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Selections from the Wolfmonth Catalog of the Fairyland Regional Fürni Store
    by Josh Pearce

Selections from the Wolfmonth Catalog of the Fairyland Regional Fürni Store
Artwork by Michael Wolmarans

Klädskåp--made of the highest-quality particleboard. Takes you to a small, kind of rundown vacant lot where it's always autumn and never Halloween. The lot is surrounded by concrete walls that are too tall and blank to be climbed, which reduce the sky to a cold square far out of reach.

Högplatå--good for pagan Saturnalia harvest. Appears to be made out of slabs of stone in the catalog but is actually painted styrofoam. Breaks in half almost immediately when you place your very sick cat on it. Your cat stops moving, can hardly even twitch his ears at you anymore. So, crying, you take him to the vet, who pushes in a saline solution to clean his veins and then a solution of something else that closes his eyes forever. This cat was nineteen or twenty years old. You've known him longer than you've known some of your siblings. You were the one who named him. You rest him on the broken table. He hasn't come back to life by morning but he doesn't seem to be decomposing, either.

Förstaringlas--full-length looking glass. It's not even glass, just a thin sheet of wobbly plastic. Barely reflective. You have to get right up to it and cup your hands around your eyes before you can see anything within. There's a little blonde girl in there, wearing an old-fashioned frock. Tea-party with her toys. She makes nasty faces at you, stomps her feet, throws herself on the ground to have a shrieking tantrum. You back away slowly and rarely have the curiosity to come back.

Sittplats--assembly required. Its thousand pieces are that plastic cutlery that at first glance appear to be stainless steel but are, disappointingly, only very shiny plastic. Spend an hour melting it all down in a pot over low heat, gagging on the fumes. Press the molten mess into the mold that came with the box, and you're rewarded with a lightweight bucket seat. The plastic feels tacky and sticks to your skin whenever you stand up. Nobody comes to kneel down before you and swear fealty but your house does gain a minor infestation of salamanders, newts, and geckos that run up your walls and hide in the corners of the ceiling, just out of reach.

You use the seat as a desk chair in the home office while you write out invitations to a housewarming party for your revamped living space. You use your finest calligraphy. A party is just the thing to pick up your spirits. You have a preponderance toward papercuts whenever you sit in the half-melted chair.

Brödrost--you buy a cute little toaster and plug it in. It glares up at you and turns its back. "Come on," you coax, "do something brave today." It pulls its own plug out and grumps. Wisps of smoke gather in fuming clouds over its head. Even when you plug it back in and bribe it with raisin bread, the little punkass burns angry black lines into your breakfast.

Kvast--okay, at first they seem to perform as advertised, endowed with self-motivation, packaged in reasonably-priced sets but, come on, all they want to do is go outside and sweep the damn yard. And then they track all that dirt right back into the house, no matter how many times you swat them with a rolled-up newspaper and yell very loudly to assert your dominance. If you don't let them in, they're gonna keep you up all night tapping against the sliding glass door.

Pläd--this one goes well with the motif of the living room and hovers about an inch off the floor and all the dust from outside gets under it, where the brooms can't reach. You try standing on the rug, shouting, "Up!" and other declarative commands that do nothing. Try weighing it down with furniture to at least use it as a nice accent piece but it balloons and bulges up in the middle. You set it free. It floats around the ceiling like cigarette smoke that won't dissipate. One day you leave the window open. When you come home from work, it's gone.

Förhänge--yellow curtains, rectangular print pattern, which you hang over the front window and draw tight. From that point onward, no one comes to your door, not Girl Scouts selling cookies (sad), nor proselytizers (okay, good), and not even the mail (no more strange furniture catalogs, at least). Maybe you were supposed to control an entire fantasyland whenever you stood behind them but seems as if instead nobody pays attention to you. You twitch them aside once or twice or five times in the evening after work, just keeping an eye on the postbox in case anybody decides to RSVP.

Skåp--the cupboard is wooden with a tiny iron lock and key, looks like something found in the attic of your grandma's place. It cleans up well, made of solid wood. Sturdy construction. You buy a bag of plastic cowboys and indians. You put them in, close the door, turn the key, and listen to them come to listless life in the dark. The cowboys smoke instead of eating, instead of drinking. They smoke instead of breathing, and cough up pieces of particularly nasty 19th-century pulmonary disease. The indians take to cheap whiskey too quickly and you never see them pick themselves up off the lower shelves.

Madross--this is the most expensive thing you buy from the catalog and all it does is cry in the corner because it misses its family. You sit on the floor next to it and pat its shoulder-corner, rub its back, feel the stiff springs under its soft skin like creaky vertebrae and soothe it through the night while the neighbors pound on the walls and curse and shout.

After the sweat and effort putting the furniture together, it's all just plaster and plywood. Rickety, flimsy, with a thin shellacked magic. You thought that maybe with the right furnishings your home would look less empty but all that you've accomplished is to divide one large space into a bunch of smaller spaces. This was supposed to cement you as an adult. Instead it's all a bunch of cardboard dollhouse accessories. Subdivide each square. Fill the void.

There must be more to it than just this.

Klädskåp--the abandoned lot becomes your quiet place, far away from traffic, neighbors, early-morning birdsong, telemarketers, solicitors. The walls are less intimidating now. Less keeping you in and more keeping other people out, which is fine, everything's better without others anyway. You kick rocks around.

Högplatå--putting the broken table near your living room window keeps him in a square of sunlight most of the day. Warm in the spot where he always liked to nap, and his forever sleeping body feels almost natural when you pet it.

Förstaringlas--the date on your receipt becomes the anniversary. On that day, every year, you take time to look into the mirror, check in on that blonde girl. You're really rooting for her, you say to her reflection--rooting for her to not grow up into a complete asshole.

Förhänge--you can see the yellow curtains from your bed, the last thing you see before you fall asleep. You've picked out a new bedspread decorated with orange flowers. Every night you have that dream where people only notice you if you're completely naked.

Brödrost--gotta keep an eye on this one. More than once it's taken a dive for the sink while you wash the dishes. Not sure what to do with it. You're learning to tolerate the taste of charcoal toast. It hesitates at the doorway while you take a bath, like a lost pet. Some days you feel like letting it in, picking it up, and cuddling. But you chase it away with a well-thrown shampoo bottle.

Skåp--it's been long enough. You close the cupboard and lock it, turning them back into plastic. You bury the cowboys and indians in separate plots in the dirt of your little abandoned lot. You put a baby Jesus figurine in, breaking up the nativity set, and close the skåp's door, but you stop short of actually turning the key.

Sittplats--Sit heavily and rest. The salamanders and geckos come out around your feet, darting among the weeds. You can't get anything else to grow in the dirt no matter how many seeds you scatter. Bugs infest everything, eating the shoots. The lizards feed on the bugs, so they're happy, at least until blackbirds come swooping down from the overcast, drawn to the easy pickings.

Förstaringlas--break apart its frame so you can polish the cheap foil backing and replace the plastic with glass. Put it back together and turn it around--taken by surprise by the young lady who stands very close to her side of the mirror. She jerks back, too, unused to such a clear image. In all the time since you bought this mirror, look how she's grown into a person. You practice a smile and wave. Hang the mirror in the abandoned lot to give it some depth and the flickering dancing presence of a faraway stranger.

Things get scuffed, which you might think makes the magic bleed out and diminish. But as things acquire their own personalities, they also acquire their own magic.

If you let the brödrost do what he wishes and set fire to the house, burning up the klädskåp, would you burn with it? Or would your pocket universe vanish from that outside world with you tucked within, where nobody could ever find you and force you to rejoin them?

It's time to let things go. Time to let your old friend go as well. You've already got a graveyard started so you carve out a third plot, choking on your grief as you shovel dirt on top of the shoebox coffin. The madross is your only other mourner. Movement catches the corner of your eye--the blonde girl stands in her frame, watching your personal ceremony. She's cuddling a black kitten in her arms, a squirming animal with a little golden bell tied around its neck. She presses her hands against the glass, then against her eyes, then turns away like she cannot watch any more.

Pläd--you find the carpet caught up in the branches of the taller bushes in the garden and you use a broomhandle to knock it down. It's frayed and unraveling, stained. No telling where it's drifted in from. You pluck its fibers loose and methodically braid them into a long enough rope with a noose at the end. The girl watches your progress for a minute, then steps out of view somewhere else in her mirror world. The light on her side changes, brightens like a shutter has been thrown open. There's no branch strong enough to hold your weight in here, but that doesn't matter--the magic rope lifts up toward the sky and tightens its knot. You grip it with both hands and plant your feet like you're struggling against a kite in a strong wind.

A noise from above distracts you. The black kitten tips along the perimeter wall. The bell around its neck sounding out sharp and fine. The kitten carries something in its mouth and drops it over the edge and you move automatically to catch the object before it hits the ground. It's a little glass vial, stoppered with a cork, something rattling inside it. You hear the bell again as the kitten goes down the other side of the wall, quite easily, jumping down onto something you can't see.

You open the bottle and pour it out into your hand. It's filled with teeth. A fistful of a child's milk teeth. You cannot question the girl in the mirror but she gives you a fresh white grin and shows you an old brass key. Mimes turning it in a lock.

Skåp--you arrange the baby teeth into a double crescent smile at the bottom of the otherwise empty cupboard. Shut it up and lock it tight. After a minute, you hear a scratching inside and back away. What do we form from children's teeth and prefab magic these days? You hesitate to touch the key again.

Leave the garden, go into your old house. You take down one of your yellow curtains and throw it over the wardrobe to hide it from your thoughts. It would be so easy to disappear forever the same way. No one would come looking. No one has shown any interest in coming to check out your place. If they even remembered, they would never think to look behind the curtain.

It would be even easier, so easy, to go into your garden and let the rope stretch you up by the spine, thinner and thinner until you disappeared.

Klädskåp--a cat comes creeping like smoke. It is tiger-striped like your old friend was. Comes through the wardrobe door into your living room and bumps its head against your leg until you pet it. The cat yawns and shows you its frightfully human teeth before it returns to the wardrobe. Its tail like the punctuation at the end of so are you coming, or what?

You follow the cat into the wardrobe.

The cat walks through walls. It picks a slate gray one and simply leaves the vacant lot. Seems as though there's still magic even in off-the-shelf parts. If she could pull off something like that, what personality can you summon with a few simple furniture hacks? You take stock. A nice flower garden would certainly give visitors something to enjoy.

Kvast--but the bugs eat the flowers, the lizards eat the bugs. Blackbirds eat the bugs and the lizards and the seeds. You break apart brooms, creating a frame out of their wooden handles. Hang some of your old clothes on it, stuff it with broom straw. Stick your scarecrow in the vacant lot and let him get to work.

Förhänge--take down the other yellow curtain and spread it out over the corner of the garden where everything is buried. Your grief is still there but now you don't have to pay attention to it. The scarecrow shuffles through the plants, shooing birds back into the air. He tips his hat to you.

Blackbirds are persistent. The scarecrow knocks them down by throwing rocks, wrings their necks. He's starting quite a collection but still your garden isn't blooming. There are wildflowers whose seeds were blown in over the top from some place you can't even imagine, growing into a witch-briar tangle, but only a single flower unfolds among the thorns. The scarecrow picks it and places it in his buttonhole. The sky grows darker with clouds each time you go into the wardrobe. The scarecrow slouches among the weeds, catching lizards and snapping them in half.

You scold him--the geckos and newts are supposed to be helping. He rolls one cloth eye at you and then wings a rock at your head. "Hey!" You back out of the wardrobe into the house.

Klädskåp--You listen to the wet thwacking sounds of dead animals striking the inside of the wardrobe. Each one makes you twitch.

Brödrost--the toaster hides in a kitchen cabinet.

Förhänge--but the scarecrow is just throwing things at random. With the curtain up, he can't find the door.

You're asleep in your room at night when a noise suddenly wakes you. A creaking noise from the front room where the wardrobe is. The scarecrow is more clever than he looks. The mattress flops once to buck you off and crawls to the bedroom door. There are footsteps coming down the hall. The madross wedges itself against the door just as it starts to open, blocking enough that only a thin, tattered arm can reach through.

The mattress springs creak under the strain but the barrier holds until morning. When the sun comes up you cautiously peek your head out. No one's there but you find a dead cat on the kitchen counter, its striped fur matted and dirty. It's the mattress's turn to absorb your tears.

With a flick, the toaster pops up two perfectly browned pieces of bread and offers them to you. Fuel for you to, come on, do something brave today. "You're right," you say. "We're going back in."

The toaster loads two more pieces of bread and untangles a long extension cord. The mattress squeezes into the wardrobe first to protect you from any rocks or bird beaks. The scarecrow is nowhere to be seen, just thick tangles of briars and no flowers. It's raining, hard. There are no birds, lizards, or aphids, so why aren't there any flowers? The wind threatens frost.

You notice that the yellow curtain is missing from the burial corner, too. The cupboard is still where you left it, still locked, and you avoid even looking at it. As long as you leave it unopened, you don't need to know which animal still rots in its box.

Leave the wardrobe, just for a minute. Chipboard is light enough that you can easily tip it over onto its side. You look inside again. Now the vacant lot is knee-deep in snow. Lift with your knees, not your back, to rotate the wardrobe another ninety degrees until it is completely upside-down. Step into your garden, into the spring sunshine. Roses on all the thornbushes.

A rock strikes you in the face. You whirl around, looking for your attacker. Another stone barely misses. Dive into the bushes for cover. The sound of something large crashing through, hunting you. A cloaked shape which you can see only from where it breaks branches. The förhänge has been shredded by the thornbushes so you can see the scarecrow hiding beneath it. He raises a broomstick arm to crack your skull open.

The brödrost, smoke puffing like a locomotive, rushes to your rescue. Gets all of three feet before it's yanked back by the cord. The scarecrow lands a blow on your ribs and all the breath goes out of your body. Fury on the toaster's shiny face as the bread in its slots bursts into flame. It scrambles along the ground, a small sharp animal on a short leash.

The scarecrow raises its weapon once more.

Your mattress lifts up your toaster and embraces it until they both smolder, then it comes charging through the roses. Flames spread from its upholstery. It broadsides the scarecrow.

It takes some time but you trim back the plants and clear out a nice sandy spot in the middle of your lot. Picking an unbroken broomstick and the least-burnt straw from the scarecrow's bones, you tie together a single broom and let it chase a rock around your new Zen garden. Find the upended sittplats and set it firmly in the ground to bring back the lizards. You use it as an end table to display your broken toaster, shined up as best you could. Plant a fistful of roses in the toaster's slots as a creative planterbox for a fun discussion piece that all your friends are sure to love.

The yellow curtain is gone, destroyed with the scarecrow in the mattress fire. All their ashes are mixed and scattered across the garden. But the flowers grow brightest and biggest in one corner of the lot, so you don't feel so sad anymore when you look at it. You feel the rope tighten around you but for the first time in years you feel light on your feet. Buoyant. A tight knot in your throat comes undone.

You let the rope unwind you and you hold onto the end as it lifts you like the blue patch of sky overhead is an umbrella sweeping you up and away and you've got a grip on its handle. You clutch at a hedge as your toes begin to leave the ground, coming away with a spray of flowers in one hand. You've always wanted to show these flowers to someone. Look at these. How odd. Somewhere nearby, a friendly girl has paid attention and left a window open.

Wolfmonth Catalog of the Fairyland Regional Fürni Store--there's a great big fairyland out there. All you need to do is turn to the right page.

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