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  • Anita Haas

Full House

By Anita Haas

It was a small house, but big enough for the two of them. Aurora and Domingo were so excited when they moved in. There would be a bedroom, an office, a guest room, a living room, bathroom and kitchen. They furnished it simply and cheaply; mostly with what they found in the street or junk sales. They put up shelves, placed some old sofas at interesting angles, and even hung up the odd painting.

Then came the newspapers. Nobody can read fast enough to finish every day's newspaper. But they didn't want to throw them away in case they missed something important. So, they stacked them in the corner of the living room behind the couch and under the window. Soon, magazines and junk mail were added to it. Before long, the pile had risen so high it started blocking part of the window. Although it was only temporary, another pile had to be started. They put it on the end of the dinner table that neither of them used. After that pile threatened to topple, another was started on top of the television, and later still, more paper was crammed in the bookshelves between the tops of the books and the bottom of the shelf above.

They wouldn't have found any room in the kitchen, because the cupboards were rapidly filling up with empty jars, plastic yogurt and ice cream containers, and wine bottles. New pots and pans were bought to replace unusable ones, but the old ones never found their way out of the kitchen. They were shoved to the back of the cupboards, just in case.

"Just in case what?" a neighbour once asked Aurora. Aurora paused, thinking, then continued rinsing out an empty pickle jar.

In case there is a crisis and we run out of pots and pans, and glasses and bowls. In case all our glasses and bowls break and there are no more or we have no more money… then we can always drink out of jars and eat out of empty margarine tubs…

They wouldn't have found any room under the beds either, since that space was taken up by old suitcases stuffed with old clothes, towels, sheets and rags. Aurora bought new clothes and hung them in closets so full the doors wouldn't shut properly. Once every season she pulled out some older specimens with a nostalgic sigh, looked for a plastic bag to stuff them in and added them to the under-the-bed collection.

By Christmas no guests could sleep in the guest room, because as they had filled up all the space under the bed, boxes and cases had to be piled up on top of it.

By spring, plastic bags full of hard bread dangled from every door handle. Baskets full of empty shampoo bottles lined the bathroom floor. Domingo devised a way to hang them from the ceiling. When the old television broke, they bought a new one and simply placed it on top of the old one. They put the broken microwave in the hall. It served as a handy place to store worn-out shoes. When friends offered them some secondhand sofas, they simply tipped the old ones on their sides, stuffing spilling out, on the front porch.

Soon, both the office and the guest room were so crammed the doors became blocked. Only then did Aurora give in and officially call them "storerooms", admitting a permanence to the temporary situation.

This turned out to be convenient, as the closed doors to these rooms could now be treated as walls. They moved the sofas and table against this new expanse of wall, opening up a lot more space in the living room.

The little house became gradually darker as mountains of disintegrating newspaper rose up in front of the windows. Plants died, but the dead sticks remained in pots of dry soil in case they should suddenly resurrect. They had to eat their dinners off their knees, sitting squeezed into the little space left on the sofa. Aurora strung ropes down the hall and through the living room to hang dresses, coats and skirts from.

On their way to bed they stepped gingerly around teetering piles of stuff. Soon they closed off the bedroom too, adding to the wall space in the hall.

Domingo had an ingenious idea when the stacks of paper rose high above their bed in the living room. He pulled the mattress out from under the stacks and simply placed it on top. They bought a ladder so they could climb up to sleep at night.

They pulled the fridge out into the hall before they closed off the kitchen and decided it was more convenient to eat out.

Soon the time came when they had to shut off the living room where their bed of newspapers was. Aurora and Domingo found themselves confined to the tiny space just inside the front door. They slept leaning up against it, their heads lolling on each other's shoulders.

One night, trying to avoid the chilly draft coming through the crack under the door, Domingo snuggled up against a teetering tower of magazines and junk mail, dislodging the lower part of the pile. An avalanche of paper crashed down onto the sleeping couple.

They were not hurt. But they knew it was time to make some hard decisions.

The next morning, the neighbours saw Aurora and Domingo in their bare, little, front yard. Aurora was holding an instruction manual in her hands and reading Domingo directions. Domingo was wrestling with a huge piece of canvas.

That evening, a light was glowing from within the tent. Domingo padlocked the door of the house, picked up that day's newspaper from the porch, and joined Aurora in their new home.

Anita Haas is a differently-abled Canadian writer and teacher based in Madrid, Spain. She has published books on film, two novelettes, a short story collection, and articles, poems and fiction in both English and Spanish. Some publications her work has appeared in include Falling Star Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, Tulane Magazine, Literary Brushstrokes and Adelaide Magazine. This story first appeared in Literary Brushstrokes.


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