It's simple: we feel compelled to leave. There is no specific date or
week or month. It doesn't happen when the temperature breaks 90
degrees, or when tulips nod off, or when grass sprouts from cracks of
the sidewalk. We don't pack a suitcase or arrange for pets or contact
those who might notice our absence. The feeling comes at different
times for each of us. We pull a U-turn or board a train or find
ourselves running wildly down the street. We migrate to Danny's for the
Danny might be somebody's uncle or much older brother; we don't know
because we don't remember much about the first time we were brought
here. Some of us have tried to piece it together. Some of us recall
handcuffs and blindfolds, bumpy rides in the backseat of a grumbly old
Jaguar, or rolling around in the bed of a truck with nothing for
company but thick gray shadows punctuated by the occasional fleeting
Danny lives in a tattered Victorian backed up to scraggly woods with a
lake on the far end, where people lay naked on one side of the dock and
clothed on the other. This is Saginaw, Michigan, a glorious place for
summer. The house has pocked hardwood floors and three broken windows
patched from the inside with broken down cardboard boxes that have
probably carried some of Danny's organic fruit. If you edge close
enough to the windows, you can see the house's address repeated on the
This is Danny's house.
The days here are long. Danny has hundreds of puzzles and games we set
up on a picnic table in the woods. He has coloring books with intricate
pictures; he has freshly-sharpened crayons. There are rabbits to
follow, birds to watch splash around baths. Some of us tend the garden,
others fish in the lake, or knit soft blankets for cold people, or fold
paper into shapes of animals and plants.
We are unpleasant people where we come from. There, if you smile at us,
we look at the floor like there is nothing interesting but it is better
than looking at you. If you hold a door for us, we do not say thank you
but pretend to busy ourselves in our purses or grocery bags, or we
laugh loudly into our phones.
Our bodies shiver through winters in the city. They endure slow
circulation in lofts so near the sky they could have been nests. Their
skin grows dry and itchy; we scratch and pieces fall to the floor by
our feet. We force our bodies to stand and walk across pieces of
In the summer, in the country, our bodies grow heavy with moisture.
Most of us are accustomed to various sorts of drugs, but Danny allows
no chemical abuse on his property. His living room fills with
primary-colored sleeping bags thrashing around; and sometimes we sneak
to the dock, where we have sex with naked people or trick the clothed
people into believing it is better to be naked. Danny does not approve
of this behavior. This is why every winter we say we won't be going to
Danny's this summer. But most of us show up eventually.
Because at Danny's, we conserve energy. We grow fat and happy, and this
is worth the physical stress of the migratory period, the length of
time we flap the air suspended, feeling constantly like this might be
our last flap.
We have found all the hiding places here because they are not really
hidden from us. He wants us to find them. We conspire; they are objects
worth marveling over. The silver phone in the harmonica case taped to
the chimney. The baggie of white powder folded in a washcloth in the
bottom of the bathroom closet. Every summer one of us slips and it is
soon obvious and this person is banned forever from Danny's. We crowd
into the overgrown lawn to watch them leave; usually they are on foot;
usually they yell loudly and thrash branches down the street. Weeds
tickle our legs, and for the first time in a year we realize we are
glad to feel this.
We assume those who leave will die. Without Danny's next summer, they
will flap aimlessly above city streets trying to find the way. They
At the end of the summer, we make no promises to be nice people when we
return to where we are from. If weather is a mindset, it is not one
easily adopted by the weak. It is a place moved into, visited, endured.
There are comforts in both seasons. We are people who like comfort. We
are people who have gotten used to variety.
Jessica Hollander has had stories in Hobart, Hayden's Ferry Review, Alice Blue, Sonora Review, FRiGG
and others. She's in the MFA program at the University of Alabama.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201101migratory.htm
Detail of art on main page courtesy
w i g · l e a F