by Paul Smith
We had a fan in the upstairs window. Father said it would draw in the air, pull it through the house and make it cool. Which it did. On hot summer nights our second story rooms were comfortable. He also said he knew Thomas Edison, who invented the fan or electricity and gave Father a personal link to our comfort, so that he in some way could take partial credit for it. When I was at an age where I started challenging him on everything and wanted to start seeing proofs, I told him that he might have known Edison, but I knew the air that came in through the window each night. I told him the air came from where the Ojibwa sat once in the forest, now a clearing a mile away for a development that would transform our town. I knew that because I could smell the squash and wild rice as the fan turned, hear the cry of the pintail ducks, the chants of the plains tribes in the blades until I fell asleep.
The air cleared my head, like it was now a blank slate. This was both good and bad. On one hand, I wanted to tell Father about my journeys with the Ojibwa, the Chippewa and the Algonquin, but found that I had forgotten most everything I saw. On the other hand my mind was cleared like the earth a mile away, where bulldozers turned over the sod, feller-bunchers uprooted trees, and ironworkers put up steel. So that when I got up at seven, there were already the cries of the workmen building something foreign on our landscape that would make it unrecognizable to Edison, to Hiawatha, to me and Father as we joined them as memories on their birch bark scrolls, passed on and then buried, remembered only at night when the wind blew through our lodge.
Paul Smith writes poetry and fiction. He lives in Skokie, Illinois, with his wife Flavia. Sometimes he performs poetry at an open mic in Chicago. He believes that brevity is the soul of something he read about once, and whatever that something is or was, it should be cut in half immediately.