Martha Witt, author of the novel Broken as Things Are (Picador 2005), has published stories in One Story, AGNI, Narrative Magazine, and other literary journals and anthologies. Her six translations ... [+]

Image of Short Circuit - Short Circuit #12
There's a relief that comes with revealing things down to their minutiae; small gasps of relief make space in the bedroom for the proverbial elephant. I do have a good husband. He's the kind that does not speak immediately after being asked a question. This is a quality worthy of admiration, the bone-deep kind of admiration. Even the review of his book in Vanity Fair a few months back mentions his "patient manner"—close enough to what I mean. I was surprised to find that the article about my husband had been written by a man. I have always associated certain ways of noticing with the feminine lens. I stand corrected. The article reviewed his newest book, Transcending Translations. He's published nine books altogether, all of them well-received, and it's simply too late to admit the truth about the actual writers who quietly live in our attic.
Everyone believes his parents—those rockstars of academia—died in a fire while he was finishing graduate school. We waited a good two years for the news of their deaths to stop rocking the academic world. Slowly, the collective gaze turned toward my poor Gregory, their intellectual successor, who'd been a pretty mediocre student at best. It was a large load for my husband. But he's a charmer and a mastermind at fakery, so we faked their deaths and achieved our desired results. I confess that the idea of keeping his parents in the attic, where they have succeeded in being more productive than ever, was all mine. I won't go into how the kidnapping played out. Suffice it to say, we fixed up the attic so that a person not predisposed to cynicism would call the place "comfy" and "homey." Of course, no one but Gregory and I ever visit. My in-laws have all the books they need; Gregory has access to the entire university library. In reality, he's their research grunt, though he's asked me not to call him that. "Runt," I say instead, playfully, to his mock-hurt expression.
We got them brand-new typewriters (they still use typewriters!). Luckily, we had the foresight to create a soundproof floor; otherwise, we would have gotten a real earful that first week of their captivity. But we've had no troubles for years now. There are days I go up simply to lean against the door and listen as they scratch and tap away, creating what will become Gregory's next masterpiece, his newest opus. Oh, he is so good at all the glad-handling, not a skill his parents managed well. The four of us make a perfect team. They'd agree if they weren't so stubborn.
I don't answer when I hear my mother-in-law call my name on the other side of the door: "Delia?" She does not need confirmation of my presence. Her voice, full of bitter tease, says, "Delia, we love it here. We are so happy here."
My father-in-law chimes in, "No phones, no mail, no bills. No bother. Just our work. Paradise!"
And then her words, a stab to the heart: "A happiness you can never know."

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