I Wanted to Take You Home But When I Did it Wasn’t There

Kirsty Logan is the author of the novels The Gracekeepers and The Gloaming, and the story collections A Portable Shelter and The Rental Heart. This story is from her forthcoming story collection, The Night Tender, a collection of horror stories about domestic fears. 
The first house I gave you was a tooth. The dentist pulled it to make space for the rest of my teeth, which apparently is often a problem for small-mouthed people when the wisdom teeth come in. He asked if I wanted the tooth, and I didn’t particularly, but I also didn’t want it to get thrown in the bin, so I wrapped it in a tissue and took it home. It was jagged at one end and it smelled sweet and a bit rotten. I got a nail from the toolbox and started to carve the tooth. I’ll admit it wasn’t worth putting in an art gallery, but by the end of the day my tooth was a tiny though recognisable house. I understand that when I presented it to you, half-joking, as we were brushing our teeth before bed, it was unexpected. You seemed pleased at the gesture, if a little disgusted. It wasn’t your fault that the tooth got knocked into the toilet and accidentally flushed.

The second house I braided from my hair. There was a reasonable amount in my hairbrush, but not enough. I pulled out more from all over my head so that it wouldn’t leave any obvious bald patches. My hair is long and thick so I managed two good handfuls without it looking much different, and its stiff curl meant it took to braiding well. The walls and roof were dense, and I even managed two windows. I shouldn’t have surprised you by putting the hair next to your morning cup of coffee. As I was falling asleep the night before it had seemed quirky and charming, but I see now that it was a weird thing to do and made you not want to eat your scrambled eggs. It wasn’t your fault that you left the hair on the roof of the car and then drove off. I like to think of it, this little perfect house I made – for you, from me – caught in a slipstream, tugged quick to the sky, blown off the motorway bridge to float down the river.

The third house was my fingernails. They made a beautiful roof, prettier than any tiles I’ve seen, each one painted a different colour. I realise that I only have ten nails so the roof was very small. It wasn’t your fault that it somehow got put in the food scraps bin along with the onion skin and the carrot peels and the chicken bones.

That gave me an idea, and the next house was carved from the bone of my little finger. It was accidentally fed to the dog. My ear-house got buried in the window-box; my eye-house was squashed under your winter boots; my tongue-house was snatched by a neighbourhood fox.

I made you house after house after house. But each time it was too small, too loseable, too easily destroyed.

Finally, there I stand in front of you, everything removable or soft in me gone. I have made this final house for you: the rafters my ribs, the floor my flattened feet, the overhead light my unblinking eye. Come lie on the couch of the long bone of my thigh. Come rest your head on the cushion of my slow-beating heart. Come home.

Previously published in 404Ink