By Alissa Nielsen
This is the backyard that we share with our neighbors, the Guralnicks. These are what’s known as “privacy bushes,” planted fully-grown in 2002, and here is the hole, created by Levi Guralnick in May of 2004, and it serves as a passageway to playing tag with Levi and maybe his adopted sister Greta if she’s not practicing twinkle star on the recorder or drawing pictures of pencils with pencils. Greta is nine, same as me; she is female, and smells like peanuts and Filet-O-Fish. Why is Levi called Levi? I will tell you: it’s because of the jeans. This is the screen door and sometimes Mom keeps it open and mosquitoes slip in and buzz in my earhole when I’m sleeping and sometimes also bite behind the knee and leave a red bump that looks like Massachusetts. Actually, I should tell you that I don’t know for certain of Levi being named after the jeans, but it’s what’s called a “logical guess”—or when you dream up an answer from what little information you have. I wish my name was Massachusetts instead of Hilde—it’s a much more better sounding name, don’t you think?
The kitchen comes fully equipped with microwave oven and refrigerator. Please refrain from pouring milk into the crisper. Also do not put anything in the side door; it is broke and we cannot afford another catastrophe. This is the stove where we cook things and sometimes BJ burns himself. That’s my brother, I call BJ my big brother, and we can’t go in his room. You can try, but it’s mostly locked—section closed. Here’s the dining table and there’s almost always a glass of water on it because mom is always thirsty and always in the kitchen. Do you know that frogs swallow with their eyeballs?
There’s no basement here, so don’t even ask. We have two stairs that go to the garage but that is all the stairs we got, I’ve counted. Frank said if we had a downstairs he’d build a Tiki bar and never wear shoes and eat red licorice ropes and watch the Minnesota Twins all the time and re-watch games on the off-season and then he’d never get any work done. Did your dad tell you that Frank used to play professional baseball until he hurt his knee so bad and that now he makes monstrous noises when getting up from the recliner? If you hear a Tyrannosaurus Rex watching television sports it’s probably your uncle Frank.
Now I will tell you about the hallway. Some of these pictures you might know. When we first moved here Mom went over each person, but I don’t always remember every last one of them. She’s added people from our side, and those pictures I know better. I’ll be honest—I’m not in love with this hallway; I’m not really a fan. Here’s a fact: Mayflies live for only 48 hours, just two human days. That? Oh that’s Grammy. No, I think they’re at Mt. Rushmore. Hmm, I like the shadows in this picture. It’s probably gusty, which is why her hair’s all floozled; she and Mom were squabbling most likely. Who? I’m not sure. I don’t know. I think that’s my uncle who died from anus cancer. Stop asking such stupid questions. C’mon. Let us continue the tour.
Over here you’ll find the toilet where everyone poops HAHA.
This is my room. I was seven years of age when I moved here—but that’s not really of any historical significance. Sometimes I hear people outside talking into the late night, but that’s not as bad as the beeping trucks in the morning. When Levi comes over he’ll knock shave-and-a-haircut and that’s how we know it’s him. Open the window like this, so it’s not too loud. Now you try. Sometimes I sneak away, and you can too, but please, Martha, remember to come back.
Oh, sorry. Marta. Did I say that right? It’s a nice name, not like Hilde. Mom says Hildee, and Frank says Hilda, but you should call me Dee and then maybe someone else will start saying it and then you can say that you were the very first to say Dee. Mom’s name changed, and then we moved to this house, and that’s just how it works, so if you want me to call you something else that’s just fine, I suppose, but you should tell me now so I don’t forget. It can all become mighty perplexing.
You’ll sleep there until Frank finds you a bed. I made you a fort and your bed will be pillows from our old couch. I put this finger monster in the tent. His name used to be George the monster, and I wunned him at the Chuck-E-Cheese when I was your age, but that is my story and now you and George—or whatever you name him—will have your own story, like you’ll probably have different stories about different stuff in this house, now that you live here. I remember moving here and feeling extremely undereducated about every strange thing. It’s okay to go in your fort now, if you want. You don’t need to talk to me anymore; you don’t need to be any way in particular. I’m sorry for saying that you ask stupid questions. Did you know that ants can carry ten- to-fifty times their body weight?
Alissa Nielsen is a fiction writer, editor and teacher. Her work has appeared in The Raven Chronicles, Ellipsis, and Prick of the Spindle. She studied literature and writing at Charles University in Prague, The Evergreen State College, and earned her MFA from Pacific University. She has worked as an English teacher, contracted literary arts programmer for Bumbershoot music festival, zine curator/librarian for Richard Hugo House literary arts center, editor-in-chief of Silk Road literary journal and as a chocolate-and-wine pusher for Pix Patisserie. Currently, she lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is working on a collection of short stories.
Alissa will be teaching a workshop on Flash Fiction for Indigo Publishing on June 8th 2011. For more information, please visit Indigo Publishing.