The Caller’s Protean Enchantment

If he were older upon reaching this place where the forest gives way to a clearing, the strange house in the asters would offer him a pair of windows, one baring a feast of roasted extravagance with the family sitting at their holiday places, speaking tenderly, listening with interest, filling or full; while the other window would divulge a girl, naked, of the rounded variety, bathing and wonderfully slow to finish and dress.

However, young as he is, he holds a single hunger, and the lucky house greets him as a confection, sprung from the fantasy of sticks, drops, and chews: imagined store-bought pleasures, superior to the sip from the sap pail.

Gnarled with age, he’d make the sudden house a tonic, windowing a girl (state of dress immaterial) with strong hands to ease the bum leg, bad back. Lonely or bored, he’d discover the friend with a football and distillery. Weary of his frozen dinners, he would find the partner who can cook. Sick of living, he’d encounter a tomb.

Outside of the tale, the caller must confront the house helplessly, like a beggar. He will realize he cannot choose what it will be. He will understand he never could. And he will take what he can get.

-Melissa Ostrom