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2nd Prize Winner

Robert Henry

Most people don’t know that they have two houses. The one that exists when you host dinner parties and nestle under woven sheets. The other when you leave the countryside and venture to neon lights and glass chasms. 


Momma told us all houses were built this way. Built for people like us. She said it was a public utility, like a park or library. A place where everyone could enjoy fancy tea and smooth sunsets. 


So when the cicada chorus came into town we’d head to The Malrights. They didn’t much like the sound of cicadas so they’d backpack North. They deserted, leaving behind baskets of bread and duck-stuffed pillows. It only seemed natural that we'd come over. Use what wasn’t being used. It would be a shame for any to go to waste, especially on a lot so pristine and overflowing as theirs. 


The earth was cool on sturdy oak. Fluffy rugs greeted our bare feet, enveloping our parade like soft soil to herding bison. Johnny always went for the cupboard first. In a house as nice as 115 Bella Vista Drive, the mice didn’t much get into cracker boxes. Abigal skipped to the ivory vanity. Crystal jars and powdered poofs made for perfect make-believe. I moved to the stairwell, it was hard to keep my gaze from its gravity-defying tread. Like the teetering towers of distant fairytales, I pictured myself a damsel, but not the distressed, Rapunzel kind, I was in bliss. 


I peered at the assortment of happy portraits. They stood frozen but testaments to the glory of silver-plated utensils. I wished I was them, but for this time I was - we were. So we played, dancing to dusty records and full glasses. The castle was ours and we were royalty. Momma sat quietly in the corner. She nodded quietly with her eyes closed. She was so pretty there, suspended in smooth jazz. Her heavy frame loosened and her cleaning-lady attire disappeared in front of silk plush. 


Once we danced till it hurt we sprang to the backdoor. Everything was so green and free. It was like a fertile Grand Canyon - the place Momma said she’d take us when the coin jar was finally full. How I wanted to go, but for now I didn’t care. I leaped for the pond. It was like an ocean but just for you. It was mossy and the ground squished beneath my feet. Life on asphalt didn’t call for much swimming, but I did my best. I glided - thrashing with an invisible jump rope. 


How fun can be so tiring. Momma prepared our beds the way she did for her clients - the people who paid to be assisted by women with nothing but grit. It was strange, the ones who had everything, the biggest homes and reddest cars, seemed to need her the most. Just like the Malrights. But for the night we were a family of supermarket owners and Momma was no maid - she was our mother.

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