Are You Haunted: part two
Are You Haunted
“Well, I never looked. You just better come out with me and see.”
He trailed after Guy, stalling to gaze back over his shoulder at wildly overgrown lilacs, blossoming branch tips prying into the windows on the unshaded kitchen side. He saw peonies, their buds not yet unfurled, crawling with ants—half a dozen bushes planted around the shed, where through maple leaves, sun dappled. These might billow out in a blowsy pink, but were at the moment white, edged blood red.
“You damn lazy, or what? How long’s it gon’ take you to mosey over here?”
Powell knew no excuse that would improve Guy’s mood. He had been looking at flowers. “I’m sorry,” he said. The door, not high enough anyone could have walked through it upright, was white-washed over rotted, damp wood. Much of this coat had peeled away, much become stained algal green.
Powell believed Guy now. He’d expected some trick, some way in which the Big Chief meant to show him up for a thief, pretending he hadn’t, as watchdog, been over every inch of the place. But someone had piled bricks in front of the shed…not many, but enough. Had some vagrant taken shelter here, Guy would have known it.
“You dig them bricks away, and have yourself a look. Door ain’t locked,” Guy told him.
Powell wasn’t nearly curious enough to bother. He’d thought she might have hidden in there. It was manifest to him she hadn’t. But he must save a little face with Guy. He tossed bricks, one after another, finding vague gratification in the way they burrowed into earth, their sharp corners canting them like monoliths of a miniature temple.
The door broke apart. The rusted lower hinge gave under pressure, three of the punked verticals shredding at the bottom. Powell, not expecting the hinge to snap, had pulled too hard, and the door, pivoting away from his hand, had stubbed up against one of the bricks. He heard an unfriendly laugh from Lloyd Guy.
“You’re makin’ a lot of work for yourself, Mr. Kenzie.”
Powell kept his face turned to the shed’s interior, seeing there an inviting refuge. It was not dark, and the mossy ground beneath its roof was solid. The flat stones, flush as they had been stacked, still allowed light to pierce through innumerable crevices. Guy’s manner was beginning to weigh on Powell. He was like Breedman, another fellow southerner whom Powell had never expected to meet where he’d run across him. Breedman also had been a little lowly, and seized on any opportunity to taunt Powell over his education. He ducked. They hadn’t stored anything here. He found only a pile of burlap sacking, tested it, kicked at it, and when nothing slithered out, Powell sat down. He might wait a while. He had no carpentry skills; he could not fix the door. He had no money; he could not pay for it.
L’aborrita rivale a me sfuggia…
Far below was the center of a black cave, lit with an effect of flickering torchlight. He thought it could not have been real torchlight. There had been a terrible fire; it had been not that many years before. But the tiny figures, robed in white, so striking in appearance…
People crowded, less conspicuous in the balcony seats, and so less concerned about fidgeting, coughing, speaking, sometimes eating. Rohdl remembered a hot, close atmosphere that smelled of badly aired furs, carrying layers of human sweat and old perfume decayed to ammonia. A conversation distracted his attention from the aria, when he wanted only to concentrate on this hallucinatory swelter and stink and vision.
“Kant was not precisely correct.”
“Well, then, I have wasted my education. You have learned better things listening to the dreams of factory workers.”
“Social approval is the only model of ethics known to the average person. To be allowed in, or to be kept out. And if you are kept out, then of course, ethics are of no use to you.”
“Do you want to know my name? Why don’t you tell me yours?”
“My name,” he told her, “is Heinz Rohdl. I have been telling you about these people.”
“Yes,” she said, and she reached for the hand with which he had dismissed her interruption…and shook it, though he had not offered to introduce himself. She tilted her head sideways. The gesture, and her small, tight smile, meant something of mischief, perhaps, that Rohdl could not read. He knew that Mr. Guy had gone to look at the shed with Mr. Kenzie.
(copyright 2016 Stephanie Foster)