Canary House

by Michael Seidel

There were no cameras, no film crew, no audiences or air time. Nobody noticed except us.

At the start, the canary house was so full of junk that the two people inside seemed trapped in their La-Z-Boys, chairs that were both web and spider, tacking them in and filling them with venom. The people never seemed to move.

Days and weeks held a Sumo match. The winner went on to wrestle years. And in the midst of the spectacle, two items at a time began to disappear from the house, a sock and a blender say, then two more. A house plant and a rug. A desk lamp and a decorative pineapple.

The items were not selected. The people were not forced to choose, with tears and a suffocating feeling. The items just dissolved where they rested, leaving no mess. Undoing, in fact, the mess that had kept the people so long in their chairs.

Last Wednesday, all that was left to see was the back of their heads, the two of them, chairs gone, sitting on the floor. They were watching tv. One was drinking from a plastic cup.

"That's four items left and two disappearing at a time," Ruben told me.

I thought to myself, Maybe we could throw things into the mix? The house itself, the yard, the layers of shingles, each blade of grass? Increase the odds. Parse and populate. What is one and what is many? What counts as what? And is there pain, just dissolving like that?

But what I said to Ruben was: "My money's on the old man. And that cup, I bet."