The Affected Room Should Be
Isolated From the Other
Rooms in the House
About the Writer
Amy Rossi is a graduate of the MFA program at Louisiana State University. Her work appears online in places such as Blue Fifth Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and WhiskeyPaper, and her thoughts about 80s metal can be found at amyrossi.com.
She woke up thinking carpet. It had fallen out of fashion, she knew. Everyone wanted hardwood floors these days. But now carpet seemed like the right idea, the cure, the fix, so obvious that it was embarrassing. She imagined curling her toes around something soft and high-piled as soon as tomorrow morning, and the thought stilled the hammer in her chest, brightened the room enough that she could get out of bed. Carpet! Why hadn’t she thought of this earlier?
In the shower she turned the hot water knob all the way to the left. Steam enveloped her; she glowed pink. This is how it should be. She thought back to when she was a little girl and different, back to her grandparents’ swimming pool and the stiff slabs of artificial grass that traced a path from the deck to the downstairs bathroom. She closed her eyes and imagined covering the wall and the tub with such rugs. It would be like showering in a jungle. She could even weave fake flowers around the shower curtain rod. There would be no surface uncovered, no surface exposed. She smiled to herself, and the water from the shower burned her teeth.
Once she was dressed, she sat in the living room eating peanut butter toast and sipping milk, waiting for the digits on the clock to roll from nine fifty-nine to ten. The stores would be open by then. She couldn’t be the person waiting for the door to be unlocked. When she finally let herself quick-step to her car, her feet barely touched the ground.
She drove around the new strip mall and then the old strip mall and the street downtown that had stores that were more about making the street look appealing than serving a need, like one for hats and one for needlepoint supplies. She didn’t see the carpet store. She remembered one so convincingly that it didn’t seem possible she had imagined its existence. The hat people might know where it was. She parked along the curb and pushed open the door to the hat shop, quite confidently, she thought. Excuse me, she said, do you know where people buy carpet?
The man behind the counter stared at her as though this was a trick question, some version of a telephone prank that would involve running refrigerators or Prince Albert in a can. She widened her eyes in an effort to convey how genuine her carpet needs were. Probably one of those big home improvement stores, he said after a minute.
She thanked him and resolved to buy a hat soon, possibly next weekend. Change must be made in manageable movements.
The home improvement store was in the new strip mall; she’d driven by it earlier. It was vast and concrete. So much hard surface; so much could go wrong. She placed one foot in front of the other, calling out carpet to any blue-shirted employee that passed by and following their pointed fingers until she was surrounded by rows of samples, every color carpet she could imagine. A blue shirt stood in front of them, as if waiting for her. She wondered if he went home to hardwood. He shook her hand and asked what she was looking for.
Protection, she said. His mouth twisted as he let go of her hand. Carpet, she said. The thickest you have.
He walked her through the samples before stopping in front of a bright, plush pink square. And this, he said, you can install yourself. It sticks to the floor.
She touched the sample, let her fingers sink into the soft loops. Yes, she said. This is what I need. It took three young men to load the boxes of carpet tile in her car. The carpet man had suggested she install it in one room and come back if she liked it. The carpet man didn’t understand after all. He would go home that night and laugh with his wife over pot roast about the lady buying up all the carpet. She didn’t care. Let him laugh. She knew what she was doing. She hoped he liked pot roast.
There were no young men to help her get the carpet boxes from the car and into her house. She hefted them inside by herself, case by case, pink and purple and blue and yellow. Her arms ached when she was through but still she tore into the boxes until she was surrounded by the squares, wrapped in them, until a thermometer would sink into her and glass would glide away and a hammer would bounce into nothing, until she would not break, she would not break, she would not break, until she herself was carpeted.