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Friday, December 20, 2013

Only 14 more hours to go to get CUSTOM SIGNED PRINTS for this new show. Join. Donate. Share. 







Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Tolstoy & the Checkout Girl
By Lis Anna



Tonya was the only thing that made him smile. The purple and blue streaks in her hair reflected morning sun perfectly. She was the checkout girl at the Sav A Lot. He shuffled through her line in his heavy woolen pants. Tonya snapped and popped her gum.  Watermelon. Sour apple. Sweet wild cherry.  An intoxicating fragrance to be sure.
Tonya blew a bubble, then asked, “Will that be all?”
Tolstoy dropped his eyes to the cracked floor. “Da.”
He glanced up fast enough to see her cock her head to one side, her ponytail slapping her shoulder. She was watermelon today.
“You’re going to die of heat exhaustion if you don’t ditch that get up.”
Tolstoy looked down at his trousers. He’d learn to adjust. To what he wasn’t sure. Or for how long. 
“$22.36,” Tonya popped, pulling her head back in place. Pink and blue glitter sparkled on her eyelids. He wanted to dust his body with those pink and blue flecks. He pulled money from his pocket, handing it to Tonya to count. American currency made no sense. He counted in Rubles.
Her fingernails were bright orange, tips painted white. She counted his money, handed back change and whispered, “Be careful out there. The world is mean to freaks.” Then she turned to the person behind him in line and asked, “Did you find everything you need today?”
I found you, Tolstoy thought. He stepped through the strange sliding doors into a wall of heat that consumed the rest of his thoughts.
Until he flopped down on the cool, tile floor under the humming contraption that blew cold air day and night. He peeled off layers of clothes one by one, like an onion, it made him cry.

In the evening he awoke to the whoosh of America, this strange land. Horns, people bustling about on the sidewalk below his room. Down the hall a man sang horribly off key. 
Tolstoy rose from the cool floor and picked up the map the police had given him when they found him in the bus station. He smoothed the map across the empty table. A star marked the city of Delray Beach, Florida. From there his finger trailed over the world, across the Atlantic, through Europe, up to Russia where it stopped and tapped Moscow, before sliding south to his hometown. Such a long way to travel with no recollection. He was so young, yet remembered being an old man, like time fleeting backwards.

Tolstoy stared at the blank, plaster walls. He stood up and found a pen in a drawer. With precision he wrote a single word on the white wall. Astapovo. He stepped back and read the word over and over until he began to repeat it aloud. When a creamy orange sunset glowed in his windows he pulled a can of sardines out of his grocery bag and arranged the little fishes on crackers. They stared up at him. Rays of sunlight stretched low across the horizon in pink golds. He looked at the surface of the lake. Blades of grass jutted from the shore. Wind. Sky. Grass. All so different from where he’d come from. He was so displaced he couldn’t remember why he’d left. How he’d gotten here.
He pulled a thick bag of kopeks from his pocket, wondering what they could buy. They were so old and big. He turned one over in his hand, deciding to give it to Tonya as a gift. Tonya of the green eyes, blue smock, bare arms, rings on every finger, even her thumb, especially her thumb where a silver genie wrapped around her finger staring down into a crystal ball. He wanted to touch her hand, lay his finger on the tiny crystal ball and gaze at their future together. He sat down on the small sofa and conjured images of fields rolling past, across Russian summers.

to read the complete story please go to Barely South Review Fall 2012 Edition by clicking here:



Copyright 2012 Lis Anna All rights reserved. No portion of this story may be reprinted. 
 10 days left on my campaign AND if you are a friend I will


 add a special gift that will also be gifted to everyone who


 has already funded the campaign. Be an Outlaw and a gift 


 giver. 


Join the campaign. Click here to be a part of it.


http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/outlaws










10 days left on my campaign AND if you are a friend I will add a special gift that will also be gifted to everyone who has already funded the campaign. Be an Outlaw and a gift giver. 

Join the campaign. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/outlaws

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

Indiegogo Campaign

Okay guys & dolls ... I am doing something special this Christmas and using Indiegogo to fund my show that I am putting together titled "Outlaws" BUT I ADDED A SPECIAL TWIST for you. Prints from "Outlaws" WILL only be available through participation in this campaign. I can also send your prints for Christmas if you want to send as a Christmas present. Share this link. Share the excitement.  :)



http://igg.me/at/Outlaws/x/4220310


Monday, September 30, 2013

Road Trips


quick fiction up for your story fix ... 



Road Trips


By Lis Anna

Those pale toes have known Yellowstone, city of clouds, land of rainbows, 
weaving wildflowers in her hair, out in the night air... 
Ollie Ollie Oxen Free 
the soulful temptress screams 
wailing out deep within the Tetons. 
She is whipped cream tequila, whisper writing, running wild, 
driving free hand over highways like Beat poets, 
poets beat independent in the crazy psychadelic elevator 
that is this land, America. 
The lessons of the river roads, over a second sight sunrise 
reflect light on her temple body mansion 
where the wind has often said 
even her eyes speak of expansion.







copyright 2013 (c) Lis Anna All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fresh, fabulous flash up for your weekend reading pleasure. Welcome to my world. Enjoy.


Everyday
by:
Lis Anna



Juan Garcia waited impatiently in the drizzling rain for the taxi to arrive, gripping his battered suitcase, protective of its secrets.  He dreams of Havana.  Havana and the revolution.  The sounds teeming with a passionate idea pushing the boundaries, pushing against itself, crashing and breaking over the streets. falling like rain into gutters of obscurity.  Now he remembers, lost in scratchy memories, of those streets walled in, crumbling facades, voices yelling from window to window.  For years he dreamed of shadows he can’t catch, like butterflies that have never known a caterpillar.  Still, he smells of his father, stale cigar smoke, red wine, sweet custard, bread, cheese, sweat and rum.  The inside of his soul smells like the steamy rice, garlic, tomato chopped fresh dipped in the oil sizzle trapped in the still air like a lazy man.  Water dripping, humid, claiming everything.  Water was the only thing there before…before Castro, before the revolution, before the island, before there was light.  Even God says.


            He shifts his eyes across the street, back to the apartment where he’s lived for months, over the bread and cheese that he eats on the cutting board, catching the scent of exhaust expelled from the back of a bus filled to the brim, pungent with the salty scent of alive, breathing dripping, becoming the drops that form pools from storms at the base of his spine.


to read this full piece of flash fiction go to Word Riot.

 http://www.wordriot.org/template_2.php?ID=1139

Copyright 2007 (c) Lis Anna All rights reserved 




Friday, September 20, 2013

flash for the weekend

The Words
 by Lis Anna


I gather up the words. They are everywhere. On table tops, in the deep recesses of my mind, written in foggy breath on winter windows, behind the curtain, on scraps of paper, taped to the washing machine, magnetically clinging to the refrigerator, etched in black ball point inside matchbooks.

I gather them, carefully considering each one.  They beg so. Distractingly. Pick me. Pick me, one squeals. I say, “You are a noun.” And it screams, “I could be an adjective if you work hard enough. If you are creative enough you will weave me into the flow, feed me to the hungry bowl of story, gulping back millions of us everyday.”

And I say, “Whew. Hold on. Let me get another cup of coffee first.” They do not wait. They show no concern for my requests. They follow me into the kitchen heckling me with each step, dancing through my brain in repetition. I stop at the coffee pot and say, “Naked is not how the character feels.” Naked retreats.

The others hurl themselves at me like pieces of hail. Open. Ready. Exposed. “Okay”, I say. “Exposed is a possibility. Maybe.” I wag my finger.  “Maybe.” They dance a jig, each letter jiggling against the next. They howl with delight. “Do not get ahead of yourself,” I demand. “This is not carved in stone.” They shudder, then roll into a single file line. They shudder and titter. I laugh.

The words. They are so easily impressed.



Copyright 2013 (c) Lis Anna
All rights reserved 



Friday, September 13, 2013

new fun flash fiction up for da weekend ...


This is an awesome fun piece that most of you will be seeing for the first time. This piece of flash fiction was published in the Summer 2011 edition of 5X5, a wonderfully small publication full of tight, dynamic fiction.



You Are Such a Poem

By Lis Anna


Drunk again, unruly. The smell of gin is thick on your tongue in the courtyard where you have been intoxicated for three days straight obsessing over dirty stanzas, your stubbily rhyme, your greasy meter. Words make nuisance of you.

 Sunset and evening star and here you are still in your bathrobe missing its belt, haggardly threadbare around the collar. You are such a poem. You have been sipping too much metaphor today, if such a thing can be true. All of your oranges are Japanese sunrises, skin the bark of maple trees, days line up in circles of infinity. You are testy, refusing to allow even a single sentence to be constructed until someone makes you a martini, dirty and wet.


Slovenly, you smoke, cuss. You are always unemployed, drinking straight from the box of golden Chablis. You are such a poem. Yet, you are so much of what the world strives to be. We want to know what its like to be you. Bumming smokes and borrowing money
to buy deviled eggs and plastic chaise lounges from the Dollar Bin that you call new chic faux antique.

And yet most days you are just like all of the others, unrequited, broken hearted, memories formed on pages in the quiet repose of morning light instructing laymen on the art of feeling.  You see, I wanted you to be an Italian Renaissance painter, a big lipped movie star, an abandoned house deep in Alabama or at the very least an underwater volcano. But instead, I got you. A drunk who refuses to go to meetings, will not cooperate with prose, picks fights with biography and constantly scoffs at nonfiction,
claiming there isn’t such a thing as fiction that is not fiction.

You pee outside, howl at the moon, and scratch in unmentionable places.

And yet, I cannot remember a life before you showed up promising to pay rent someday.
 It must have been unremarkable. Filled with scheduled mealtimes, stacks of newspapers towering on the floor, fresh bed linens and plastic organizers on my desk. Now the clocks have all been thrown away, newspapers shredded, bed linens are worn as capes and I shudder to consider the fate of those organizers.

So, now when I find you outside drunk, wearing a brown wig and frightfully tight purple underwear, I pull up a new chic faux antique, pour you a dirty, wet, triple olive and offer up my attention in the hopes that if I flirt enough with the edges of your sensibility
then you just might pick your teeth and tell me a story.



You can purchase this edition here: http://www.5x5litmag.org/Back%20Issues.html

or check out 5X5 here because it is AWESOME, baby.

http://www.5x5litmag.org/index.html



copyright 2011 (c) Lis Anna All rights reserved


New fiction up for your weekend reading pleasure ...

The Descent
by Lis Anna

The prince who awakened me from my slumber was not my husband.

“Marla?”
Samuel is sitting on the sofa reading The Times.  “Penny for your thoughts.”
I point to my day planner. I’ll give you a nickel if you just go away
“Oh,” his eyes say, dropping back to the page.

Need, Want & Desire play a game in my head.  I follow them out to a dark labyrinth where they talk gibberish and take shape.  The fire sings a song. They take my hands, laying them against my own skin and they chant, rattle, shake, across dark skies with no moonlight.  They part my legs and plead.  I obey. They dance into ferocious cries of pleasure. 

            Everything happens in reel time now.  I am starring in the French Film that is my life. Sometimes it is black and white with no sound.  I turn the volume up. When I open my eyes, my lover is watching me.  He says, “I had to get up in the middle of the night to get a blanket because you had the sheet wrapped around you.”
            “Why didn’t you wake me?”
            “Because you look so good in it.”
            We are making the film of us.  The unrated version.  You get the picture.

            My bathroom mirror has become my psychologist.  I don’t understand, I am whining to my other self.  I am confused.  I am driven to live my life at the expense of destroying another.  Driven.  I hear Larry Adler backing his car out of his driveway next door.  He is tall, blonde, dazzling and doesn’t cheat on his wife.  “Not me,” I say, confidently looking the psychologist in the eye, applying gloss to my cheating lips.  “I am having an affair.” I hate myself for being so flip about it but today at 3PM I am having a board meeting in room 504 of the Waterford Inn.  Naked.

             The curtains are pulled so tight that I can only see an outline of my lover’s face.  “I have to be back before dinner,” I say, rolling over, biting into his neck.  His hands ride up to my hips.  I am scaling the tower walls.  We begin making sense.

 Out in the cool, evening air he wraps his arms around me.  The French film that is us drifts off around the corner.  Then we cut. 

We’re having defensive behavior for dinner again. 
            “I’ve seen you for two hours all week,” Samuel says, squeezing his wine glass, laying blame.  “I wish you’d never taken that job, Marla.”

            I think I am an incomplete human being cloned from an earlier version of myself that was damaged.  I want to think I’m on the verge of a breakthrough but what I’m really doing is cheating on my husband.  I’m not stupid.  I do it everyday, habitually, like a chain smoker, sneaking out back, or upstairs, or to the broom closet for my fix. I want to travel across the distance of my lover’s chest, and ride a caravan down to his lips where his tongue waits like an oasis. 

to read the complete story you can find it here: http://www.themonarchreview.org/the-descent/

where it was published in the 2011 Winter Edition of the Monarch Review 

Welcome to my world.
Enjoy.



Copyright 2011 (c) Lis Anna All rights reserved 



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A quick piece of Hint fiction up for your Wednesday reading pleasure ... 
Welcome to my world.
Enjoy.






You can also read my winning Hint fiction piece here:

from 2011..

http://www.robertswartwood.com/hint-fiction/hint-fiction-contest-judged-by-joyce-carol-oates-2011/


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summer of Absalom by Lis Anna

To celebrate the end of summer, I offer a wonderfully nostalgic summer love piece of flash fiction for your reading pleasure. Welcome to my world. Enjoy.


Summer of Absalom
by Lis Anna


Sun melted in surrender around the warm glow of our bodies that first summer we spent together. In a small town in Mississippi we fell into each others arms.

The sound of my aunt Louisa reading Faulkner aloud under the pale light in August drove him wild, the past echoing in her gently, lilting voice. A crack in the earth filled with water swooped off beyond the bluff into sunset. Hot, wild fragrant nights were book ended by dust floating down to tabletops. He strummed his six string and made my thighs long to be plucked, long to lay in his lap turning harmonic pages into song. Everything in my aunt’s house was old, with a crank. No wireless, no hi-tech. A lonesome world, recreated every afternoon. No shiny distractions to tear me away from his smile.

Everything turned off at night, except us. I liked the way he called me baby even though the windows of his soul were dirty, streaked with the fingerprints of flawed gods, whiskey rhyming men full of swagger. Under the glow of a hurricane lamp our magnetic attraction for one another crackled like lightning out on the wide open plains.

Auntie read Faulkner while we snuck around all night falling in love with each other, breathing the still, balmy air. I whispered to him, laying next to me in bed and he smiled, laughed, kissed me. His kisses were like a good bottle of scotch. I never got enough of them. Never loved kissing anyone but him, not in my whole life. No one owned him, he’d never been a walking shadow. A bit of madness, trueness in his voice lured me in. Lonely, consumed out under the bright, blue sky a fierceness in his eyes swept me across the landscape.  In the last fading rays of twilight we disappeared into the shadows of the parlor, far from my napping aunt.

A naked searching for feelings just below our skin exposed our layers to the world. Our hands were a wild catalog of exploration. If we slipped deep enough then quiet moans  erupted and his fingers pressed against my lips. We retreated down to the boathouse
in the hot, tomblike air breathing in the scent of jasmine blooming beneath the window.
The scent of me blooming in his hands.

All of our days were nights.

On Wednesdays he went to see his uncle Ringo as he lay dying in the old folks home. Afterwards we’d light stars with our fingertips, call sunsets into being. Storms rolled across the dusty plains. We fled into our warm bodies and listened. The sound of his footsteps on the hard, wooden planks of the front porch was divine music to me, divine in the way that bodies never leave love behind but yearn for it, are driven to find it hiding in the eaves.

We found and old treasure map when we stowed away in a closet. We stole shovels from the boathouse and endeavored to find treasure.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Into the dusty back roads went until we rounded a bend, on that dusty back road, and saw a man hanging from a tree. Flies flew in and out of his open mouth. White lips, eyes bulging. He looked over our heads in the direction of his murderer, an image burned onto his mind’s eye but he could not curl his tongue around a name, could not climb down from the hereafter. The stink of the man kicked up in the breeze mingling with gardenia. 

We vanished into the trees. Into the half light of August we went, unaided, alone. The sheriff came. They rode out on horses because the path was too narrow for cars, too far from the road. Thick, warm air clung to our arms. A deputy cut the man down but the rope still hung, ends frayed. We stared at those frayed ends, streams of sunlight rippling though the branches.

Uncle Ringo threw a vase of roses against the wall. I shook my head. Yankees won’t go calmly to take the hand of God. Won’t follow the devil straight to hell like everyone else.

When the last fallen rays of summer departed we slowed down into dreams of humble means, patched together with seams that connected intricate lives. The heat inside me was enough to light up the atmosphere. We tried so hard by not trying at all. It didn’t have to make sense anymore. We went back to the place we’d come from because we’d never been there before. I drank too much Cabernet and tears rushed onto the kitchen tile as I railed against the end of summer, the frayed end of the man in the tree.

I went down to old man Zephron’s cabin and he gave me a powder to drink under a full moon. When we kissed a vision would come, streaked with the fingerprints of flawed gods, whiskey rhyming men full of swagger. And with this we went unaided, alone, into the last days of summer crying Absalom, Absalom.


Copyright 2013 (c) Lis Anna All Rights Reserved



Monday, September 2, 2013





for your (story) telling pleasure today i am uploading 
all new photos.
each one tells it's own story.
evokes it's own emotion.
each one is a visual journey into my mind.

Welcome to my world.
Enjoy.













Copyright 2013 Lis Anna
All rights reserved.
Copying or sharing only with full photo credit.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/99943370@N04/






Friday, August 30, 2013

Two pieces of fiction up for the weekend. For your reading pleasure. "Abandon" was originally published in print in The MacGuffin literary journal in the Winter 2007 Edition Vol. XXIII No. 2.

Welcome to my world.
Enjoy. 



Abandon
by Lis Anna


Frost comes to the window
but I am warm, naked,
in the middle of a great room with windows all around.
No curtains, only shadows cast against white walls.
No furniture.
Just one long hallway that leads to a bed.
I am there.
Outside the trees are turning into old women,
reaching with dying fingers
into a darkness that comes earlier, stays later.
So we make love long into the night.
When he is not with me my lover is on the phone.
As he showers I slip into his closet,
running my fingertips down the rows of perfectly crisp
hand tailored shirts from Hong Kong.
He catches me, laughs,
says I am nosey and should be spanked.
He has no idea.
Pulling a shirt from the plastic covering he slides it over my bare arms.
 I wear his clothes more and more.
I do not know what it means.
It means I belong to him.
His skin smells of expensive cologne,
imported cigarettes, saffron, sandlewood, surrender.
Sometimes, late, drinking tequila, sucking limes,
I lay in his arms spinning into dawn.
He says, “I don’t know your last name, have never known it.”
Then he laughs when I am silent.
He begs, pleads, shivers.
He is like the moon.
Still I refuse.
In the mornings I sleep buried in the scent of  pillow talk.
Later, wrapped in a long velvet coat I descend the fire escape.
My teeth chatter but my body is warm.
 He begs me to accept gloves, scarf, hat but I won’t.
The chill does not penetrate his breath deep in the curves of my neck.
A heavy sun rises over the avenues of asphalt
but  still I only know the tremble,
the abandon,
the scent of me rising from his season, hungry.









Copyright 2007 Lis Anna
Fresh, hot flash fiction up for your weekend reading pleasure.

Welcome to my world.
Enjoy. 


The Cheat Sheet
by Lis Anna



The boy who turned his light out with a clear, odorless gas slapped me in the face two days before our final exam. When the pink princess phone rang I sprang joyfully upward.  It was not him calling, not he, my best friend from chemistry 101 where we sat side by side so close, our thighs touched. It was there we first learned about the existence of a molecule characterized by a bond that burned with a blue flame.

Bonds that burned with blue flames were pure poetry.

In a matter of seconds, a symphony of suicide repeated over and over in my brain
as a girl from school told me to sit down and listen. All I could think about was how the only part
of him left was the cheat sheet he handed me yesterday to help me graduate because our chemistry was stronger and I’d spent two semesters more into him than the class. Suddenly I wanted every moment I'd ever spent with him back. He'd embarked on a journey without me. Just him, all alone trudging through the blue, tasteless gas while I was on a princess phone reaching for the cheat sheet because it was proof 
he existed. I wanted the answers and the passing grade only if he lived.
I would study all night or rage against god if he kept his piece of paper and returned, coughing soot from his lungs apologizing for his unimaginable mistake.

I wanted to go back and make him promise, swear, cross his heart and hope to…

I saw what it meant. The cheat sheet, the watch, the copy of Chicago Poems, the silver bracelet from Istanbul. He gave me his favorite book in the world, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Cleaning house, he said. 
It was a lie. Really, his sidewalk was ending.  And so I was on the phone with a girl I barely knew crying.  She told me the viewing was tomorrow at noon and hung up. He would get an incomplete in our chemistry.

That was the last call I never got from him.

The only dead body I’d ever seen laid waxy and unreal in a coffin wearing the most hideous tie
to greet the afterlife in clothes picked out by his mother. The same mother who disowned him
three days earlier for liking boys too much. 

I had to know more so I asked his brother, the narcissist, who reluctantly told me about the black tubing
taped to the motorcycle tailpipe, how it snaked insidiously through the window of the car. How he was found, eyes closed in the front seat, darkness idling dangerously. I imagined he was napping at the rest stop like when we drove to Graceland to touch Elvis’ shag carpet.

Into the deep sleep of the blue flame the only dead body I’d ever seen went without me.

No longer would we pass class hand in hand, sneaking funny glances, cheating everything together
because suddenly I was at his coffin reading answers over and over on a tiny piece of paper.
A mantra of goodbye, giving me all of the answers on the way out. I fell in love with his handwriting, the twists and turns of a carefully thought out deception.
I wanted to leap from the coffin and yell, "I have all the answers, I have all the answers." 
But my body was heavy from lack of sleep, pulled to a dark and humming earth, unlike him
 who rose upward in a clear, odorless gas. 




Copyright 2013 Lis Anna
All Rights Reserved. 




Friday, August 23, 2013

Fast, awesome flash fiction up for the weekend. This concise little piece is one of my favorites. 

Welcome to my world.

Enjoy. 



Drunk Dial


He mumbles. Nothing coherent. Just things he didn’t say way back when. When I was the one. It’s a kind of therapy. Cheaper than the real stuff. Talking to someone’s voice mail at 3 AM after six pints of beer has a bit of boldness in it. Kind of. I admire his long, candid sighs. It doesn’t erase the fact that he’s married. It doesn’t erase the fact that he’s on the other side of the country staring at sext messages wondering how he ever let me go. Tonight he is nostalgic, talking about a night at the Antenna Club. A night that plays over and over in both our minds like a broken record, a CD skipping. There is no digital comparison I can make. Our feelings are not ipod friendly. Technology has smoothed the edges. Simplified our affections. The past skips like a broken record. Still, I listen to the message. Twice. Save it. I’ve never phoned him drunk. The wife, you understand. My exchanges with him are a naked homage to the dumb teenagers we still are. Sometimes I get a little dizzy hearing his voice. It happens. Some days I even welcome such silliness. Tonight he is asking me if I’ll always be there for him. Like an anchor. Yet we drift out into the sea of his heartbreak. I don’t answer at 3 AM. It rings and he leaves a message. If I answered, that long scratch of broken record would return to the song and while I hum the tune of him and me for days on end, I constantly forget the words.





 Copyright 2013 Lis Anna
All Rights Reserved.


I uploaded lots of new photos of mine to Flickr. Here is the viewing link. 


Welcome to my world.

Enjoy. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013



Since I tell stories with images and words, I am uploading a sneak peek of my new photography exhibit
 that I am organizing and shooting now.
 It is titled "Outlaws" 
or as I refer to it: Guns & Bunnies. 
ha.
Welcome to my world.
Enjoy.













Copyright 2013 Lis Anna
All Rights Reseerved.
No copying or posting allowed from this site without proper photo credit and a link back to this site.
Respect all postings as Intellectual property.








        The Dollhouse

By: Lis Anna





At Christmas time my mom and her boyfriend Dave liked to get really stoned and make strings of popcorn to go on the tree. This would go on for hours. This was the same year I begged for a chemistry set. The trend at the time was to give me dolls from all over the world. Dutch girl. Spanish girl. French girl. Yawn. I wrote my list and taped it to the refrigerator. I told everyone I could find.

Then…on Christmas morning I thundered down the hall to find…

Huh?

I looked everywhere for the chemistry set. There was a Swiss girl, a China girl and that…thing. It loomed over the other presents, with its creepy, freshly painted, empty rooms.

“Cotton, don’t you like it?” my mother glared me into submission.

I stared. I scratched. “What else did I get?”

Since she didn’t get the reaction out of me that she wanted she went to an after Christmas sale and bought her own dollhouse. Rich, deep colors, tiny fingernail sized tile, miniature claw footed bathtubs, and tiny ceramic cookware filled it to the brim. Mine sat in the corner. She bought a new marble table for hers. When she was done, she started in on mine again.

I watched my empty house fill with furniture I had not ordered. I begged for Magic Rocks, “Pleeeaaasse…”

“No.”

“A new chemistry set?” New parents? Anything but that stupid dollhouse.

“No.” 

“Well, then what am I supposed to do with it?”

“You play with it.”

“How?”

“You move the people around in the house. Like this…” she said, dragging the little rubber man over to the table to sit down for dinner.

“That’s not very interesting.”

“Oh, Cotton, use your imagination,” she said, throwing the Rubber Man on the cobbled bathroom floor.

I wasn’t making my point very well so I slept in the hall as protest. At 5 AM I woke to the sound of the bathroom door closing, then, “Cotton, you are so ungrateful.”

“Is it time for cartoons?”

“No, get in bed.”

I wasn’t going without a fight. “I don’t want to sleep with the evil, evil dollhouse.”

“Do you know how much money we spent on that thing? The house alone cost Dave a thousand dollars.”

“So. It’s evil.”

“Stop saying that.”

“Well, it is. It’s a haunted dollhouse.”

“It is not.”

“It is.”

“I’m not going to argue with you. It stays.”

Okay, but my rubber people weren’t dull. They threw china, slammed doors, had affairs, ran away with pirates, returned from voyages overseas, collapsed in piles of sorrow, drank too much, developed acute paranoia, formulated theories on why their house seemed so small and why therapy wasn’t helping them with the sensation that they were always being watched and although not entirely realistic, never once sat down for dinner. I took old Barbies and used it as a homeless shelter. The butler, Sam, developed a drinking problem. The oldest daughter, Sadie, slipped into a deep depression and disappeared for days in my sock drawer.

“Hank,” Sadie would say, “you’ve simply got to help me. I’ve been wearing the same clothes my entire life.”

She was constantly auditioning for parts on soap operas. She’d practice all day in the kitchen driving the hired help closer to the bottle. Angeline was the cook. No one knew anything about her except…

“Cotton.”

“What?”

“Who are you talking to in there?”

“I’m not talking to anyone. It’s the rubber people.”

“Well, stop. It’s creepy.”

Then Sadie turned to Hank as he refilled the ice bucket. “Darling, don’t you think it’s strange that none of us remember anything before we came to live in this house. It’s like we didn’t exist,” she whispered.

Sadie was a sharp one. Hank looked over, his eyes swimming in stolen bourbon. “Honey,” he’d say, “let’s just forget about it.”

“Only because you can’t remember, either,” she slapped back.

Then she took a lover. But I didn’t have anymore rubber people so Sam had to double.

“Cotton, its time for bed.”

Then Sam stole the plastic Mercedes and ran away with a Barbie six inches taller than him because he couldn’t take the stress. Barbie thought he was rich because he always wore a tuxedo.

In the meantime, my parents were trafficking loads of narcotics out of our basement. Men who didn’t speak English carried boxes out to trucks. These people had no names, no identity, no past, no future. Sort of like the rubber people.

“Hank,” Sadie slurred, “Hank, why don’t we have a front yard, honey? I feel so confined. Honey, I feel like someone’s watching us.”

Sadie was going to have to go back on medication. They were huge pills of artificial sweetener I’d stolen from the kitchen cabinet. Hank left everyday saying that he was going to the office but he really spent his entire day in the windowsill.

“What a fake,” Sadie exhaled.

“Cotton, it’s time for your ballet lesson.”

“But Sadie’s waiting on a call from a TV producer.”

“Don’t worry about that.”

Sam came back after a week. Barbie dumped him and kept the Mercedes. Penniless and rubber he returned, smelling like exhaust and cigarettes. Angeline poured him a stiff one.

“Cotton, come on.”

“Oh, alright.”

Later that night a bright light flashed in Hank’s eyes. He bolted upright. “What was that?”

Sadie looked around in a daze and said, “Aliens.”

I turned off my flashlight and went to bed amused.

“Cotton?”

“Yes?”

“Stop talking to yourself,” my mother screamed at the top of her lungs.

The next day my mother curiously disappeared.

“She has a headache,” Dave said. “She’s resting.”

“Where?”

“In a comfortable place.”

“Like a chair?”

“Yes, like a chair.” Then he bought me a happy meal.

With the disappearance of my mother the antics of the dollhouse seemed to be less interesting so I went back to discovering lost civilizations out in the woods behind our house. I looked for Mars in the night sky and tried to imagine the world three thousand years ago. I’d lay very still, under the stars and travel on caravans through ancient worlds.

The next morning we had runny, undercooked, hardboiled eggs for breakfast. Dave stared down at his plate.

“There’s a diner down off the highway,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“Yeah,” he said, standing. Then he threw the plates in the trash.

The glass plates.

After breakfast I went into my room to get my new magic rocks and saw Hank lying face down on the tiled floor. When the coast was clear I sneaked across the hall and put him in my mother’s empty dollhouse. There were no porcelain cats, no felt covered birds in tiny cages with no vocal cords, no squatters, no renters, no nothing. Just a big, empty, perfect house that looked good if you were looking in. Hank hated it. There wasn’t a drop of booze anywhere.

Dave went outside to smoke a joint. I heard the glass door slide shut. Finally I walked into the kitchen to finish my homework. Dave came in, bleary eyed, looking like someone hit him in the head with a rock.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah.” But really I was kind of bored so I was happy when Sadie had a relapse and the Butler drained the bank account.

On Tuesday Dave left me alone in the house. He made me promise not to turn on the stove or tell my grandmother I was ever by myself. I read a Hardy Boys mystery, ate leftover Italian, then padded down the hall, and stared at the empty dollhouse in my mother’s room. There was something about its perfection that made it tainted, jaded, unfit.

“I’ll drink to that,” Sadie said, just before running off to Mexico.

Later that evening Dave guided my mother through the door. Her eyes were heavy, with dark circles underneath.

“Someday,” she told me over breakfast the next morning, “you’ll get married and have a house, too and you’ll be happy you learned something from that dollhouse.”

“You’re not married,” I pointed out.

She stared down into her grape juice. Dave hustled me out of the kitchen and took me to my French lesson.

“I don’t want the dollhouse anymore,” I announced in the car.

“Cotton, now isn’t the time to start changing things around. Just play with the dollhouse the way your mother wants.”

“But I don’t want it.”

“It’s just a silly toy,” he said, sighing.

“No, it’s something else,” and I started crying.

The dollhouse loomed dark over my thoughts placed on the floor in-between the dresser and window. Four stories tall, filled to the brim, secrets stashed in every drawer. Late at night, when everyone else was sleeping, it would whisper and creak like it was alive.

So, I started sleeping in the hall again. This time my mother ignored me.

For days I sat at the kitchen table, plotting. How does a seven year old make an entire house just disappear. We had a hammer in the kitchen junk drawer but I knew my mother would blow a gasket over destruction. I slept on it, obsessed, considered my options, begged for aliens to come and take it away, slept on it again, paced the hall in my footed pajamas, obsessed and then at the end of the week the light bulb clicked on so bright, it nearly burst. That night while everyone was sleeping I took the rubber people out to the side of the house and buried them.

“Cotton, where’s the family I bought for the house?”

Not bothering to glance up from the Hardy Boy’s mystery, I said, “They’re not a family and I don’t know.”

“Well, they were here a few days ago.”

“Yes, they were,” I picked at the dirt under my fingernails.

“And you don’t know what happened to them?”

“Nope. Maybe the dog ate them.”

Later that night I eavesdropped outside the bedroom door.

“Don’t you think the whole thing is a little creepy and a little odd?” My mother asked Dave.

The Christmas tree was upside down in the trash. It was snowing. Jimmy Carter was on the TV again.

Dave shook his head hopelessly and let it go.

I went back to my room thinking about the rubber people. If Sadie had been there she would have said, “Hank, honey, hasn’t anyone noticed that the backside of the house doesn’t have a wall? Don’t you think that’s strange? I mean, people could be watching us.”

Angeline would’ve heard the whole thing while she was dusting the furniture with a cotton ball. Sam would have been wondering why there were so many lamps and no electricity.


And Hank would have stopped making gin martini’s long enough to say, “Honey, I think you’re making a big deal out of nothing. I mean, we have three sides. So what if the back is missing. It’s always been that way.”


Welcome to my world.


Copyright 2008 Lis Anna All Rights Reserved

This short story was originally published in print in 2008 in The Petigru Review Volume One


The Petigru Review is sponsored by the South Carolina Writers Workshop 
which I support and recommend.

http://myscww.org/