Baba Yaga's Delaware Youth
When I wake up, the house is on human feet. I think at first that I must still be sleeping, dreaming about dropping from the sky into Where the Wild Things Are. Stranger dreams have happened after drinking too much, and we did drink a lot last night. Remember? (I don’t, really; I can never handle the brown liquors, your favorites.) It was just like the old days, until your tears over your cousin’s baby announcement stopped our little party. Maybe you thought I wouldn’t notice, the way your face listed to one side as you opened that creamy yellow envelope, but somehow you always forget I’m a lucid, irritable drunk.
I pull back inside the bedroom window and blink slowly, expecting that in the end life will be life again and the house the house, smelling of dust and incense and your minty aftershave and so on. But when I stretch my upper body outside the second time, I’m still ten feet off the ground. Huge dirty toes, attached to legs stretching down from somewhere under the living room probably, are pointing toward the front porch, wriggling, poised for flight.
Huge dirty toes, attached to legs stretching down from somewhere under the living room probably, are pointing toward the front porch, wriggling, poised for flight.
You aren’t here, of course; you’re out for your coffee and a greasy breakfast sandwich. Probably at this very moment, you’re telling Frank at the diner your latest bad political joke (“How many Republicans does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, they only screw the poor.”). But the neighbors are all gathered around and staring. They stand shoulder to shoulder in a huge semicircle, hunched over like vultures. I wander out onto the front porch and wave, but no one waves back. They whisper up and down the line, an old-fashioned game of telephone, while I wonder if you left before or after the feet appeared. Did you slide down one of these weird legs on your way to your usual solitary breakfast, or did you simply walk down the two rotting porch steps? Do you know what you left me with? I squint into the midmorning sunlight, considering again my options, and yours.
Finally, a neighbor steps forward and calls out, “Your house! Appears to have! Grown feet!” Then he moves back into line and I have a hard time separating him from the others. “I know,” I yell, because I can’t think of any other way to answer. I’ve always had trouble with stating the obvious; it’s a tendency that bores you. As all the heads below me start to nod like bobblehead dolls, I shrug and absentmindedly pat the wall, and the house takes that as some sort of sign of approval and shudders forward. It begins to run down the street in thundering strides while I brace myself in the doorway. I don’t ask where we’re going because the house didn’t sprout a mouth that can answer. Besides, I don’t care. I cede my fate to the decisive, silent action of these feet.
Katie DePasquale enjoys telling a good story and making sure it's correctly punctuated. Her writing has appeared in publications including, most recently, the Ploughshares blog, Apeiron Review, and Tin House online, and her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Illustration by Jeremy Anderson.