This House, was initially written for a contest for Writer’s Digest. I never made it to the deadline, but I completed the story in the format that they wanted. The format was a short story of a few thousand words (maybe between 1000-3000, I can’t remember) that began with the phrase, “I never would have purchased this house…”, and ended with the phrase, That’s why tomorrow I’m setting it on fire.”
The part that I thought was challenging, but what ended up being not bad at all, was creating a short story within the word limit that made sense with the statements and tied them together.
“I never would have purchased this house if I’d known that it would turn me into a baked potato”.
Midge said to her friend Adrienne, almost gasping, as they both stood outside her 1900, two-story, pebbled stone cottage.
“I mean, the house is so beautiful, but I don’t know if I will be able to take this anymore—if I will be able to survive living in this house”.
Midge said with disappointment to Adrienne, as they stared aimlessly at the house.
Adrienne then with a puzzled look said,
“Surely there must be something that can be done the resolve this. I mean, I know the house is quite old, but won’t proper fans, maybe a personal air conditioner work”?
“Oh, so you haven’t heard. I thought I told you”.
Midge said, as she closed her eyes in frustration, then proceeded to take a seat on the front stoop of the house. Adrienne followed as well.
“I’ve already tried them all. Fans, air conditioners—even new window treatments. Still nothing has worked. I must have called every maintenance and renovation crew this side of Minnesota. Whenever I tell them that this house must be a human size oven determine to bake me like the witch was trying to do to Hansel and Gretel, they just laugh. Sure they agree that the house is quite hot, as they notice that when they enter, but they don’t believe that I have done anything to remedy it”.
“That’s just too bad”.
Adrienne said quietly with a frown.
“And to make matters worse, this house is destroying my belongings! I have dolls, toys, heirlooms, books—yes books that are literally melting into a pool of paint. I am not lying, I tell you. The other day when I went to my bedroom upstairs, I decided to read one of my favorite books. I had no idea that the words on the cover where not on print, but paint, because once I touched it, the words were no longer on the book, but on my hands! So now the story has no other name, but “untitled”.”
“Is that true? I have got to see that.”
Adrienne said with eyes wide in shock.
“Anyways, if things couldn’t get any better, I have started noticing strikingly unfamiliar bugs and critters showing up around the house—mainly in the basement though. And you know how much I dislike bugs. I feel like I live in the tropics of Florida, not the icy north of Minnesota.”
“Well but the house is old, you knew this when you bought it right”?
Adrienne said with a slight smile.
“Are you kidding? I had no idea. I had no idea the house was a human size oven that could not be tamed. And I had no idea that it was home to the world’s most exotic bugs and critters. Don’t you think I would have thought twice of buying such a house?”
Midge said harshly with rolled eyes.
“Well, but you did get a good deal for the house, so it can’t be all that bad–$60,000 dollars. That’s something to smile about”.
Adrienne said in an attempt to console her.
“I’m not sure if I made the right decision—if I even got a good deal. I should have known the price was too good to be true. Apart from the bugs and critters, because of the uncontrollable heat, not only am I and my belongings falling apart, but the house is as well. I’m starting to notice cracks on the walls and floors, leaky faucets and pipes, and even leaky roofs. I already spent so much money on trying to remedy the heat problem, I do not know if I can afford to remedy anything else. This house has become nothing but a complete nightmare—literally and figuratively”.
Midge said almost in tears.
“What do you mean”?
Adrienne said with concern.
“I recently had a dream—more of a nightmare that the house was literally trying to bake me. Yes, it was summer, about 80 degrees outside, but to no surprise, about 110 degrees inside. I was watching TV and suddenly, I felt a heat wave coming. Steam starting coming out of my ears and not because I was angry, which I have been since I bought this house, but because it was so darn hot”!
“Soon the TV broke a fuse and the floors started feeling like hot coals. I realized that I had to get out of the house to save myself, but it was too late. At every exit, the doors and windows have fused together by the heat. I couldn’t break the window glass to save myself, because I couldn’t touch anything—everything was too hot”!
I then jumped on the nearest sofa because that was the only thing that was not exceeding hot, but it got to the point where I could no longer breathe and the fabric of the sofa started to ignite in flames. Soon I was out of breath, then…”
Midge said with panic as she paused to catch her breath.
“What! What happened next”?
Adrienne said in a panic too.
“I woke up”. “At dawn. And of course—sweating. Though not from the terror of my nightmare as you would suspect, but from the reality of my condition—my housing condition. It was from that nightmare that I came up with the ultimate remedy to this house problem”.
“I just realized that I have been tricked into buying a human size oven and not a house. There is no way anyone can survive in such conditions. This house tried to take me out and it is only a matter of time before it sets me on fire. So I am no longer going to be the fool. One of us has got to go and it won’t be me. I suffered long enough”.
“It’s time to say good bye…it’s time to get even. That’s why tomorrow I’m setting it on fire.”
Midge said with a clever smile as Adrienne smile with her eyes closed, shaking her head in disbelief.