Bad Counsel: part two (short story)
She draws it back. She glances at the open fiberboard étagère where Andrée and her mother get their plates, their coffee mugs and cereal bowls. Andrée considers―it has crossed her mind for the first time―what Melody projects. She doesn’t care. Dust is probably good for you. If you have a soft immune system, you get sick anyway.
She glides past Melody, to the counter by the refrigerator, and takes two glasses, holds one out. “You want this? Melody.”
Yet her relative is made of sufficiently stern stuff. She takes it. She thanks Andrée. She calls her Andrée, and not Andrea, as she used to, resistant to correction.
Melody says: “Sam, how many bedrooms does this place have?”
It does not occur to Andrée yet to bridle. The question seems to her oddly phrased, that’s all―as though Leo’s daughter and Sam had been in the middle of a conversation. But Sam himself disabuses both Andrée and her mother.
“What…this place here?” Melody is silent. Sam gestures with a forefinger aimed at the kitchen floor. He says the same thing: “You mean this little house here?” He doesn’t say Karen’s house, because he has already purchased it from her. It has become property. But the understanding had been that the house would be demolished; that it affected the planned-for view…as you’d expect of a 60s ranch with scalloped siding and a bad roof.
“Two bedrooms,” says Andrée’s mother. “Just two.”
Melody puts something into her nod, an extra, theatrical, “I see, I see.”
Andrée begins to see.
Andrée already, to her mother’s chagrin, lives rent free. But she gets it, how Sam might need six months or a year, maybe more, to build his house. Leo has talked to her about inspectors. You do so much work, you wait for the inspector. Say Melody pays nine hundred rent. That’s what…fifty-four hundred, up? Save that, and you could buy a car. Andrée tries to catch her mother’s eye. Could Karen have missed this?
Well, too bad about the pond for the kiddies. Hope he bulldozes it tomorrow. She doesn’t really hope this. Andrée has always liked carrying her coffee out the sliding door in the mornings, seeing deer and rabbits; seeing now and then a hawk, or a coyote. She remembers how Leo scoffed at this. Coyotes! She is still indignant. They have pictures of them all the time, on the community bulletin board thing. Online.
“Sam,” Karen says, picking up from Melody this effect of echolocation. Her words bounce off Sam and Melody hears them. “Show her the bedrooms.”
This is good for Andrée as well, this shot, because Andrée hasn’t picked up since Buel came over Sunday afternoon. She has not made her bed…not that she would. So, sure, have a look. She goes into the living room and switches the TV on.
She scans the channels for a comedy show, or a scary movie. These are the only things Andrée watches. And they’re kind of the same. She has never not laughed at a scary movie. This one, that she settles on, is called Snowfall. Title in frosty letters; the “o” a skull. She’s seen it. The serial killer jeers at the ghost. Too bad. He plods the snow with his back to the camera, wearing the same buffalo plaid the creepy caretaker wears. Or vice versa. They both plod.
Andrée takes her thumb off the button and watches as the smart girl and the dumb girl, the panicky guy, the hero, and the token black guy, get spooked by a nasty bang, bang, bang at the door. The hero volunteers to go check. He laughs, nervous.
“But it’s only the wind.” She says this aloud, smiling. He latches the screen. The lamp blows out. This, just as the hero’s eye falls on a trail of footprints going across the porch. Andrée laughs now, in anticipation…because pretty soon the gang’ll hear the knocking again. This time, it’ll be the panicky guy. The heels of his shoes, swinging.
But that’s how it goes, Andrée thinks. Aren’t these clichés really punchlines? Aren’t you supposed to laugh?
Her mother comes in and sits beside her. Andrée closes her mouth. She hates her mother doing this. She feels Karen looking at the glass on the table. The iced lemonade is sweating on a flyer of pizza coupons. Buel says businesses price things the way they want. “A dollar up, a dollar down. Coupon is just to make you buy something you weren’t going to.” But Andrée’s mother has plans to take advantage of every bargain; they have stacks of flyers in the magazine rack, expiring.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)