676 readings

24

FINALIST
Jury Selection

The garbage can is full again. I drag it inside and empty it over the floor, adding to the foot of water already standing in the house. The bathtub and the sinks have been running nonstop for several hours now.

At least the house is small. Any larger—we’d be here for weeks, not days.

This was all Jack’s idea, and I have to say it’s a good one, the best he’s had. Simple, even. We are going to fill the house with water. Right now, he is inspecting the windows, the cracks around the windows in Maddie’s room, sealing them with duct tape, electrician’s tape, Scotch tape, all the tape we have.

“When you bring the garbage can in,” he says, “some of the water gets out. We’ve got to stop opening the doors.” He stops sealing up the windows and sloshes around the living room. “I can make a hole in the roof.”

“Go ahead then,” I say, “make holes in the roof, but don’t bother the raccoons up there, okay?”

“Raccoons are long gone.”

So what if he doesn’t believe me.

The rain had been coming down for a week when Jack proposed we do this. An adventure. He didn’t call it that—I call it that. I’m watching the water rise, watching furniture, a chair here, a lamp there, come unmoored and start floating, or fall over with a splash and drift through the house. The water is up to my thighs now.

Jack’s hole in the roof was a success: rain streams down in our bedroom. He’s thinking about putting another hole in the kitchen ceiling. When he made the first hole, he went into the attic, chased away the raccoons and their babies, and sawed a hole in the roof. For the second hole, he says it’s easier to use the shotgun.

“You want to do it?” he asks.

I sight upwards and pull the trigger. Plaster and pink insulation everywhere. Another shell, another squeeze: more pink snow falling into the overflowing sink.

When you see your house filled with water, you forget that it is your house. You forget things that have happened there. They all happened in some other house. Some other person. I blow up one of Maddie’s old floating rings and paddle around her room. Her dollhouse is completely underwater.

She would like this, I think, if she were here. She would grab Jack around the neck and he’d stride through the water, pull her along, toss her up, let her splash down, pluck her up again. We were going to start swimming lessons in the summer.

She loved the water.

Jack is shooting more holes in the ceiling, one after another; the ceiling fan in the living room falls down, bringing a raccoon with it. We watch him tread water, his ringed eyes not betraying even a hint of confusion.

The raccoon swims toward the kitchen cabinets, sinks his claws into the wood and climbs on top of them, in that space between cabinet and ceiling. He starts gnawing at the speckled plaster. He knows where he belongs. He knows where to go.

“Hey,” Jack says. We are bobbing in Maddie’s room. Her bed shimmers like white sand under the water. All the furniture from her dollhouse bobs around us, tiny chairs and beds and even a very small bathtub.

“What?” The water is up to our necks now.

“Do you want to go into the attic?”

“We can stay down here a little longer.”

“Okay,” he says.

Jack did a good job sealing the windows: the water keeps rising at a steady rate. We slither up the thin wooden stairs of the pull-down ladder into the attic.

After being in the water so long, it feels strange to stand. Everything is shriveled, pruny. The raccoons are huddled in a dry corner, away from the holes in the roof. They stare at us, like they know. As if they can feel things. The water is nearly to the ceiling beneath us.

“Can we stay a little longer?”

He shrugs and stares at the raccoons. “When they leave, we leave.”

That sounds like a good plan. The raccoons stare back at us.

CONTEST

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24

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Image of Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds · ago
Congratulations, Mlharper1!
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Image of Meredith Harper
Meredith Harper · ago
Thank you!
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Image of MLep
MLep · ago
I also like the bizarreness of it all. And I thought that they lost their little daughter, maybe by drowning. I thought flooding their house was their way of committing suicide... But what does the "leaving" at the end mean? Is it figurative (dying) or literal (somehow leaving the house... but how?).
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Image of Katla Ignis
Katla Ignis · ago
I love that it’s never explained why their letting their house flood. It left completely up to the reader’s imagination. All the details, like the dollhouse and the raccoons gnawing at the plaster, bring it all together.
You might be interested in my story, Do You See Me?. The link to it is here: https://short-edition.com/en/story/3-min/do-you-see-me

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Image of Not-Only But-Also Riley
Not-Only But-Also Riley · ago
I really like just the strangeness of this. The characters seem so nonchalant about everything, from filling the house, to shooting holes in the roof, to deciding when to leave. The way that calm feeling is juxtaposed with the ridiculous images of taping up cracks, or, (my personal favorite) the bobbing doll house furniture, is just masterful writing. I have no clue what it all means, but that is definitely not a bad thing. If anything, I think that's part of the reason it hit me so hard, and will probably stick with me. Anyway, rambling aside, went ahead and gave you a vote.
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Image of Roger
Roger · ago
I like the way the situation is never explained, it's a mystery, why are they letting the house fill with water? We'll never know. A well written story that felt like the beginning of something.
You might like to read my story 'Dia de los Muertos' I hope you like it.

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