Sierra Spink

Fiction

You Know This House

            Lead me through these rooms. What was it like here before? The frames are empty now, but they had something in them. Little kids in their school uniforms, I’d imagine. The glass in the door is a nice touch, lets the light in so much more easily. Too bad there isn’t an entryway closet. I don’t know what we would do if there wasn’t a mud room. The kitchen is acceptable, but not ideal. I prefer granite countertops, but I can look past it for the wood finish of the cabinets. I would definitely knock down that wall to the living room. That way I can see everything.

            Ah the bedrooms are a good size for kids, but when mine grows up? Maybe not. My son might not really care, but he deserves the best, our baby. He’s at North Hale Christian, you know. Private education is the only way to go if you want a say. Only the best.

            You worked hard to restore this house to its former glory, Arthur. From the outside you wouldn’t be able to tell anything was off. I read in your ad that it’s been on the market for a couple years, am I right? You must be desperate!

            Mind if I call you Art? Thank the Lord; I thought Arthur was a bit too formal.

            Where did it happen? I know I said I didn’t want to know, but now that I’m looking at the house…

            She went first? That surprises me. I don’t know why, but it does. I guess she couldn’t watch him go? That’s a little unfair, but whatever. There aren’t any bullet holes that I can see, but do you know if there was any damage to the underlying structure? It’s hard to tell, and I know you re-plastered and everything, I was just curious. I don’t want to move into a house that only had surface retouches.

            She was a lawyer, wasn’t she? At least, that’s what the articles say. He was a manager at some supermarket, I heard, the one down the street in that strip mall. Do you think that had something to do with it? Did she have more money? Was he unhappy? Maybe he whined too much. Lord knows I would, dealing with customers all day. He might have been useless around the house for all we know.

            I’m kidding of course.

            Look, I’m obviously interested, and as long as my son doesn’t find out, I don’t really care. My husband is at work right now, so I can’t put down an offer without him, but I will be in touch.

            I have a feeling that this place is perfect though. With a landlord like you, I don’t see us having any problems.

            Do you have a card?


            ***

            
Incoming Call: Lisa (Rental)

            Hello again! This is Lisa. I’m calling about the house on Chester Street. My husband and I want to rent it. He doesn’t even need to see it in person, he saw the pictures and thought it was perfect. Money’s no real object for us, but when something is this nice and so cheap, you can’t let it go! Especially when we’re only going to be in the area for a year or two. You know these business types. And that lake? It’s everything we wanted when we got married. Sure we’re moving a little farther away from the city, and we’ll have to change churches, but that’s a small price to pay.

            Tell you what, why don’t you get all the paperwork together and we’ll stop by on Tuesday and sign.


            Excellent. See you then!


            ***

            Incoming Call: Lisa (Rental)

            Move-in day! I’m glad we had someone check out the walls. I didn’t want to leave it up to chance that your people did a rush job. Any shotgun bullet can rip through wood like butter. It made my family and I feel so much better. We’re just letting out all the bad energy and replacing it with good graces. That’s what happens when you let the Lord into your home. He gets rid of the evil, you know? So that’s why I’m not letting this worry me. Nothing can stop a little bit of prayer.

            
Are you a religious man, Art? I’ll take your silence as a no. It’s not my place to judge others, but I think you should reconsider letting him in. You feel his love everywhere.

            
Alright, that’s enough prying for me. I can’t thank you enough for getting us this house. Stop by for dinner sometime. I mean it! Now that you’re our landlord it gives me all the more reason to keep in touch.

            Have a good night. 


            ***


            1 Voicemail

            1:27PM

            Hey there, Art. Sorry I missed your call earlier, but I was driving my son to school and I lost my Bluetooth a couple days ago. Was sitting at the kitchen table with it and the next second it’s gone. First stroke of bad luck, I tell you.

            But besides that, it’s been smooth sailing. My husband is getting used to the commute, not that he’s happy about it. We’ve already started looking for boats, so luckily that’s taken up most of his time.

            We’ve hit a good bit of weather though! The sun coming through those windows is just heavenly. My son has been in the woods everyday if there’s time. It’s something he couldn’t have closer to the city. He hasn’t been sleeping well though, but that’s probably because he’s still getting used to this big old house. You know how they creak.

            I’ve just been rambling on! Sorry to leave such a long message. I wasn’t kidding about dinner, call me back and we’ll make dates.

            ***

            Welcome! I’m so glad that you decided to come and see the house now that I’m done decorating. I thought that the living room needed a whole makeover. It was such a dark color before. Teal just brightens up everything, don’t you think? I’m glad you agree.

            Oh, her? Listen, when you told me you weren’t married, I knew the perfect woman for you. I get it, a handsome guy like yourself must not have any trouble, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help out a little. I promise you, I’m quite the matchmaker.

            You look angry. Are you angry? No? I get it, past relationships are hard to get over. That makes sense.

            Either way, dinner’s ready! I’ll just call my son down and we’ll pray. You don’t mind if we pray, do you? I hope not. I’ve never skipped a meal, never skipped a night.

            Harvey!

            ***


            Incoming Call: Lisa

            I think you and Sasha hit it off the other night. She’s smitten. Do you know how hard it is to find a man who has it all figured out? You should have seen the guys that came before. All losers. But with the two of you, I’ve made a perfect match.


            My husband? He’s been pretty sick actually. Bronchitis. The doctor told him to stay home but he’s gone to work every day, that stubborn man. He says he’ll get past it, but I know he’ll eventually crash and who will be there to pick up the pieces? 


            Anyway, call Sasha. You won’t regret it. I may have told her you would call her in a few days, I hope you don’t mind. 


            ***

            
Incoming Call: Lisa

            We haven’t talked in a few weeks, I feel. I’ve been so distracted lately, what with Harvey’s baseball and Chad’s cough. And the house! The windows are sticking after we open them. I had Chad pulling at them all night and of course he threw his back out again. I know what you’re thinking, why did I have a sick man up and around and pulling at windows? Well I had just done my nails and couldn’t be expected to do it, and little Harvey has asthma like you wouldn’t believe.

            
And Sasha tells me that you haven’t called her either.

            
I think that’s rude on your part, especially when she’s clearly interested. Are you the kind of man that goes to dinner with a woman and never calls her back? I thought you were different than the average man, but I stand corrected. Fortunately for you, I need someone to talk to, someone who has known this house for a while.

            
Oh you’re right, back to the windows. They won’t close! The wind coming off that lake at night is far from comforting. I thought all the wooden frames had been replaced after they were…wrecked by you-know-who. How am I expected to sleep at night knowing our house is open for the whole world? Safety first, Art. Safety first.

            
No, this is far beyond swelling wood. How about you get your people down here tomorrow and check it out.

            ***

            Incoming Call: Lisa

            I am not happy Art, let’s start with that. After this whole situation I’m never going to open those windows ever again. I’m just grateful that the house could return to normal, even if we can’t let the air in. The weather has gotten worse recently and these curtains didn’t come cheap.

            
The real reason I called is that something crashed through our window last night. Lord knows I screamed bloody murder after it happened, and Harvey started crying down the hall. When I got there I held him close and told Chad to get the gun and go look. He was gone a while and I thought that something happened. I began to pray when he called up to me that everything was fine. No one was in the house. No one threw any rocks, no wild animals were roaming around. Nothing.

            
So tell me Art, what broke the window?

            
All I can do is look to God, and the police when they get here.

            ***


            Oh Art, I’m glad to see you. It’s been gloomy out here recently. Some company will help.

            Yes, that’s the one that got knocked out. The police said to board it up for the time being while they investigate if an outside party is involved. Harvey doesn’t sleep at all now. He cuddles up right in-between us, but his little eyes stay open the whole night it seems.

            But enough about me, what about you and Sasha? I know you’ve been keeping your distance, but you should give it a try. She’s in her last year of nursing school, so it’s not like she just wants you to take care of her. She’s independent.

            Don’t Lisa me! I’m setting you guys up again, and this time there will be no excuses, you hear me?


            ***

            
1 New Voicemail

            5:40PM

            Harvey isn’t back yet today. How long until I call the police, do you think? He’s a little boy, and I know he has a tendency to wander. It always takes me forever to get through checkout at the grocery store if he’s with me. But usually he’s back from the woods at a reasonable hour. Almost two months in this house. He said he knew the woods like the back of his hand. It’s almost sundown and I barely saw him today. If he’s not home in an hour, I’m calling them. I’ll text you.


            ***

            
1 New Message

            3:17AM

            LISA: Got back around midnight. Officers angry. Talk tomorrow.

            
***

            
Incoming Call: Lisa

            He won’t talk about it. He won’t say anything. He just sits with his Legos and builds until he falls asleep. Harvey loved it when I would hold him, but now he tenses up if I even get close. There’s not a scratch on him, but something’s wrong, I can feel it.

            
I don’t want to be one of those moms with a messed up kid. Doctor suggests therapy for Harvey, but I’m not about to pump him full of drugs like all the parents are doing. We’re going to church three days a week now. If that doesn’t help, I don’t know what will.

            
***

            
Incoming Call: Lisa

            I wanted to get your perspective on something, but I don’t want you to think I’m morbid. I know I’m sounding weird, but I want to know more about the people who lived here before us. You met them, you talked to them, you provided them with a home, and so you must have gotten some kind of read on them, right? Were they nice people? Was he domineering? Was she callous? Did they seem to fight a lot? I assume you weren’t as close with them as you are with me, we have a special relationship, but you must have talked to them once or twice at least. I have to know.

            
Why do you kill your spouse? I mean, we all joke around about wanting to kill them, but most of us never really follow through with it, you know?

            Come on, you’re not one of those sensitive snowflakes, are you? Man up and tell me what you know. You don’t have any reason to hide it. They’re dead and gone, there’s not much you can do about that.

            
Are you serious?

            
You know Art, something about you just feels off sometimes. You’ve always been a little secretive, and you can never get yourself to speak up, can you?

            
Fine, you don’t have to help me, Art. Wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.

            
Chad, I swear to god if you don’t take something…

            ***

            1 Voicemail

            4:32PM

            You don’t mind adding things to the house, right? I think I would feel safer if you did.

            I look out over the lake and think “what a nice view,” I think about how nice it would be to spread out and tan, my son jumping in the water over and over off the dock’s edge until it drives me insane, Chad fiddling with something on the boat.

             And then I see those trees off to the left and think about Harvey running out into those woods again. It’s so thick and dark, I don’t know if he would find his way out. Sometimes he stares out there, as if he wishes he could go back. I need to make sure he can’t leave.

             So I was wondering if we could add bars to the windows? After one of them breaking, and Harvey’s “problems,” I think I would feel so much better. That’s pretty important to you, I’d imagine. You don’t want me to leave, do you Art? I doubt you’d find another renter after me. So it’s your job to keep me happy.

            Call me when you have everything put together. 


            ***


            Incoming Call: Lisa

            Chad won’t stop coughing and I swear I’m going to strangle him. He’s been sick, we all know it, but he won’t take the time to let himself get better. I wake up at three in the morning to his hacking, and it’s starting to get to me. Even worse, I think I’ve started to catch whatever he has. I can feel all this fluid in here, but I can’t get it out.

            Or it might be the pantry. It’s been musty for months. I guess your inspections only go so far. You can’t even check for mold. What did I do to end up with you as a landlord? I could leave. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

            Say something! You never had any backbone. Same as Harvey. He flinches if I even speak. I don’t think I’ve made eye contact with him in weeks. I’ve almost smacked him a few times.

            I used to have friends; we would do everything together. Shopping downtown, church cook-outs, play dates. I miss it. Now all I have is this Godforsaken house and a useless man.

            And you haven’t really been much help. I invite you into my home, introduce you to my family, I even treat you like family, and yet you deny me in everything. I try to get you to change your lifestyle and all you do is ignore a good woman, what does that make you?

            Indecent.

            You know what? I’m tired of you.

            Have a stellar evening.


            ***

            
1 Voicemail

            3:29AM

            You think I don’t know you’re a homosexual? You’re not exactly subtle. That shirt you wore to dinner? Please. I know what you are, and I think it’s disgusting. Why do you think I pay so much attention to you? Not because I like you, oh no, I’m trying to give you a chance at a normal life, one without sin.

            I’m not going to believe you, no matter what. You can deny it all you want, but a sin is a sin. Find a woman. Be a man.

            
***

            
1 New Message

            9:59AM

            LISA: All I want is a little silence. Some peace and quiet will do us all good I think. I’ll talk to Chad about it. He isn’t the best listener, but I’ll make sure he hears me this time about going to the doctor.


            ***

            
Call From: Bitch

             Art, what are you up to right now?

            I’ve been making more modifications to the house. I hope you don’t mind. Just little things here and there. Right now I’m working on the carpets. Don’t you think they were so…discolored? I want white. The brightest I can find. That way, I can know when it’s all clean.

            I’ve got a big roll of it just laying in my living room right now. I cut it up myself. Could you just stop by and help me get it out of the house?

            I know it’s the middle of the night. Chad had a big spill all over my nice carpet, and I just got fed up! I can’t tolerate a giant stain on my floor. Chad would tell you that he knows how much I hate it when he makes a mess.

            Oh no, he can’t help us. Both my boys are dead asleep right now. They’re both sick, how can you expect them to do this?

            No, the only way is for you to come over yourself. Just help me get this thing out the door and it will finally be clean. Quiet and clean.

            Text me when you’re on your way.


            ***

            
1 Message

            2:46AM

            Bitch: Where are you?



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