The year after their baby died, they sold their furniture, her skis, his table saw. Then they donated most of their clothes. They asked to see tiny houses, no larger than 500 square feet. “Bill and I are buying a house on wheels,” Amanda told their families. “We’re going to travel like gypsies.” Everyone looked even more concerned than usual. Bill thought that in such a compact space, he and Amanda could grow close again. On tours, she exclaimed over each model home — sofas that folded into walls, drawers built into stairs, toilets in shower stalls. Terry, the salesman, was a tiny house himself, with a miniature hearing aid tucked in his left ear and a special pocket in his chinos for his Chap Stick. In a toy Cape Cod one afternoon, Bill bumped into Amanda, spilling his coffee on her skirt. Terry showed them how to wash it in the little machine while Amanda stood in her black half-slip eating the plum Terry had picked for her by reaching through the window to the tree outside. Bill saw that things like this came easily to Terry, as though special instructions were being communicated to his hearing aid, or all of his tiny house demonstrations had enlarged his confidence. Bill had never been like that. When the baby was in the pediatric ICU, he’d told Amanda he looked like a bun yet to rise in an oven, and that had been the first time of many she had looked at him as though he were the one who was small. Now he felt himself growing rapidly in insignificance. He was also certain that the tiny houses were shrinking. That summer, Terry showed them a colonial so minute that when it was time to climb the ladder to see the loft, they had to take turns, and Amanda and Terry went together. From below, Bill could hear them laughing, then silence. Terry had left the spec sheet on the collapsible kitchen counter, and Bill read that the house was 350 square feet. He turned and creaked down the shallow steps. Across the meadow, a buck solemnly observed him, antlers wider than the house’s door. Bill knew that there would be no tiny house for him, and soon no Amanda. He was the last and largest item she had to downsize. But he also knew he would travel. That was the part of the plan he’d always liked best. Nights, he would spread out in motel beds built for a king. By day, he’d take the interstates, connected to one another like arteries forever searching for a heart — one as small as a baby’s, as fragile as a man’s.
About the Writer
Lynn Mundell's work has appeared in Tin House Flash Fidelity, The Sun, Superstition Review, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Northern California, where she co-edits 100 Word Story.