The Pulse

By Justin Charles

The house is gone; its pulse has moved.

Come with me across the days and years. From ’79 to ’79. Find the softness of the long orange-brown shag. The edges of our vision fading from view, but bright in the middle, the boy’s red plastic lamb has fallen among its flock. You watch the glasses go into their place above the bar. The bar separates you from the kitchen but not from smells of chicken broth. Outside, the wind shrieks against the eaves. “Danger!” it cries as it rattles the windows. “Danger!” as it shakes the house. “Danger! Change is coming!” The boy won’t understand. Down falls his green lamb as well as the yellow.

Change is yet a tender uneasy feeling. He feels afraid as the wind shakes the house. But Joe will come and bring his comfort. Pleasant purple curlicues of sound waft through the evening. The wind dies down. Joe, forever young, appears for a time, and then vanishes away.

The cold white wall is desecrated with fresh blue wax. She doesn’t expect it and it makes her tired. Our new home with long brown shag. It’s empty still, the door propped open. The air is crisp and promises snow. White fumes waft out as the wind sighs in. “Take him,” she says, “I’ll take care of it. I’ll finish.”
Across the yard and up the stairs. In the living room on the floor lies Joe. You see the green rug shows the path of our cars. The green John Deere tractor cultivates the rug and the edges fade into oblivion. Waking in the afghan on the green couch, the boy hears the pulse. “Safe,” it whispers, close to his ear, “Safe in here, with me and Joe.”

“Come,” she says. It’s time to go. To the cold new house with the new white wall. The brown space heater snaps and pops to life. The new brown shag still feels cold. The autumn wind whispers around the door. October 2, 1979.

A new young woman and the boy’s family gather. The kitchen is loud with celebration. His birthday cake, his birthday tears. The boy finds solace behind the green couch. The pulse beats softly. The house whispers, but the boy is fast asleep.

“Where is he?” she says. It’s time to go. To the new white house with the new white wall. The father comes in from the dark outside. His green coat hangs on the brown entry wall. A cold blast comes in with the birthday skates. We try them on, on the warm brown shag. The space heater in the kitchen snaps its tune.

A year goes by. The telephone rings in the little white house. The mother runs out through the door.

“Come!” she says from across the yard.

The boy doesn’t remember the yard or the stairs. Joe lies cold upon the bed. In the cold spare room where we never go. Our afghan wraps him. It’s red and warm, but it won’t warm Joe. I touch his hand, but he’s not there. The boy hears the house call from down the hall. In the living room, where the memories are. The afghan is gone with Joe. But behind the green couch he feels the pulse. “Safe.”


Justin Charles describes himself as a peripatetic Canadamerican. He attends Rosedale Bible College in central Ohio, where he lives with his wife Diana and three children. He’s an Edmonton Oilers fan, word junkie and peruser of books.


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