May visited her friend Blank in his new house. He made tea and laid out a plate of biscuits and told May how important a good house was, how you couldn’t be a real human without one. Their other friend Ambrosia agreed, and told May that she should be working as hard as she could so that she could buy a house instead of just a flat. May dipped her biscuit in her tea and didn’t reply.
The next week, Blank and Ambrosia visited May at her flat. She got special biscuits and used her special crockery. Her friends perched on the edge of her threadbare couch and held their tea without sipping it. Blank observed, ever so politely, that May’s flat was very small and needed many repairs: the damp patches on the ceiling, the dripping tap in the bathroom, the chipped paint in the hall. Ambrosia observed, even more politely, that she didn’t have thick carpets or heavy wallpaper or curtains in the windows, only roller-blinds, and they weren’t enough to block out the noises or flashing lights from the street, that there wasn’t enough noise-reduction and her ceilings were too low so when the upstairs neighbor walked across the floor in high-heels it sounded like she was click-clacking on your forehead. All things considered, May’s house was too small, too full of cracks. The outside world encroached far too much. Blank and Ambrosia didn’t stay long.
May did want to please her friends. She didn’t have enough money to fix all the problems with her flat, or to buy anything new to go inside it, or ever to move out of this flat and into a house. But May was clever. She found a solution.
The dollhouse sat nicely on her shoulders—not too heavy, but reassuringly weighty. She piled her hair up and pinned it on top of her head so it filled the attic, holding the house steady. Her eyes lined up perfectly with the upstairs windows, barely blocking more vision than a pair of spectacles. And if she wanted to speak, she could just open the front door.
The dollhouse was much easier to maintain than her flat. When it was windy and a few miniature tiles fell off—well, she just got them replaced. The hammering gave her a headache, but she posted painkillers through the letterbox and into her mouth, and the pain soon faded. When the gutters couldn’t handle the damp autumn leaves—well, she just put on rubber gloves and scooped the rotting mush out of the pipes. When she discovered a wasps’ nest in the attic, inches from her left cheek—well, yes, that was a bit of a problem. The exterminator said that a house must be evacuated before it can be fumigated, but it wasn’t as simple as that for May. Finally the exterminator agreed to sort the wasps’ nest with her still in the house. She wasn’t stupid, though; she wore a mask. It was fine. Everything was fine.
The dollhouse blocked sound beautifully, so May kept it on all the time, even when she was sleeping. She liked being inside the house while also being inside her flat; it was cosier that way, safer. There was no need for her to get curtains for her flat—why, with the dollhouse shutters closed she couldn’t see anything at all, no matter how many flashing lights went by outside. She didn’t need to put the heating on in her flat—her hands and feet and body were cold, but her head was always toasty-warm. She got the electricity shut off too—she didn’t need it, as the dollhouse had the most delightful little battery-operated lights.
Perhaps May did get the house just to please her friends, but now that she had it she realized that they were right all along. Her house did make her happy. Unfortunately, Blank and Ambrosia were not impressed. Fortunately, May didn’t care. She got tired of seeing their disapproving looks. She got tired of opening her mouth to explain herself.
She closed the window shutters and locked the front door. Just to be sure, she swallowed the key and nailed the shutters. See? It’s warm in here. Dark and safe and cozy. Just don’t look outside. It’s fine. Everything is fine.