We moved to a tiny house to escape big city problems, only to find that something much more insidious came with us.
Moving out of our dream home was my wife’s idea. We were on the ferry to Whidbey Island when she said it. My shock felt a little like seasickness.
Prior to this, she had only spoken of her love for the house, all 4,000 square feet of it. Every Sunday for months she had woken early, pulled her Jordache Jeans purse over one shoulder, and set off with interior decorator Todd Z. to hit the uptown furniture stores. She was taking her time with furnishing each room, almost like it was something to be savored. I could respect that, I only wondered if she might never quit.
But then one day it happened. She turned a new chair 90 degrees, moved a bookshelf six inches closer to the hall and kissed the tips of her fingers like a chef. She was done. She had gotten it just right, you could feel it. The house we purchased together had truly become a home. Every room was tasteful and comfortable and stunning. On this we were agreed. Todd Z. was dispatched to find a new client to gossip with over juice. My wife and I settled into our Valhalla.
Now she said she wanted something much smaller.
“How much smaller?” I asked. We were in the concessions galley of the passenger deck, waiting to pay. On her tray, a plate of french fries. I had coconut ice cream and cup of water on mine.
“Houses are lies that we tell about ourselves.” she said to the cashier, “I read that somewhere.” My wife walked off to find a table, leaving me to collect her change.
In the 360-degree blink of ferry windows, the whole natural world outside the ferry tipped left and rolled right. This happened ever so slightly, everywhere I looked. I nearly planted my tray into the back of a chair. Snowcapped mountains held the farthest perimeter, like bear-trap razors made of ice. Islands bobbed on the whitecaps of the sound, looking as if they pulled anchor they might float away. I was one person, standing in the middle of a body of water, carrying another body water in a paper cup. My mouth watered for french fries.
Houses are lies and she wanted a smaller one. How small does one have to shrink a lie before it becomes the truth?
All the way down, it turns out.
We bickered between fries and ice cream. We’d had our share of quarrels over six years of marriage, most of them routinely square. Our living situation was not something that came between us. We started out in a small apartment. We found jobs in tech and bought a small house in the suburbs. I got promoted. We moved into a bigger house and made plans to start a family. Two stock splits, one promotion, and zero children later we moved into the even bigger house that we’d had our eye on all along.
With our dream home we were giving Karma every hint to send a stork our way. Maybe more than one. A group of storks is called a muster, unless the baskets brought to unwrap are only miscarriages. In that case I think it is called a murder of storks.
Our argument in the ferry cafeteria caught a few ears. It ended when my wife delicately placed three crinkle cut french fries into the palm of her hand and closed her fingers around them, squishing them in her fist until a new shapes came out through her knuckles into my cup of water. I walked outside to the sun deck.
We were on our way to a housewarming party. I had not yet met my wife’s friend Versa or her husband Timo. The only thing I knew about them was that they had moved from the city to the island, which was enough to already not like them.
The ferry was loud. The sun burned my eyes and the wind chapped my lips. Tourists cooed at the scenery in German and Japanese. Packs of numbered children in green did hammer kicks to the metal benches to knock dirt off of their soccer cleats. At the booths inside the windows hippies taught sudoko to their grandchildren and ate granola straight out of the fanny pack. A fat hot horsefly landed on the webbing between my thumb and finger where I was still sticky from the ice cream. I shook him off twice, but the little goblin kept coming back, so I rubbed him out against the rail.
I found my wife at the car. Our drive inland from the ferry was silent. We took the main road to the hilly highway and cut left at the swinging traffic light. We wound up through the trees and turned onto a dirt road through a bank of trees so dark it was as if the tops of them had been sewn together. At times the roadway disappeared under a blanket of leaves, needles, pine cones and fallen branches. I rolled my window down to hear it crunch all crunch under our tires. The scent of Douglas Fir and saltwater came into the car. The trees parted above a large bay, and there it was — a tiny house. As a result, it was much closer than it appeared. It was an optical illusion. My wife clasped her hands together to catch the smile spilling out of her face. The suduko in my head all started coming together.
“Oh that explains it,” I said. “And I imagine you think you could live like this? You? You? This isn’t a home, this is a campout. This is a fancy place to keep the mower. This is something to sell hot dogs from at the fair.” We got out of the car muttering at each other. We must have been too loud, because people drifted from around the back side of the tiny house, looking like they thought we might be a bear.
We’d all had exactly one drink of our drink when Timo interrupted. “So who wants the grand tour?” The group giggled. I did not giggle.
At just three married couples, this was much less than a housewarming party. The third couple was a toothpick of a fellow named Grantham and his wife Jean Ethel. Grantham was dressed like the lumberjack on a pack of lady cigarettes. He had a red stripe under his nose like a burn or rash which presented as a pencil mustache, and may in fact have been the ruins of one, removed in haste or by uncommon means. Grantham’s wife, Jean Ethel had a tattoo that went all the way around one forearm, meant to look like a plaster cast with signatures. She was wearing a babydoll dress sewn from 1980s tour t-shirts of the band Cinderella.
Timo’s showing of the tiny house he had built consisted of parrying a few steps in one direction or another in his sweater and pleated shorts and pointing with a single chopstick. He highlighted the efficient this and the practical that. He casually referenced the drawer knobs he whittled out of a block of hickory into perfect spheres. He pulled open drawers with a bow and yanked back shower curtains with a flourish. We spent way too much time crowded around the composting toilet. He was so eager to wow us with his handiwork he nearly bit through his lip.
“Do you have an attic?” asked Grantham.
That’s where the greenhouse is,” Timo said.
“If they have attics, do tiny houses get haunted?” I asked.
“Only by tiny ghosts,” said Jean Ethel.
Versa put a record on and dimmed the lights and Timo showed us how one-and-a-half rooms could give the illusion of as many as five — adjust the directional lighting here, draw a curtain there, turn a chair, polish a serving spoon — I don’t know. The four rooms included the sun porch, the windowsill reading nook, the crawlspace greenhouse on the roof, and the hammock out in the grove of trees. Timo and Versa really put muscle into the presentation. Some memorization may have been involved.
My wife and I have our own routine at parties. I was certain we would not be doing our routine tonight, seeing as we weren’t on speaking terms. Nevertheless, the routine begins this way: My wife asks someone what their name means. But she doesn’t just ask them, she does it with an extra layer of feeling, like she really wants to know. No matter how they answer, the person always feels obliged to return the favor and ask what my wife’s name means. My wife shows surprise in her face and delight in her figure. She signals that she has a story to tell. She turns calls me from across the party. We take turns telling our bit. I am Schooner and my wife’s name is Menlo. Menlo is Gaelic for “middle lake.” On the night we first met I reflected on the fact that we were a schooner a lake — a boat and a body of water — and that it must mean we were meant to be together. It’s corny, but it gets a laugh every time. A coo, an aww, a sigh. People eat it up and everybody warms up to us, so we keep doing it at parties. When we are in the middle of our performance, catching each other out of the corner of our eye, I think we both remember what it felt like to be in love for the first time.
But even as I was thinking about our routine, and missing it, I heard my wife ask Jean Ethel what the name Jean Ethel meant. Sure enough, the routine began to unfold in front of me, until I was swept into the performance. I wasn’t sure why my wife had chosen this moment to melt the ice between us, but I was agreeable. We played the bit about the boat and the body of water just right.
“A schooner is an oceangoing vessel!” yelled Timo from the sun porch, where he was having a cigarette with the little lumberjack.
“And you are shattering the illusion of being in a separate room,” I answered from the kitchen. This got a laugh. I rolled my eyes for the benefit of my wife, who signaled her delight at my comeback. Timo was right, of course. A schooner is a long-haul behemoth with towering masts and sails. No one ever put a schooner in a neighborhood lake unless they had first lost their mind. Still, I had the urge to prove him wrong.
My wife touched my hand and put her lips to my ear. “You could build a better tiny house, I just know it,” she whispered.
After watching the sunset out on the lawn, Yakisoba was served. Versa was grieved to find that we were short one chopstick. I reflected aloud that Timo led the grand tour with a single chopstick.
“That’s crazy,” he snapped. “I would never do that.” He abruptly excused himself to the restroom and ten minutes later I found a chopstick in the hamper. I quietly gave it to Versa, just so that when she washed it and introduced it to the dinner table, he would know that I knew.
All dinner conversations were steered by Timo back to the tiny house and how great a job he had done building it. Versa said that they were working with others on getting this whole arm of the island zoned for tiny housing. New Triflesburg, she called it.
“Might take a while though,” said Timo.
Versa chimed in with how cheap the land was, and that nearly all of the plots had water access.
“It’s not that cheap,” said Timo. “And there are other practically impossible hurdles.” He looked straight at me when he said it, oblivious to the fact that he had derailed his own wife, who now sat confused, picking at the ends of her hair.
“So this is Sacred Indian burial ground, then?” I said. Someone snickered. I did not snicker.
“Native American, you mean?” said Timo.
“Indigenous,” I replied.
“Only chickens,” he said.
“This land was adjacent to a chicken farm. I’m sure they put a lot of chickens into the ground.
“Well I might not be okay with that,” I said.
“Were you okay with it the last time you bought a dozen eggs?”
That did it. Timo and I pushed back our chairs. We were red hot and spoiling for a fight. I don’t remember what was said, but cruel words were exchanged. Versa threw her hands in the air and stormed out to the hammock. The rest of the group had to get between me and Timo. In short order the evening was finished. On the ferry home, I began drafting the possible dimensions of a tiny home in the margins of a real estate brochure.
The good thing about transitioning from a large house to a tiny one is that money is no object. If we were really going to do this, we were going to do it right. We bought the best plot of land available in New Triflesburg. We hired an architecture firm. But I also undertook my own research and planning to identify where I could innovate, or otherwise reduce. If Timo could get away with 375 square feet, I could make 350 work for us. I just knew it. I pored over architectural journals. I kept a diary made of sticky notes.
My wife was right all along, of course. What the two of us needed was a factory reset, a change of scenery. If we grew our own herbs, if we composted, If we lived more sustainably, if we saved more money in a college fund each month we would be happier and more ready than ever to raise a child who could benefit from our wealth of good intentions. Tiny was the answer. If we wanted to shrink our carbon footprint, why not start with the welcome mat? Sticking it to Timo may have played a role. I got a little carried away. I can admit that now.
We put our big house on the market and built ourselves a tiny house. I won’t bore you with the details.
I remember on the night of the housewarming party I was waiting by the car. My wife was consoling Versa out by the hammock. Grantham and Timo were who knows where, so it was just me and Jean Ethel standing there in the dark. We discovered we shared nearly all of our favorite authors.
“What if houses are only lies that we tell about ourselves?” I asked.
“Then tiny houses would have to be the little white lies, I guess” she said.
I remember the day the tiny house was finished. We left the big city behind and took the ferry to the island inside a steady curtain of rain. It didn’t let up the whole way, not in the ferry or the car. On the drive through the trees to our sliver of castle, we slowed for baby deer by the edge of the road who froze, watching us pass without moving a muscle.
There’s no good way to say it. I don’t know if it was the souls of chickens or the tiny ghosts or something more dreadful, but when we moved into our tiny house, something came attached. Something came along with us, and I am compelled to tell you what has happened as a result.
Try as we might, my wife and I could not get the rotisserie side of our new oven to work properly — on off, stop start, buzz click sigh. The whole situation really cast a pall over our move. After one particularly maddening evening, she placed a call to the electrician while my head was in the oven yelling for her not to. She turned off all the lights and stamped out to the car to wait for me. We drove in silence to find dinner. As we were quickly learning, there are no minor problems in a tiny house.
We missed our old furniture, which was comfortable, extravagant, and sitting somewhere in a storage unit. We could only bring one piece with us to the new house. We chose my wife’s little writing table, which she loved very much. Anything else of value would have been too big for our backseat. When the house you are moving to is tiny, your moving truck need only be a four-door sedan. The writing desk was small enough that I could carry it under one arm and load it without help, and even take it out of the car while waiting in the long ferry line and toss it in the air like a toddler again and again, before the drawer came out and hit me on the chin.
The writing table took on an expanded role in our new setting. It became our dinner table, our kitchen island, our command center. Writing tables in tiny houses often consist of a hinged piece of oak that folds out of the wall, perhaps with a coaster hot-glued to one corner. My wife could still sit and write at this one, of course, just not while dinner was being prepared or served. We desired, to add diaper changing table to the list of the table’s uses someday soon, but then we might need to rethink where we made our salads.
One downside of relocating to our home in the country was precisely that thing which started as the upside — nature. We had always been city dwellers who just happened to own very nice hiking boots. Now nature was right here — up every vent, down every slat, through every screen. Autumn brooded on the other side of the wall. We were surrounded. There were night noises and weather noises and animal noises and noises for which I had no category. We had traded away our fortress of solitude for a thrift store undershirt.
We could smell each other more distinctly here. We could hear each other shaving. My wife hummed a mattress jingle one or more times an hour. My thumbs made some kind of sound when I texted my fantasy football league. We purchased noise cancelling headphones and established different favorite open windows to read by. We kept matches in every drawer. We agreed to make tuna salad sandwiches out on the porch.
For the first few weeks, my wife experienced nightmares and nap-terrors. I slept fine, but all could think about were tiny ghosts. Tiny ghosts as I drifted off to sleep and tiny ghosts upon waking. If we had tiny ghosts, how would I know it? Would I hear the pitter-patter of little feet in the pencil drawer? Wedding rings rattling in the dish? What would a tiny ghost look like? How would I know to watch for one?
How would tiny ghosts come to arrive inside a place such as this? I’ll tell you how. They would be carried by whipping winds off the whitecaps of ancient shipping routes. They would float high over land and hide inside a downpour, slanting behind the rain to catch the trees. I imagine that tiny ghosts would roll off the leaves like drops of water, running down through whichever skylight was accidentally left open half an inch. Judging by my wet socks, a haunting of this order would be my own fault. I started keeping the skylights on lockdown, just in case.
The rotisserie side of our oven played nice for the electrician, only to fall back on old habits two evenings later. My wife and I piled into the car for yet another crisp autumn drive, listening to local music from the 1990s, our stomachs yarling.
We had found early on in this dinnertime routine that not only did the grocery store back at the crossing make very fine rotisserie chickens, they sold them hot. This became our creature comfort, our indulgence while adjusting to the new house.
The rotisserie chickens smelled so good, that we often cheated a bite in the parking lot. We started keeping a jar of rosemary butter in the glove compartment. On this particular night we couldn’t wait. We pulled to the shoulder halfway home and tore at the thing with our bare hands. We returned home through the trees with sticky fingers, carrying the warm and asundered carcass in upturned plastic lid. When we pulled to the end of the drive we discovered all the lights in our house were on and the oven spit was turning at a dead sprint, such that we could hear it from the car. I fired our electrician by Snapchat and reserved three books on Nikola Tesla at the library.
The oven started working properly of its own accord, about the time I started using it as a storage space for library books. It never posed another problem after that. In fact, everything seemed to fall into place around the house. My wife’s nap-terrors diminished. We settled into our routines, carved out our personal space, and talked once or more a day about the baby we were trying to make at that particular moment.
Through the holidays and into the New Year we began hosting a long series of dinner guests to show off our new home. We dove deep into our recipe books and LPs to dress the evenings in warmth and good will. The Peltons were first in line. They brought champagne. As I held the bottle between my legs and uncorked it into the kitchen sink they asked about our square footage. Instead of saying 350, I told them we were at 339.
I don’t know why I fibbed, but it felt good. So I did it again a few days later. The Brookings were impressed at how we had turned what I told them was 333 square feet into a real home. The couple brought a copper rooster weathervane, which I was able to install on the roof between dinner and dessert. Our friends Dixie and Rachel brought salted caramels and Russian nesting dolls as a housewarming gift. They were wowed by everything we had done with what I said was 325 square feet. The announced square footage of our tiny house dropped at the rate of five to ten square feet per dinner guest. My wife played the part perfectly, though we never talked about it before or after these dinners.
We also never talked about the fact that all of this was practice for what would need to be our finest performance when we eventually hosted Timo and Versa. The bad blood that boiled up between Timo and myself at their own tiny housewarming would surely be avenged when they got a look at our stunning abode. But they wouldn’t come in the door ready to be wowed if there was lingering ill will. The duty of mending those fences fell to me. I made excuses every day for weeks, and then I finally called Timo. It went much smoother than I expected. We small-talked like champions — sports and weather and Kafka. We even successfully managed to approximate the act of exchanging apologies, in not so many words. A dinner date was set for the following week.
The night before Timo and Versa were due to visit, my wife’s two older sisters stopped by. They talked mostly about their children. They had five between them. At some point my wife and I, trying to get a word in edgewise, recreated a conversation we had had before, about which Wes Anderson Movies would serve as themes for which milestone birthday parties when we had our own child. Inadvertently I kept referring to our future child as “he.” As in, “He could wear this,” or “he and his friends might like that.”
“He or she,” my wife corrected.
“He or she, of course,” I said, with an underwhelming amount of conviction, and the way her eyes welled with tears, you would think I had screamed that I would hold it against her if she did not give me a son. All three of them looked at me like I was some inbred king smelling of meat, making decrees and refusing to sit on anything other than crushed velvet.
My wife and I fought in front of her sisters. We walked to opposite corners of the house, which wasn’t far enough. We carried on bickering while the sisters cleared the dishes. I went out to the fire pit, slamming the sliding glass door behind me, which toppled the copper rooster from its rooftop roost and it fell into the vegetable garden. My wife and I began fighting by text. I could hear her phone buzzing with the notifications inside the house. This continued even after the sisters slipped away. We exchanged terse words; defensive posturing; desperate pleas; hasty apologies; more terse words. Finally our apologies became more patient and sincere. We complimented each other. We joked. We sexted, but only ironically. My wife told me to come to bed. By the time I got there, she was already sawing logs.
That night I had a dream. In the dream we had not one but many children, but each one of them was as small as a dust mote, and I only found it out we had children at all when a light broke through the window in a certain way and they became visible, floating on the air. Thousands perhaps. In my dream I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I had let my children down by not knowing they were with us all along. The children said nothing but drifted through empty space and settled on top the bookshelf. After my dream, I never dusted the top of the bookshelf again.
Timo and Versa came the next night. They presented us with grooming kits and beauty accessories. Delighted, my wife, put in two of the decorative hairclips. One was a row of large yellow dots. The other a line of Pacman ghosts.
“You’ve got quite the place,” Timo said while I refreshed his drink. I thanked him. My wife and Versa were across the room talking about windowsill herb gardens when Versa interrupted us to announce that she was expecting. My wife had to sit down. Versa, whether oblivious or by design sat across from her and started up with all of her plans for turning their loft into a baby room. The roof of my mouth itched with the impulse to tell Timo our place was 299 square feet. Maybe even 292. I held back.
“Did I tell you,” Timo turned to me, “that since you saw our place, I gave some back.”
“Gave what back?”
“The corner closet.” Timo drew something from his pocket like he was unholstering it. It was a tape measure.
“What do you mean gave it back?” I asked.
“To the land,” he said, rocking back on his heels, using the tape measure to pantomime the lighting a pipe. He made smooching noises and a puckered a long exhale. “Didn’t need it,” he said. “Bringing in the walls brought me from 375 square feet to 367. We hang our coats in the shower now, which is perfect for steaming out wrinkles. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before.” I eyed the tape measure in his hand. He pulled the tape out and snapped it back. Pulled it out, snapped it back. And then he pulled the tape to the length of a chopstick, or a magic wand, or the barrel of a gun. He touched the end of it to my ribcage.
“I heard a crazy rumor,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” I said.
“Have you been telling people your square footage is 325? Because I swear it looks like more to me.” Now I understood what the tape measure was all about. He was about to measure our tiny house in front of me. He was out to prove me a liar. I couldn’t allow that.
“Yes and no,” I said. I intended to talk my way out of this, but Timo was already measuring the base of each wall. He had a pencil behind his ear, a notecard in his pocket. He stopped to write down the dimensions of the main room and made a move for the loft.
“Well is it yes or is it no?” Timo said. “Can’t be both.”
“I didn’t say we have 325, only that we will have 325.” He stopped cold and the tape measure snapped back. “325 when I am finished,” I continued, “give or take. I’m renovating. It’s only my best estimate, I admit.” Timo narrowed his eyes. I carried on with the charade for the rest of the night, knowing that I would have to follow through with some kind of renovation to keep up the lie. The rest of the evening played out without drama.
“I think they think they are better than us,” my wife said when we were getting ready for bed.
A few days later, my wife took the ferry into the city for a long weekend with her sisters. She was signaling me to get any work done while she was away. I cracked a few beers and used the writing desk as a brace to start sawing a stack of 2x4’s. I was trying to convince myself I had a plan for how I was going to reduce the size of our home. Every time I drew the saw blade back, sawdust jumped and the desk drawer shivered open another inch. The drawer was crammed with stationery, silverware and all manner of odds and ends. The clouds parted and light broke through the window in a certain way, hitting a plastic tub of beveled paperclips sitting in the open drawer. As I continued drawing the sawblade back, Reflections danced across the walls and ceilings, a thousand little round-topped ghosts, spilling over everything. I was so mesmerized watching them I didn’t pay attention to the drawer, which slid the whole way out and clattered to the floor. Our silverware was thrown into same beam of light and I was nearly blinded by the burst. I dropped the saw, and it cut my shin on the way down.
While rummaging for band aids in the bathroom, I noticed my wife’s hairclip at the edge of the sink. I spoke to the little row of ghosts about what they had against me. Not seriously, of course. Not at first. If you were there you would have seen me smirking as I said it.
I held wet toilet paper against my shin and conducted an interview of the hairclip as if I were a private investigator. I asked the hair clip to explain to me the phenomena of tiny ghosts. In confidence, the hair clip told me that tiny houses invite tiny ghosts because humanity has not learned enough in regular size and meanwhile tiny heartbreaks keep piling up.
Should you find yourself with tiny ghosts, the good news is the worries are proportionately fewer. Full size ghosts haunt, but tiny ghosts tend only to vex, to rankle, to peeve. A large house may well be haunted. A tiny house is never more than irked.
If you build a house just small enough, there will be room for love and your things and nothing else. Certainly not tiny ghosts. This is what the tiny ghosts told me. Which proved the tiny ghosts weren’t in it for themselves, they were in it for me. Which proved that they could be trusted. Which, in turn, proved that they existed.
Renovation was not enough. I must start over. I must rebuild. That morning my cement guy had tipped me off that Timo was pouring a foundation for 275 square feet. Timo hadn’t said anything about it at our dinner. I could go lower than 275.
When my wife returned from her weekend in the city, I already had the new place framed up on the other side of our property, using much of the wood from our first tiny house. 249 square feet. The look on her face told me she had forgotten what this was all about. This was about forcing bad energy to find somewhere else to live so that we could get on with our lives. Also, Timo could suck it.
“And a new house, means new housewarming gifts,” I said. My wife decided she could warm to the idea.
That was February. The tinier house was fine, but before spring was out I was already pouring a new foundation next door. The last two were good practice, but we still hadn’t gotten small enough. I was toying with the idea of 199 square feet. I set my wife’s hairclip on the toilet tank and ran my idea by the tiny ghosts. They gave me the green light. They reminded me that the nice thing about building a smaller house from the one you are living in currently is that it takes less time to build than the last house, and you already have all the materials you need. Not that there aren’t hurdles. If your cabinet holds exactly six dishes, a smaller cabinet may present a challenge, the solution to which is usually breaking a plate against a big rock behind the house. But then you can take the largest shard of broken plate and keep it around to scratch the cluster of spider bites in the middle of your back.
My wife was surprisingly okay with the second rebuild. She had become engrossed in a new hobby which kept her out of the house. She spent her days at the library reading up on how to craft Russian nesting dolls. Her evenings were spent at the community center woodshop. I walked to the bluff and frisbeed two more fine china plates down onto the ocean rocks.
The new house kept us cool during what was an unusually hot summer. That made it even harder to admit that we needed to rebuild again. 199 felt generous. If we could see our way to under 100 square feet, now that would really be something. My wife volunteered to spend several nights in our storage unit back on the mainland while I built it. They have rules against that sort of thing, but I wasn’t going to stop her. She wanted to catch up with our old furniture and then she would be fine. I installed a an army cot on top of the kitchen cabinets up against the skylight for reading and napping, accessed by a drop-down rope ladder made from recycled pantyhose. The stairs to the rooftop brunch deck folded out of the mini chandlelier. I made a t-shirt drawer out of milk cartons, which may have been why the mailman asked why I smell the way I do.
My wife brought six kittens home in a shoebox. They all got out and ran away by nightfall. I used the shoebox to make a diorama of a more perfect house, one that would be 75 square feet in total. Abandoned foundations dotted our property. The contractors had stopped returning my phone calls. It was fine. I preferred doing the work myself.
The advantages of Tiny House demolition is that you can get started while still lying in bed. I took the drywall down the next morning using only the heel of my foot. By the time I was finished, my pajamas were covered in drywall dust. This proved to be a big laugh to the tiny ghosts. They couldn’t let it go. My wife didn’t believe in ghosts of any size. She never had, but they were there. Three inside the shower head. two inside the keyhole. One inside the thimble.
Inside our 75-foot domicile, I invented a smaller and more efficient ironing board by hot-gluing an upside-down iron to the top of a cookie jar. When you plugged it in and used a second iron to sandwich the wrinkles, it provided doubled the shirt-pressing power. Was my invention more of an energy drain than it was a time saver? My wife and I ended up putting it in the time saving category after a healthy debate of no less than 90 minutes and me burning my hand getting a cookie out of the jar. When I couldn’t sleep one night, I moved the dishes to under the bed and remodeled the kitchen cabinet into a baby’s room.
My wife told me that the largest set of Russian nesting dolls in the world was 51 pieces.
“I’d like to break the record,” she said. “I know I can do 55. Also, Youlia Bereznitskaia, the current record holder, can suck it.” The key, my wife said, would not be going bigger, but smaller. I could get behind that. She was in the process of harvesting splinters, grains of cane sugar, and dust, teaching herself to hollow out the small objects under a microscope, sand them with a spider leg and paint them using a single ear hair taken from me while I drove us to get one of those glorious rotisserie chickens back at the crossing.
One night I dreamed I was standing with a hose in front of our first tiny house, watering the lawn. It was nighttime in my dream and standing in the moonlight, I was sure I was breaking all the rules of good lawn watering. Because it was so dark I did not see right away that the water didn’t look right. It had a rusty hue, and in fact was red, and was not water but blood, and the hose in my hand wasn’t a hose at all but an umbilical cord attached to the house.
The next morning I found a note from my wife, written on the back of a postage stamp. She was taking three months to study wood crafting in Russia.
I didn’t blame her at all. In fact, this was perfect timing. With occupancy reduced to one, I could finally build the perfect house, which the tiny ghosts had been raving about for some time. I had been doing my research. People were building 69 square foot homes in Boston. 52 in Denver, 44 in Capitola. I heard of a couple not far from here living in 36 square feet with a curtain made of caterpillar silk and a dog named Vegetable. I could do better.
I ceremoniously laid out blueprints the size of a napkin on the drafting table of my knee, and began drawing up plans for a tiny house two feet wide by seven feet tall. The tiny ghosts stood up and applauded my vision. This was going to be the coziest house ever--like being swaddled. It would be fully insulated against long winters. No windows meant I could block out all bad energies. No room for ghosts, or even bad memories. Eventually my wife would return and I could delay future lodging decisions until she did. In the meantime, a front door and a bed is all any good person needs to lay down and finally get some rest.
David Drury’s fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio, appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Atticus Review, Lost Balloon, Paper Darts, Scablands Books, Pidgeonholes, Matchbook, and Jellyfish Review, and is forthcoming in ZYZZYVA (Winter 2018). Twitter: David Drury
What You Call a Casket I Call a Front Door and a Bed originally appeared as a two-part serial in Tiny House magazine (Sept.-Oct. 2018).