“The Stranger’s House” by Tasha Cotter


Walking by the stranger’s house, she imagined her father. Not that her father would ever live in a house so small, or a city for that matter, but something about the man’s situation who lived there made her think of her father in a whimsical, wishful kind of way. An if only kind of way. Her thoughts expanded, grew fragmented, and a hundred ideas and mysteries reassembled themselves like dandelion seeds in the wind as she walked.
Perhaps it was the small tidiness of it: the brick one-story well-tendedness of it all. The man who lived there was a bachelor— she was certain of that, but there was a quiet pride to the property. It was simple and straight-forward. She liked the idea of a man living alone in that contented, quiet kind of way, laying mulch, edging around the sidewalk on a spring day. She imagined the man spending a Sunday afternoon washing his truck in the driveway.
Other things pleased her about the stranger’s house: the tasteful landscaping, how the yard always seemed like it had been recently mowed. And then there was the john boat tipped by the side of the house. She liked that, too, how it hinted at a kind of pleasure and general interest in adventure. She had learned it was good to take pleasure in such things.
She grew sad the more she thought about it. She always grew sad passing the stranger’s house. She knew why and then she wasn’t sure where it all came from: the bubbling up of pain; how it stirred something in her she couldn’t name. There was never a face to go with the house. Only once had she seen his silhouette, and that had been at a distance. She wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing, not really knowing him. Because what if it wasn’t as she imagined? Maybe it made things worse, the not knowing. Or was the place put there to needle her, to pick at her subconscious? She suspected the universe did things like that, placing obstacles— or houses— in our path to punish us or tug us into action.
She kept walking. She didn’t look back.




Tasha Cotter is the author of the poetry collection Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and the chapbooks That Bird Your Heart (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and Girl in the Cave (Tree Light Books, 2016). Winner of the 2015 Delphi Poetry Series, her work has appeared in journals such as Contrary Magazine, NANO fiction, and Thrush. A graduate of the University of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Writers Studio, she is included in the 2018-2019 Kentucky Humanities Speakers Bureau. A recipient of grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, The Kentucky Center, and the University of Kentucky Women’s Forum, she makes her home in Lexington, Kentucky where she works in higher education and serves as the president-elect of the Kentucky State Poetry Society.

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