Monday, July 18, 2011

These Walls Are Thick

The walk to the house wasn’t long. But it felt long. She was so quiet. Once she looked behind her. Behind us.

That clichéd bit where the author tells you that the character clutched the steering wheel/cliff edge/bad guy’s wrist so hard that their knuckles turn white? It happens for real. The chords of her purse were being choked to death by her right hand. The knuckles turn white because the person is actually squeezing the blood out of them.

I felt the urge of empathy. So like the crapping urge. Once you notice it, you have to do something about it.

“You’re really quiet.”

“Sorry. Just… thinking.”


“What I should tell you. What I shouldn’t.”

And then the house was in front of us. Guess I had clamped that urge longer than I thought.

She mounted the three porch steps and unlocked the door. Inside she closed the door behind me and relocked it. Relocked one of the locks. There were four of them, made of metals in thicknesses I had never encountered before.

She saw me looking at them and told me, “The back door is the same except there’s no key hole on the outside.” She rapped on the door. It thunked thickly.

She took three steps over to the front bay window. She dragged a finger across it. She stepped away and the space left was me-sized. I entered it and dragged my finger over the glass. It didn’t feel like glass. It was slicker, almost like oil.

She took off her shoe. Flipped it over so that heel, a modest pump, became a hammer’s head.
She smashed it at the window. Angrily.

It didn’t break. Or crack. It just kind of flexed. I saw it shimmer like a jelloey ice. She offered me the shoe.
“It’s okay, I believe. Interesting selling point.”

Her smirk was addled and could only hang on her lips a half second.

My rationality immediately suggested, “Understandable when your wife and kid have been taken down by bullets.”

“I found the receipts. It’s called ‘bullet-resistant’ glass. Apparently truly bullet-proof glass is too thick or something to actually be useful.”

I nodded. Images of beached fish danced through my mind.

Fortunately, she went on. “I wanted to show you that… the door and the window. Plus I couldn’t pull this out in a café.” She was reaching into her purse. All I thought was ‘Oh shitters, she’s pulling a gun on me now.’ And my superhero reflexes kicked in.

Yep. I stood there like a spring sapling. A dumb old bovine chewing its cud, stupidly staring its slaughterer right in the eye. Told you I could never be a super-hero.

Wonderfully, it wasn’t a gun.

“I don’t know what the hell this is,” she said as she carefully unwrapped the plastic wrap from around it.
I knew what it was.

It was the mask.

Or rather it was a plasticine model that I’m sure he cast into the real thing. Cast out of some polycarbon-super-hero-substance-name.

I took these pictures of it later.

I was able to take them because she handed it over to me. That’s the real reason she had asked me out to coffee. She wanted to leave this murderous foundling on my doorstep. Like the death of her brother had left the thing on hers.

“Take it. I’m moving back out west. Maybe further. I want to stop thinking about it.” She pulled out a large manila envelope. How trite, how cliché… how fucking bladder draining. “He didn’t have much personal stuff. No letters, no diary…” I nodded and was thankful she wasn’t looking at my eyes when she said the word diary.

“Just these. Some receipts. I guess he burned the rest.” She looked towards the working fire-place, cleaned out of any ash. Nice, a selling point that might make people forget the bullet-resistant glass and the Fort Knoxian doors. ‘And did ya know, the former owner, my brother, was a mass-murderer who ran around in Kevlar spandex and a horned skeleton mask. Cool huh?’

She didn’t know that. And she was making sure she never would.

“Will you give me your number,” I asked, still nodding, like an apprentice carpenter being taught how he’s going to fuck up his first dove-tail joint. “Just in case?”

“No.” Flatly. Becoming serene with the knowledge that she was actually going to walk away from all this glamorous drama.

“Let’s walk around the place once, ‘kay?” Dreamily. Fugue state.

An empty house waiting for new occupants is bright and spacious and echoes horrifically. There are scuffs where the furniture set its feet. Doorknobs that were burnished by the same hands a million times. Moving out and leaving behind this old hulk that wombed you for thousands of hours. Hollowed out pumpkin-like. And left to… well, who cares? It’s not your problem anymore. They can piss in the working fireplace for all you care. Knock down the thickened supporting wall between the kitchen and living area, so that it caves in upon itself. A pumpkin on the side of the road on November 2nd. Rotting in upon itself. Curling and collapsing slowly in.

Conversationally, she mentioned that the police had found bags of blood hanging in the fridge. “Like proper transfusion bags.” They had matched the blood found in the car. Her brother’s. She was become more and more ethereal as the tour wound down to its demise.

As she locked us out of the house, she murmured, “Thanks.”

She was down the street, before I muttered, “Yeah. You’re welcome.”

Her purse swung lightly in her loose grip. A gay little dog dashing back and forth past her ankles.

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