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August 1, 2010 | Fiction

We Figure the Leaves

Kristine Ong Muslim

We Figure the Leaves photo

We figure the leaves will find a way back into the house, where they take more than their share of furniture. The smell of ruin and the lack of rain outside has not permeated the house yet. That must be what draws them to us, draws them indoors where we multiply when faced by extinction.

We figure the leaves will not do enough damage. They have the tiniest of hands that cringe at the touch of dust. Even when provoked, they remain harmless. Not once have they interrupted us in our sleep. It's like, we are writing about life here and we are drawing out of an upturned hat the names of our enemies; we do not have to care if the leaves exist or not. There is more to this room, this house than the door that will not open to conceal the dying things inside.

Autumn, and they grit their teeth. Summer, and they explode in color. Winter, and we let them tiptoe their way into death.

We figure the leaves will leave us alone.

We figure the house will have enough walls to keep them out.

They enter through the gaps between the floorboards and under the doors. They clog and fatten the pipes then come out of the toilet bowl. We take turns flushing them out, but the leaves are too many, too big as they congeal into familiar shapes. Exhausted, we find ourselves fleeing out of the house our forefathers had built with their hands. It costs next to nothing to keep us alive inside the freezer or under the bed, yet they will not allow us to stay.

In time, the leaves learn to take our postures, to talk, to make themselves look beautiful in the eyes of other leaves. Hands made of leaves scrunched together begin to turn on and off the light switches, the television remote control, the trigger of hunting rifles. They riffle through our porn magazines in the closet. They make breakfast. They squabble and get desk jobs and cheat on their wives and taxes.

Outside the house, the trees, now leafless, are slowly drying out. We shudder amongst them. Underneath them.

image: Ryan Molloy


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