February 2013

“Let others seek safety. Nothing is safer than misfortune, where there’s no fear of greater ill to come.” -Ovid

In exactly 500 words, what is happening here?

Michael Lejeune says:

Her finger swabbed a clean path in the dust on the sill. It always collected on the sills first, as though trying to get out.

Someone should take a rag to this place.

A few hours with some all-purpose cleaner and a roll of paper towels would do the house a lot of good. A vacuum for the carpets, a mop for the linoleum.

But of course, that would never happen.

Looking out the front windows, she saw passersby ignoring 82 Wilshire along with the rest of the block’s drab residential facades. They were mere feet away. None of them knew.

The best place to hide. Plain sight. Let them see the house. It was as inconspicuous as a grain of sand on the beach. She resented the house its genius, but she respected it too. It was smart.

Smarter than me.

She walked down the hall as though preoccupied, eyes glazed with incurious regard. She was just a cleaning lady, visiting for her weekly shift. The house knew better, of course. But she was an outsider in the territory of a predator. She would observe the proper etiquette; display the proper respect.

The bodies were in the cellar this time, arranged into another letter. She used to care, once, what the letter meant. It wasn’t English. Too complex. But not the sweeping flow and staccato brush strokes of the Orient either. Too… abrupt. Too blunt.

An old man’s bloodied windbreaker had flapped open as he fell, forming a cursive barb. A teen’s straight mop of black hair splayed into a sunburst to dot the angled stalk of his body. The three infants in the center made a perfect triangle. Their dead stares followed from one to the next, clockwise from above, but their bodies faced opposite their faces. Had one of the others broken their necks to achieve this?

Doesn’t matter.

Now was not the time to think about this. Once, thoughts like this had fueled her nightmares. Now, they rarely even piqued her curiosity. It had been a long time since her work disturbed her.

She donned her gloves and mask.

I’m just the cleaning lady.

Movement from the window caught her eye as she hefted a thin, sallow-faced woman in a white dress over the threshold to the laundry chute. The neighbor boy was shoveling snow from the shared driveway. She remembered him from last year. In the summer, he would rake and mow the lawn on this side of the fence.

She wondered for a moment if she would find him here one day, his arms bent the wrong way, or his legs broken to form a shape they could not naturally make. On his face she would find the same look they all had.

Resignation.

She gave the sallow-faced woman a push, heard her body tumble down the chute, into the darkness where so many others had gone. She began to hum a song, and smiled.

Day just flies by with music in my ears.


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