The doorbell clanks cheaply, and I open the door to a man who is looking back toward the street. They are always looking away from the house, as if expecting whoever answers to be partially clothed. He turns to look at me through the corner of his eye, head tilted. “Your house is a cutesy,” he says in a thick accent. The word “cutesy” floats in the air above his head. This is the kind of house that looks like a face—a portico nose and upstairs dormers with cocked eyebrows. But I bet he says that to everyone.
He is in the neighborhood to see if people are interested in having a professional artist create portraits of their houses. Would I be? No, I tell him, not mentioning that he might be in the wrong neighborhood. He gives me his card. His name is Oswaldo, like a magician. I like him better than the ones who come by offering windows or tree trimming or cable. The ones warning of unsteady foundations. I concede his samples are nice, without taking them.
Oswaldo presses on. “Your house is very interesting, is cutesy. This,” he raps the whitewashed cement exterior, “is unusual.” As if I had anything to do with it, anything more than settling for this house. When I answer his question about how long we have lived here, he nods and frowns a little as if puzzled. “Well, you never can tell when you’ll need an artist,” he says, turning back toward the street.
Kathryn Almy lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she works in a public library and writes occasional features for a local magazine. Her poetry and essays have appeared in The 3288 Review, Great Lakes Review’s narrative map, and City of the Big Shoulders: A Chicago Poetry Anthology, among other print and online publications.