When Your House Burns Down

House fire

(Screen shot from https://youtu.be/FaVoSBwTwyQ)

[Editor’s Note: Little Utopia seeks to bring different and disparate voices together in engaging and thoughtful communication. We have not previously featured any creative or fiction writing, but we want to begin doing so now. Our first post in this new creative writing series is a beautiful vignette by Christine Stoddard, and it is an honor to feature her work. Enjoy, and we look forward to showcasing other creative work in the future.]

When your house burns down, you, the woman of the house, mourn the loss of your home and marvel that you are alive. You stink of smoke. Your hair is singed and your skin is scalded. Your eyes are red. Your face is black. Scratches cross your body like a web. Your feet are lead and your ankles are Jello. A boulder weighs down your belly. You lived and the house died.

Those fifteen minutes on the slate roof before the firemen came felt like Purgatory. You clung to your husband, the two of you huddling with the defeat of beaten animals. Snowflakes twirled through the early morning darkness and neither of you had on socks. The fire alarm jolted you from bed almost too late. The stairs had collapsed and flames licked the mouth of your bedroom. So you crawled out of the second-story bathroom and sought temporary refuge from the heat on the porch roof, wearing nothing but your silk pajamas.

You used to watch a family of robins from that window. When you got out from the shower, you’d sit on the toilet and brush your hair, fixated on the pink heads popping out from the nest. Sometimes you’d bring the birds berries or cut up apples. But mostly, you watched the mother care for her babies—bringing them writhing worms, patching up the nest.

Only a few years before, you had been that mama bird. That house was your nest and it was full of chicks that grew into fledglings and flew away. You still had their toys, their clothes, their books. In the den, you still heard their giggles and play fights. In the dining room, you still caught whiffs of family dinner. In the bathroom, you still felt them flick you with foam from the tub. During those quiet moments of despair, you hugged their toys and smelled their clothes and read their books. As long as you had that home, you had them. It didn’t matter if they only called to ask for money and wrote letters to thank you for said money. In that home, they loved you – money or no money.

Yet, as you lie in the emergency room bed, you realize that the house is done. Motherhood is done. The house is now nothing but ashes, just as you will one day be.


Christine Stoddard Christine Stoddard (@cstoddard) is a guest contributor for Little Utopia.

Christine is a writer and multimedia artist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Feminist WireEvery Day FictionThe Brooklyn QuarterlyPink Panther MagazineSo to SpeakThe Southeast Review, and elsewhere. She is also the founding editor of Quail Bell Magazine, a Puffin Foundation artist, and a Folio Magazine “Top 20 in their 20s” visionary.

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