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It was a dark and stormy night when I decided I hated everything written by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.  I know that probably kicks me out of the league of women despite my gender qualifying me but the only thing a woman hates more than green peas is deception.

I know as I scribble away in my garret room (garret because it’s true even in the 21st century, women suffer financially from divorce and I have two behind me, divorces not marriages), that the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen are probably mere pawns in the battle for my psyche.

I also realize that perhaps the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen would have had less infamous influence if Sigmund Freud had died in obscurity but he didn’t.  Actually, men don’t do they?

The veil split too late before my eyes that these women were writing fairy tales.  You have no idea my suffering.  The artist even bohemian atmosphere around me closing in, the impending July thunderstorm and my single paned window looking out on a back alley, opened wide for the storm to enter in.  I had stripped down to nothing, my skin absorbing the heat and humidity of summer, even prickling in the anticipation of cold wind, thunder riddled, coming my way.  Sense and Sensibility was open before me and the margins, where I had penned notes over the decades of reading the novel, consoled my loneliness.

Yes, Colonel Brandon, even though he wore flannel waistcoats (or something flannel) was a true knight and our young heroine would embrace his calmness, his intellect, his nonexistence?

His fiction?

Shit!

The storm had not hit, there was time and I knew to keep up my own self-induce façade I had to bring out the big guns.  Villette?  No, Jane Eyre.  Rochester must pave his road to hell and with single-minded passion. Would such a man really have brains enough to covet a mousy little governess over an accomplished coquette?

The storm hit with such a vengeance I jumped and the rain hit my clammy skin like so many needles and the blue-white lightning split the skies before me and I saw the face of God.

Don’t believe me, I don’t care.

He was there beard and all – the Father and in my despair, He did what only a loving, encompassing parent could do, He drove the lesson home.

“I told Adam anything but one thing – he took the one thing.”

“I told Abraham he’d have a son in good time but he had to help it along.”

“David had any woman he wanted, freely but he took the one that didn’t belong to him.

I raised my arms in an appeal to stop, and He did.  The storm passed with a shudder and I sat in my garret room cold and damp.  The pages of my books, both Austen’s and Bronte’s were damp with rain but not tears.

I’ve not evolved, I have adapted however to reality.

 

Clever Girl

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it. Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what. Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you.

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it.  Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what.  Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you.  Just keep working and focus on that.

That’s what I wanted to tell her but I didn’t.  I told her that she was welcome to the coffee in the pot (just brewed), and I showed her the location of the bathroom.  I then left her to become acclimated to working with me and working within my haunted rooms.  When she shivered, I looked up from my manuscript.

“You okay?”

“Yes, felt like someone just walked over my grave.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, that’s something my grandmother used to say.  When she felt a cold shiver run down her back or shoulders, she always said that.”

I nodded and smiled while letting my eyes drop back to my manuscript.  It was rude but these Indiana girls had to keep their back-water statements to themselves.  She got right back to work without any sniffs or huffs.  The girls from outside the city were usually very conscientious and she was no exception.  When we broke for lunch I asked her how long she had been living in Chicago.

“About 12 weeks.  I was ready to give it up, I felt so overwhelmed.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t.” I was sincere as I passed her the salt.  I needed her help and, well, I needed someone around.  The cold spots were getting worse, the sounds of footsteps and God help me I thought I had heard a few sighs.  I needed someone who would come every morning, work hard and make human noises, human movement, human scents, and human residue.

“So this used to be an old warehouse, huh?  It makes a beautiful apartment.”

“It is nice,” I said  “I like the view all around.  I think the realtor thought I should be here because she found out I was a writer.”

She laughed slightly and nodded as if she understood that as a writer I must also be a Bohemian by nature.  I wasn’t, I was just a writer.  The apartment suited me for other reasons, one it was isolated for Chicago and two, the noise of the city didn’t crowd in upon my work.

We worked together for 13 glorious weeks and the manuscript began to take shape.  We even managed one night to make a timeline of the plot and conclusion.  She stayed until 11 P.M. we became so consumed with the work she lost track of the time.  Her hair began to fall out of its pins and curl down around her neck.  Her freckles began to glow through her smudged makeup.  She almost looked 12.  She definitely looked beautiful.  But this was business, all business and I couldn’t mix business with pleasure.

One Wednesday morning she was standing, looking out toward Lake Michigan.  The city was clear and gleamed before her, like some promising city.  I admired her body as she studied the scene before her.  Her straight, sky-blue, skirt was too large but still looked enticing around her rather bony hips and her soft, buff colored sweater cascaded around her narrow shoulders and folded softly around her thin waist.  Her clothes always seemed a size too large but she wore it well, oddly enough.

“You know,” she said, “I know this apartment is haunted.  I heard her crying in the bathroom.”

I stopped what I was doing.  My pen was in mid stride as she said those words.  She turned at my silence looking a little perplexed.  “What do you think happened?  Do you think she died in an accident while this place was still a factory?”

“No,” I said, slightly relieved she was forming conclusions that didn’t include me.

She looked slightly pouty and my heart beat hard.  “Are you sure?  How do you know?” she asked.

“Because the sounds and the cold spots started after I started living here.  I’ve never heard her cry before though.”

The dear girl actually frowned and sat down next to me as if to try and comfort me or dissuade me from my idea.  “You don’t know that.  The former owners probably wanted you to buy the place so they could leave.”  She looked so sincere and concerned.  I grasped her tiny hips and pulled her under me, wanting that one kiss, that wouldn’t be tainted with fear.  The kiss was sweet, and moist and lingering.  I would regret this one, I remembered thinking.

“I know you killed her actually,” she whispered softly in my ear.  “I know you did.”

I felt her pull the trigger, felt the bullet rip through my shirt, my skin, my heart my back.  My weight muffled the sound; just what she needed to leave me here to sigh, chill the air and press down upon the old floor boards.  No one stays for long.

She was a clever girl, whoever she was, a very clever girl.

 

Attic Dance

You just never know.

I’ll tell you what it was like; it was like placing your hand upon a window pane thick with frost. As you place your hand closer to that cold, fridge, flat, piece of glass you feel your own heat emanate out from your skin and you touch what is you, outside of yourself. The heat from your body sort of battles the cold that is there, swirling ridged and beautiful in white opaque designs no artist has mastered. You know for a moment, though only for a moment, you know for a moment you will win against the glacial cold.

And you do.

For your hand layers into the cold and burns a sort of ecstatic agony that is questionable memory the moment it happens. Your hand tingles and then you feel the slide and the wet upon your skin — you are beating the cold. Then your skin makes contact with the window at last and the inanimate and the animate make contact and become lifeless and alive at the same time. You, remember that same window in August, not January, and you feel sort of triumphant.

And God above help us there is always something – like when you look at your best friend smoking together on the playground and her expression moves from smug to “oh shit,” and you know you’ve been busted. But that’s something else altogether and maybe the same thing – it all starts with something stupid and silly like a few lifted cigarettes from your mom’s purse.

But – back to that, yes.

So there you are sort of happy for a second because now the window pane is even dry in spots but then you feel a sort of shiver move up your left side and under your arm. Then you feel this sort of ache in your elbow. You concentrate on your hand and sure enough, it’s warm and the window is drier even though the blizzard outside is blocking out all reality. You’re sure you are seeing knights in white armor battling screaming alabaster dragons outside or upon the window pane. You’re sure that what you are seeing is not tundra blown snow and pinhole lights but ghosts from at least 100 years ago walking about lost and alone within the white upon white. Then the shiver moves from your side and up to your neck and the dragons and the ghosts pause in what they are doing and look in at you. They peer and ponder all of a sudden the dark smudge of you through a frozen veneer of ice.

Who could that be?

You of course, and that shiver becomes a shudder and you drop your hand. And where your hand just was is a blank spot in the thick, thick frost, but only for a second – only for a second because to your shock and amazement a white hand – a solid white hand from the other side, bloodless, without life, frozen to the core covers the warm spot you just made.

It was like that, just like that when I saw her face, looking at me. But it wasn’t a window, no it was a mirror and I had turned to see myself in the dusty old frock I had just put on. I was smiling and carefree then I saw her face at the other side of the room, peering at me.

You see it was in an attic that we weren’t supposed to be in – we had snuck into the house, Louise and me. We weren’t 12, hell, we were 21 and 22 respectively and we had had a little too much wine and the guys we were with were boring really, all they wanted to do was wade into the river with no clothes on and wade back out, their bodies shivering in the cold looking more buff. But Louise and I were bored with that sort of thing and they kept trying more outrageous antics and failing. Louise and I were down to our skivvies but she grabbed her dress –she always wore something that was “easy in and easy out,” and called for me to follow.

Well, I had taken my tongue lashing and quit smoking with her at the age of 11 so I had no problem following her through the woods to her aunt’s house when she called me to follow.

Yes, I know if it was her aunt’s house why then was it off limits? Well, it wasn’t exactly and it was. Louise’s family was odd just like Louise but I loved her, I very much loved her. I often think what my life would have been like without her – normal, but I don’t regret missing out on normal. Even now, I don’t regret it. So we moved through the woods while the guys had their backs turned and we heard their cries as we moved as quickly as we could, our clothes bundled beneath our arms and the hot air of August thick and sticky beneath the dark green leaves of aging summer. I kept slipping off my sandals and giggling as my feet smarted from the wild and prickly raspberry branches that crept along the ground while the smell of marijuana clung to my hair. I felt sort of taut inside and my skin, along with my arms and breasts, tingled tightly from thoughts of touch that I would not allow because Louise was bored with the game and I knew she was right – once things got started the fun left and we were just on the ground putting up with men.

“Hurry up,” Louise hissed from just above me, the land sloped sharply up from the river bank. But it was hard to see her because the foliage was so thick.

“I am but my feet hurt.”

“Quit whining, Auntie’s house is just up ahead.”

“I thought you weren’t allowed in there.”

“That depends on who is there.”

We plunged out of the woods and onto the green lawn that was her aunts. I had been there a few times. Louise’s older sister was married there last summer and Louise is always there for Christmas. But Louise’s mom is sort of an outsider and the aunt, I was told, had peculiar ideas about Louise and her family. I read between the lines, she didn’t trust them. I didn’t say much but I thought to myself maybe the aunt just doesn’t want marijuana smoked in her kitchen or beer cans stashed everywhere.

Louise backed up against the woods and pushed her long black hair out of her face and started to put on her dress. I followed suit and pulled on my cotton pants and an oversized shirt. Standing beside Louise with my bobbed off blonde hair and droopy clothes I looked the perfect sidekick. No matter what Louise did, she always looked like some movie star, who knew just how to move and just how much cleavage to show.

“Look, no one is there, let’s go.”

I didn’t want to and I didn’t step from the spot from where I had put on my clothes but Louise just kept walking away from me. Now here is what it feels like when you think you’re going to win over the cold. When she was walking away and she didn’t even turn to see if I was there – just walking away, sure that I would follow and all I would have to do is plunge back into the woods and have my way with two oversexed guys at the river. Even as I contemplated it, watching her black hair swing across her back I knew I would follow but I gave myself another second to feel that edge of rebellion, then I shrugged and trailed after her.

The house was huge, and new, and not creepy at all. Really. I saw to the side of the house a small building, a wing if you will, with an indoor pool and hot tub. The shrubs were boring but of course, would need little maintenance — just right for an aging aunt who liked to entertain her other wealthy friends and who had to put up with the black sheep side of the family once in a while.

The door was locked of course so she knocked. Then she peered into what I could only guess was a living room and then she threw pebbles at the windows that showed off the indoor pool. I just stood there and watched. Finally, Louise put a rock through one small pane of the back garage door, reached in, scraped her arm on the broken glass and unlocked the door.

I said nothing – frankly, I was shocked. She walked into the garage and punched a few numbers into a control panel and the beeping caused by opening the door stopped. We both stood there for a good three minutes and said nothing.

Finally, she turned to me and said “C’mon, I want to show you something.”

We didn’t go anywhere in that house but to the attic. I thought she would glance through the refrigerator or skinny dip in the pool and we would be out of there – but no, we went straight to the back and up the stairs, we went.

“What the hell is this?” I asked Louise “Is this where the servants live?” The staircase was narrow and it actually wound around like it had only one purpose – to reach the third floor. There were no doors to the second floor, and there was no odd smell or echo sound as we moved up and I felt my heart pound and I found myself struggling to breathe.

“Shut up. Do you think she’d give up any of her money to hire help?” Louise’s voice was a little high pitched as if she too were finding it hard to breathe. We came to a shut door. It was plain, even cheap looking and as Louise reached to open it, I wanted to say stop and it was on the tip of my tongue but the door seemed to open without her help, the door seemed to know that Louise was there and it opened of its own accord.

To this day, I think it did, I think that the door did open on its own because for the first time in her life she hesitated. She didn’t toss her hair around, push her shoulders together and then square them like she was walking into a room full of her adoring fans; she sort of leaned in and looked first, like I did in kindergarten. I was five and I was afraid and my mom was making me go, so I leaned in while my mom and my teacher talked over my head. I saw several children but one in particular with coal black hair that shown down her back, she was building a wall with cardboard bricks and when she saw me she gently pushed it down and smiled at me, her teeth shiny white and the glow of the autumn sun shining in all around her as the meticulous cardboard wall teetered and then tumbled down.

She was still standing in the stairwell when she turned to me and said “C’mon.” But I couldn’t go forward with her standing there and for one wild moment I thought we were going to turn around – but we didn’t she stepped into the attic and I followed.

Wooden beams. Books. Chests and wardrobes. Wardrobes for the love of God. Real ones, I could tell, all lined up. The floor was bare wood with tattered chairs all about and in the center of the room was a long looking glass. The looking glass had no dust upon it and it reflected the different angles of the house. I was enchanted. Truly enchanted with the attic.

“Looks like the old bat keeps the place up – not an ounce of dust anywhere.” Louise’s voice was flat with contempt but I ignored her. I knew by the flake and crease in the leather that some of the books that lined the walls upon the thick, dark, wooden shelves were first editions. The chests were leather and wood and looked like they had just come off some steamship. I could almost hear the clang of a dockyard and the clatter of people moving about with their luggage, home from a long trip abroad. I turned around and saw Louise open up a wardrobe. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was ice inside the wardrobe but then I realized that I was looking at clear plastic that only reflected the sunlight angling in at odd directions from the octagonal shaped windows. Louise unzipped the plastic and started taking out dresses.

The dresses were early 20th century; the material dark mauves and blacks. Louise held one against her and she was transformed from sultry beauty to a sort of royalty. She laughed at me. “I knew you’d love it up here. These all belonged to my great grandmother, my aunt’s mother.” Louise danced about, small, little whirls with the dress clasped to her middle and the material floating about. “My aunt hated her mother. She was beautiful and didn’t pass any of her beauty along, you see – so my aunt resented her. Some say that she even killed her in the end.”

Louise said the last with a little lilt to her voice – as if she were a child again and trying to shock me.

“How’d she do it?” I asked moving toward the wardrobe and picking out a dress of my own. A light rose colored dress with ecru color lace and a low neckline. This I could believe would belong to one of Louise’s relation.

“Poison. That’s what my mother always said. Auntie’s mother was very old when she died but I wasn’t around yet. I was born one year after – Mom swears I’m her, I’m back to torment my aunt, that’s why she has nothing to do with me,” said Louise.

I was smaller than Louise by far – and without thought, I pulled the dress over my head, traipsed over to the mirror and looked in. What I saw was me — a small girl in an oversized dress and just over my shoulder a figure fully clothed in dark mauve and black, her hair piled high in glorious waves and curls, fit for an evening at the opera or somewhere less cultured. The figure in the dress was smooth and vibrant within the form fitting satin. What shocked me wasn’t the transformation, the image of the ghost looking out at me from the mirror but the look of pale rage upon her face. Her beautiful face was full of hate and loathing. I felt a shudder of cold deep within me, the white hand that I often imagined during those winter nights making hand prints in the window of my bedroom now clasping my very heart and squeezing it, infusing me with the horror of my situation. No matter what the mirror was reflecting I was actually seeing Louise and she was looking at me as she always did – with a hatred beyond reason – when my back was turned.

I whirled around and I saw Louise again, the dress simply in front of her, her hair down but her face pale. “Please take that off,” she said.

I didn’t say anything but I slid off the dress keeping my eyes upon her and wondering really if I was going to get out of that attic. I handed it to her and she glided up to me and gently took the dress out of my hand without a word. She replaced both dresses but left the wardrobe open.

“C’mon. The old lady will be back soon – we’ll leave the place as is. She comes up here all the time to poke through her mother’s stuff – this will unnerve her.” I said nothing, I felt nothing but fear, raw throat fear for myself. I felt no pity for the old lady that would tremble at the fact that someone had broken into her house and danced around in her attic.

Louise floated down the steps and out into the garage. She closed the door quietly and started walking back toward the woods. She stopped and looked back at me. I had made it half way my feet were still on the well-manicured lawn and I watched as she swayed with all poise and grace toward the small woods that lead to the river. She smiled at me, ducked her head down and disappeared into the foliage. I walked the long drive to the road and took the long way home.

 

Mrs. Drewery Listens Well

“Good morning ma’am.”

“Good morning. May I see your badge before I unchain the door?”

“Certainly…I have it here…Let me flip the thing open.”

“Oh, fine, fine, I can see it. I’m sorry. I know if you wanted into the house you could get in by just giving the door a good shove but I always think that I could possibly get a good scream or two out with the delay that shove would take.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Come in officer, come in I’m just having some tea.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Oh, be sure to wipe your feet, Miss Anne, my cleaning girl, does fuss over my kitchen tiles.”

“Yes ma’am”

“Miss Anne goes to our church. She works so hard. She goes to the University of Minnesota extension.”

“Really.”

“Yes, that’s quite a drive in the winter. Miss Anne works so hard. She is going to be a nurse this spring. Then I’ll need someone else to clean my kitchen tiles.”

“Yes, ma’am. I was wondering how I could help you, ma’am?”

“Oh yes, of course. I did call. So good of you to come, officer.”

“Always glad to help Mrs…?”

“Don’t look for your note dear man, I’m Mrs. William Drewery. Mrs. Drewery.”

“Mrs. Drewery, of course. Well, Mrs. Drewery, you phoned the police station…”

“Yes, Miss Anne, decided I should. She told me there has been murder in this town before. Well, hat was several years ago but I remember.”

“Murder ma’am?”

“Yes, of course murder. Weren’t you here during our small town scandal?”

“Yes ma’am but…”

“Oh! You were questioning my use of the WORD murder, how silly of me.”

“No ma’am.”

“Well yes of course it was silly. But I meant it, murder.”

“Mrs. Drewery can we start from the beginning?”

“The beginning?”

“Yes ma’am”

“Well the beginning starts with Mr. Drewery.”

“Ma’am?”

“Oh yes you see he was dying”

“Dying?”

“Yes, God rest him. Before he died he told me I needed to keep up with our hobby.”

“Hobby?”

“Yes, bird watching.”

“Birds…”

“Yes, they are so lovely and the songs are just beautiful.”

“You look through binoculars at the birds?”

“Yes of course. Oh officer, in the springtime the colors are just spectacular.”

“Then while watching birds you saw something suspicious.”

“No.”

“No.”

“No, nothing suspicious. Mr. Drewery has been gone nearly five years.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“In those five years I’ve grown older and I don’t mind telling you officer, a little deafer.”

“Deafer?”

“Yes, I’d almost say hard of hearing.”

“Really?”

“Really. More tea?”

“Yes. No! I mean…sure thanks.”

“Well Miss Anne, last spring, came early to clean one day and finished early as you might expect.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Miss Anne is so sweet she does work hard.”

“Yes but…I’m sorry but…”

“Don’t be sorry officer she knows what she is doing. Anyway we set off to the annual birdseed sale in Bemiji.

“A sale?”

“Yes, and what do you suppose I found at 60% off?!”

“I have no idea.”

“An outside environmentalist listening devise!”

“Ma’am?”

“Oh officer, it’s so simple. I plug it in, turn on the speaker and place the microphone outside the window. I can close the window right down on the wire! It won’t get damaged!”

“Really?”

“Really. Of course Miss Anne pointed it out to me. I would never have known what the thing was by looking at the box.”

“No ma’am.”

“Well, you can’t imagine my delight, last spring, a year ago, at the song-bird music. That music had been fading for me these last five years, then revived into this very house; I was delighted.”

“But Mrs. Drewery…”

“Officer, you know I do sincerely believe police officers are the most canny of people.”

“Yes Ma’am”

“Well you can imagine my suspicion one morning when I heard a canary over my speaker.”

“A canary?”

“Yes, they are not indigenous to Minnesota.”

“Oh.”

“Well, I had to step out and see if I could spot the poor thing.”

“Yes?”

“Well, I spotted him.”

“Good.”

“In Mrs. Weller’s yard.”

“Mrs. Weller?”

“Yes, my neighbor. We live quite close.”

“Yes, ma’am all the houses here are fairly packed in.”

“Yes, well that comes with living on a lake.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Well, anyway Mrs. Weller’s canary was on her back porch. Then out comes poor Mrs. Weller.

“Poor Mrs. Weller?”

“Yes, poor dear. She could have been so beautiful, so happy.”

“Um…”

“But she married Mr. Weller didn’t she? I often wonder about her family. Mrs. Weller’s I mean. Did they try to talk her out of it? Do they even know what happened to her? Maybe she eloped. But in any case she married Mr. Weller and that as they say is that.”

“I see…”

“I’ve invited Mrs. Weller to church with me on Sundays. We had a marvelous time, the few times she went.”

“She stopped?”

“Yes. One Sunday we stayed to have coffee and sweets with Rev. and Mrs. Hart. Such sweet people.”

“Yes, I know them.”

“Yes, of course you do. Such a nice couple and Mrs. Weller seemed to like Sara Hart. They did chatter on. But the next Sunday Mrs. Weller wouldn’t go to church. Just called me up and said she couldn’t go. I know Sara called but we didn’t see her for a whole week.”

“She stayed inside an entire week?”

“Yes. And when she did come out I could tell she had been beaten — beaten, officer.”

“Did you try and talk to her?”

“Yes, of course officer, I knew better than pursue the bruises on her arms and neck. I just chattered on like we usually would about birds, weather, whatever! But I did tell Sara Hart.”

“How long ago was this.”

“Oh, about seven months ago.”

“Have you heard fights or threats from the couple?”

“No.”

“Really?”

“Yes officer, really. Quiet as a mouse if you don’t count Henrietta.”

“Excuse me, Mrs. Drewery but who is Henrietta?”

“The canary, officer. Please try and stay with me. Henrietta is Mrs. Weller’s canary. An unfortunate name really, Henrietta, since the bird was obviously male. She wasn’t necessarily an expert on canaries but she loved that bird.”

“Excuse me Mrs. Drewery I take it that Henrietta is no longer among the living?”

“I heard a canary out on the back porch last week. Mr. Weller brought out the bird and I heard it over my speaker just last week.”

“Then the bird is still with us.”

“But it was Mr. Weller that set the bird out on the back porch.”

“Mr. Weller set the bird out for some air.”

“Officer are you married?”

“No ma’am.”

“Neither is Miss Anne and do you know when I mentioned to her last week, that Mrs. Weller’s canary was out on the back porch, she said the same thing. The canary is out for air.”

“It is a possibility Mrs. Drewery.”

“Yes officer. But I’ve yet to see Mrs. Weller take the canary in or out. Mr. Weller takes the canary out in the early evening when he arrives home from work and takes it in later on in the evening.”

“Is that unusual Mrs. Drewery?”

“Yes it is officer.”

“Why Mrs. Drewery?”

“Because Mrs. Weller couldn’t have taken her canary in or out of the house.”

“How do you know?”

“Do you know that I watch birds for a hobby Officer?”

“Yes ma’am by the suggestion of your late husband, five years ago you decided that you would continue bird watching as a hobby.”

“Yes, and Mrs. Weller — we would chat sometimes when we had a moment. As you can see I have several bird feeders.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“She of course would talk about her Henrietta.”

“Henrietta?”

“Yes, her canary.”

“Oh yes, the male canary named Henrietta.”

“Do you know that once she told me that she couldn’t bear to part with Henrietta? That her Henrietta was the only bright spot in that house over there.”

“Yes, I can imagine the woman’s sentiment.”

“Oh officer, I know you have seen so much, but I really doubt you could imagine Mrs. Weller’s feelings. Did I tell you that she could really be beautiful?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I once believed that a man had it in his power to make a plain woman pretty and a beautiful woman forever stunning. Of course then I married and realized that my thoughts were complete rubbish.”

“Ma’am?”

“Oh Mr. Drewery was a sweet and considerate husband, Officer, but just a little controlling as all men tend to be.”

“Controlling?”

“Yes, some men over money, some men are jealous, some men try to control time itself.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Oh you’ll know soon enough.”

“Mrs. Drewery why are you concerned about hearing canary song in Mr. and Mrs. Weller’s back yard? The bird is only out at the most a few hours during the evening.”

“Well, because I spoke to him almost two weeks ago and told him I was shocked that Mrs. Weller hadn’t brought out Henrietta to take the spring time air.”

“You told Mr. Weller?”

“Yes, you see I heard his back door open. I walked out casually to see if Mrs. Weller was out in her back yard.”

“Was she?”

“No just Mr. Weller.”

“So you asked him about Mrs. Weller?”

“No, I asked him about Henrietta.”

“About the canary.”

“Yes, I have a bird feeder near the back of my property so that Mrs. Weller might enjoy the birds as well as I.”

“How nice.”

“Yes it was, I suppose, until Mr. Weller put up the privacy fence.”

“The privacy fence.”

“Yes, one day last fall I was out filling my feeders and asked Mrs. Weller if she saw the indigo bunting at the feeder the day before. Of course she had and we chatted about their beauty. The next thing I know a privacy fence is going up.”

“I see.”

“Perhaps you do, Officer. Anyway, last week I was putting feed in my back bird feeder and waited until I heard someone quite close to the privacy fence.”

“Mrs. Weller?”

“No, Officer, I’ve already told you I heard Mr. Weller come out his back door. I casually went out to my back yard.”

“How did you know that it was Mr. Weller behind the privacy fence?”

“Because he tripped over something and then spewed out some foul language.”

“I see.”

“Well, in my loudest voice I called over the fence to Mr. Weller. Of course I asked for Mrs. Weller. I’m afraid, Officer, that I played a little dumb and ignorant to get Mr. Weller’s attention.”

“Right. What happened?”

“He ignored me and remained as still as possible. But I knew he was there.”

“What did you do?”

“I became a little shriller and louder.”

“Did that work?”

“Yes, it usually does. I’m not worried in knowing that I’m old. Sometimes there is advantage in age. Mr. Archer told me that once. You know Mr. Archer don’t you?”

“Mr. Gabriel Archer?”

“Yes, we attend the same church. He enjoys my apple pie. He was a friend of my late husbands.”

“Yes ma’am”

“Where was I?”

“You became shriller and louder.”

“Oh yes, well Mr. Weller came to the gate and opened it up a crack. Of course he told me his wife was busy in the house. Oh, I say, I was just about to ask her what was wrong with Henrietta. He gave me a quizzical look and asked why I thought there would be anything wrong with Henrietta? Well, I say Henrietta hasn’t been out at all this spring. Very unusual and I go on and on about Henrietta. Is anything wrong? If something happened to Henrietta, Mrs. Weller would truly morn. I know what it is like to morn and feel alone. Perhaps I should call on Mrs. Weller.”

“What did Mr. Weller say?”

“He told me that Henrietta was fine. That Mrs. Weller felt it just a bit cold this spring to bring out the canary.”

“I see. Then you notice that Mr. Weller brings Henrietta out in the morning and evening for a few hours?”

“Yes.”

“You notice through a privacy fence.”

“No Officer, I heard. I looked to make sure when I think Mr. Weller’s isn’t about.”

“During the evening?”

“Oh well, at dusk I peek through the gate.”

“Mrs. Drewery, that is not very neighborly and may even be considered criminal by Mr. Weller.”

“Oh dear, Officer, I have no doubt that Mr. Weller would think it very incriminating, but after Mr. Weller started taking out and bringing in Henrietta I have become very concerned about Mrs. Weller.”

“Mrs. Drewery, I have no doubt that you have concerns and I will go and ask Mr. Weller about his wife. But you have only HEARD the bird being moved. Mrs. Weller may very well have become very reclusive. I have seen cases where abuse is involved that causes a person to hide inside their house…”

“Officer, Henrietta is buried in my back yard.”

“Excuse me?”

“Henrietta died four weeks ago.”

“Henrietta died four weeks ago?”

“And it was the last time I saw Mrs. Weller.”

“The last time.”

“Yes, very pathetic. It was a bitter, cold morning, one of the last cold days. I came out to my kitchen to make my morning coffee and to my shock and dismay I saw Mrs. Weller in her boots and parka sitting on my frost covered picnic table holding a shoe box.”

“A shoe box.”

“Yes, poor dear. Her nose was red and she had no make-up on at all. Her hair looked a little oily, her hands were chapped and looked so thin. I, of course, knew without asking what the shoe box meant. I made her come in and placed a cup of coffee in her hands, took the box and lifted the lid.”

“Was the bird destroyed?”

“Funny you should use that word. No officer the bird was murdered and Mrs. Weller was destroyed. He killed the poor creature.”

“Ma’am?”

“She told me that he killed the bird, wrung it’s neck. I really don’t know what drove him to it. What makes a man kill to cause others pain? What makes a man insist on causing pain? You, see even before the privacy fence went up their house was always quiet. Never any loud shouts our slamming doors. I wonder now, Officer if I had kept my distance and not tried to talk to that poor, pale person…”

“Mrs. Drewery, why did you bait Mr. Weller?”

“I’ve seen nothing of Mrs. Weller. No lights during the day. She used to try to make the yard look nice in the spring, but I haven’t seen her out and about at all these past couple of weeks.”

“You say the last time you saw her was when she brought Henrietta over?”

“Yes, she told me she wouldn’t leave the bird alone in that house. I had some hopes she was going to leave. Leaving is hard and expensive. She didn’t work you know and this town is too small to stay. I asked her to stay with me or to call Sara Hart but she just shook her head. She asked if Henrietta could stay in the yard until the soil was soft enough for burial. She wanted to think of Henrietta here among my wild birds. I of course didn’t refuse. I wrapped the bird in plastic, taped the box and wrapped the box in plastic. Later, just a few weeks ago I buried Henrietta next to my patio and placed a brick over the ground where he lay.”

“Mrs. Drewery, have you seen Mrs. Weller at all in the past four weeks?”

“Of course not officer, and if you wish me to initiate a missing person’s report I will be glad to do so. Miss Anne, she said that you might ask me to do that.”

“No ma’am, that won’t be necessary.

“Are you leaving now Officer?”

“Yes ma’am”

“I’d appreciate if you could tell me how this all turns out.”

“Mrs. Drewery, I don’t think it will turn out all that well.”

“Oh officer, I have no doubt, but I’m well suited for bad news, just as you are and just as sweet Miss Anne is”

“Ma’am?”

“Well, officer you are with the police, not the jolliest of professions, Miss Anne is soon to be a nurse, that can go either way and I am old — to the point where I miss my husband. I am old and I am a little hard of hearing but I manage to hear the victims in this world or I’m much mistaken.”

“No Ma’am I don’t think you are mistaken.”

 

I Never Write About Vampires

To taste wine is an art.  Never would he say to his current lover, (a nice woman, physically very attractive and, of course, regrettably superficial), that to taste wine is an art. She would look at him, he knew,  with those incredible violet eyes and try not to laugh.  A woman who tries not to laugh is so unattractive, especially with a very expensive crystal wine glass in her delicate hand.  Suddenly the very expensive red glow in the delicate crystal globe sloshes around like a well-bodied ale; unacceptable.

He was met by a well-mannered waiter, and shown to a small, well used, round, wooden table.  The spot was chosen by the lady, (not his current lover mind you) of course.  He found himself thrilling just slightly.  What would Anna think of him, meeting another woman, in a town in Northern Vermont?

He took his seat.  He was early, by her suggestion.  Her note encouraged him to try the wine, exceptional – especially the red.  She would meet him in the evening,  and become reacquainted.  They had parted on good terms – one of the few in his life.  He was excited to see her again, over his first passion; wine.

When he was younger, he had just enough money to live and to taste wine.  There were, thankfully,  a few women in his life that would sleep with him because they found him attractive.  There were the occasional, (he cringed to use the term, so crass) one night stands due to the wine he introduced them to making him irresistible, he knew.  He was not egotistic; the wine did the job, not his manners, his mind or his body.

But care must be given to getting attached to a woman.  He was not born into a vast fortune and he was not inclined to drive the chariots of business to acquire, with diabolical relish, the two things that he found attractive in life; wine and women.

He smiled to himself, looking out at the dingy, wet, street: “Wine and women.”  Really, the connotation of that statement should not sum up a selfish snob or cold-blooded lover in the minds of the world – mostly female minds – for he was an exception to the statement – truly.  He did not want to make up his mind between one or the other – he wanted both and he wanted the best of both.  So what was he to do?  The only thing he could do – both within moderation.

He had to admit that when he was in his thirties, he spent too much time alone.  He refrained from younger women – completely un-teachable in the art of wine tasting; too fast, too virginal, too needy.  He did take comfort with some older women, but they often found him comical in a way he found insulting.  But this woman, ahh, he was close, to falling in love with her.  Until one night, alone and with an exquisite, dry white, he decided to write down what love was.

Was.

He wrote that one word on the yellow pad of paper and stared at it through the entire bottle. Was.

The next day, he met her for lunch and ordered everything red.  The filet, the sauces, the wine and broke it off with her.  She didn’t cry over the time they had spent.  She simply said, she knew the time would come – she had no hopes their relationship would last to marriage, children, Christmases before the fireplace.  She knew and was grateful for what they had.

He was astounded.  He watched her walk out of the restaurant and never heard from her again.  And 20 years later he received a letter from her.  He knew beyond a doubt that he must see her again.  The old photo of them together, wine glasses in hand at some party they attended intrigued him.  He looked up the address, the town, the place – were there – he need only accept.

He tasted the wine the waiter brought; a taste all of its own, a sort of raw, exciting taste, that made him tense and feel within him an urge to pace.  He felt himself immerse in a pleasure that made him edgy and…(could it be possible) feel just a little mean, just a little rough.  She was no doubt still beautiful, probably married.  Who but married people live in Vermont.  Perhaps she and her husband had an upscale bed and breakfast.  If she had children perhaps they were off to college, obtaining a degree in hotel management.

No, he had to stop.  He took another sip of wine and felt again that edge, that good hurt of taste that he never experienced before.  He wanted to capture that actual taste upon his tongue and not the overwhelming afterglow of emotion the wine procured for him.  A sweet grape, an almost euphoric floral start at the tip of his tongue that chilled to an ash, and almost wonton woman taste that shimmered down his throat and warmed his belly, as if her hand ( was he confusing the wine’s taste with the woman already? That amused his more clinical mind) was just above his belt, flat and warm and steady.

“Hello Roger,”  The voice was as he remember it, soft but now with an edge of worldly knowledge about it.  He started and looked up.  She wore a tight fitting dress, a deep burgundy.  Her skin was a soft glowing cream and her hair, now long, was glossy down her back.  She had not aged a bit.  He felt himself start to stammer, stopped himself, stood, and proffered her a chair.

“Always the gentleman.”

His astonishment at her beauty kept him in silence.  Could it be the same woman?  She sat, looked up at him, and without a doubt, she was the same woman.

“How are you?”

“Good, I’m good.”

“Do you like the wine?”

“Yes, I’ve never tasted anything like it.”

“Nor will you again.”

He remembered very little – except that he is now driven from the light of day and driven to drink rather than taste.

 

The Driftwood Gatherer

I never said much, being the youngest and being the youngest it was best that I stay as still as possible.  There is hard labor for those of us who do not understand the art of silence.

Yes, the art of silence.  Do not hide, for when you are among siblings, out of sight does not mean out of mind, especially when an order is easily delegated.  Prepare to be busy, not look busy, this is essential to survival.  Plan your day do not hope for the best.  So among my chores, the major one being the gathering of driftwood – no matter what the weather –I became the driftwood gatherer, and my days were planned.

The weather made me I’m sure; wind blowing, cutting sleet, rain in deluges, and heat that baked the sand to almost dead white kept me in one piece.  Never once did I ever hear an anxious voice from the house as I drug the driftwood from the shore to the door.  This was my job, the others had theirs.

No one wanted driftwood gathering.

Annie, bless her heart wasn’t up too much.  She was always sickly and kept close to Mother.  Mother was harried and busied and spent most her life, it seemed to me, scolding my brothers and clucking over Annie, who stood still for Mother to wipe her tears away in a sort of rough but tender way.

I hated school but loved to read – as most readers discover.  School distracts.

I was shunned for the books I read, but I read them anyway.  I was the driftwood gatherer, I could face the disdain of any long nosed librarian.  When we went once a week to the library (my fellow classmates in purgatory), I felt at times she only pretended to put on her worst face for me.  I do not know to this day if it was my selection of books or my designation as family driftwood gatherer that sparked a look of possible admiration in her face, possible disdain.

As driftwood gatherer I felt it incumbent upon myself to be observant.  There were several old Bibles in the library – thus and so Bible donated by Captain Daniel McGuire and thus and so Bible donated in the memory of Captain Joseph Benton.  On and on I could go.  After my selection of books by George Elliot, Jane Austen, or any of the Bronte sisters, I would go along the long low shelf of Bibles and touch each one.  I was the only one allowed to touch them, because in my family, I was the driftwood gatherer and in the library I was sneaky, or prized.  I touched them because for those who donated the personal or family Bible to the local library usually meant shipwreck, leaving the big lakes that took down their loved ones and frankly being sickened by the whole idea of setting sail.  I felt that I was connecting to the driftwood I found along our shores by touching those Bibles.

I was very young when I was first sent out to gather driftwood.  The shoreline to Huron was close to our house, and it was cold in the morning, any time of year. The mist was often low to the ground.

One October morning I was lost for some time, trying to find my way back with driftwood.  The driftwood was water logged and worn smooth by the roughness of the fresh water waves.  You see, so many don’t understand that fresh water has no plashy, saltwater softness to it – ever.  The ships wooden and even the new long boats take a beating within the sharp and harden waves of Huron, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario.

My father found me first.

“Well, at last I find my daughter hard at her chore.  What has become of you?”

“Huron was in every direction,” I sniffed a little hardened in attitude due to the heaviness of my load and the ache in my shoulders.  “Even on shore Huron mists up and hides shelter.”

“Naw, not true.  Huron is only along the east here.  She sent the mist to confuse you.  She didn’t want you to leave.  There is no harm in her.”

“Why doesn’t she want me to leave?” I felt little regard for her at the moment and I felt myself struggling not to pee.

“Well, Huron loves all lovely young maidens.”

I looked up in hope at my father.  His hair was gray and his eyes a sharp sky blue.  He seemed tall to me but not so tall among other men at church.  Until that moment, I was not sure that I was even noticed by my father — ever.  I could feel a thin mucus crust along the edge of my nose and my eyes felt swollen and my shoulders ached with pulling the driftwood beside me, in what seemed to be all day.

“Now let’s see what you have here.”  My father pulled up the driftwood that I had gathered; gray and black, heavy and long.  “Yes, yes, I knew you had it in you.  This is from my ship I’m sure.  Don’t you see pretty maiden, Huron loves you and wants to keep you near, and has given you a piece of what I worked so long and hard for.”

“I think I should find Mother.”  I told him.  His fine blue eyes stared long and hard at the driftwood I had drug along behind me; he said nothing.  So I started off again, away from Huron’s shore, my shoulder’s aching and my legs dragging deep within the sand.  When I looked up again, the house was in view and I felt like weeping.

“Where have you been, you dolt, looking at rocks again?” asked my Mother.

“No,” I said, “ “looking for driftwood like you said.”

“I’ve told you not to be so long — what would your father say if he could see you?”

I thought of the Bibles in the Library and how ours remained on the shelf.  I shrugged and went into the warm kitchen.

Nearly every day, I look for driftwood and wonder which sailors clung to the edges and then let slip away and which Bibles are donated, which remain.

 

Missing Shakespeare

“Let slip the dogs of war.”

He heard it first in a Star Trek movie years ago – he couldn’t remember which one.  He stirred his coffee and decided he couldn’t remember which Shakespeare play the quote was from either.  He just knew that whenever he thought of that quote now, he thought of his ex-wife.

He loved her and deep down he still loved her.

He didn’t take that fact out and play with it very often.  When that wriggling little black mass of goo started forward he took the dog out and tossed the ball until they were both exhausted.  He worried because old Fido (his actual name by the way) didn’t want to run and play fetch as often or as long as they used to.  That was a problem because lately that mentioned black, mass of destruction was surfacing more often.

He knew why, his second marriage was failing.  He married her on a whim.  She was there, he was there, a need was met and he thought he might as well continue meeting that need.  It was fine for the first six or seven months until she decided she was in love.

He dress appropriately, was even happy on the day but now…

Now his coffee was stale and over cooked and the nice neat-as-a-pin house he lived in seemed to be layered in a very thin coating of dust.

She wasn’t lazy, she worked.  She couldn’t cook and that was fine, it was just the two of them and he enjoyed cooking.  She enjoyed reading and at first that was fine.  They enjoyed walking down town to the used bookstore, he would walk away with an edition of Scott he couldn’t believe he had the good luck to find and she would walk away with a bag of paperbacks.

At first it was fun.  She tried everything on him – everything.  He even flipped through the books but when he came across some of the descriptive parts of the male anatomy he thought he’d leave it up to her.

They had been married about a year when he found himself wide-awake beside her.  She was softly sleeping and he was puzzled.  What scene had they just played out, what plagiarism in bed did they just perpetrate?

That’s when the face of his first wife drifted in front of him and he sat bolt upright.  What if he slipped, what if he got so caught up in the current rush of love making but uttered in ecstasy his first wife’s name?

His first wife read Shakespeare.  Loved it.  She read and re read the plays.  She looked so lovely during the festivals they attended.  They were young, inexperienced and let slip away the teachings of commitment.

Where was she, what was she doing?  Did she garden?  Did she teach?  Did she read and study and whisper to her husband what she had learned that day, her new insights and word play?

He stirred his coffee and watched the dust motes on the windowpane.

 

Her Beautiful Days

He was never quite sure what to do when she spoke to him.  He was shy by nature but not annoyingly so.  She was beautiful sometimes, and at others quite plain.  He was sure (he thought his reactions out alone) that her times of beauty and plainness were what made his mind spin into desire and want.

So when she would say hello, he would return her greeting and move quickly on and imagine her close to him — just close, not touching and the idea was wonderful agony.

But he made sure he never told her.  Not for the sake of her — he was almost (almost please take note) sure that she would accept his advances (let’s face it they were both not young) but his life was so perfect just thinking about her.  Having her would be a different matter.

First, there was his cat.  His cat was old and didn’t like his mother, let alone a possible lover.  Then there was the fact that he liked being alone — not always, but most of the time.  He was able to distract himself; HG Wells, F Scott Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, even a little Shakespeare when he had a few days off of work.

He spotted her after work.  She had stopped by the little Italian restaurant and took a table right by the window.

The restaurant had taken an old retail store and converted it into a nice, quiet little eatery that everyone frequented.  Of course, it was a perfect day for him, the clouds gray and low, the mist of rain in the air and the cold of winter in the wind; late autumn.  One of those nights when the street lamps could not cut the gloom and the gray and the ghosts of the city’s past loomed in the shadows.  There she sat next to the cold-to-the-touch window, a novel (he was sure it was a novel) before her and a thin waiter hovering around her with wine and cheese and what looked to be some wonderful pasta.

“What book were you reading last night?”

She blinked at him and he started to stutter a little.  “I saw you reading at the restaurant last night, the little Italian…”

“Oh,” she smiled and looked a little relieved, “Jane Eyre.  I always read Jane Eyre when I feel a little down.”

He wasn’t a stupid man.  There was the gate, she just showed it to him – Jane Eyre, a little down, women were great with clues.  She likes to read, she has different reading moods.  He could ask what her good mood reads were, or why she was down.

“Oh, I’ve never read that novel, I’ll have to give it a try.”

Her face went a little steely, “Yeah when you’re depressed give it a try.”  She grabbed her copies from the copy machine leaving him smiling bleakly at her back.

He did have sense enough to question his reaction when on the bus home.  His apartment that night wasn’t necessarily the sanctum he loved.  The cat would have nothing to do with him, sensing his agitation and the walls of the place seemed darker.  He woke the next morning tired, achy and dreading work.

She wasn’t there, nor was she there the next day.  He wanted to ask around — hey where was she but he didn’t want to seem interested around his co-workers.

He dreamed of her, she was sitting at the little Italian restaurant and he was the waiter.  He was watching himself wait upon her while she read Jane Eyre.  He watched himself not say a word to her, but he was never far.

“Pick up the book, you idiot, pick it up and throw it through the window.”

He watched himself pour her a little more wine.  She lifted her head and smiled weakly in thanks — he could tell he was annoying her.

“Grab her and kiss her, the cat will get used to her.”

Even in his dream, he hated himself for wondering about his cat.

They met at the copy machine the next day.

“Haven’t seen you around.”  He was tired from four nights of restless sleep and his voice sounded gravely and grouchy.

Her eyes widened just a little. “You okay?”

“Yeah, why?”  What’s it to her?  She had been away, somewhere, didn’t bother to tell him.

“You usually shave.”

He shrugged and looked at her.  Today was one of her plain days, sexy in a strange sort of way.  She held his eyes for a moment and seemed to make some sort of decision.  “Do you like to read?”

“Yes.”  The room started to expand around him, the world was vast and the people sparse, they were the only ones near the copy machine, the world was silent.

She waited just a moment, pressed her lips together, took a deep breath and asked, “What do you like to read?”

A shaft of light reflecting his apartment on cold winter nights, a good fire, a book, leather bound upon his lap and his cat next to him — a sigh of gratitude that he was his own man…

“Popular Mechanics mostly, not much on novels.”

He still watches her as she sits down once a week with her novel at the little Italian restaurant — those are her beautiful days.

 

Trip Her

I have learned, from dubious experience, (dubious being a universal description or rather an attitude toward the experience of..well, experience) that to avoid extreme mental fatigue and emotional pain avoid intelligence.  There is not much hope for you if you are intelligent already.  I’m afraid you must simply live your life out and take the mistake up with God when you meet Him.  But if someone you know is near the brink, the precipice, the mountain top of intelligence, trip her.

Why not trip him?  Because the world doesn’t persecute intelligent men.  Intelligent men are simply persecuted in a family setting, not on a societal scale.

Shut up.

Once a woman is tripped and looking confused and perhaps a little bloodied try and reason with her.  Maybe she is not physically attractive in the modern sense.  Perhaps she is older and has decided to be a “late bloomer.”  Stop her.

Explain to her that intelligence will only bring her grief.  You need not explain to her how if she has not actually accrued intelligence or if she is at the cusp of understanding, there is time to push her back into the womb of self-absorption.  Tell her to take a long hard look at her constituents in the pursuit of marriage, relationship and exquisite mind melding sex.  Don’t tell her those goals will never happen just tell her the pursuit of romantic love will be less harrowing than the pursuit of intelligence.

Are these lies?

Shut up.

Tell the woman you are trying to save, that she must trust someone and to trust you.  Intelligence is a never-ending pursuit and it will only, in the end, frustrate and demoralize.  Whereas on the other hand, the pursuit of relationship will frustrate and demoralize but she will have a better body (due to her pursuit of just the right partner) and she will have the indulgence of self-deception when explaining to a bleary-eyed intelligent woman how happy and content she herself is in her safe and happy relationship.  Will it be a lie?

Yes, but the bottom line is not to have love or even have intelligence but to outdo the other woman.  That’s what women want.  Not to be happy, content or intelligent but to be better than the next woman.

Think about it.  A group of women around some table in a restaurant, complaining about the job, the husband the kids and trying to outdo each other.  Then in walks a 20 something knock-out that they wouldn’t notice if the men in the room didn’t stop and gaze with wonder and awe.  Nothing, and I mean nothing unites women faster than an outsider beauty.  The only one who would throw this unity out the window is the intelligent woman.  The woman who would calmly state that the beauty can’t help she’s beautiful, that each one of them had their opportunity, and that they are all in different stages in their lives – give the girl a break.

See?  Intelligent.

And lonely.

 

The angry are better off. The weak and frightened cling to me. To see the soft weeping, the gratitude for my listening and understanding ear does move me. They don’t see it coming, the price they pay for believing without faith but rather naiveté. It is just the right type of absorption I need that keeps me craving but not without pity for the terror that at the end I see in all.

I regret none of my interactions with those of whom I have shared the gloom of tombs, dark empty spaces, sounds of voices from beyond the grave and the sudden awareness of being two in the room. Ghosts are subtle, and after years of exposing their secret places, I must conclude they are nothing to encourage, nothing to hope for and nothing for the living to live pursuing.

I see the young writers making heroes of those that exist beyond the grave. The more modern and exalted flimflam showmen flutter to the call that the dead have some vague romantic goal to reunite with the ones they love. The dead are just that, and if there is any ambition, it is to have more join them in the aching spiritual icebox they inhabit.

So, there we have the dead but it is the living that is the greatest heartache of all. They become involved in seeking their fairytale within the realms of the supernatural; especially those who crave touch and forgetfulness most of all.

I met a young man once, his eyes a deep, dark, blue who became angry with me at the end of his story. He was the hero, the gallant who would save his beloved from the shadowlands of death. Too there was the young girl with deep black eyes who thinks to this day that I bewitched her in some way. These escape my attempt at the soft sound of reason and comfort I try to convey.

It’s obvious to me that those who crave the unknown to quash the loneliness of existence live shallow little lives and those who have seen something they cannot explain wish for memories of the urbane but one-dimensional type in an attempt to reclaim their lonely little lives. Such quests never end well.

Corner of the eye movements. Reversals. Pictures that fly not drop from the walls. Anger. Fear. Sleeplessness. Tears. Some will escape, others will confide in me, especially after an alcoholic drink.
I draw large crowds, you know, of all sorts. I am not bragging, just well known. I am surrounded by actors and directors and glamorous dancers of every type. Inevitably someone will ask me if I believe in ghosts because, they will say, I certainly write as if I do. What is interesting or perhaps comforting is that the beautiful crowd reacts the same as those within the supermarket or the brown shoe beauties I meet in some obscure bookstore signing that I adore. Their eyes become large and luminous but after the hubbub of my first ‘yes,’ I follow those who walk away upset.

These I know are the failures who overstepped a living person’s boundary and challenged the notion of making good evil and a fatal habit of thinking evil good. These struggle less when my eyes turn red and explain that justice has nothing to do with me and getting away with my appetite falls at the feet of their determination to see the best in me.

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