This story is the grand champion of the 2012 Columbus Invitational Arts Competition! Complete list of winners.
The story also won the award for Most Creative and Most Depth.
This story was chosen by Paging Columbus to represent their organization in the Columbus Invitational Arts Competition.
By Emily Taylor (EmilyTaylor.org)
They were making it work for the winter, because having sunk their savings in the house, they couldn’t afford to stay anywhere else. Melanie put rubber strips along the bottoms of the doors and Garth shot foam insulation into the cold white walls, and the handyman came in to help them bleed the radiators. But on Wednesday night the boiler broke. It was so old that the parts were not made anymore. Now it was camping out cold, tent spread on a bald mountain. This was November, and the wind came in past the gnarled trees through the shuddering front windows. The residual heat left the house, floor by floor. They waited for the new boiler, eschewing space heaters, playing tough, congratulating each other for having the foresight to insulate the pipes.
Melanie and Garth had met on the internet like everybody else. Two divorced people living in apartments on the borders of nicer Brooklyn neighborhoods, children and spouses who had grown and left. When a few years passed, and enough of her things were at his old place, and enough of his were at her old place, Melanie and Garth decided to sell their places and buy a house together nowhere near a good school district. It was something they had both always wanted, to remake something from scratch. Phoenix from the ashes. We are the fixers, it would mean, we have fixed something and built a hearth in it.
A new-old house bought by a new-old couple in a new-old neighborhood in Brooklyn. The sort of neighborhood where houses like these were beginning to be renovated. The sort of neighborhood where owners of houses that were not being renovated had taken to sitting on stoops with broomsticks across their knees. Some of them planted “NOT for sale” signs in the ivy.
On Thursday, Melanie went down to the Goodwill store for wool blankets, searching for the rough ones with the long damp smells of old moss. She knew about those World War II army blankets from her father. He had lain beneath them, hoping that the heat from his own body would not fade in some forsaken winter field in France. Now her father lay under baby-blue cotton in a nursing home, complaining not of the cold, but of the boredom setting in every afternoon. As predictable as the tides.
Melanie and Garth slept Thursday and Friday night under the wool blankets over down comforters – a thick skin over softness. They each wore so many layers that when they undressed to have sex, she thought for a moment that Garth had lost weight. She wondered if he thought the same about her. After sex, and before their breathing evened, they put the bottom layers back on, and then their hats and gloves.
“We should get up,” she said on Saturday morning.
“We should,” he said. They lay there longer. On Saturdays they usually spent the entire day working on the house, instead of going to their jobs and spending a few hours on the house in the twilit evenings. She welcomed the weekends, felt her bones roll more easily in their sockets after a day’s work laying tile than a day’s work cramped behind a desk. Garth’s contracting job had him in his truck, driving to all corners of the city and beyond, and he was just as glad as she was to stay at home together, letting his partner field the phone calls and drive to the sites.