Friday Read! “Remembrance Is Something Like a House” by Will Ludwigsen

Remembrance Is Something Like a House” by Will Ludwigsen:

Cheniere_Caminada,_Louisiana_Ruined_House

Every day for three decades, the abandoned house strains against its galling anchors, hoping to pull free. It has waited thirty years for its pipes and pilings to finally decay so it can leave for Florida to find the Macek family.

Nobody in its Milford neighborhood will likely miss the house or even notice its absence; it has hidden for decades behind overgrown bushes, weeds, and legends. When they talk about the house at all, the neighbors whisper about the child killer who lived there long ago with his family: a wife and five children who never knew their father kept his rotting playmate in the crawlspace until the police came.

The house, however, knows the truth and wants to confess it, even if it has to crawl eight hundred miles.

Read here, or find an audio version here.

Friday Read! “Useless Things” by Maureen McHugh

Useless Things” by Maureen McHugh:

Sleeping_baby_doll,_Musée_du_jouet_de_Colmar

I wake at night sometimes now, thinking someone is in my house. Abby sleeps on the other side of the bed, and Hudson sleeps on the floor. Where I live it is brutally dark at night, unless there’s a moon—no one wastes power on lights at night. My house is small, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a family room. I lean over and shake Hudson on the floor, wake him up. “Who’s here?” I whisper. Abby sits up, but neither of them hears anything. They pad down the hall with me into the dark front room, and I peer through the window into the shadowy back lot. I wait for them to bark.

Many a night, I don’t go back to sleep.

But the man at my door this morning weeds my garden and accepts my bowl of soup and some flour tortillas. He thanks me gravely. He picks up his phone, charging off my system, and shows me a photo of a woman and a child. “My wife and baby,” he says. I nod. I don’t particularly want to know about his wife and baby, but I can’t be rude.

I finish assembling the doll I am working on. I’ve painted her, assembled all the parts, and hand rooted all her hair. She is rather cuter than I like. Customers can mix and match parts off of my website—this face with the eye color of their choice, hands curled one way or another. A mix-and-match doll costs about what the migrant will make in two weeks. A few customers want custom dolls and send images to match. Add a zero to the cost.

I am dressing the doll when Abby leaps up, happily roo-rooing. I start, standing, and drop the doll dangling in my hand by one unshod foot.

It hits the floor head first with a thump, and the man gasps in horror.

“It’s a doll,” I say.

Read here.

Friday Read! Eugie Foster’s “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”

Before Eugie Foster was taken from us last year, she gave the world hundreds of short stories. We are lucky that she was so prolific, and it’s our loss she died so young when she could have written so many more.

I’ll take the opportunity while I’m linking this story to link to a few others. “Beautiful Winter,” a retelling that appeared in last year’s IGMS sampler, has the very beautiful imagery I associate with her writing. Retellings were often her ouvre. “The Tanuki-Kettle,” a folk-tale-style story set in Japan, was one of my first acquisitions for PodCastle for its warmth and humor. Finally, for those who didn’t see it last year, one of her stories was posthumously nominated for the Nebula Award, and particularly wrenching in context — “When It Ends, He Catches Her.”

Eugie and I were part of the same “Nebula class” (which is only something I call it in my mind, it’s not a real thing). We were both nominated for the first time in the same year and in the same category, and we got to know each other and a bunch of the other first time nominees at the convention that year.

“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest” won that Nebula Award. Its mix of high concept and colorful images that disarmed readers.

Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster:

Lightning mask

Each morning is a decision. Should I put on the brown mask or the blue? Should I be a tradesman or an assassin today?

Whatever the queen demands, of course, I am. But so often she ignores me, and I am left to figure out for myself who to be.

Dozens upon dozens of faces to choose from.

1. Marigold is for murder.

The yellow mask draws me, the one made from the pelt of a mute animal with neither fangs nor claws—better for the workers to collect its skin. It can only glare at its keepers through the wires of its cage, and when the knives cut and the harvesters rip away its skin, no one is troubled by its screams.

I tie the tawny ribbons under my chin. The mask is so light, almost weightless. But when I inhale, a charnel stench redolent of outhouses, opened intestines, and dried blood floods my nose.

Read here.