Friday, August 09, 2013


They were standing in Margaret’s craft room. Charlie was trying to convince Benny and Carol that something supernatural had happened the night before.

“I’m telling you,” said Charlie, “the box was open when I went to bed. But when I got up this morning it was shut. And I didn’t touch it, and nobody else could have touched it, and the box didn’t shut itself. So you tell me what happened.”

There was a long silence. Then Benny cleared his throat and said, “Charlie, I’m not going to argue with you. Maybe Margaret did come back—” he hesitated “—from the grave and shut the box. I don’t know. Anything is possible I guess. All I’m saying is, you’ve been shut up in this house for a year now, all by yourself, and—”

“Don’t touch those,” Charlie said sharply to Carol.

Carol froze. She had been curious about Margaret’s stack of craft magazines and was about to pick one up and look at it, but stopped now and backed away, casting a worried glance at Benny.

Benny sighed. “Charlie, we didn’t come here to argue. We just stopped by to see how you’re doing.”

“I’m sorry,” said Charlie. “Go ahead, Carol, take a magazine. Take as many as you’d like. Take them all. Margaret would want you to. Really.”

“Oh no Charlie,” said Carol, “I couldn’t.”

“No, please take them.”

“We should leave,” said Benny.

“No, take them. You guys are right. I should get rid of this stuff.”

“Charlie,” said Carol, her eyes tearing.

Benny walked over and placed his hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “We love you, buddy,” he said.

“I love you guys too.”

“Hey, we’re gonna’ have our big Christmas party in a couple of weeks. You gonna’ be there?”


“It’d do you good,” said Carol.

“I’ll be there,” said Charlie. Then he saw them to the door, hugged them both, said goodnight, and closed the door.

He started getting ready for bed. He took out his teeth and looking in the bathroom mirror thought, God where did the years go? I should still be a thin young blade, with my own teeth, and Margaret should still be my blushing bride. Where did the years go, God? And why couldn’t you give us a child? It’s not fair damn it.

He turned away from the mirror and turned off the light. That’s stinking thinking, he thought. I know better than to go down that road. I can’t afford a pity party. The past is what it was, and the present’s what it is, and as for the future—well, to Hell with the future … what little there is of it.

Noticing the light in Margaret’s craft room was still on, he went in there to turn it off. But first he checked to make sure everything was still in its place.

Yes, everything was where it should be: scissors, marker, ribbons, rolls of fabric, glue bottles, boxes, paint cans, stack of magazines—everything was where it should be. And the unfinished purple doll lay precisely where it had lain for a year now, on its back in the midst of the clutter.

Benny and Carol are right, he thought as he turned off the light. I must have shut that box myself without realizing it. Or maybe the lid just fell of its own accord. Sitting in there for a year that was bound to happen. Things eventually fall down.

I’m an old fool, he thought. I’m an old fool to think Margaret’s spirit shut that box. Benny and Carol are right, I’m going out of my mind with loneliness.

He turned off the light and went to bed … and dreamt of Margaret.

They were having a picnic under tall pine trees roaring in the wind. It was reminiscent of the road trip they took to East Texas in the late Sixties, and Margaret looked exactly as she looked the day he married her. She was laughing at some silly joke of his and threw herself backwards on the grass she was laughing so hard, and he fell down beside her and his heart soared with happiness. And the brightness and fullness of the day was such that he could count every blade of grass and every pine needle and knew instinctively every atom of earth beneath his feet as well as he knew himself, or better.

And Margaret said, “Charlie, there is so much more to know.”

“What do I need to know?”

“Well,” she said, “you need to know that the back right tire has a slow leak and it’s going to go flat on you. You might even have a blow-out. You should take it around to the Jiffy Lube, Charlie, first thing in the morning. If you don’t, you’re going to have a hell of a lot of trouble.”

Charlie laughed. “I don’t know what I ever did without you,” he said. “I never could remember to check the tires, or the oil, or—”

He woke with a start. There had been a noise. He lay in the darkness, listening, his heart pounding.

Then he heard it again. A loud thump in the craft room. My god it’s a home invasion, he thought and grabbing the baseball bat he kept by the bed jumped up and crept down the hall towards the room.

He flung the door open, turned on the light, and at first saw nothing amiss. Then he noticed the purple doll sitting upright on the table and all the boxes and cans turned upside down and the scissors and black marker lying on the floor.

(To be continued)