House and Parallelogram

by Markham Sigler

The house holds its rooms, and the people walk its space like the exiled prisoners of a distant imperial galaxy. Sometimes they stroke the cats that live there. Sometimes they mistake one another for a cat, and they stroke, and the non-cat flinches with a certain lacquered sensuality.

The youngest organizes the house. He picks up the clothes of his parents where they lay strewn about the burgundy carpet. He folds them and places them in the dresser. His parents, collectors of needles, lie in bed, large and blond, where they resemble a two-headed mass. Sometimes they take him in their arms and he feels like sandwich meat, edible and pleasant.

The two older brothers, twins, live in the attic, where they spend the day engaged in ancient encounter. When the youngest visits them, he doesn’t know what they are doing. Are they building something? Are they aspiring choreographers? Do they work for the government? Generally, they speak only to each other. Twins. The youngest brings them food and they smile at him, patting him on the back, saying that they are proud of him. When he puts his ear to the door, as though on accident, he hears them speaking in a wonderful bug language.

The third child is a girl. She sits on the window couch that overlooks the computerized farmlands. She is a local crossword legend. She leads the youngest in breathwork exercises twice a day, and he joins her for her sake, though he doesn’t know. He ushers the cats to her when he feels she is lonely.

One day there is a knock on the door. The boy skips down the stairs from his work on the month’s finances. The door opens slightly before he reaches it. The ceiling throughout the house is made of wood.

“Greetings,” comes a voice.

“Yes,” the boy says. “Who is it?”

“It’s the photographer. I’m here. I’m here to take pictures.”

The boy peers out the cracked door at the man. He’s gigantic, and with his long black hair and beard he looks like Moses or a pirate.

“I come once every five years. How old are you?”


“Fantastic. Let me in now would you, it’s cold.”

The boy sticks his hand into the world. It’s not that cold for this part of the country. He looks at the man.

“I’d rather not.”

This utterance changes the complexion of the man’s face. He crouches onto a knee and stares into the boy. His camera hangs from his neck. He looks gallant and terrifying.

“What is it?” the boy says.

“Well, it’s really quite simple,” the man says. “You’d be doing me a favor. You see, I’m a kind of agent. And I’m under a deadline. It’s a frightful experience, but it gets me out of bed in the morning. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you.” He extends his hand and caresses the boy’s cheek.

The boy says, “I don’t think I can help you. I can make you some hot cherry cocoa if you need to be warmed up. If you’ll just stay there.” He starts to walk to the kitchen but the man calls him back, a note of fear in his voice.

“Listen, boy,” he says. “It’s like this. I’m dying. If you don’t let me into this house to take some pictures, I’ll die. Do you understand? Do you understand what I mean by the word ‘dying’?”

The boy looks at him. “Do you want the cocoa or not? I have a house to keep.”

The man lets out a croak and tumbles off the porch into the lightly piling snow. The boy sticks his head out the door and studies him. He decides the man is acting, based on the way the man cracks open his eyes to look at him every few seconds, and by the way the man’s fallen body is shaped, like a parallelogram.

The boy closes the door and goes about his business. He mops the kitchen and the living room, whistling one of the new tunes. He lets the light in through the windows and dusts the blinds. At the window in the laundry room, he sees the man tramping through the snow in his black coat. The man sees the boy and falls into the snow. The boy doesn’t know what to make of this but doesn’t see any reason to pay it much mind, and so he continues with his routine, setting about to make lunch. He stands at the sink and washes a plate and looks up into the white mass of land, the blue trees on the horizon like the dots of a marker. The photographer moves into the frame. He has his camera and he’s shooting the house. He’s right there in front of the window. The boy knocks on the door and wags his finger at the man. The man looks at him, surprised by the boy’s omnipresence. Then he shrugs and flicks the boy off and continues taking pictures, moving out of the frame.

The boy isn’t sure what this emotion he is feeling is. It’s a long emotion, and it causes him to grab the mop from the kitchen doorway as he moves to the front of the house. As he’s opening the door he hears a clatter and a shriek. He moves out the front door and around the house and hears the baying of dogs. He arrives at the back of the house and sees the photographer running across the snow toward the blue dots, followed by the whooping twins, who carry flaming sticks. There are dogs the boy has never seen before between the twins and the photographer. The boy puts his hands on his hips, watching the scene unfold. He looks up over his shoulder at the attic window and sees sister, standing there with her crossword book behind her glasses, looking stoic and pleased with the day’s events.

Markham Sigler is finishing his MFA in fiction writing at the University of South Carolina. He enjoys traveling, boxing and reddit.
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