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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blank and Silent

a short story by T. Remington


It’s just the way she’d hoped it would be. Everything is right and in its place. She drifts through the rooms, adjusting this or that bit and then returning it to the way she’d found it. It’s quiet, too. Quiet as she’d longed for over and over; quiet that she’d begged and screeched for. What’s that? Her breathing. Her heartbeat. Her footsteps. No dust. No jumbles and piles and no mess. No internet. The waste baskets contain neatly rounded piles of wadded up paper. Idly she reaches for one and unwads it: blank. Nothing. She smiles. At last.

    “What do you mean Gracie doesn’t want to see me?” Irv was not having a good day and would love nothing better than to ruin it for someone else.
    “She doesn’t want to see anyone.” Beau’s smile was genuine.
    “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not anyone. I’m her lifeline.”
    Beau said nothing, simply rolled her chair back and let Irv stomp past her. She could practically see steam rising from the starched collar of his immaculate shirt when he tried the door and found it locked. He seemed sure to blow, but remembered himself and pulled back. They both knew that his pounding on the door would achieve only his mortification and Gracie’s happy scorn later.
    “Call me the moment she comes out.”
    “Of course.” Beau didn’t even glance up from her copy of Gracie’s latest blockbuster hit.
   
    Every bookstore still standing has stacks of “Crescendo” in front windows, giant posters and matching book marks, all of which are moving fast. The fire has caught and it won’t abate for months, maybe longer. Before “Crescendo” it had been “Backstory” and before that it had been “A Denial Denied”. Both of those earlier books had spawned movies.
    It had taken Gracie Foster Maxwell four years to complete “Crescendo” and before the second year was out, the various message boards online were alive with speculation and anticipation. By year three, the tone had darkened. Bad as the crap online was, it was a particularly nasty dust up over tea at the Excelsior with her server, an avid reader, that had been enough for Gracie. That undulating, money spewing blob kindly referred to as her readers would have to settle for rumors and its own bile. Gracie doubled down, finished “Crescendo” and then … she went away.

    The bed linens are exquisitely silky and cool. She smoothes her hand over them and wishes she felt sleepy. Later. Right now there’s something else she needs to do. Going from waste basket to waste basket, she selects certain balled up pages. She doesn’t fumble; she can tell from the first touch of each piece that it’s the one. There are more waste baskets than she remembered and soon she’s gathering the wads of paper into the lifted folds of her nightgown. The logic of this dream holds no mystery. Everything is clear. If it’s words the whining fucks want, she’ll give them words.
    She takes her treasure pile into the study and tumbles the white onto the wide, shiny walnut desk next to her first ever typewriter, a manual Royal. The chair slides out silently and is exactly the right height for this desk. A mild downy light spills in from the tall windows. There is an order to be obeyed in this and she pauses before selecting the first ball, smoothing it out carefully and then sliding it into the machine. The words are all there, ready and eager.    

    No one noticed at first. The missing persons’ reports did seem to be increasing, but even with it staring them in the face, it took months before anyone put it together. Some savant detective type noted the presence of one of Gracie’s books at each crime scene. By the time the headlines got panicky, Irv was ready to storm that door. It was less Beau’s steady refusal that held him back so long as his own disbelief. Impossible. Then an entire book club vanished before they got to the second chapter in Crescendo.

    “Ok, that’s it. Get out of the way.” Irv had grabbed the fire ax from out in the hallway.
    “Isn’t that a little much, Irv?” Beau didn’t move.
    Without another word, Irv shoved her chair aside with his foot and took a wide stance in front of the door. The timing couldn’t have been more contrived, more perfect. The door knob slowly turned. Irv stepped back, letting the ax fall to his side. The smile on Gracie’s face widened as she saw that.
    “Silly old Irv. Don’t worry. I’m done.” She turned to Beau, “Darling, I could use a drink.”

images by aleXander hirka