It was the sound of the shutting door that first aroused his suspicion.  The way the heavy brass latch came together, the weight of the oak door sitting neatly in its frame. A firm thud suggesting a level of imperviousness. But what really arose his hackles was the look she gave when she turned to face him. And then the question “Why did you come out here?” It was not the kind of question meant to be answered. More rhetorical than necessitating response. “I told you not to come out here” she went on. The peeved tone of frustration in her voice sent a shock into his stomach. He could feel the warm tinge in his bowels. He felt like a kid, his hand caught in the cookie jar. The stern eye of authority passing judgement. Suddenly he was reminded of the time last week he came into the kitchen to find the dog, face covered in frosting devouring the cupcakes his daughter had made for her 7th grade biology class. The dog, with a sheepish look on his face, unable to separate paper wrapper from spongy cake and sprinkles, struggling to not lick his lips when the scolding came.

The look on her face was really what drove the gravity of the situation home. Marvin’s hand held tight to the threadbare towel wrapped around his waist. For the first time ever, he considered why he might want to have a set of towels in the house that hadn’t been stolen from a budget motel. Immediately a chill came over him, his rotund belly protected from the late evening air only by the matted, fuzzy thicket of gray hair that covered it. Barefoot, he stood on the front porch for just a moment longer, trying to put all the puzzle pieces of the situation together. He looked down to see the doormat slid to one side, the peeling paint of the floorboards beneath him. The placement of the mat suggesting something out of place but without registration of what that thing was exactly. As he looked back up, scanning for some detail he might have missed, he met Margaret’s gaze.

“I told you not come out here” she said again. As if to reiterate her point. A statement he had no recollection of hearing prior to his arrival here. He noticed her standing before him, also clad in only a thin towel. Her barrel-shaped body barely covered, her gray hair still wet, no longer dripping from the ends. He noticed the stream of people walking by. A busy street in late spring in this area usually means a heavy flutter of foot traffic.

As his face flushed, a feeling of incredulity came over him. “What…” he began, but the whole word didn’t even make it out. It was as if it started, but got stuck on his lips. This noise was almost the same as the one the dog made when he woke himself with a bark. A noise emanating from the lungs, truncated both by shuttered lips and a trailing of will. As if someone had snatched the word from his mouth before he could finish enunciating it.

“Didn’t I tell you not to come out here without the keys?” she said, cutting him off. Margaret’s question was more serious this time, but her tone still perturbed. “Marvin…” she whined in the sing-songy way she sometimes did. The rise and fall of her raspy voice mirroring the mountain landscape in the distance. “How are we going to get back in?”

~ by namderf on July 11, 2017.