I hide in my glass house, pulling heavy curtains over panoramic windows. Life can’t be blocked out as I catch constant parade glimpses of fake plants waving, pirate trolls guarding and tiny castles planted in our yard like silly distractions. However trivial, I am drawn to them and hide in their tiny shadows from the sun and my husband. The house wasn’t always glass. At first, it was red brick traditional and sturdy with only a few places for neighbors to Kravitz-spy on us. Our voices carried only to the foyer. “Why,” he’d asked. He papered our building beige walls with Wal-Mart and CVS receipts to remind me of the money seeping out into the cul-de-sac. It was all for good reasons I told him: a dozen brown cardigans to get one free, toilet paper rolls that filled our garage to the gills, labelless-maybe-expired cans or chocolate cream pies only slightly smushed against the frozen box. And, then the papers fell down as he picked at them with his fingers, a slow scritch-scratch that felt like it was digging into my scalp. The walls came with them and left us exposed and yelling about Targets and K-Marts and balayage and garage sale double jogging strollers. “Let’s save again,” he half-asked, half begged. My belly was as empty as our bank account and I agreed. There were days when we were happy and maybe even loved our new open views of the mountains and bicycling children, carnival turning wheels and blinking-neon fast food signs. We held hands and shivered like newlyweds when snow fluttered on our bed and we talked soft-white too about our new budget. When the carnival came to town that spring, we had money saved again. It was only enough for something fried-on-a-stick, a few rides on whirly things that married our stomachs at least. We felt rich debating candy apples and fresh squeezed lemonade, sharing dental nightmare foods and pucker-up-kiss-him sips. Before we left, he won dark orange, half-dead fish for me by tossing primary colored rings with his minor minor league arm. We rode home together in our glass car to our glass garage. The cartoonish bag of water and twin fish bounced against my womb, just at the edge of becoming part of me. I adopted the bobbling-bubbling fish on the spot, rubbing one hand against my still-faintly-swollen belly to telegraph concern at his slow pace. “I shall call them Fish and Phish,” I said. Water leaked against my blue-ocean-patterned dress onto his precious leatherette seats. I urged him to hurry. “They won’t live much longer,” I told him. He didn’t look at me as he sped from fairgrounds to home, our city glass house in a row of glass cut-out, glass-blown houses. People peeked out of windows pulling back silly curtains without offering help. Or empathy. I saw some of them holding neighborhood rocks in their hands, a familiar sight in our Neighborhood Watch watches you block. I jumped out as soon as we pulled in and proceeded to shatter the house door with one desperate push. I needed to save my precious plastic bag cargo, this time. “Where should they go?” I pleaded with him as I sloshed the jaundiced-orange pair swimming ever-slower in carnival amniotic fluid. The cradle stood in the living room, half-assembled, all-abandoned. I knew they didn’t belong there. A wide-mouthed pink vase sat in the sink, empty too, emblazoned with “It’s a Girl.” I grabbed the carving knife and gutted their plastic home as part surgeon, part midwife. I dropped the fish into their new glass cradle as ambulance wailings were born in our driveway.
Amy Barnes has words at sites including FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, X-Ray Lit, Museum of Americana, Lucent Dreaming, Re-Side, Anti-Heroin Chic, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit and Penny Fiction. She volunteers at Fractured Lit, CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, National Flash Flood Day, Retreat West and Narratively.