They Say That Doors Will Open Soon As You Find The Missing Key

When fire eats the corner house, I walk a different way. I don’t like the bones of it, how easily the snow blows through. There is no other reason. One-point-five miles away, the house we call ours heats & stretches & molds its new skin—new paint, new cushions, a framed picture above our bed. A flag. A flag of pictures around the flag. We’ve travelled, the pictures say. And now we’re here.

The skinless house smolders for a long time. From the outside, it used to look perfect. Perfectly square. The chimney was a movie chimney. Windows like shiny boxes. When I used to leave you to walk past it, I wore a big furry coat to keep me warm. It made me feel like a movie star, like broad shoulders and thick bones. Like I could really make an impression on a body.

When men come to fix the skinless house, they tear it down first & then build it back up. This is one way to make repairs. After it’s done I sneak out to it at night when you’re sleeping. It feels like betrayal because it is. The lot is a mess. There is broken lumber in the yard, covered in snow. I am covered in snow. I stand in front of the new walls & try to whistle the old walls up from the pile. A sound comes out. Maybe I’m learning something. Maybe I’m just fighting the cold.


This story originally appeared in NANO Fiction 8.2. Pick up your issue today.

Justin Brouckaert's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Passages North, Hobart, Gigantic Sequins and Smokelong Quarterly, among other publications. He is a James Dickey Fellow at the University of South Carolina, where he serves as fiction editor of Yemassee.