Dwellings: A Triptych by Michelle Ross
Godzilla is the pet name he gives her not long after they start sleeping together. She’s restless, especially at night. And she doesn’t yet know her way around his apartment in the dark. Topples the footstool, the laundry hamper. Creaks the wooden floors. A mouse would make those floors creak, but a mouse wouldn’t rattle him awake with its sad bellow. Wouldn’t stomp and roar because he’s turned away from her, pressed his hands to his ears. Always she wants to have the serious conversations when he’s asleep. Civilized creatures don’t pick fights in the middle of the night, he says.
Once upon a time he tied her wrists to the headboard and spanked her, but her bruises were all from bumping into his furniture in the dark. Now they live in a house with carpet, their bedroom like the plush inside of a melon. She sleeps through the night. How many years since she had a bruise? These days they pad themselves with jokes. During sex, he says things like “I’m putting my lug into you. I lug putting my lug into you.” She visualizes his penis is a magic wand sprinkling glittery dust so that something new will grow.
The old house’s first groan is subtle, like the pop in her jaw when she yawns or the squeak of his knots when he climbs the stairs. Before long, the bedroom rumbles like a gurgling belly. One day the door no longer fits its frame. Another day: a draft along the window frame. The concrete baseboard cracks, separates from the wall behind their headboard. Cold creeps in, as do crickets and rodents. They spend thousands on subterranean piers. The house may never settle, experts warn. But the couple is adaptive. By now they’re good at finding each other in any dark.
Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (2017), which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award and was a finalist for the 2017 Foreward INDIES Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction. Her fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Epiphany, The Pinch, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and other venues. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review. www.michellenross.com