Mallika Mitra

May 28, 2019

The Houses

The living room is made of sticks. Moss as the carpet, shreds of bark as the roof. 

“Where will they sleep?” my sister asks, crouched beside me at the foot of a maple tree. I run my hands through the dirt in response, pushing together a bed. Grass as the pillow. 

From the road, we must look so small. Two girls with wood chips pressed into our knees making a tiny home out of Mother Nature’s offerings. Behind us, a two-story house raises into the sky. Our mother’s silhouette visible through the front window, setting the table, making a home. 

“When will they come?” 

I glance up while twisting blades of grass between my thumb and pointer finger, making them into stairs. 

“They come at night.” 

I don’t know this for sure, but it would make sense. I never see fairies during the day. 

A twig snaps beneath my foot as I lean across my sister to pick up a dead leaf. 

I never see fairies at all. 

I found them illustrated in a book a few days earlier. Their wings looked too big for their bodies. Their bodies looked like they could be snapped like the twig beneath my foot. I wondered where they rested when their wings stopped fluttering. My mother cooks my food each evening, humming as she leans over her pots and pans. She wakes me up every morning, pulling up the curtain, her outline the first thing I see. She runs the bath for my sister and I, dipping a finger to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. The fairies didn’t have a home in the book. 

So I decided to make one. I wanted to make a home like my mother. 

When I recruited my sister she didn’t ask if fairies were real. 

The dead leaf is now a blanket, draped over the bed and pillow. My sister puts her pinky into the ground and spins it briefly, making a small hole. She places the stem of a weed into the hole and gently fills in the dirt around it. The beginnings of a fence. She repeats this over and over, her breath heavy as she concentrates. 

It didn’t matter if they were real. 

Inside, my mother wipes down the tables. I pull off the top of an acorn, making it a footstool. My mother rearranges the books on our shelves. My sister rips a flower petal into a square, a table cloth. My mother makes the beds. My sister and I make candles out of stems. How else will they see what we’ve made? 

Until dusk falls, we mold tiny homes for creatures neither of us know if we believe in.


Bio: Mallika Mitra is a New York City-based writer. She is currently a master’s candidate at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York where she is studying business journalism. She received her bachelor’s in English from Kalamazoo College.  Mallika has previously been published in Entropy and The Cauldron.  

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