My House Is a Doll’s House

Katy Gunn

It is my month of Sundays. Because of it I will not have to sweep the floors, wash the windows, polish the doorknobs of other houses. My house is free. In it I will be easier to keep nearby for whenever the time is right. It is small and white with a small green yard with lots of colored buds. He gave it to me this morning. He said,

—It will be your month of Sundays. You’re a pretty thing to work so hard,

as he patted my cheek and the door of my house. He had business to go to.

Outside, my house is shiny white horizontal slats that overlap to shelter lines of light green and tan moss. The slats overlap downwards right into the ground or grow right up from the ground without a seam between ground and house. The grass grows up similarly. I lie in it. I touch my house.

Also growing up from the ground are bushes and trees with white, yellow, pink, lavender, blue, and green buds. Some of the buds have burst into small puffs like nothing that needs to be cleaned off.


Inside my house is sitting room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. It is a girl’s bedroom with a sleigh bed like the bedroom in my doll’s house. My doll’s house was supposed to teach me to be organized and house-proud. I am house-proud. My house is a doll’s house I can fit into.

All the walls are pink or white. All the carpets are blue or grey-tan. The windows are low and the ceilings are low. There is a door in the front and a door in the back that brush the grass and send up yellow spring powders.

In the bedroom drawers are dresses that fit me. I take off my working dress and put on a blue one embroidered with tiny blue flowers and buds. Under the sleigh bed are shoes that fit me. I take off my working shoes and walk barefoot over all of my carpets drying my feet.

On the table is an empty glass vase and an envelope of money. I fill the vase with thin branches of purple puffs from my yard. I put the money in my blue pocket. It is time for a meal. I want to have tea in my house.

At the end of the path from my house is a road and at the end of the road a vegetable stand. Beyond that, town. I have spent so many Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays working in town. I will not go there anymore.

From the vegetable man I buy green-topped carrots, parsnips, onions, cow peas, lettuces, three watermelons with the flowers still on, and basil with roots.

—Those watermelons were grown in a greenhouse,

says the vegetable man.


I agree, and I give him a tip. I am a different woman now.

I plant the basil in the window box of my house with dirt from my yard. For tea I have the watermelon with the flowers still on. It is delicate like me in my blue dress. I can be delicate. I am a housed lady now. My house will be strong around me on all sides.


I lie on my sleigh bed on my three crocheted blankets. One is yellow, blue, red, and green stripes. The second is cream and tan stripes. The third is gold, blue, purple, dark green, light green, burgundy, orange, and pink squares. The squares blanket is biggest and reaches up to my red and white pillows.

My head is on my pillows with his todger inside. His knees are on an orange and light-green square and a gold and pink square. My fingernails are holding two blue and gold squares. My fingernails are gold.

In the closet the gold paint sits in a glass bottle in a basket of glass bottles of pink, dark pink, burgundy, silver, clear, silver-glitter, red, and coral pink paint. The closet door is open so the spring sun can come through the windows and shine off the colors.

It shines off the white curtains and my white sleigh bed too. It must shine off my teeth though I can’t see them. My teeth are curtains and chairs for the room of my mouth. It is spring in my mouth and his todger is visiting like he is visiting my house.

When he leaves I plan to find all the white things in my house. I can already think of curtains, sleigh bed, kitchen, bathroom, three chairs, washbasin, and bowls and plates painted with blue buds. The bowls and plates are those of a lady. I try to think of all the things with blue buds in my house. When he leaves I plan to find all the buds.

I look around the room for buds and find blue buds on my dress, pink buds in a picture, and pink buds on the edges of my sleigh bed and drawers before he holds my head still with his hands over my eyes.


A mailman delivers a card to my house. I am looking at my window when he comes up the tangled blooming walk. I think he might have a flower on his hat but when I meet him at the door it is only an insignia.

Still I welcome him,

—Isn’t it beautiful here!

—Yes lady,

the mailman says. He gives me a yellow envelope.

It is addressed to a woman who is not me but it is for my house so I bring it inside. Inside the envelope is a yellow card with red and orange flowers and buds in the shape of a sun. It says I hope this finds you well. Amelia. It does. I put it on the kitchen windowsill where it matches the outside bush.

Past the card many of the buds are puffing out into flowers, especially the purple ones on the hanging tree. The buds on my table have puffed open too. I look at all the buds which have puffed in the yard and changed the kitchen window.

I think of what happens after all the buds puff. Leaves. I can’t imagine my kitchen windows green with leaves.

After green leaves, red and orange. After red and orange, snow. I have seen so many other people’s houses change this way. I have swept away the fallen leaves and away the snow. I can’t imagine sweeping in my spring house.


I wear all the dresses and because I am a housed lady and do not sweat they continue to smell like spring. I pin tiny puffed flowers to my dresses with pins from my bedroom drawers. When he comes he says I am pretty and gives me tiny silver ducks on a chain.


he calls me. I line them all up on my dresser. I line them all up on my grey-tan-carpeted floor. Their silver bottoms are narrow and fit neatly into the space between the grey and tan strings of the carpet. Even with my face very close to the ducks I cannot see the lines of their bottoms exactly. They grow out of the grey-tan carpet like my house grows out of the green spring ground.

He lifts my orange puff dress and hits my bottom. His todger visits the room of my bottom.

I knock over my ducks accidentally and set them back up. Ten silver ducks on a chain. The biggest duck is always first. It is the mother duck with room inside for all the smaller ducks. Or it is the man duck. He leads the way.

Next he rolls me over and visits my fanny. He spends a long time there. He enjoys his stay. Next he comes into the room of my mouth.

He gets white on my orange puff dress. My dress would be pretty with white buds embroidered. I might do it if I were a talented cleaning lady or a lady who needed money. But I have a house. I have a weekly allowance on the table. The watermelons at the vegetable stand are getting bigger and pinker the further it gets into spring.


In the mirrors of my house I study the house of my body at length. Mirrors belong to ladies who are allowed to know all the rooms of their bodies and now mirrors belong to me. It is spring inside me. Everything is pink and white like my bedroom window.

Spring sun comes in my bedroom window and shines off my teeth which are curtains and chairs. It makes shadows in the piles of curtains hanging from the window of my fanny. I have many shadowy corners. I have a doorknob which he says he will push but he never pushes it.

When I am done I look out the window at all the fat bees working. They stumble from flower to flower spreading the spring. I am a fat bee and I move from room to room. I am not a worker. I am the queen bee.

Sometimes the fat bees are interrupted by birds which fall from the trees onto the flowers flapping. The birds are hooked together in pairs and I know they are entering each other though with all the flapping I can’t see it. Entering was never explained to me in terms of rooms before but now that I have figured it out I know I enjoy it.

I know the flapping and entering and falling from trees means that there will be eggs in the trees and the trees will grow leaves to hide them. I try to imagine my bedroom window green with leaves. I can’t. I think of snow and it scares me.

My house is white. My house would disappear. There has never been any season other than spring in which I have been so big or real as to be housed.

I try to study my rooms again but I am sick to my stomach. I wait for him to visit but he doesn’t. I look out the windows and notice for the first time all the buds that have bloomed out and fallen onto the ground already.


The vegetable stand is so full I can’t decide what to buy. His entire front display holds fruit and some fruits have rolled out of their baskets onto the ground. I am too hungry to leave with nothing so I buy the three hardest plums at the top of their pile and eat them walking back toward my house.

The day he gave me my house I could see it from the road. Now bits of it are covered by the blooming white tree and the blooming pink tree. On the purple tree are tiny specks of green. I can see them from the road. The green has come up from the ground and soon it will block my house.

I walk down the road away from the vegetable stand and my house. I walk until I have walked further than I have walked since he gave me my house. My feet feel a little bruised in the shoes from my house and I have to remember that I am not working.

At the end of the road, another little house. But heavier than my house is heavy with spring.

The lines of white and tan moss that grow under the slats of my house grow all over the slats of this house, and on the window boxes and roof. This house’s bushes are bigger and the branches of its purple puffing trees hang closer to the ground. If the puffs have begun to fall from the branches it isn’t clear because the ground too is covered with flowers. The whole house and yard are loud with fat bees.

I stand in front of this house for a while. I stand in front of this house for some portion of the morning. Eventually the door opens and a woman comes out.

She is as old as the oldest woman I have ever seen. The skin on her face hangs in curtains around her eyes and mouth. She wears a peach-colored dress and no apron so I know she is a housed lady or a woman who was once a housed lady. She is the lady of this house.


she calls out to me. It is a soft call.

—It is beautiful here!

I call back from the road. The plums have ripened inside me and my stomach is empty.


Inside, her house is like mine but older and faded lighter and stained darker. She pours red tea into two white cups with orange buds painted on them and mixes cream and sugar into both. She does not ask how much cream or sugar I would like. She mixes until the tea is white like the cups. She is a housed lady.

She gives me a cup on a saucer painted with orange buds and puts a jar of cookies on the table.

—Forgive me if they’re old,

she says. I forgive her. I tell her I love her house.

She smiles kindly at me like she might not understand.

—I mean I have a house too,

I clarify, and I describe all the rooms of the house he has given me. I do not say he gave it to me. She is an old lady and might not understand or might be offended. The implications might seem to her unfavorable.

She nods her curtained face while I talk about the way my doors slide right over the grass and send up yellow spring powders.

—I know that house. It used to belong to another young lady. A nice young lady. Holly. Used to wear a blue dress and shop for me in town.

The old lady might not have anyone to shop for her anymore. That might be why the cookies are old. I don’t want to go to town anymore but I could shop for her at the vegetable stand.

—I could bring you vegetables from the vegetable stand if you need or would like. I am going there today. I have almost run out of vegetables.

All of this is true. I am respectable.

She can tell I am respectable. She tells me I seem like a very nice young lady and takes down a silver bowl filled with money. She gives me a handful and requests spinach, fruit, and potatoes.

—Always good to save up your money. Never know when your income might stop coming in. Or when you might stop being able to make it,

she tells me as I leave her house remembering spinach fruit potatoes, spinach fruit potatoes, spinach fruit potatoes. I walk quickly to the vegetable stand and quickly back to her house. I try to picture the rooms I didn’t see. She meets me at the door to collect her purchases, a disappointment. But she tells me to come visit again soon.


I take myself outside my house to have a picnic under the purple bud branches. Inside they are part of the kitchen. The kitchen window. Outside they are ceiling. Under the bud ceiling I eat a greenhouse watermelon and an outside watermelon.

—This watermelon was grown in my own yard, it’s getting to be summer!

the vegetable man told me. I didn’t tip him though he lent me baskets to carry all of my purchases and the purchases of the old lady.

Outside my house I don’t think about summer. I eat the outside watermelon because I am outside. I eat the greenhouse watermelon because it is growing old and caving. Outside the watermelons are green striped like the moss under the slats or some small lizards outside my house. Inside they are one pink room.

Outside my house is one big house. It is divided into rooms. Under the purple bud tree is one room with tree and bush walls and a door into my house. My house is another room of the outside.

A lizard is a room that bugs go in to visit. A bud is a room with curled silk walls you can unpeel. Inside, threads like small people with yellow heads. They are tangled. I untangle them. I leave them inside where they belong and want to stay.


I watch the birds flapping and falling all day and when he comes to visit I tell him,

—Let’s be birds!

Of course I mean houses. Let’s play house, let’s enter rooms. He seems to understand. He picks me up in his great big arms and twirls me around my sitting room.

He flies me onto his lap. I lift my pink dress and open my fanny with my fingers for him.

He says,


much more like a bird than a house so I put my hand on his beak. He seems to like this and when I remove my hand he says,

—Caw! Caw!

again so I will put it back. This means one of his rooms is closed for me. When with my free hand I try to find other rooms I know he has he slaps my hand away and comes into my fanny very quickly.

—Yeah I’m your cock-sparrow,

he says through my hand.

When he leaves he pecks me on the mouth and I stick my tongue in his mouth while I can.

—Whoa Nelly I am tuckered out,

he says and pulls back. Nelly makes me think of Holly because it is also not my name.

I open the door for him and hold onto the doorknob so he can’t close it behind him. For a while I stand in the open doorway letting what is left of spring into all my rooms.


—I can’t imagine my house in summer. I can’t bear it,

I tell the old lady.

She shakes her heavy head and scolds me,

—There are plenty of young ladies who would do anything to live in a house like yours.

I know. I am one of them.

She looks at me with her eyes almost closed and repeats,

—I know plenty of young ladies who would love to live in a house like yours,

and it sounds more like consolation than reprimand. When we have finished her jar of old cookies and she says it again I am sure of what she means.

—You know a young lady?

I ask to check.

—I know plenty of young ladies,

she says. She looks at me for a long time with her eyes in careful slits before she continues,

—But you’ll have to be somewhere else entirely. If you promise your house to a young lady for summer and fall and winter it will upset her greatly if you take it back before spring.

—But there is a gentleman,

I begin to confess.

—These things do not matter,

she interrupts me and pours more cream in our tea.


The next time he comes I ask if we can do it in all the different rooms. I don’t say it means goodbye for now.

—Certainly we can do it in all the different rooms, aren’t you a naughty girl, you probably want to do it with the windows open too don’t you,

he says. He takes me into the kitchen and pulls open the window curtains. He pushes his todger through the curtains of my fanny so I am pinned against the window, my blue dress with the embroidered blue buds bunched over my bottom.

As my bottom goes up and down against the glass it opens to what’s left of the spring. The buds outside stretch toward the window. They pull their branches and stalks of grass so everything bends toward my house.

—Wait, wait!

I tell him so he will move back and I can open the window. His idea was good. Now both the kitchen and my bottom are open for the spring to visit. Later when I clean myself the cloth will stain yellow with spring powders. I will not clean the powders off my table and floors.


Before the date I have arranged with the old lady I am careful and loving to my house. I am sure to wear all of the dresses outdoors. I keep all the windows open. One spiky green vine with spindly flowers grows into my bedroom window and begins to grow leaves and I pluck them off.

I take walks up and down the road to collect branches of unopened buds for my vase and all of my cups. I place a few in every room. I let the buds open but replace them before they wilt.

When he comes we enter each other in every room and make entering marks in the layers of yellow powders on all of the surfaces. I clean nothing. I will be cleaning soon enough. My house’s only mess-maker is spring and it needs no scrubbing or dusting.

On the date I have arranged I take off the orange puff dress and fold it up in my bedroom drawer. I put on my working dress and working shoes and feel like another woman.

The ducks come up from the carpet and go onto the kitchen windowsill with the card. With a pencil from the kitchen drawer I cross out Amelia and write Elsie.

—I hope this finds you well,

I say to prepare for the young woman who will live in my house for the parts of the year that aren’t spring. I pat handprints into my door when I leave.


She is sitting at the old lady’s kitchen table when I arrive. She has yellow hair and a dress the color of drying grass. Her skin is burned. She looks like summer. When I give her the key to my house she closes her hand around it and doesn’t put it down.

She drinks two full cups of the old lady’s tea. It has grown hot outside and I can barely drink one even though it will be almost a year before I have this much cream again.

—Be good, young ladies. Remember to save up your money,

the old lady says to us both as we leave.

The other young lady says,

—Yes, Aunty,

and I copy her because the name seems right. Aunty, who is a housed lady. I am a housed lady with a housed lady aunt and I will come back.


I walk toward the town and when I pass my house I keep my eyes on the road. I won’t see it so far out of spring. My body aches slightly. My feet in my working shoes ache. I walk straight into town.

I will return to my house when the buds start to lift from the branches in the yards of the houses I don’t own but clean. The young lady who meets me at the door may be entirely new to me, black hair and white skin. A red dress with white lace. A winter lady with nothing in the window box. She will relinquish the key and wish me welcome because we both understand the ways of houses like ours.

I will open all the windows when she leaves. She will clutch the money she has saved. I will clutch the key to my spring house in the happy room of my fist.