Picture Perfect 99
Dan pressed the doorbell at 412 and there was no answer. The mailbox had the Donaldson name on it so he hoped this was the right house. He knocked and waited a few minutes before pressing the bell again. He held his ear close to the door and could hear it ringing in the house.
He gave up and went to the front door of his old house. Well, if his sister was still visiting it it must still be in the family somehow. He tried the door knob and it was locked. He rang that bell and it chimed in the house. He started back down the steps when the door opened.
“Sorry, I was in th’basement.” An out-of-breath women said.
He went back to the door. “Mrs. Donaldson?” he asked.
“The same.” she replied. “Marge Donaldson to be exact.”
Except for the black hair she could have been Cassie McLeod.
“Daniel James.” He introduced himself. “You’re … uh … Cassie’s sister?”
“Cousins.” She pulled a pair of wire framed glasses from her apron and put them on.
“Daniel?” he squinted at him. “Let me get a good look at you.” She came out of the house. “Skoot back a bit so as I can get a good look at you in the good light. I suppose it is. What brings you to these here parts.”
“Wanted to visit the old neighbourhood.” He said.
“Time to see those you run away from.” She said.
“I did not …” he stopped himself. He had nothing to defend or explain. “Comes a time to stop running.” he said.
“I suppose you want to see the inside.”
“I’m not sure.” He really wasn’t sure what he expected to see or find when he came here. “It’s been so long I only have vague images of my life here. Linda comes back regularly enough.”
“Been awhile for that one too. Ats why I’m here. Says she’ll be here next week or so and wants things aired out. She was always one for puttin’ on airs.” Marge laughed at her own joke.
“You might as well come in. If’n you plan to sleep over I can make up the bed in yer old room. New mattress on the bed mind you.” She opened the door to let him into the house.
“That won’t be necessary. I’m staying at La Promenade in Sydney.”
The hallway was exactly as he remembered it right down to the starburst mirror over the hall vestibule, the spiked silver light fixture still hung there. His mother couldn’t get over it the first time she saw it. It was the future with its space-age promise. He expected to see his book bag and sneakers under the hall table.
“Some of this was in storage y’see.” Marge explained. “Your sister, Linda, only wanted a few pieces though. So she said. Which was what made the antiques guy happy. Sold most of that stuff. If you’re not living in a place, no need to fill it up with furniture that gonna get stolen or mouldier year after year.”
“I understand.” Dan went into the living-room. There were two recliners facing the fire place. No carpets, nothing on the wall. A table lamp on the floor in a corner by the window.
The discoloured shadows of where pictures once were mottled the walls.
“Don’t let me keep you Mrs. Donaldson. You were working on something.” Dan wanted to be alone to re-acquaint himself with the house.
“Was just finishin’ up. Got some things to takeout of the dryer in the basement. Washing dust out of the sheets. “I only be a coupl’a minutes.”
She disappeared into the kitchen.
He tried the light switches and there was power. Water ran in the kitchen. There was a couple of large coffee mugs in the cupboard by the sink. The water tasted like water. It didn’t spark any memory. The kitchen counters were the same. The floor tile was the same. Time had stood still. No, it had moved enough to shake the house free of its contents. The dining room was clean but empty.
The stairs to the second story were still solid. They never creaked. That was one of the things his father always bragged about. How solid the house was. There was an unmade kingsize bed in his parents room. Sheets were folded neatly at the head of it with some pillows. He recognized the wildly floral print as his sister’s taste. Something his mother would never have liked. She liked colour, solids, not prints. Busy prints would keep her awake she claimed.
The dresser was empty. There was a bathrobe on a hanger in the closet.
In his sister’s room was a work desk. Not one he recognized from his past. There was a wireless router on the window sill. A file cabin in one corner. Nothing in the closet.
He stood at the door to his room. The other doors had been open but this one was closed. It had been cleared off all the pictures and stickers he had covered it with. Gone was ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK’ in letters that dripped blood.
“T’isn’t locked.” Marge stood at the top of the stairs with a laundry basket full of folded towels.”
“I’d be surprised if it was.” Dan said. His Dad had removed the mechanism and let only the door knob when Dan started locking himself in and his family out. He wants this privacy so badly then. Not that he had anything to hide from them but he so wanted a space that was his and his alone.
He pushed the door gently with his toe the way he did as a kid. It opened. Dust motes danced in the sun.
“I’ll be going then.” Marge said before he could go into the room. “You can drop the key at m’place when you leave. Or give it to m’cousin Cassie. You was talkin’ to her afore you came here. I saw you from the window.”
‘Still no secrets on this street.” Dan walked down the stairs with her.
“You ever find out what happened them Atkins. The guy who bought up your Dad’s school business?”
“Atkins? He never mentioned anything about that to me.”
“Seems some party from Montreal gave them a real hard time. Busted up the equipment.”
“Tough types. I saw ‘em at the tavern one night glaring at everyone that came in. They was waiting for Atkins. Beat him real bad, too. They, the Atkins, I mean had come from Newfoundland to buy that business. Moved here and everything. Did real well that first summer and then those frogs showed up the next spring.”
“I’ve never heard a thing about it.”
“They was gone fast. But I guess it wasn’t to do with you folk, if’n you didn’t know about it. Didn’t being your Dad back.”
“Linda was still living here though. With our Aunt Sissy?”
“Oh, no! They was at her place in Westmount.”
“That’s right. How could I forget.” What I never knew. “Thanks.” He put the keys in his pocket. I won’t be long and I’ll drop these off when I’m done.”
“Sit awhile, love. I’m sure the ghosts have lots to tell you.”