Illustrated by Monica Johnson
It was just after noon when I arrived back from the grocery store. In each arm I carried a canvas bag weighed down with vegetables and canned goods. I put both bags in one hand while I fished the keys from my pocket, and with one smooth motion I unlocked and opened the front door.
I walked down the hallway to the kitchen, my arms beginning to burn. In the kitchen, I squeezed past the grand piano to get to the fridge. I unloaded the carrots, lettuce, spinach, cucumber, and cilantro by dumping them all into the produce drawer. To reach the pantry I needed to crawl across the piano’s lid and carefully stand. The black beans, chili, and artichoke hearts I stacked neatly before climbing down. When I was finished with the groceries, I stood in the doorway and noticed for the first time there was a grand piano in my kitchen.
“Rupert must be home,” I said to no one.
I walked from the kitchen to the small guest bathroom around the corner. Wedged against the ceiling and held tight by the four walls was a hippopotamus. I will give Rupert credit; the poor beast seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. He stretched his great maw in glee upon my arrival, and I could not help but wonder what drugs were running through his system.
The living room was all a mess. A municipal bus had been parked lengthwise with the engine still running. Diesel fumes were staining the wall by the fireplace and the ceiling above it. A few passengers were still sitting on the bus, while a number of others were wandering about, picking pictures off the wall and stuffing them in their pockets. One elderly man was pulling flowers from my mother’s vase and sticking them behind his ears.
I climbed the stairs to look for Rupert. I could see he had made some half-hearted attempts on his way up—a tuba crossed the third through fifth steps, a jungle cat of some variety was squeezed onto the landing. I headed straight for the master bedroom, but when I reached the door I was unable to push it open. I went around to the bathroom, and there he was.
Rupert was struggling with the rear end of what appeared to be an African elephant. On the floor behind him sat a five-gallon bucket that I knew contained industrial lubricant. He was pushing flaps of grey skin through the doorway into the bedroom, periodically greasing the wooden doorframe with whichever hand was free.
“Rupert,” I said sternly, “I really don’t appreciate when you practice here.”
“I’ve got a big show tonight!” he replied, handing me a flyer. The flyer said in big bold letters, “Tonight ONLY. Rupert fits large things in small spaces.” Straight to the point as always.
I put my hand on Rupert’s shoulder. “I’m afraid I can’t let you continue doing this to my house. Isn’t there somewhere else you could work?”
So as I was saying, there’s a reason I’m calling you from my laundry basket.