She applied the last dabs of paint to the mermaid’s tail. “I’m about to die in here,” she said, knuckling a stray hair from her eyes. I opened a window. Outside, the woods were ablaze with soft browns and…
One of my favorite books of all time is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Gulliver is the first inhabitant of a tiny home (see Lilliput) except his temporary abode is actually cavernous, a great ceilinged temple within the city.
I didn’t have Gulliver in mind when I wrote “Micro Home” but I feel that this work always lingers in the back of my head. I like writing stories with some kind of restriction, be it in form, length, or subject matter. I often go speculative or fabulist—whatever the correct term for it is—and the notion of an incredibly small house feels magical to me, like a doll’s house you can almost enter as a child, the wonder you feel at the small doors and windows.
I wanted to go there with this story. I wanted to put it in a forest because you can put micro homes anywhere. I wanted two characters in conflict with each other. I wanted the size to matter.
This is a legitimate question: how do you survive in a tiny house? In any relationship, you are on top of each other, but in the case of a house so small, you are physically on top of each other. How do you get by? In this story, the characters don’t. They made a mistake in purchasing a micro home. They are impacted by it.
I sent this story to CRAFT in early 2020, but when I searched for previous drafts, I found that the narrative goes back to 2016 (with a slew of revisions and reimaginations). Apparently, I had a lot to say about the hawk in earlier versions. Also, it was much longer.
Which makes me think of Gulliver again. How on one island, he is the “man mountain,” yet on another, he is smaller than a mouse. Our own relationship with homes or stories is equally relative, and as a writer of short prose, I am constantly grappling with this dilemma of compression: Do I trust the reader to fill in the blanks? Do I trust myself enough to trust the reader to work with me on this filling in of blanks? What even are the blanks?
Like the wife in this story, I know for a fact that some readers might want to jump out the window. No breathing room.
JONATHAN CARDEW is blog editor for Bending Genres and contributing editor for the Best Microfiction series. His stories appear in cream city review, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, Longleaf Review, wigleaf, Maudlin House, Jellyfish Review, among others. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wis.