“God’s Beard” by Sam Leuenberger

"Harvest Eclipse" by Elijah Guerra / @deercrossingthesea

I live in a haunted house with moss the color of God’s beard growing on the roof. At night I hear voices inside of a tin can attached to sixty feet of black string. I lower the can from my window and, below, children, trampling weeds, whisper, God’s Beard is eating your house!

I should replace the shingles, which are haunted, and all of my moss-eaten furniture, roaming from room to room, but I owe fifteen-hundred dollars in property taxes. If you sat on my couch you would crash through it then crash through the floor which is covered by wall-to-wall carpeting of God’s Beard.

In days, when I’m dead, a Franciscan friar and a baby physicist will boil a pot of coffee and study my haunted property. They will skip lunch and the baby will survey, under a microscope, the behavior of waves and particles bouncing around between the follicles of God’s Beard, which may very well explain the geochemical origins of the universe, for the first time, in plain English, in terms of billions of infinitesimal tightly packed molecules in the shape of cocktail peanuts which mimic and yet deny the biological principles of flourishing and decay.

At one time, the friar will say, this house was sturdy and well-lit. People bathed in it and breathed in it, they crapped in it and snacked in it, they tripped in it and itched in it, they wept in it and slept in it and sneezed in it and none of the windows froze and cracked, or shattered, and none of the rooms were secretly hiding, under the bed, a boxed knife or boxed fire. Everyone who lived in the house was happy. Everything was fine. No one was sick and no one died. No one even thought of dying. Not even old people. Not even once.

But I don’t know any friars and I don’t know any babies. No one does. I don’t care what they say. The roots beneath my house are beginning to disintegrate. Inch by inch, God’s Beard is ripping its foundations from the earth. In a few days the house will be hovering five then ten then twenty feet in the air.

The children say, Maybe one day your house will float all the way up to heaven, but I doubt it.

This house is damned. It is full of dead leaves and dead birds and tiny black ants. They are marching up the walls. They are marching up my legs and arms. They are carrying a flock of tiny dead birds’ feathers back to their nest, in my chest, where the ants are reassembling the entire tiny flock, feather by feather. It is all for the coronation ceremony of their queen. She is a fat long thing with bright delicate wings. As queen, she loves all of the ants and worries about them constantly because she is their mother and they are soldiers from a boring country, repairing a city under siege.

Sam Leuenberger’s fiction and poetry has appeared in The Collagist, Cutbank, Timber, The Gravity of the Thing, Fourth & Sycamore, Every Pigeon! and Glint. His short-story “Puzzle” was nominated for Best of the Net 2017.