The Mansion Game

By Caitlin Horrocks

May 22, 2023

The Mansion Game

The boundary sign between city and suburb says, “East Grand Rapids: A Better Place to Live,” and maybe it is. As we drive, the houses swell until they are mansions with sweeping green lawns. Of course my four-year-old notices. His noticing becomes a competition: every house he deems nicer than ours. He announces he’s choosing the home he wants to move into, not with me and his father, but where he’ll join whatever family is already inside.

I don’t want to be rid of him, and as far as I know he doesn’t actually want to be rid of us. But it’s the pandemic spring of 2020 and we’ve been trapped together for weeks. We’re all ragged, and our ragged edges scrape and burn. I decide to play along, creeping up and down the winding streets, discussing the merits of different contenders, until he selects the winner. I turn then at the corner, backtrack, park in front of his desired future. It has wrought iron balconies.

There is a long silence, the car idling. I look at his small profile and wonder if I am doing him permanent harm. I’d thought I was following his lead, but what if he’s not in on the game? If he gets out, how far up the walkway will I let him go?

“I don’t want to,” he says. “I don’t want to live there. I’d rather live at our house.”

“OK,” I say, with deep relief I do not show. “Let’s go home.”


Caitlin Horrocks is the author of the novel The Vexations, and the story collections Life Among the Terranauts and This is Not Your City. She lives with her family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Image by Maria Orlova courtesy of Pexels

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