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Everything in this House Is Crooked

Story by Alisha Karabinus (Read author interview) December 17, 2013

art by Samy Sfoggia

The day we moved in together, we discovered the uneven floor, the gaps in the hardwood and bubbles in the linoleum—things we didn’t notice on the giddy trips we spent driving from house to house, searching for natural light and character. Things we’d talked about wanting; things we could agree on. We stumbled down the hall like it was the deck of a ship, feet sliding port to starboard; we propped the new bed with my Dubliners and steadied your mother’s old armchair with bottle caps. All night we explored, yelling discoveries across the house. Two windows that closed fully only on the left side. Closet doors that hung loose in the jambs. You counted sixteen sets of wall outlets in the living room, the first three dormant when we plugged in your stereo. A drunken switch plate in the kitchen splashed light over the bedroom. We stared at the pitted ceiling, at the tangle of wires tying here to there, and you raised my hand to your lips, said it was all a beautiful mystery.

All weekend we unpacked, play-fighting over dresser drawers and coat hangers. In the living room we played outlet-roulette, tangramming furniture and electronics until we found power. Tables here, couches there: no order in chaos. You built the shelves and I filled them, my books and your DVDs, The Sound and the Fury above Audition.

We took so many breaks my bourbon ran out; over your Budweiser and under the flickering lights we perfected a modest list of disco jokes. We put in a movie, sprouting cricks in our necks as we strained for comfortable angles from the sofa. When I watched you instead of the zombies, the ceiling fan cast quivering shadows over your face. We moved the TV. We tightened screws. You spilled laundry over the floor and I followed, sorting, blending our things in piles light and dark.

Sunday we gave up, spent the night playing cards, hands propped on still-packed boxes. I dealt gin; you taught me Egyptian Ratscrew. You poured shots and we toasted the prior tenants, imagining their tequila-fueled DIY parties, booze and salt and ratchets, college kids patching plaster and screwing in uneven brackets. We drank; we forgot the games, left cards scattered across boxes; we tumbled on the floor and used our bodies to test for splinters. You promised my neck we would paint and saw, that together we would create straight lines. We talked paint; red, you argued, I countered with olive. A dog, I said, and you added babies, the house filled with joyful noise, the backyard littered with footballs and water guns. No, I said, not now; I like my liquor and my quiet and waffles in bed on Sunday mornings. Not now, you said, but maybe someday, and I countered with maybe never. You yelled then, sudden anger swelling in the open floor plan, and I raised my hands, defensive, because you’d never said babies, because you’d never asked, and why would I want to carry some other creature around for a year, or eighteen? You kicked a glass, stormed out, slammed the bedroom door so hard it bounced open again, and in the living room I sat alone with the boxes, so many scrawled with my name, so many things spilling onto the floor.

About the Author

Alisha Karabinus is co-founder and executive editor of Revolution House magazine and an MFA candidate in fiction at Purdue University, where she is also the managing editor of Sycamore Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as the Southeast Review, Baltimore Review, Passages North, PANK, and Per Contra. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband and two young children.

About the Artist

Samy Sfoggia was born in Brazil in 1984. She has a bachelor’s degree in history from Faculdade Porto-Alegrense (2007) and studied art, body and education at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, post-graduating in 2009. Currently, she is an undergraduate photography student. Samy shoots with film cameras and primarily with black and white negative film scanned and digitally altered (assemblies, color inversion, drawings on the tablet). Her work is influenced by movies (David Lynch) and literature (Franz Kafka). She tries to represent the subconscious mind by creating fantastic imagery and by juxtaposing elements that seem to contradict each other. Her pictures are like frames of an unconscious deliberately incoherent and illogical.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Two

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