“Our Domestic Signage, Explanations and Elaborations,” by Nathan Leslie

Apr 10th, 2024 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

I’m not running a bed and breakfast here, but I recently purchased some signs both as gentle reminders for myself and also as seeds of information and uplift for potential guests. Not that we like having guests (who does?). But if we do have guests, these may be helpful.

In Kitchen:

PantrySelf Serve (with accompanying pic of steaming pie): This sign sends the message that we are a welcoming house—mi casa es su casa, etc. If you want to eat all of our popcorn and open multiple cans of tomatoes and only eat a third of each, be our guest! Cheerios—feel free to dump as much as you like all over the floor or your bed or both. Give yourself a swirly with the ranch dressing for all we care.

Life Begins After Coffee (swooshy cursive, almost calligraphy): Everyone loves a gallows humor revolving around coffee, even if they don’t drink it themselves. This sign also makes the guest feel as though they are surrounded by class since the fancy signature makes them feel slightly inferior on a subliminal level. Everyone loves the imprint of superiority.

Wash. Rinse. Sanitize (one word per line): This is not really meant to sound like a scold, although it does. We just couldn’t find anything more uplifting, so we went with it. Cannot leave an open space just hanging there. Also functions as a helpful reminder to purchase better sign.

Made with Love: This wrought iron sign was not cheap but it is the fulcrum of the room. Of course our food is made with love—all of it. Can’t you taste the love in every bite? That’s not oregano on your tongue!

Kitchen (in Corbel): This is on the far wall, where the landline used to be. This is just for us in case we go senile later or in case our guest knows limited English, in which case it may be a new word for theme (or us, much later).

In Living Room:

Home Sweet Home (with accompanying hearts and daisies): We realize this sign may be a tad shopworn. However, our visitors may find clichés comforting, which would also comfort us—win-win. Also, this sign invokes the word “sweet,” which may encourage our guests, if there ever are any, to check out the pantry for cookies. This would be wonderful because then we could have a two minute break from them. It all counts.

Believe (more hearts, daisies): We don’t really know what this ambiguous sign means exactly. However, it conveys the message of hope. Unless our guests are cynical Goth types, they may enjoy the uplift. We like it because it gives a theoretical aura to our room, which is otherwise dull as it only features couches, chairs and a ten year old television.

Light our Fire (with little flame emoticon): This sign is positioned above the mantle. Beneath the mantle there should be a fireplace, but there is only an empty bricked-over area. However, we like to pretend there is a fireplace, which makes us and any possible guests potentially cozy. We can envision placing a laptop featuring a crackling digital fireplace in the emptiness and going from there.

Vintage Lamp: This sign identifies a funky vintage lamp we inherited from a great-aunt. Please look at us.

In Guest Bedroom:

Please Go Away (a la a thirteen year old’s hovel): We thought it would be funny to position this above the bed—every house needs just a little levity, no? Also, we realized this might be a way to get our guests to think outside the box. For instance, what does this mean exactly? Don’t come to bed? Or leave me alone, I’m in bed and asleep? It is unclear.

On the Moon (in neon): Again, unclear. We thought this might speak to dreams and aspirations, however—so when we saw this online we thought it would be perfect. We would rather confuse our guests in the bedroom to lessen the possibility that they might plot a coup. Or smoke in bed.

Together, Forever (in gag-me forever Segoe Script): Cheese-ball, we know. However, we must at times invoke the slightly saccharine to play off the oddball—we aspire to cater to all personality types. This also might inspire those in bed to cuddle, which is always a net positive.

In Bathroom:

Text Me if You Run out of TP (in faux kid’s crayon): This one is really stupid, we know. However, we find that most people like stupid toilet paper humor almost as much as stupid coffee humor. Also, usually they will have their phone in hand, so if there actually is a TP shortage, it is actually a joke that functions as the truth.

Chose to Shine: There is such uplift to this one, positioned just below the mirror, which often is needed for those looking in the mirror—who among us is not too hard on themselves? As for the shining imagery here, it also works for the underlying message to turn on the lights so you don’t stub your toe. We don’t like accidents on our watch.


Sex dungeon (neon again, red)—stay out: the latter part of this sign is spot on. What are you doing downstairs in our basement anywhere, where we keep our kewpie doll collection? Get back upstairs where you belong.

In the Stairwell from Basement to Hallway:

My House, My Rules (in bold Aharoni): Underscoring the message in the dungeon below, also underscoring who is actually in charge, here. It may make some guffaw, also—bringing them back into the light of the house and the world.

Dining Room:

Calink (in Sans Serif): We think this has something to do with toasting in the formal dining room, although if actual house guests do appear, unless they are bosses or CEOs we would feed them in the living room, on the sofas/chairs so we can watch television and distract them from asking painful questions.


Hello, Goodbye! (in orange and blue Ar Blanca) We believe the second half of this is the key. We had enough now—thank you for exhausting us. Please keep in touch via text, e-mail and holiday card. Preferably the latter, as you clearly owe us one. And you forgot the thank you gift all polite guests should bring upon arrival.


Nathan Leslie won the 2019 Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize for fiction for his collection of short stories, Hurry Up and Relax. He is also the series editor for Best Small FictionsInvisible Hand (2022) and A Fly in the Ointment (2023) are his latest books. Nathan’s twelve books of fiction include Three MenRoot and ShootSibs, and The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice. He is also the author of a collection of poems, Night Sweat. Nathan is currently the founder and organizer of the Reston Reading Series in Reston, Virginia, and the publisher and editor of the online journal Maryland Literary Review. Previously he was series editor for Best of the Web and fiction editor for Pedestal Magazine. His fiction has been published in hundreds of literary magazines such as ShenandoahNorth American ReviewBoulevardHotel Amerika, and Cimarron Review. Nathan’s nonfiction has been published in The Washington PostKansas City Star, and Orlando Sentinel. Nathan lives in Northern Virginia. Find him at Nathanleslie.net

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