Highway House on a Chicken Leg, or Routine, a Short Story

Once upon a time, in the middle of a four-lane highway that connected two vast royal cities, on a green belt that separated opposing streams of traffic, stood a little house on a chicken leg and, inside, lived a man and a woman.

The man and the woman were not very different from each other. They both liked to sleep deeply and dream of their long long befores of old continents and defunct ideologies, and they both spent most of their days eating, reminiscing, and making love. Sometimes, the woman would say a few words and the man would feverishly start to write a story.

Much like this one.

And so they spent their days in peace, without haste, unlike the cars outside. They wrote stories, ate, and made love. Sometimes, they ate, made love, and then wrote stories. At other times, they just ate silently, looking at each other from opposing sides of their kitchen table over the ceaseless hum of the cars that streaked by them through rain-soaked mornings, afternoons and nights.

The noise never ceased and it became a part of them, like breathing and thinking. It even entered their sleep and slowly eroded their memory of the outside.

The man and the woman never left their house. They hadn’t left the house since they had gotten there, and it had never crossed their mind to leave, because they did not know what leaving was—neither their mother, their father nor them had left ever since they brought them there as children.

So, they stayed.

At first it was out of fear, then from a lack of desire, then out of ignorance and then, finally, out of bliss. But, unlike the other two, those of the original sin, they had the wisdom of sixty collective lives behind them, and yet knew nothing of them. They were pregnant with meaning, and yet knew nothing of it.

Their routine was stirred once a year, though.

Once a year—but only once a year—a visitor would bring the scent of the outside to their home and grace their presence: Anton Chekhov, who always came on the rainiest of days of each year.

The woman remembered him like this:

“He was always very wet and skinny and wore a black hat and a long raincoat. On his long beard, there’d always be beads of water, and, upon entering, his glasses would always fog up, so it took him a while to reorient himself and figure out who the man and who the woman was.

“His expression was always scare, but his presence profound. His nose was so big that he exhaled the whole world into our home. His eyes were as sad as if he held the sorrow of the whole world in them. His mouth was quirky, as if he had just told a joke, but did not laugh at it himself. He had long fingers on big hands—they were so big that his suits needed to be custom-made by a tailor who knew to make the sleeves stretch to accommodate him.

“In his suitcase, he carried his pet white rabbit and, at the side of the suitcase, he made little holes to let the air in. The rabbit reminded him of the passage of time: rabbits were fast yet patient.”

Chekhov didn’t trust anyone except the man and the woman. (He trusted and loved them very much.) Whenever he came, he sat down at the table and, together, they ate and listened to the oscillating hum of the cars outside. They talked lots, but their conversations were always about the same things—they talked about food, stories and love. When finished, Chekhov picked up and left.

Upon Chekhov’s departure, the man and the woman would slip back into the daily hum that drowned out their awareness and soon forgot that Chekhov had ever come. It was as though he never came. The man, on some days, while waiting for Chekhov, watched the cars on the highway go back and forth and wondered what places they went to and came from.

He couldn’t understand their indoctrinated intransigence. Still, despite him, the cars, with all the lonely people inside, went about their way ceaselessly. To pass time, the man stared at them through the rain-streaked window of his house on a chicken leg while the woman stayed in bed and dreamed of days past and childhoods yet to come.

One year, though, Anton did not come, neither on the rainiest of day in the month of November, the rainiest month of the year, nor any other day after. The man and the woman waited for many days, then a few more, but Anton did not come. Then, the days of cold rain moved on and slipped into grey-skied days of first frosts and they knew that Chekhov would definitely not come, and they felt sad.

But, as there is rebirth in every death, the death of their friendship brought about a birth of another one. They burned the stories they wrote that year for Chekhov and out of the flames, like a mythical phoenix, rose Giuseppe Verdi—because love was music and music was love.

(In her jewellery box, the woman kept a long necklace made of white beads that she found many years ago in a rock pool on the wild coast of her adopted western home land. Some days, she would stroll around the house wearing nothing but the bead necklace and the man knew that it was that time of the month when she would join the universe in a cosmic dance of lifecycles, ebbs and flows and deaths and rebirths and her womb and breasts would swell and she would laugh joyously one minute and sulk the next. The man, somewhat perpelexed and dwarfed by this marvel, would leave the house for three days at a time (though he would go only as far as the back porch, where he would curl up in a sleeping bag that he left there a month ago and would sleep above the ceaseless river of cars below) and quietly let her be.

They were precisely at the halfway point between the two vast royal cities, but belonged to none.

Then, Chekhov really stopped coming and that was it, that was the end. There simply wasn’t any more. His seed was growing within her, the house, with the man and the woman in it, disappeared and their story ended.

Much like this one.