When We Lived in the Blue House by JC Reilly
When We Lived in the Blue House
Our blue house is missing a wall. What faces the street is open, nothing to keep out intruders or weather. We stand in the middle of the room and watch a parade pass by on the street. A lion detours from the parade and comes inside the house and sits on the floor by the couch. I go to pet him, and he roars and bites off my hand. Then he drops it at my feet, and I throw it outside. The lion runs after it, brings it back, and drops it at my feet again. I throw it again. He retrieves it again. This game continues until someone from the parade leads the lion away. You shouldn’t have encouraged him, you say.
I have sent you a love letter. You return it with comments and suggestions on improving its quality. And though the grammar is perfect when I sent it to you initially, you have also marked grammar errors. Try again, you say.
The cat has vomited on the floor. You and I try to determine what it resembles, like a Rorschach test. I think it looks like California. You say that it looks like a comet trail. As we debate, the cat vomits again. Neither one of us cleans up the vomit.
I have four children and no time to write. For a sweetheart price, a realtor in a bowler hat offers me a timeshare in a rustic cabin that overlooks a pine-filled valley, but of course I must sleep with him to secure the deal. I think of your face when I tell you about my week at the cabin, how you will have to take care of the children here in the blue house on your own, away from me. I do not count on the realtor telling you that I’ve cheated. He does not count on you not caring.
You and I are watching a television show about medieval Irish castles. An American heiress has restored one and is living inside. She has painted all the ceilings yellow. I would like to live in a castle with yellow ceilings, I say. It’s too damp, you say. Besides, you can’t even keep the living room tidy. Imagine if we had all that square footage.
The lion returns. A year has passed. I set down a dish of coffee for it, and its wide, pink tongue gulps it down, fast and careless. The same way you gulp coffee down, as if you never notice the heat. My cat comes over and vomits beside lion. My hand falls off.
It is our first Christmas in the blue house. For dinner, I prepare a mushroom lasagna with béchamel sauce. You have seen me slice and sauté the onions and the mushrooms and boil the lasagna noodles and make the tomato ragù and whisk the cream and the garlic and the butter to make the béchamel. When the lasagna is resting on the kitchen table after it has baked, you say, But I wanted turkey for Christmas.
We hear the transformer blow in the hail storm. It sounds like a volcano against the needle-prickling bounce of ice pellets on hard surfaces. The lights in the blue house go out, and our furnace, which has never been reliable, cuts out as well. We sit in the dark and cold for hours. I wonder why you don’t get some wood off the back porch to start a fire, but do not make the suggestion. Bet there will be lots of babies born in September, you joke at one point. But not for us, I think.
The cat has carried in a live chipmunk through the open back window and is chasing it throughout the blue house. He traps it under the fridge and crouches down beside it, waiting to see if the chipmunk will make a break for it. I scoop up the cat and stick him in the bathroom. Then I find a large, lidded tin, the kind that was filled with popcorn at Christmas, and ease the fridge out of its spot. As I do, the chipmunk zips out, and I maneuver the tin to capture the frightened creature. I slap the lid on top, hear its claws scrape-scuttling against the metal, desperate to escape, and release it back outside in a safe spot in the grass. Suddenly the cat is in the yard, racing after the chipmunk again. I see you standing at the open front door of the blue house. Why would you do that? I say, horrified to see the little thing hanging out of the cat’s jaws yet again. After everything I did to save the chipmunk, why would you let the cat back out? I chase after the cat, and grab him, and he drops the chipmunk, which disappears down a gopher hole. I thought that was part of the game, you say.
I want to paint the blue house red. I have heard that lions only see blues and greens, and the lion may be fooled by the red house and pass on by the next time it wants to visit. I examine paint swatches, compare reds that range from alizarin to carmine to garnet to wine to apple to rose. Any of these reds will do. You see the swatches, ask me what I’m doing. I would like to paint the house red, I say. But I want to live in a blue house, you say. If it’s red, it will not be my house. Yes, I think. The lion will not recognize a red house. You are the lion.
© 2017 JC Reilly
JC Reilly writes across genres and has received Pushcart and Wigleaf nominations for her work. She serves as the Managing Editor of the Atlanta Review and has pieces published or forthcoming in POEM, West Texas Literary Review, Picaroon Poetry, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Glassworks Magazine, and borrowed solace. When she isn’t writing, she plays tennis or works on improving her Italian.
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