Posts tagged ‘moments’

2011/03/20

This Came for You

by mdjb

Hilary Jane Burckhardt moved into the apartment on Riverside Drive on a sunny day five months after Mrs. Akkerman died but it was on a rainy day three months later that Mrs. Akkerman began causing trouble.

It was not until much later, Hilary learned that was the same day Janisch Akkerman’s girlfriend Wenche had had an abortion and that that aborted fetus would have been Mrs. Akkerman’s only grandchild.

It was raining all morning. It was a Saturday. Hilary had printed out twenty stories to review because todo so on her monitor, even though it was twenty-one inches, bothered her eyes after a short time. Her father claimed she was ruining her eyesight and her health in general because she had taken on too much work and was not getting enough sleep. Now she had her own apartment in the city, she did not have to listen to his carping.

She made a cup of herbal tea and propped up over-stuffed pillows to get comfortable in a corner of her white leather sofa. In a bowl on the glass coffee table were celery and carrot sticks. Next to the bowl, cradleless, sat the cordless telephone. Hilary found when she was deeply involved in evaluating scripts, if the phone rang, she could not easily re-establish her rapport with the writer if she had to walk away from and return to her perch, but this way she could answer and say, “I’ll call you back later,” without feeling guilty or neglectful to either party.

The first two scripts were by inexperienced writers and were thus underdeveloped and forgettable, but the third was a horror story called This Came for You. It was gripping and admirably polished. Hilary knew a third of the way through she would be recommending the piece for inclusion in the next issue of Prototype.

Just as the indescribable horror was being described on the page, Hilary heard a noise across the room. She looked up at the foot high brass letters H J B on the opposite wall. The J gave way and fell to the floor. Then it slid across and under the sofa as if being pulled with a magnet from the apartment below and it crashed into the wall behind her. She jumped up and in so doing knocked over the little bowl of vegetables and the teacup causing them to smash into many pieces.

“What perfect timing,” she heard herself say aloud. She knew cleaning up the mess would break her concentration, just as a phone call would, so decided to put the rest of the scripts aside until later. She had a closet to clean out.

Janisch Akkerman had not done a very thorough job cleaning away his mother’s effects but had prevailed upon Hilary to hold onto a few boxes of things until he could come and get them. Three months had passed and he had not contacted her again. When she finally called the number he had given her, she learned the number was no longer in use. She had as yet no success tracking him down via the Internet or the usual avenues she might use for research but felt with persistence she would eventually find him. In the interim, she had decided she would look through the boxes she had previously left unopened. Now was the time.

The buzzer rang and when she answered it, the doorman told her there was a package for her down in the lobby. She told him she would come down for it later. She was in no rush. It was a box of groceries from her father. He had had one of his office lackeys go out with a shopping list and pick up health foods and produce and then bring the stuff up to her building.

She knew the doorman went off duty at three and figured she would have one of the porters bring up the box for her when the second doorman was on. He at least might think she had had the groceries delivered from a local market rather than having received them from a Burckhardt employee. She wondered why her father would go out of his way to embarrass her in front of her building employees. And why he could not trust her to take care of her own needs.

Hilary did her best to clean up the broken cup and bowl, and while reaching under the sofa to retrieve the brass J, she cut her finger on a stray sliver of glass. Though she tried her best to avoid doing so, a couple of drops of blood fell onto the white rug under the coffee table, and she knew immediately the rug was lost. Although she washed and bandaged her finger, she hadn’t noticed there was blood on the back of the J until she replaced it on the wall, and in adjusting it made the situation worse. Scrubbing with a wet cloth, she wore away paint, but the stain would not wash off.

Then, the buzzer sounded again. At the intercom, she could sense the annoyance in her own voice as she asked, “Yes, what is it?” and was a bit startled to hear the doorman respond, “Nobody rang, ma’m.” Lord, how she hated being addressed as if she were her mother’s age!

Everything seemed to be going wrong all at once.

She thought about the bedroom closet, but hesitated, waiting for another sound to set her in motion, and then it came. A knock on the door. Nobody ever knocked on her door, unless she requested the services of the handyman, which she had not done for nearly three months.

Looking through the peephole and seeing nobody, she felt the hairs on her arm flutter as she put her hand to the knob. When she heard another knock, she almost gave in to the impulse to ignore it and run into the other room, slip back under the duvet and try starting the day over again, but she could hear her father’s patronizing voice saying, “Hilary, you’re a woman, now,” as if he suddenly realized the truth one day. She turned the doorknob expecting to find one of the neighbor children standing outside looking up at her more confused than she felt at the moment.

What she found was an unattended package wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine, with the letter J written in red marker. Oddly, the letter ran over the cord, as if it had been added as an afterthought. The thing was too small to be the CARE pack she expected from her father, and she became unnerved. She glanced toward either end of the empty hall, and down again at the package, standing in her doorway for several minutes not knowing what to do.

Read responses by:
Ed Dean
Grey Johnson
Paul de Denus

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2010/02/20

Sit Right Back

by mdjb

I don’t know what I can do with this story, but I want to get it down before I forget it.
It was a dream.
I was at a party, and I was slouching in a chair, much like the upholstered chair in which I was sleeping and having the dream.
In front of me Cecilia was berating some guy whom she claimed did not have the character to be the godfather to her child. Others were observing, but their visages were indistinct and I could not make out who was there besides Cecilia and myself. I didn’t even know who the spineless character was as he skulked away, as I was trying to remember how Cecilia’s child sounded when s/he spoke, but in my mind that was the reason for the party—the child’s christening. Someone asked who would be the godfather then. Cecilia said something to the effect that she would know who was strong enough when she met him.
Then a loud bell tolled the hour and the lights suddenly went out.
In the darkness, and without rising from my chair, I felt as if I went to her and caressed her and lightly brushed cheeks told me she believed I was the one to be the godfather. No words were spoken. Then the lights returned, and I was still in my chair, and she was standing alone in the middle of the room. “Oh,” she said, as if she too had experienced the connection and was surprised to find no one next to her, but then she walked over to some friends who were discussing the pile of gifts and it seemed she wanted their help in deciding whether to return them or just hold them aside until the day the christening should occur.
All this time the child was nowhere in sight, and the spineless character had by now disappeared.
In the chair, down beside the cushion, I discovered a huge roll of bills, and thought to myself it was foolish that Cecilia should hide her money in that way with a house full of people, anyone of whom might have found and kept the money. They were pesos. Momentarily, I thought of pocketing the money myself, but then stuffed it back down, deeper into the chair.
I went over to tell her she shouldn’t keep her money there like that, and as I walked toward her, it seemed her face radiated an understanding that I was the person who’d come to her in the dark, and that she thought I was now going to confess to my action, but as I stumbled on a step, she shook the expression from her face, as if to say, “No, it couldn’t have been he. He’s such an awkward type.”
As I was telling her about the money, and she thanked me for my honesty, the scene shifted. The camera of my dream point of view panned and went through the window and out into the night, over the town, to a clock tower, where there stood a life-sized stone figure of a French peasant about to hammer down on a bell to strike the hour. As he did so, the strains of the show’s theme-song rose, “Gilligan’s Island-like” “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…” The stone figure slammed down his hammer. The bell resounded, and he turned toward us, face front, and he was now alive. This was obviously a show wherein the hero was a statue that came to life to do good deeds.
Now in my head, though I was no longer in the scene, I knew the money would go missing, and the statue/hero would resolve the issue during the upcoming episode.
Then a street noise awakened me and I saw it was already six o’clock, and I was reminded how I had begged off going to Cecilia’s birthday dinner in San Cristóbal because my finances were so bad this week, but instead of finishing up the work I had planned to do, I had slept away the afternoon in a chair.

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