Blow Your House Down

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Blow Your House DownMy elder sister Agnes built her anti-wolf home from metal sheeting. A box with no windows. Inside the shiny walls, she sits sweating, breathless. Agnes sterilises each metal pane surrounding her in turn. She channels unwanted memories into shimmering surfaces. Her biceps bulge. A radio plays in each room to drown out the loneliness. I drop in with postcards of lakes and photographs of flowers to remind her there is still beauty in the world to step out into. She wrinkles her nose, shaking her head slowly while saying, “But sister, I am safe.” And I recall a time when we were not safe, the wolf’s vile breath on our faces, his dark, matted fur on our flesh.

Back in my round house of glass bricks, I watch treetops shimmer through the arched wall. Each brick blurs the vista slightly, causing me nausea. But the green of those trees, the blue of the sky is still mine. The price for my view is that I am on show in daylight hours. Each neighbour walking a dog, taxi driver slowing to check house numbers, the lady selling cheap perfumes with names almost like the ones I can’t afford: I never know who could be watching. So I keep a smile on my face and three layers of clothes hanging from my torso. I keep watchful wait in the early hours. If sleep creeps up, I lean against the cool glass bricks and jolt myself back to duty: wolf watch. There will be no more surprises, I can see what’s coming.

I never visit my youngest sister Ciara in the next town any more. There are no doors left on the hinges to her home. Ciara sawed through the walls on both sides so each adjoining house has free access to hers. In the bathroom, she smashed out the rippled windowpane that offered modesty. People wander in and out all hours of the day as she drinks gin by the throat full. She never gags. I recall an old snoring man on her couch still wearing his shoes, a teen girl under bubbles of lavender in her bathtub, a construction worker in fluorescent overalls eating noodles at her kitchen table. She still can’t say no. I fled the scene before I had time to check for furry ears, sharp teeth, licked lips.

As I make myself dizzy creeping around my home, looking for signs of the wolf approaching, I wonder what it would be like if I shattered these glass walls and just invited him in. Could the first bite into my neck, the paws and claws pinning me down, ever be as bad as the waiting?


Photo used under CC.

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Stephanie Hutton is a writer and Clinical Psychologist in the UK who believes in the therapeutic value of short fiction. In 2017, she was nominated for Best of the Net, and was shortlisted for the Bath Short Story Award and Bristol Prize. She can be found at stephaniehutton.com.

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