THE HOUSE IS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
My husband comes home at 6:00. The house is quiet and clean and smells of 409, Comet, and a soupçon of Lysol. He looks around, confused. The place is immaculate. It has literally never been this clean.
“Um, what’s up?” he asks.
Oh, I say, the children cleaned the house.
He lifts an eyebrow and opens the refrigerator, pulls out a bottle of Pilsner Urquell. “Hey, my favorite. So you went to the store? And…cleaned out the refrigerator?”
No, I reply. That was the kids, too.
“Wait a second, he says. “Did you tell them to clean the house? Did you pay them?”
I shake my head.
Baffled, my husband opens the beer. He goes into our bedroom and I hear him opening a dresser drawer and laughing. “Let me guess,” he calls. “They also did the laundry?” Before I can answer he opens the back door and goes out onto the porch. There is a brief silence.
“Oh, come on,” he yells. “They mowed the lawn? Seriously? They pulled the weeds and…picked up the dog poop!” He comes back inside and sets the bottle on the washing machine. “Where are the kids, actually?”
I smile to myself.
My husband watches me cannily. “Next you’ll tell me they’ve gotten jobs and are going to bring us their paychecks.”
I don’t answer. I’m looking at my reflection in the gleaming window.
I’m living out of my suitcase in a dormitory on Kazanskaya. When I run the tap in the bathroom, the water runs orange. I brush my teeth with bottled water. Sometimes I do this at 4:00 a.m., because it’s summer and it never gets dark. I forget to go to bed, and when I do lie down I cannot sleep.
One day I’m walking near the Hermitage. I’m wearing a short skirt and black platform sandals, and a massive silver ring that I got in Amsterdam. This ring is so heavy that I could use it as a weapon. It is very hot outside, and so bright that when I see a man walking a medium-sized bear on a leash, I have to blink to make sure this is real. Maybe
I’m imagining it. Maybe I’ve lost so much sleep that my mind is gone, too. I look again. The bear is walking along like he does this every day. This is so bizarre that I freak out a little. What if the bear were to turn and see me? What if he got it in his bear head that he didn’t like me? What would I do? Would I be forced to defend myself, to use my weapon of a silver ring? But the bear walks on. He cannot be bothered. The bear doesn’t care.
WHAT THE PUPPY SAID
I bring home a puppy. She is a brown beagle-terrier mix with one ear up and one ear down. That is her signature look, apparently. My dog and my cat are upset. The puppy can talk, it turns out. We have a nice chat. I ask her how it was at the shelter. “Well,” she says, “not bad. The kibble was okay. But I wasn’t there very long, so I can’t really say.” Then she looks at me with her limpid brown eyes, and adds, “I’m just so grateful to you.” I am overcome with emotion, and wipe away a tear. Now both the puppy’s ears are down, a pair of brown triangles. The dog and cat watch us coldly.
Dylan Brie Ducey is the fiction editor at Anti-Heroin Chic. Most of her writing is terrible, but her dog thinks she's a genius. She loves her dog. She's on the internet at www.dylanbrieducey.com.