Anita Anand was born in Montreal. Her first book, Swing in the House and other Stories, was published by Véhicule Press in 2015, won the Concordia-QWF First Book Prize and was nominated for the Conseil des arts de Montréal Diversity Prize in 2016. Her short story "What I Really Did" was shortlisted for the 2012 QWF-CBC prize and appears in the anthology Salut King Kong, published by Véhicule Press in 2014.
BOOKS, PUBLICATIONS, PROJECTS
When we had finished stuffing the chairs into the U-Haul and were about to leave, the man came up to the window carrying a giant stuffed toy elephant.
“You know anyone with little kids,” the man stated, rather than asked. “Maybe they’d like to have this.”
We couldn’t say no. The man just looked so desperate. When we got home, we filled our living room with two new maroon leather recliners and one grey elephant. The elephant was torn in the bum, and very heavy for a stuffed toy. When we examined it we found it contained a broken gizmo that must have once made it talk; that was what accounted for the weight.
When my kids came home from school they both threw their bags on the floor and asked us what an elephant was doing in the room. I told them the story. Neither said anything. Everyone liked the chairs, but somehow we didn’t use the living room as much as we had before.
One sunny day Ben and I were going for a stroll in our neighborhood. I happened to look into an upstairs bedroom window of a house with green shutters. There was a small child’s, perhaps a baby’s, bedroom, decorated in pastel colours. In the window, there was a female version of our elephant. Female, because it had long spindly eyelashes and a pink bow next to each ear.
Ben reached for my hand, laced his warm fingers in mine, and asked me what I was thinking about. I had been thinking about a house I had lived in with my kids and their father, when the kids were very little. Their bedrooms had been painted blue with white clouds on the ceiling. But what I told Ben was that I was very happy, that it was a beautiful day, and that I couldn’t believe my luck. I squeezed his hand.
On Valentine’s Day, I took the day off to make a special meal for Ben. I grabbed my reusable shopping bags, put on my winter jacket, my knitted cap with the flaps and my boots and headed toward town to shop for the meal. I carried the elephant, a tiny envelope pinned to his chest. Inside the envelope was a small glass heart I had found in the basement amongst my daughter’s abandoned craft kits, and a note:
To my beautiful elephantesse,
I saw you through the window. Here is my heart. Please accept it.
I put the elephant on the front porch and continued into town. I bought a bottle of wine, a steak, some tomatoes, mushrooms and artichokes. On the way home, I walked by the house with the green shutters. The elephant had been brought inside. I smiled to myself. I glanced up into the bedroom but couldn’t see inside; there were light curtains now that obscured the view.
And downstairs, I suddenly realized, a woman was staring at me through the living room window. She was blonde and wore red lipstick. She looked a bit like Drew Barrymore. She also looked completely terrified.
[excerpt from Swing in the House and Other Stories, Véhicule Press 2015]