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(C)Copyright 1999 by Ronald Rand
All Rights Reserved.

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3

 

I called out again to the noise to make itself known, and once again it came to a halt. For a while, I waited for the strange sound to come back. It did not. In a frustrated last effort, I reached behind me and typed randomly upon the typewriter's keys. The rattling started again. I quickly put two and two together that the noise was somehow mimicking me. Mocking me, perhaps.
A brazen rat, thought I, and then I began laughing hysterically. I clicked more upon the keys and then I quietly would sneak around the room looking for the rat. Did that rodent really think it could hide from me under the camouflage of my own fingers? I thought I would outwit it and scare it out of its hiding place. After another half hour of this game, I began to notice that every time I neared a certain heat duct in the wall, the noise would stop, as though it heard me coming. I began to locate the source of the noise and was able to get closer and closer to the heat duct before it would stop again. I got down onto my knees and peered into the large grating of the duct.
The noise did not scare me. It was, in fact, a great comfort. The quietness of the house was beginning to annoy me, and this critter was certainly a welcomed guest in my home. Perhaps I could catch it. Yvonne was fond of animals. In fact she had two kittens, Sam and Anita. This rat was very lucky that Yvonne's kittens were no longer around as they would be full-grown rat-chasers by now. I didn't think that Yvonne would mind if I made a pet of this rat. I went out into the hall and rummaged through a closet until I found a toolbox that I remembered putting there years ago. I rummaged through the tools until I found a flathead screwdriver and I took it back to Yvonne's study. I feverishly unscrewed the grating and laughed outwardly as I did so. After I got the last screw out of the grate, I cast it aside and looked into the duct. It was too dark inside to see anything.
Disappointed, I went back to the typewriter and started plunking on the keys again. The noise came again from deep within the confines of the walls and I was relieved to know that I didn't scare my new friend away for good. After a while, I was absorbed by my writing again and every now and then I would stop and talk to my friend. I didn't know what my pet was trying to push around in there, or even where he was trying to move it to, but I wished him the best of luck and even found myself rooting for him.
The excitement of finding the typewriter and my new buddy were enough to keep me busy the rest of my second night. I only once thought of food as I was writing in my journal. I explored other rooms of the house but I kept coming back to this one for the warmth and comfort of my small companion in the wall and to write down my newest findings.
Upon the near-completion of my journal entry for the day, overjoyed at how much I accomplished, I went back upstairs to retire. As I approached the door to Yvonne's bedroom, something stirred inside of me. The kind of stirring that goes through your mind when you find a car in the driveway at home, but the door is left wide open and there isn't anyone inside. The shadows of my candle flickered across the walls in all the wrong directions. Up suddenly felt like down, and down strangely felt like up. I felt a nausea overcoming me, and my balance was off as though I'd just walked across a hot-air balloon. I heard a noise and I stopped to listen.
I was trembling. I wiped a stray droplet of sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand and my head felt clammy. A sensation came over me. Something familiar permeated the air. Something tangy and sweet. The smell that used to linger in the air in the hours after love-making. The smell of passion mingled with perfume and perspiration. The raunchiness of a wild animal in heat.
And then a fluttering. For a moment I thought I'd imagined it. I thought I'd simply come down with a cold, or a flu. I'd most likely mistaken the flickering of the candle for the fluttering of cloth in the doorway of Yvonne's bedroom. It looked like the familiar train of a red silk dress as it zipped through the doorway and out of sight. But it was no mistake. The scent of perfume was distinctly familiar.
I continued down the hallway and to the bedroom. For a moment, the possibility of a trap entered my mind. After all, what man wouldn't yield to the allure of a woman, oiled up with the aroma of copulation. But as weary as all of this should have made me, I pushed open the door. My libido blazed uncontrollably, the sex-drive of two young virgins on their wedding night. My pulse quickened. I illuminated the room with my candle. The melted wax ran down the shaft and a drop of it landed on top of my hand. The sudden sear of pain should have awoken me from my fantasy, but it didn't, merely enhanced my intoxication. I set the dripping candle on the table next to the bed.
In so doing, I noticed once again the disappearance of the vase of flowers. I looked to the other side, and spotted them, slick and wet as though they'd just been watered. On the vanity next to the dresser, something moved in the distance beyond the mirror with the same quickness and elegance as the fluttering I'd seen in the hallway. I turned my head towards it and the candle sputtered out.
Enveloped in darkness, I whispered, "Yvonne?"
My flesh prickled over all my limbs as what felt like the fingers of scores of little chipmunks were crawling over me. I sat down on the bed and in the silence I listened. I thought I could hear Yvonne's bare footsteps, delicate, and almost indiscernible to no ears but my own. I held my breath so I could hear hers. In the silence, a crunching sound from the mattress. I heard her sit on the end of the bed. In the dark my wild imagination could trace the curves of her body. Did she wait for me to make the first move?
A sound, like a dry sticky tongue licking tender lips. And a gasp. I thought Yvonne might be holding her breath, trying to hear the sound of my breathing like I waited for hers. A calmness surrounded me. I wanted to end this foolishness right now and crawl as fast as I could to the other side of the bed and clap my arms around her. But at the same time I was savoring the moment. I knew very well there could never be any other moment like this, so I waited, and breathed deeply of her scent.
Then I felt a loneliness and the room fell as still as the first night I slept in it upon returning to the house. In the distance beyond the door, I heard a melody like a mother humming to her newborn, and a stirring in the hallway. And then it was gone. I felt around the bed and found something with my finger. I picked it up and lit a match and looked around the room that was now empty. I lit the candle again and in the palm of my hand rest a single long-stemmed rose.
I went downstairs to the living room and sat cross-legged on the floor. I held the rose, twirling it around between my fingers from hand to hand. I'd spent the rest of the night searching the house hoping Yvonne would turn up somewhere. But the house was enormous, and there were many rooms. Yvonne could be hiding just about anywhere. I had no luck finding her. The rose was the only assurance I had that the night with Yvonne had not been a dream. Even the origin of the rose I began to doubt. Maybe it was in bed with me all along and in the midst of my dream of Yvonne my hands came upon it and I picked it up. It'd be easier to believe that, to believe anything, than to believe that Yvonne was out there somewhere and refused to show herself to me.
About a year ago, after a petty argument with Eliza, I took my truck and a pair of Eliza's binoculars and drove down to Yvonne's home. I waited outside, parked a little ways down the street, and watched. I knew it wasn't appropriate. But curiosity got the better of me; it always did. I told you how adventurous I was. I watched for a long while. At around dusk, when the sun began to turn orange and then a dull brown, a cargo truck pulled up in front of Yvonne's home. A man got out of the truck and went to the door. He rang the doorbell and waited for a few minutes before he went to the back of the house, I could only assume to try the other door. I got out of my truck and walked closer to see, slowly creeping around the side of the house, but far enough away that he couldn't see. I hid in the shrubbery (it was a lot shorter and better kept back then) and put the specs to my eyes and I could see more clearly.
Yvonne didn't look well, that was for sure. I couldn't make out her face. At first I thought it was a smudge on the lens, but after wiping the lens with my shirtsleeve, I decided it wasn't a mar. I tried to focus the binoculars, but her face wasn't discernible. I'm not trying to suggest there was something wrong with her face, but that is how it appeared. I could make out the man's face, his receding hairline, even a slight bump on the bridge of his nose. I could make out a fantastic-looking watch on his wrist, one that appealed to my tastes, even though I could never afford such a luxury. But try as I might, I couldn't make out even the color of Yvonne's hair. All I could tell you about her face is that it oddly looked old, archaic even. You know how when you see a woman from the back, you know she's an old woman. And when you look at the back of a penny, you don't have to turn it over to know Abraham Lincoln's face will be on the front. That's how I felt about Yvonne.
I watched the man carry six full bags back to his truck. My first thought was that Yvonne had been doing some Spring cleaning and was giving away her clothes to charity. She'd always been good-hearted and was known for doing such things. But what got to me was the amount of clothing she was giving away. I didn't stay to watch him leave.
Sitting in Yvonne's living room, I was wondering, had Yvonne known she was dying? Is that why she'd given her clothing away? Had something gone wrong with her and that's what happened to her face? Is that why she wouldn't show herself to me last night? There were so many unanswered questions running through my mind. I didn't even notice that I'd plucked all the petals off the rose she'd given to me and they lay in the floor between my legs and on my jeans.
I stared at that stem until I could no longer keep my eyes open, and then I fell asleep.

 

 

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