the museum of the house
by Ali Fahmy

The house on Lemon Street is green with white trim. It has open screenless windows and old shutters whose best days are done and whose future days will be spent at the Museum of the House. The museum exists in the mind of Cosmo, a boy with a hush for a call and a shock for a touch. He is an unlucky boy who does not believe in luck in any of its guises because that would be a waste of youth. He’s better off with what comes, deserved or not, in his little path of stumps and leaves.

Cosmo has made sketches of the Museum of the House. They are stored under a pile of comic books in the bottom drawer of a runty chest. He reads the comic books for enjoyment and to spark his continual invention of an evolving alternate universe, currently comprised of three numbered planets: One, Two, and Four. Three exploded last Thanksgiving.

On One, the people, all men, breathe carbon, eat yellow flowers, and drink fruity soda.

On Two, the people, all women who look like his mother, eat fish. But the fish there, who are bigger than earth fish, eat people. The fish are winning.

On Four, there are only cats and dogs. But the cats and dogs listen to music made by humans from the other planets. The music, all of it in a genre called Cosmo, sounds nothing like the songs his brother plays, in the next room, the one closest to the oak tree, in the house on Lemon Street.

Three was a beautiful place. Cosmo lived on Three and the other boys were mostly Cosmo types, although there were notable exceptions, like Trent and Sam and The Brother. The girls were smaller than Cosmo, all of them. The adults were superheroes, inspired by the comic books, but indigenous to the planet. There was The Man With Three Lips. And The Lemon King. And Blueprint Bill, an architect who could build his designs with his mind. But Three blew up.

The Museum of the House still exists only in sketches – nothing to blow up. No one could understand it enough to blow it up, except for Cosmo and he would never do such a thing. The museum sketches include one of the kitchen trash can, streaked with child dirt, its broken lid turned into a face that looked like the brother. There is a sketch of the Exhibit of Trees That Give the House Shade. The trees are posed in various stages: jangly and newborn, in full green, neatly trimmed, imaginary in seven years, dead from drought. There are sketches of the model car exhibit and the Spiders I’ve Seen in the House exhibit. There is a lovely rendering of the daylight through the front door when it’s open but Cosmo doesn’t know if it’s exhibit-worthy.

Cosmo doesn’t believe that the house on Lemon Street is haunted or that it will ever be. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, though he thinks someday he will. Now he thinks houses are houses. But sketches and planets are sketches and planets, and the Museum of the House will one day charge admission. Music will be piped in and it won’t be his brother’s. It will be like Christmas music, except not about Christmas or winter or seasons or wonder.

The Museum of the House will never close. Cosmo the curator will provide activity-based instruction to children and adults in satellite learning centers positioned around the museum. The museum will of course be housed within the house on Lemon Street, a notion Cosmo still can’t get around.

One exhibit will be dedicated to the three living planets. A second exhibit, in a separate room that shares no common wall or floor or ceiling with the living planets exhibit, will be dedicated to Three – it’s helium-fueled creation, the birth of its boys and girls and people, its destruction by way of explosion. The songs his brother played the night of the explosion will, like the rest of his brother’s music, never be piped into the museum. This was footnoted in sketch number one. Cosmo thinks he will one day be old enough to change this rule.

This morning the house on Lemon Street is still and quiet. Cosmo is away at school and the ten pigeons perched on the roof are unaware of the creations being cultivated below. One of the pigeons, gaunter and grayer than the others, sticks his little head into the chimney. He pauses a few seconds and takes a dive. When he lands he hears sweet music, an elegiac yet stirring song about a deep sea superhero. The sign above the fireplace, ingrained white on matte maroon, reads “Exhibit of the Pigeons.”

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