The corners of the rooms were in all the right places.
It was perfect, and perfect in more than just a sort of feng shui kind of way. It was home from the very first moment we laid eyes on it, which just so happens to have been ten years ago this very day.
Home. Like the place came with our memories already inside it. A familiar scent we’d never smelled before.
The perfect number of rooms. The correct amount of closet space. Close proximity to all the right schools. The proper distance from Dana’s work. And with newly installed energy-efficient appliances, to boot.
There was only one problem.
It was too low.
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, the price was just north of the-seller-doesn’t-actually-own-it and just south of the-foundation-got-all-broken-up-during-the-recent-axe-murders. And Dana looked into it and it all checked out all copacetic-like, but still. The price was too damn low.
It was not until our third visit that either of us thought to ask the realtor about the locked door on the second story.
“Oh,” she said.
“That,” she said.
“You cannot” – correcting herself – “will not go in there.”
Dana spun around to look at me. Spun back around to the realtor. “So we’re not getting fee simple absolute,” she said.
“No, you are,” the realtor said. She chewed on her lip. She waggled her pen around. “It’s just. Just. A covenant on the land or something.”
We all stared at each other in silence for a long moment and then the realtor said, “You’re also to put food on a red tray and shove it under the door twice a day. That’s all I know.”
And thus the mystery of the price was explained. Sort of.
So we bought the place and it was just about as perfect as we’d hoped, although our food bills went up a bit and there was nothing we could do about the hideous curtains in the window of that second story front bedroom.
It was home. For me and for Dana and for our ever-increasing collection of babies, home. And as Rachel and Angela grew up, one of their daily chores was to run up at breakfast and at dinnertime and slide the red tray full of food under the door.
If the food was late or if it included, say, green beans or anything Greek, there would come a slow steady thumping on the floor – Boom. Boom Boom. – until the offending food was whisked away and something proper brought in its place.
It really sounds worse than it was. You can get used to anything in three weeks’ time.
I was fetching the red food tray from the hallway one morning when I heard a toilet flush from behind the locked door. Then something that could have been footsteps, I guess.
And I lay down, shoving my right eye up to the space beneath the door so I could see what I could see. But there was nothing. Just darkness. Pitch. I never took a look again after that.
One day, Dana took the kids and went away. Somewhere. I didn’t know where.
It was just me left in our big perfect house with the corners in all the right places. Thing was, I could hardly feed myself on what I was making. Filling the red tray twice, sometimes three times a day was too much, too much. The amount of food required to avoid the thumping grew and grew. And while I ate Ramen, I was slicing up ten pounds of baked chicken to shove under the door.
And so I decided, “Enough!” and I yelled it exactly like that: “Enough! No more!”
Hours went by. Dinnertime had long since passed. Finally, just as Jon Stewart was coming on the television, the slow steady thumping began. Boom. Boom. Boom.
For one hour. Two hours. Three hours.
I sat in the living room, which lay directly beneath the locked room, and I tried to ignore the thumping. There was the sound of footsteps on the ceiling and of something large being dragged.
And more thumping. Always the thumping. To the point where the corners of the living room cracked, thumping.
I held out for seven whole hours before finally filling the red tray.
Soon after that, Dana evicted me and moved back into our perfect house with the kids. I lived in a tiny apartment – a cute studio set-up – several blocks away from them and I forgot all about the locked room and the red tray and the slow steady thumping.
I even found a new girlfriend for a bit, although I did not try at it very hard, and it showed.
But still, life moved on, as it tends to do.
Last night – which happened to be the eve of the tenth anniversary of my first glimpse of the perfect house – I was sitting in my apartment, dutifully getting shit-faced drunk, as I tend to do, and I was listening to Yes. It was not even good Yes, but that crappy early Eighties stuff without Jon Anderson or Rick Wakeman which can only be listened to while heavily inebriated.
And when the phone rang, it was two-thirty a.m. and I was too far gone to see who was calling me.
I said, “Hello?” but there was no one there at first.
Then “KATY?” and it was like Dana’s voice except more panicked and sort of whispered at the same time.
“Hello?” I said again.
“WE. MESSED. UP,” Dana said, and she was obviously running as she talked and I could hear crying in the background.
“THE. DOOR. IS. OPEN.”
Finally. I looked around for my hat, my flashlight and my gun. “Get the kids out of the house and I’ll be right there,” I said.
* * EPILOGUE * *
This post’s title had absolutely nothing at all to do with its content. Just sort of testing a theory.
Also, there’s no Part 2.
I am sorry if you feel you have been deceived in some way. Good story, though, huh?