A Man in the House
We needed to sell the house, but there was a man in the house. He never bothered anyone, but he was there—a man—in the house, each day, each night, huddled over the orange bowl, eating oranges, peeling oranges. It’s not like we could take him with us either; the man in the house came with the house. The realtor had warned us about a man in the house, but we were so brash and stupid and young then we bought the house even though there was a man in the house. Do other houses come with a man in the house, we’d asked, but the realtor had said no—or, I guess what he’d really said was that he didn’t think so. Not likely, yes, that was it, that was what he’d said regarding other houses having men in them, and the man in the house we were about to buy. I think our friends thought we were losing it. What do you mean there is a man in the house, they’d ask. I mean, there’s a man in the house, I’d say. He sits there every day, every night, huddled over the orange bowl, eating oranges, peeling oranges. Well do you talk to him, they’d ask. We try, I’d say. But the man in the house never responds. So we go about our days around him, beside him, our voices careful, our bodies tense and aware. It’s a shame, really. We loved the house even though there was a man in the house. We wanted to raise kids in the house even though there was a man in the house. It’s a shame we needed to sell it. It’s a shame we lost our jobs when the company sold. It’s a shame we’ve had to spend each day in such anxiety and uncertainty, looking for work, in a house where there is a man in the house. One night Jan finally lost it. She’d gone to the kitchen for a glass of water and forgot that there was a man in the house. It startled her half to death. I can’t stand that there’s a man in the house, she’d said to me, settling back into bed. I felt her warm, shaky body. The sour venom of her breath. Nobody else has a man in the house, so why do we have a man in the house? I don’t know, I’d said, wishing there was something, anything, I could do about the man in the house. But what? I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. Sometime around dawn I went to the kitchen. Why are you here? I asked. Why don’t you ever leave? The man in the house didn’t respond. I asked him again, but he didn’t respond. There was a towhee trilling on the deck outside the sliders and warm silver light filtering in through the blinds. I sat next to him at the counter, for a while. Two men huddled over the orange bowl, eating oranges, peeling oranges.
David Byron Queen grew up in Ohio. His work has appeared in VICE, Hobart, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pithead Chapel, CHEAP POP, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Missoula, where he is a Truman Capote Fellow at the University of Montana. Find him on Twitter @byron_queen.
Cover Photo by Randy