“Good bones”, the agent says. “These old houses. See?” We see how the jacaranda haloes purple all around, how tulips cry like tears from out the soil but upside down. We see how the river at the garden’s edge…
When I bought my current home, the real estate agent was young and earnest and suggested that it would be a great house for children. I’m not sure whether he meant to imply that it was not a great house for a single woman, or that I was being selfish in depriving a family of the opportunity to buy it. But ever since, I have tended to anthropomorphise my house. “House, In Order” is essentially about a house that wants children. It is disappointed in the failure of the first couple to produce a child. It pushes them out and finally gets what it wants.
“House, In Order” is also about the overwhelming sorrow of infertility experienced by some people and the grace and ease of fertility experienced by others.
Several metaphors crept into this story almost without me appreciating their significance till the first drafts were complete. For a period of time in the last century, several maternity hospitals in Sydney gave jacaranda seedlings to new parents. This might be an urban myth since none of the hospitals in question have kept records of this activity, but it really doesn’t matter if it is truth or myth. The belief is widespread in Sydney.
Likewise, the black dog is a real entity in the story and a device for describing the passage of time and is also a metaphor for depression. There are abrupt changes in point of view in this piece and the choice to do this was deliberate. The shift from “we” to “you and I” and then to “I” follows the sudden and shocking change brought about by the realisation of childlessness and then by suicide.
The shift in point of view again, for the arrival of the young mother and her baby, is also deliberate to make clear the clean break the house achieved from its first occupants.
“House, in Order” began as a poem. I was never able to comfortably fit it into a poetic form and after several years of trying, I gave up. It settled into a short story and, I think, finally found its correct order.
J. ANNE DESTAIC is a writer of short stories and poetry. Her stories have been published in journals and anthologies, including “Lover Like a Tree” in Australian Love Stories (2014), “Little Blue Penguins” in Journey (2012), and “The 14.20 from Belfast” and “Fire Jump” in Wet Ink ( 2009 and 2011).
Her poetry has been published in Zinewest and in Australian/Romanian anthologies.
DeStaic is a Peadiatrician working in Neonatal Intensive Care. She lives near the Georges River in the south west of Sydney.