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. Just keep working and focus on that.

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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.

 

The Scariest Time of Day

There’s a kid I know that can’t be insulted and I envy him. No one will play with him so he played by himself until he saw me. I watch for him near the swing set when his mother drops him off in the morning. He talks and plays with me now.

The scariest time of day is just after lunch and on the playground.  It’s better if the clouds are low but when the sun is out, yes that’s the scariest time of day.

There’s a kid I know that can’t be insulted and I envy him.  No one will play with him so he played by himself until he saw me.  I watch for him near the swing set when his mother drops him off in the morning.  He talks and plays with me now.

We met just as the new school year was starting he seemed a little lost, not his jovial self.  He didn’t run about the playground trying to fit into games.  He looked around, his bright blue eyes scanning all the children, laughing, fighting, crying or hiding.  The sun was high and I was nervous for I felt exposed.

He was cautious in his approach and spoke to me.

“Hello,” he said

I said nothing.

He told me his name but I won’t tell you.  He’s my friend now, none of you wanted him.

“Why are you always at this swing set, there are lots of places to play?”

He reached out his hand and I shied away.  It was broad daylight and I needed to stay in the shadows so he sat down and played in the grass next to me.

Once a playground assistant came to him and asked what he was doing.

“Looking for a four leaf clover for the girl who won’t tell me her name.”

“What girl?”

“The girl who can’t come out into the sun because she’s afraid.”

The playground assistant peered into the shadows where I stood and narrowed her eyes as if she could just see me.

I became suddenly angry at the intrusion.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because he wasn’t doing anything but being kind to me and nobody cared before now.  The playground assistant shied away.

“You shouldn’t do that,” said my friend.  “People don’t understand.”

“What does that mean, ‘people don’t understand,’?” I asked.

My friend shrugged. “I don’t know, it’s what my mother says when I’m sad that nobody likes me.”

“I never told my mother nobody liked me,” I said

“Where is your mother now?” he asked.

“Long dead,” I said.

I liked my little friend all the more because he didn’t try to sympathize.  He simply gave a little shudder, looked about the loud, clamorous playground with one worried playground assistant always glancing our way.

“Would you like to come home with me?  You can stay in my room, out of the sun and play with the toys I have in the closet,” he said.

“Who would take care of you on the playground if I’m in your room?” I asked.

“I’m sorry your dead,” he said suddenly.  I felt he meant it.

“I’m sorry too and more so that you find me less frightening than the living around you,” I said.

 

Dance for Me

A turbid small puddle of whatever mirrors the dim lights of centuries ago – no, no perhaps just a block or two away, the lights and no time sways.

A turbid small puddle of whatever mirrors the dim lights of centuries ago – no, no perhaps just a block or two away,  the lights and no time sways.

But time is more distant than the miles we count.

Leave be the mud of place and cleanse you with the ideas of where your mind has taken you.

I’m left here to contemplate the depthlessness of this place because centuries from now, I’ll read about it.

I hear you dance about me upon the grimy cobblestones.  Who do you hold in your arms and how does she keep the hem of her dress pristine?

I scribble away upon this wooden box, a quill and an endless supply of ink.

I begged for the writing box on a birthday so many years ago, and I’ve followed you about sketching out your life of beauty and gentle love.

How is it you haunt me?

How is it that I cannot push you away despite the many distractions I beg for each day.

I want nothing, nothing from you and yet if I could, I would ask you to stay.

Dance for me.

Dance for me.

Take her slender body in your arms and gently lead to music that I can only imagine, in a room of marble and admiration. In the end, my envy and depravity will exhaust my efforts and I will sell my foolscap upon the corners.

A word picture of you in the lush white of winter immortalizing, in physical beauty, the lies of the age.

 

The Strength to Choose

“Jonathan, nothing is certain. You must believe me. I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

I, of course, didn’t believe her.  I told her I did but I didn’t.  She smiled at me in a half-hearted or perhaps a whimsical sort of way and said ‘thank-you.’  She whispered the two words to me and looked away.  Her soft hair, straw colored and wavy, veiled the side of her face in a cascading shine of brilliance as she looked down at her hands.

I felt a surge of male adrenaline.  Was she that damsel in distress or that Victorian lady, even the mad Ophelia who was sitting across from me?

My friend, this is the 21st century and maybe my Baby-boomer father would have succumbed to her soft strength, I did not.  I pocketed my anxiety about her, along with my surge of Freudian awareness, paid the bill and walked away.

She was found dead the next day – her neck was broken.  I was questioned by the police and it was determined that I was the last to see her alive – outside of her murderer.

I did not kill her.

I did not.

I was at a party that night, celebrating my best friend’s engagement to a wonderful woman; strong, an attorney and not beyond child bearing years despite the time it took for them to fall in love between their accomplishments.

Does that sound cynical?

The cynicism is for me alone and anyone who might read this and ponder their long nights working not for the money necessarily but for the security of being the best.

She told me that nothing was secure.  She told me just before she died.

“Jonathan, nothing is certain.  You must believe me.  I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

“I believe you.”  I think I even reached forward and squeezed her delicate hands.  They were warm to my touch but only, I think, because they had held the coffee I had bought for her.  She had looked almost anemic, frail, suffering.

No, perhaps now that she is in a pauper’s grave, by the grace of the state of New York, I see her differently.  My memory, no doubt, is romanticizing her last moments.

Don’t think me a total brute, please.  I would have taken her with me, fed her, introduced her back into the fold of our mutual friends but she said no.  She had to face her reality.  Odd now that I rethink our last meeting, odd that she said reality and not destiny.  Writing this all down, to whom or really why I don’t know, it strikes me that I didn’t pick up on that.  Perhaps I was too busy being pragmatic and telling myself it was for her sake.

For you see, I did believe she believed what she told me.  Now I believe her and it will no doubt be the death of me.

I won’t suffer as she did, the long nights, the endless pursuit of truth.  I’ll fight the monster as long as I can and hope I have the strength to choose death in the end.

 

 

Lydia Ink / The Strength to Choose by SK Woodiwiss