twisted homes

Christine investigated her Hamptons living room: the floor length drapes, playing peek-a-boo with the ocean in the backyard; cold beige couches so modern they made you question sitting at all; the prodigious canvas above the mantle and its $900,000 swipe of red paint.

It was all so familiar. And yet she wondered where she was.

“I am in my home,” she told herself. “But how?”

This sense of displacement was not new to her. She experienced it briefly at Sarah Lawrence, thousands of miles from Oklahoma, but managed to stay distracted by the novelty in her life. It wasn’t until her first year out of college, when she was sitting in a roomful of artsy strangers, that she truly felt the first great shift in her life. She studied them- their furious smoking and sporadic laughter- and wondered how she could tie them to home.

Eventually she realized the only way to do that was to adapt. To become the center of her own venn diagram.

But New York City, in all its amplitude, was never home. Not even when she’d eventually created a life with a husband and two children. As for her mansion on the sea: well, Heaven can’t be home. Not even when you pay for it.

Even in this cavernous house, she could hear Robin slam her bedroom door. And with that slam she felt the emptiness inside her get pounded into mud. It was as if she was stuck inside a cave, while a summer storm began to beat the rocky walls in. Oh, let everything crumble.

She had once, many years ago, seen a tornado. She rooted herself, watching as the sky birthed itself, and her grandfather quietly but quickly ushered the horses inside. “They’ll be fine,” he grumbled from their darkened cellar, as the sky screamed with pain.

Afterwards, she stood in the kitchen of her grandparent’s farmhouse, where she and her mother lived at the time, and looked up through a gaping hole in the roof. The sky was blue again. “If we remembered pain, we wouldn’t have second children,” her mother once told her. Though she was an only child.

She used to tell her own children about that tornado. How all the power lines were bent in half, but the horses were okay. How they sat in the damp cellar together for eternity, and when they came out, the weather was back to normal, but it would never be the same again.

Her daughter would climb on her lap and ask her: “Are you Dorothy Gale?” as her son twirled and whistled like a little cyclone, ripping the sheets from the bed.

But Robin was no longer her sweet little girl. She was a force of nature, just like that twister from so long ago, and Christine had spent the better part of the last two years waiting it out in the cellar.

Just a few minutes ago, Robin stormed out of the room, leaving her iPad on the counter.

Christine placed it in the sink, and reminded herself that she was the adult, as she had done so many times over the past 14 years.

She grabbed a stone from her son’s collection, and held it over the sink. She let it drop, hoping for a satisfying crack. But it did no damage.

She would never be a tornado. How had she let her daughter become one?

“How do you stop a tornado?” She wondered. But once it’s formed, it’s formed.

a muse before dark

“Hey.”

A long, wiry man with curly dark hair and wings was laying on my couch. It was confusing.

“Hey.” I said, to be polite. I was in a hurry though. I had a date. And I still had to shower and walk the dog.

“How was work?” He asked, gently.

“Good?” I responded with a question, I think, because I wasn’t quite sure yet how work was. I was an executive assistant, and quite bored with it. So even on my best days, I was still standing at the very bottom of the gaping hole that was my life, looking for a rope. But there was food down there!

The man with wings was laying very seductively, propped up on one elbow with his hand on his head. His other hand rubbed his naked belly.

“I’m not going to have sex with you.” I told him, flat out. I didn’t know who he was or where he came from, and frankly, I wasn’t interested in the wings, as liberal as I claimed to be.

“I know.” He smiled at me, almost painfully.

My dog, Aura, bit at my hand. She was ready to go out. I felt like I should figure out why this guy was in my apartment before I went anywhere. He couldn’t have been too dangerous, if Aura was okay with him. But still, something was off.

“So, how did you get in?” I sat at the edge of the couch, careful not to touch his feet. I didn’t know where they had been.

He sat up, clutching a throw pillow to his chest. He really was very docile. His wings fluttered, tenderly. His eyes were colorless, and his cheeks were rosy. If not for the hairy chest and the day old stubble, I would have found him literally cherubic.

“I floated in through the window. I was actually trying to get to the third floor,” he put his hands to his little poochy belly, “But this was easier.”

Suddenly we were holding hands. He was very soft.

He produced a pair of wire glasses, and put them on.

“I’m your new muse,” he announced. His wings flittered with excitement and his cheeks flushed a new bright pink.

At first I was very excited to hear this. Maybe now I could quit my job. Then I realized that I wasn’t his intended partner.

“I thought you were trying to get to the third floor.” I shook his hands off of mine.

He smiled wide for the first time, and I realized he was missing a few teeth. I found this comforting, since the rest of him was nearly perfect. Minus all the body hair.

“Art!” He yelped, and then the dog yelped too, “is a mysterious lover.” He paused dramatically.

I decided to multitask so as not to be late for my date. I clipped my nails in the silence.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I could get behind a muse.” I decided. Although I was skeptical.

He snapped his fingers:

And I was confronted by a wave of nostalgia and longing that I didn’t even know I possessed. It was as if every happy moment in my childhood, every adolescent fancy I had ever inhabited, collided inside of me. A black hole was collapsing, and I was nearly free. Or perhaps it was a bang- a new universe had exploded to life inside of me, and I was the creator.

“I want to paint!” I was yelling and I didn’t know why.

He clapped gleefully.

“I’ve always wanted to be a painter! But I never thought I could!!”

He kissed me on the mouth. He kissed the dog on the mouth.

“Myra,” he held my face with two dainty hands, and looked me in the eyes. I felt so alive. I felt like I was holding my heart in my own hands. “You will paint.”

He produced a small leather bag from under the couch, and removed a folder.

“Packages start at 49.99 per month.”

 

Uncle Bill’s Will

Dear Katie,

I’m sure you remember the stories about my grandpa’s brother, Bill, who was a known prankster. Actually do you remember the story I told you the day we met? Your bag was caught in the subway door, and I had to pull you away from the train so that you would quit chasing it down the platform.

You made a little wisecrack about a meet-cute, and it reminded me of the time that Bill put raw goat meat in my grandpa’s boots. Do you remember that? Uncle Bill always had goats. Well, almost always.

My grandmother used to say that Uncle Bill got away with a lot because of his “spooky blue eyes” and his “noxious charisma.” He was a tall, crooked man, who lived in an old castle on a hill just outside of town. You never got a chance to meet him, but I’m sure you would have found him charming.

Anyway, that’s not important. I’m just stalling as long as I can to get to the heart of this letter. Hoping perhaps to make it so long, that if my circumstances do change, and I am able to come back to you, then you won’t have finished it yet. At least 350 pages. One page for every year of Bill’s life, since he’s the reason I have to go home. Ha, just kidding. He was only in his 90s, but it seemed like he was 350.

As you know, he disappeared about six months ago, leaving behind a limerick that hinted at a suicide.

“There was an old man from Northbrook,

who lived his whole life as a rook.

Now his body is gone

But his jokes will live on

So don’t even bother to look”

It’s been a strenuous legal battle, and one that so far, I have been lucky to avoid. Mostly, I think, because I live here in New York City with you, and so I’ve been spared from all the confusion and bad vibes back home. Thank you for being my rock. I’m going to miss you so much.

After months of back and forth, it appears that Uncle Bill has been declared legally dead. This wouldn’t really affect me at all (except the nostalgia I would experience at the memory of him, of course), but many years ago, when I was just a kid, Uncle Bill had a new will drafted, as a joke, in which I inherited the laundromat he’d owned and operated for almost 70 years.

He told me he’d take it out, but it looks like he forgot, and now I own a haunted laundromat in Northbrook, Indiana.

Ha, well it’s not really haunted. But I always thought it was when I was a kid, and I was terrified to go there. Once, I found this crazy secret room. The memory is a blur because I was so young, but it was painted completely red and there were all these scary tools. So anyway, he always got a kicked of how much I would cry when I went there, and so on my 16th birthday, he amended the will. We all got a kick out of it, because he said he would change it back.

But, he didn’t. And I’m sure by now you see where this letter is going. I have to go home, Katie, and I don’t think I’ll be coming back to New York City anytime soon. I can’t give you anymore details than that, legally, because the laundromat is under some kind of investigation, and now it’s my problem.

I truly don’t know the best way to end this letter other than to say, I’m so, so sorry. I’ll never forget you.

Forever yours,

Damien

Lizard Kisses

“I read online that you can give them stitches.”

The veterinary assistant let out a tiny yip. I had forgotten she was even there, because she was hiding quietly in a corner behind the computer, taking notes for the doctor.

“Yeah that would be an option if part of it was still attached.” Dr. J smiled at me, and wrote ’12 lbs’ underneath Calamity’s name on the whiteboard. He had very large, brown eyes and curly dark hair. I wondered where he was from, but it probably wasn’t a good time to ask.

“But since it was a clean drop, I’d say all we can do is keep everything disinfected and wait for it to grow back.” He was still smiling. Wow, his teeth were very white. I immediately felt better about accidentally ripping the tail off of my sister’s iguana. I felt like I did a good thing, actually, because it led me to the mouth of this beautiful animal man.

“Rad.” I said. And it was. It was super rad that the tail would grow back. But I immediately wished that I had said something more like ‘wow, what an amazing creature,’ or even just ‘sounds good.’

I felt awkward, so I turned to the vet tech to use her as a buffer. “Cool, huh?” I asked her. She nodded quickly. She was very nervous. I think she may have been about 20 years old, and this was possibly her first interaction with a tail-less iguana. Dr. J had noticed this too, and so we decided that I would help hold her during the checkup. I found the iguana repulsive and vicious, but after I accidentally pulled her tail off so that she would stay out of my closet, we had grown much closer.

“What do you think, Miranda? We don’t get many lizards in here.” He was trying to make her feel better, which was kind, but I kind of felt like he should be talking to me instead, because I was the one who was, just mere hours ago, scream-crying and holding a severed, twitching lizard tail in my hand. So technically I was the traumatized one.

“Do you get like, mostly dogs and cats?” I asked this very dumb question while he held Calamity’s mouth open and looked at her teeth.

“Oh yeah. Plenty of those. This is a rare treat. I love reptile visits.”

I was just about to lie about how much I loved animals, when the receptionist gave a little knock and then suddenly my sister, Paige, was in the room, in tears. Legit weeping. This did not surprise me. She used to take Calamity to get dialysis like two years ago so she’s definitely invested in this thing. But if she had done the research like me, then she would know that tail loss is totally normal. Like balding, only better, I would argue.

It was pretty alarming though, the little exposed stump with all the bones and muscles coming out of it.

Then before I knew it, I was kicked out of the room. It was all a blur. I thought if anyone would get kicked out it was Miranda. But nope, it was me.

I waited in the lobby for about 15 minutes, wishing I had accidentally grabbed the tail, so I would have an excuse to go back in.

Paige came out without Dr. J. Calamity was on her leash, and had a small pink cast on her stump.

“Everything okay?” I asked? And then more importantly: “Does the doctor need to come back out or anything?”

“Nope. We’re all good.” She was very clearly upset with me. The bill was about $1,500.

I let her pay this time. Because the second that thing grew back, I would be pulling it right back off.

Either that, or I was going to get a dog. That might be faster.