SmokeLong Quarterly

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Unfinished Houses

Story by Ani King (Read author interview) December 18, 2023

Art by Silvia Brazzoduro

I always fall in love with women who have never lived in unfinished houses. Who’ve never had blankets make a maze of walls that breathe. My architecture is unsteady and haphazard: these women expect a home to have finished floors. A bathroom that is more than a toilet anchored to plywood. They expect interior walls, doors that are not left ajar, hinge-swaying so anyone can see my bones and all the soft, wet tissue around them.

I fall in love with women who do not have childhood splinters or carpenter nails still working their way out from under calloused heels. They weren’t taught to walk wounded without making too much sound, to clean up blood behind them. I am always cleaning up blood behind me.

One time, I fall in love with a woman who has lived in unfinished houses, who has feet full of nails, who works at the Applebees in my hometown and knows all my siblings. She gets drunk one night and says my whole family is full of broken glass and kerosene, but I especially am a house waiting to burn down. For a moment, I expect her to hand me matches.

I fall in love with women who, unbelievably, want to forgive me for fitting my life into one backpack at the first sign of trouble as if leaving a crime scene, not a relationship. Really, I know I am a crime scene, leaving. I am still just two broken front steps, a garden of plastic hammers, nerf darts, bird bones, and cigarette butts. I am a half-built house that is always unlocked and everything has already been stolen.


“Unfinished Houses” was a finalist in the 2023 SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition.

About the Author

Ani King is a queer, gender non-compliant writer, artist, and activist from Michigan. They can found at aniking.net, along with a comprehensive list of their available work. Ani is also the founder and EiC of now-closed Syntax & Salt: Stories, a journal of speculative fiction.

About the Artist

Find more work by Silvia Brazzoduro HERE.

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

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