by S.T. Cartledge
There is a man who lives on a hill in a village not far from where I live, and he lives in a house that is shaped like John Hurt. It doesn’t look intentional (the design) but that’s the way it turned out. He sits out the front of his John Hurt house, and he’s got a banjo and a harmonica and from the moment the sun comes up, he is playing and singing songs about John Hurt. Because living in the John Hurt house has shaped him that way.
They’re not bad, his John Hurt songs, but every time he plays one, his wife gets a little bigger. Of course he didn’t realize right away. He only noticed when she was finally too big to fit through the front door. But the thing was, by this time, he couldn’t stop playing his John Hurt songs, and she kept getting bigger. The wind from his harmonica and the words from his mouth were inflating her like a balloon.
When she couldn’t fit through the door, she took to spending her time by the kitchen window. With a hose attached to the kitchen sink, she watered the grass where she could reach, and tended to her John Hurt garden of fruits and vegetables and roses.
Before long, her fingers became too inflated to turn the tap. By this time, the fruits and vegetables and roses were getting pretty massive themselves. With her forehead pressed against the kitchen ceiling, she asked her husband to put his banjo and harmonica and take all her John Hurt fruits and vegetables and roses to market.
This is when I meet the man from the John Hurt house. He sells all the fruit and vegetables and roses from his wife’s John Hurt garden, and he begins singing his John Hurt songs in town. His voice carries down the main street, where the village gathers around to listen and chomp down on his John Hurt apples and peaches and plums and carrots and potatoes and corn. The village, in turn, takes to building their own John Hurt homes. writing and playing their own John Hurt songs, and growing their own John Hurt gardens and
They don’t realize what they’re doing at first. They just look up on the hill and build what they see and sing what they hear and eat what they grow.
The men all play their banjos and harmonicas and the women all water their gardens from the kitchen as they gradually inflate. And then the woman on the hill bursts all over the John Hurt walls, and the man puts his banjo on the ground and puts his harmonica down beside it. The sun goes down and casts its shadows over the face of the John Hurt house and the man goes away and leaves the village singing and gardening and inflating.
He returns with a shovel and he digs into the hill, digging late into the night, the quiet night with the John Hurt moon gazing down at him. He takes off his shirt and wipes the sweat off his face and brushes the dirt off John Hurt’s shoulders.
In the morning, the village gathers around the hill and watches him dig. They have listened to his John Hurt songs for so long that his silence pulls them in. Before noon they are all digging with him. All the men out on the John Hurt hill digging while the inflated women sit in the kitchen in their quiet little John Hurt town. All morning the men are digging, and all afternoon the men are digging, and at the end of the day, the John Hurt house on the hill has been liberated.
At the end of the day — sitting in a wide, uneven field of dirt — is a giant John Hurt, naked as the day he was born. He stands up then kneels down to get a good look at everyone who has set him free. He wipes dirt from his body. The man slaps John Hurt on his bum with a shovel and sends him on his John Hurt way.
S.T. Cartledge is amazing.