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Three Possibly Four Houses on Main Street by Josh Hockensmith



413

This one is a house-eating house.

It sneaks up beside larger houses and murmurs, taking barely noticeable nibbles. It pounces on smaller ones and bellows until they willingly squeeze into its two-car garage just so that the volume of its awful tirade will be muffled a little bit within its own walls.

The other houses on Main Street are envious because it never seems to put on weight. And they are thankful to it for sparing them any spectacle, for all of its indiscretions are conducted across town behind the silent weeds of the railroad yard.

"Soon it will outgrow this," the other houses say, peeking with a shiver from behind their gingham curtains as it settles in again under the morning moon. "Soon it will."



Four Oh Nine


The second is the tallest house on Main Street--four stories. It is formed of one continuous wall, though, which curves around to form an ovoid first floor, then angles gently into a banked ramp which reconnects with the beginning point and ascends to become the second-story floor; the floor curvingly becomes a wall, the wall a ramp, the ramp a floor, and so on up to the fourth-story ceiling where the house cuts off abruptly in a flutter of thrushes' nests



401


A house of noises. A house of strange musics. One day this house stored up the sounds of every passing vehicle, and that night it composed a pulsing, Doppler-wave melody that soothed everyone on the block and even kept the House-eating House home, for once, enraptured. It also performs classic melodies, of course, but from this house they sound more alien than musical after you have experienced the everyday static of sheets rustling and flip-flops slapping, TVs humming and dryers tumbling that makes up its great ongoing anthem.

A famous producer and his technicians miked the house once, spent five days recording and listening. The only result was that their taps and shuffles--their working noises--became the central theme of the house's unfolding movement. The only sound they caught on tape was of tape catching sound and rolling.

This house, it seems, is the city's seashell.



401-i


There is debate as to whether the fourth house actually exists or not. It has been seen by three people: a four-year-old girl, the mailman, and a potato chip manufacturer. All three are convinced that on top of the corner fire hydrant sits 401-i. And although it must be small, given its perch, it also seems to be as large as necessary if one approaches. The snack man claims to have stayed there three nights in a kind of trance while his wife believed him to have sneaked off with a vat-cleaning boy from the chip factory. The mailman delivers tax forms and Spiegel catalogs to an anonymous inhabitant. All three witnesses, unknown to one another, have given identical descriptions: mustard yellow brick, black trim, a tarnished bronze mail slot in the burgundy door. Two-and-a-half stories tall with small half-moon, lace-curtained windows on the attic floor. Empty.

"It was all quiet," said the girl, "but I had to pee, so I come home."



Josh Hockensmith is a writer, translator, and book artist with a B.A. in English from the University of Richmond. Excerpts from his translation of Emilio Martinez Navarro's fictional travelogue, News from Burgundia, appeared in Issue #8 of The Cafe Irreal. He has written for Oyster Boy Review and South by Southeast: Haiku & Haiku Arts, which he edited from 1998-2000. He designs and produces one-of-a-kind hand-bound artist's books, the most recent of which is Pandora's Book--a collection of poems about the Devil by Charles Simic and Aleksandar Ristovic, which cannot be opened. Since 2000, he has been a bookbinder for the library at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


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