Host

 
Julie Babcock

They lived in Indiana together in a red, brick house. A famous writer lived there before them and left a signed map of New York City taped over the solid Midwestern writing desk.

 

They wrote in bed, on the second story of the house. They began thousands of stories they never finished, Lucky Dragon, Going to Colorado, a whole host of aborted voyages. The writer before them left ivy cuttings in two small Mason jars on opposite sides of the windowsill.

 

When they tried to write at the desk, the map distracted them. It was a cartoon drawing, not to scale, with a giant seagull in midflight over Staten Island. The desk was by an ivy-covered window, which was where the writer had gotten the ivy he brought inside. They would stare at the web of evergreen runners and then slip back under the covers.

 

Lucky Dragon was a fishing boat that was exposed to and contaminated with nuclear fallout from the US bomb test in the Bikini Atoll. They didn’t die right away/the writer before them left ivy cuttings/ The men, not knowing what was happening, gathered handfuls of the quiet, white ash/ which was where the writer had gotten the ivy/ that came down heavier than snow. Then they sold the contaminated fish at the market

 

They cared about each other’s stories. They thought, out of all the people in the world, how lucky it was to have found one another / Each day, the white, wormlike roots lengthened in the water and the runners pulled out of the jars and towards one another until they met and intertwined/  They both came from lower-middle class backgrounds and got jobs and took out loans to get through college. They both liked monster movies / Ivy scales walls by means of aerial root-like structures called holdfasts/  When they met, they laughed about the MFA platters of hummus and nice cheeses they’d never eaten before.

 

The landlord wore a cowboy hat and sometimes wouldn’t knock before he came in / The goal of ivy is to cover everything/ The house was separated into a duplex, and on the other side, there lived the following succession of tenants: a young graduate school couple like themselves, a single mother with a little boy who got a parasite infection and had to shave his head/ Each day, the white, wormlike roots lengthened/ and a young drug dealer who was arrested in the house after robbing a store with a fake gun/ The goal of ivy is to cover everything/ After he collected the rent, the landlord would sometimes rock on the porch swing / by an ivy-covered window/ He used to live in both sides of the house.

 

/They would stare at the web of evergreen runners and then slip back under the covers/ They found the house and each other very relaxing. At 3 AM every morning, they turned over in bed to smell the doughnuts cooking in the shop across the street / The goal of ivy is to cover everything/ They didn’t write about each other. They wrote about past struggles. They wanted no conflict in the present/ Ivy is not a parasitic plant but it overcompetes with its host for sunlight, water, and air. When it gets larger than its host, it holds fast to another/ Going to Colorado was based on Chris McCandless, who one of them knew from college. McCandless was a well-educated 24-year-old who died of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. They were writing Going to Colorado the same time John Krakauer was writing Into the Wild because Krakauer had gotten it wrong. His death was no accident. Before McCandless left the university he had told several of his friends that he was “going to Colorado” / Each day the white, wormlike roots lengthened/ and that it was a euphemism for suicide.

 

/Ivy is one of the hardiest plants in the world/ In 2010, the last full year they were together, the New York Department of City Planning issued a revised map of the city with its 59 community districts revised and labeled. They thought maybe they should move there someday, that if they had a more accurate map /which was where the writer had gotten the ivy/ they could pass as New Yorkers and their writing would be taken more seriously/ Ivy is one of the hardiest plants in the world

 

the landlord wore a cowboy hat and came to cut down the ivy. they asked why. he said it was bad for the house. they said the goal of ivy is to cover everything and that ivy is one of the hardiest plants in the world. the landlord said ivy scales walls by means of aerial root-like structures called holdfasts and that holdfasts have the potential to do major damage to underlying structures if improperly removed.  they knew they had to hurry, so they stayed in bed and kept writing, beginnings to thousands of stories they never finished, Lucky Dragon, Going to Colorado, a whole host of aborted voyages. how lucky it was to have found one another. ivy is not a parasitic plant but it overcompetes with its host for sunlight, water and air. when it gets larger than its host, it holds fast to another. they clung to each other in the bedroom. the map distracted them. it was a cartoon drawing, not to scale, with a giant seagull in midflight over Staten Island. the landlord clipped the vines down at the earth near the roots and waited for them to wither and die. they leaned towards one another until they met and intertwined. they said everyone would remember how they covered everything. 

 

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Julie Babcock's fiction and poetry have recently appeared in various publications including Western Humanities Review, Weave and The Rumpus. Her first book of poetry, Autoplay, was published in November '14 by MG Press. You can find her on her blog Literature and Transformation and around the University of Michigan campus where she teaches.