Swan Music

The house and I were in constant communication. It murmured along with my morning coffee and hummed when I showered. At night, the soundtrack to my dreams comprised the creaking of walls and the gurgling of plumbing; I dreamed of linoleum floors and mildewed tubs, of tall ceilings with molded crowns. In dusty attics, I laid to rest my igneous desires, whispering to them that I would return one day.

The house was old and angled, all sharp lines Camila had pressed down with her fingernail, dragging it across the edge of the roof so hard tears and cracks had appeared. Each flower-papered accent-wall; each mid-century bit of flair bore the imprint of her restless fingers. Most of the time she made music and when she did not, she worked on adding new rooms: a screened-in porch, a basement, a captured-princess tower.

I was the roommate. She liked to call me ‘roomie’. As in, “hey roomie, I think I’ve got a migraine coming on, wanna hang?” Camila’s migraines were legendary. When she was in the throes of one, even the house held its wallpaper breath.

When Camila first brought Jason home, she stuffed him into one of the many fissures, taking him out to trip across her fingerboard when it suited her. I did not mind this. After a couple of weeks, she designated him ‘pseudo-boyfriend’ and would leave him out to dry from time to time. “There were nuts and bolts to this sort of thing,” she said, ignoring my pathetic glances, and he could learn how to fine tune. And the kicker, the cliché-ridden punch to the gut, “you’ll meet someone too, Lauren. When you least expect it.”

The house groaned. I pretended to concentrate on my kale and walnut salad. The nuts swam in blush wine dressing – small, veined turds on a glazed lawn.

Another couple of weeks later, Camila looked at Jason and said she’d known he was the one from day one, cracks and clefts be damned; he knew how to press her buttons and ream her F-holes; she played tailpiece to his lower bout. I rolled my eyes and the house shuttered its windows. The walls were paper thin. We could hear everything; the expostulations of the instrument, replaced in her affections; the winging of the bed, the sound of string on wood and wood on flesh and flesh on more flesh, screaming. For weeks, the house shook with the incoherence of their combined lust. There were tears in the walls now and gaping holes in the corners. I watched Camila bloom as the house wilted. I watched Camila bloom and I wanted to bloom inside her.

Kneeling in the dust, I unearthed my creased devotion; my accordion-pleated yearning. The house began to fold in on itself. First the roof; angles disappearing, ridges carefully smoothing. The attic crumbled around me. Accent-walls, flower-music, state of migrainoid lethargy unfolded, cuckolded, flattened, transformed. When you least expect it. In my hands, a coagulation of paper swans.

Linda Wilgus

A graduate of the University of Amsterdam, Linda Wilgus is a Dutch writer who moves around the world with her family thanks to the US Department of Defense. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, Confluence Magazine and Kestrel.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.