tall as the house itself, spanning

they can’t say no when their children want to

two floors. On the bottom floor, two people

come. And the kids, they can touch anything;

lean on a counter, talking. On the top floor,

I’ll forgive every accident. They can explore

they are watching a movie. I see another

and search and find, the whole house, every

house further down the shore. The yellow,

single bit. The dining room will be great,

cast fishing lines of light do not interrupt the

like the one in Hogwarts, like the one Harry

night, or break through it, but ease out slowly

Potter eats in. The food? The food will be the

into the surrounding night. As Birdy drives

best. The fireplace will be burning too, and

the boat just fast enough to feel the air on

comforting. The beds will be huge with soft

my face and beard that I haven’t shaved, the

blankets and deep bedding; everyone will

hearth-like windows grow warmer, brighter,

get the perfect amount of sleep. And when

and we pass by through the gradient of night

they are sleeping, Lauren, there will be my

and darkness. We are completely in the dark

windows. If anyone sees my windows from

now. The stars are clearer than they have

their boat, I will stop whatever I am doing.

ever been before. This kind of darkness does

I will stop, and I will run out onto the deck,

not threaten us, it does not leave us alone,

and from the deck, in front of one of my

and together, none of us are afraid.

giant, bright and beautiful windows, crossed and scattered golden with the silhouettes of

Lauren, one of the twenty-somethings

trees, I will scream,

here and my friend, asked me a question ‘Do you want to come over?’”


Seth Chapman Burgett

Big House

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Big House — Seth Chapman Burgett  
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