I follow some people into a house and up some stairs. There’s a kind of swooping orchestra pit in the ceiling with a few musicians playing across the way. The people I’ve followed are gathered around the railing at the top of the stairs to see down into the living room below where singers are performing. I slip past and sit on the sloping floor but begin to slide down the slope. I inch my way back up carefully and then peep over the ledge to see briefly into the room below, full of people. At the set change a bunch of folks shift, and the people on the stairs go down to claim better seats. I stand up and get a better vantage point and realize the singer is someone I know from Iowa, and then another and another. The group of women is touring, singing living room shows of old timey music. I catch their eyes one by one and smile and mouth Hi when they recognize me. And then one of them is my friend Laurel. She’s wearing loose country girl braids and sitting on the couch with the other women.
I go back downstairs and turn down a hallway into the kitchen, looking for the bathroom. There are doors everywhere– to closets, to nowhere– old ramshackle country doors– even the floor of the hallway is constructed from old wooden doors painted over. There’s a little handpainted sign that says To the bathroom with a hand pointing outside, so I follow it out.
Then I’m walking back through the yard, through several yards with a bunch of people from the house show. Laurel lives here with her family, and they’ve been working on changing it. We come to a wide open area, and there is a lake. Little boys run and jump in the water, splashing and diving like slippery little fish. The lake is full of people swimming and enjoying the beautiful water. At the edge the grass just disappears underneath, as if the lake just suddenly came up on the lawn. There are trails of bubbles rising up near the edge from trapped air. Someone asks if the caves are down there. I think it’s a joke, but someone hands me the little town newspaper folded back to a picture under the water of an old flooded part of the town. There is an old fashioned hotel and an assortment of other old buildings way down under the surface. Laurel’s boys are running around, playing on toy structures they’ve built. I go looking for a copy of the newspaper in and out of buildings with screen doors, past softball games and people everywhere having a good time. It feels utterly neighborly and wholesome, and I’m struck with a pang of envy for this life my friend is living.