“You bitch. I’ve gotten up at five in the ‘A’ and ‘M’ to drive here for forty years. I turned down Cornell for you. Never asked you for a cup of coffee. Now look what you’ve done to us.”
Vincent trudged through her front doors. For the first morning of his life with her, he left her doors open. Let the rain tinkle in here. He had water in the soles of his shoes. Let her finally know what that felt like.
He began up the stairs. Three steps up, he stopped. He didn’t need to go to the office this morning. That was pure habit. He tossed his keys on that third step.
“Twisted my ankle running tours through here. Five times. No tendon left in my right knee.”
He exaggerated the hobble as he descended. He pushed through her foyer, punching at her vintage wallpaper. His flailing slowed near the portraits. Even in this frustration, he couldn’t bring himself to damage the image of her founders.
“What have you given me?” he asked, trying to keep his nerve. This would take a lot of nerve. “Paper cuts. Loose nails in my feet.”
Though the fireplace was dormant, he could feel heat wash across the appropriate cheek. His nostrils flared. His left hand went across where his eyebrows should have been.
“They never grew back. You know that? They never grew back.”
He took a poker and jabbed it into the remaining ashes. The heat mounted until he sweated from his balding scalp. He wondered if any of her victims lingered in these ashes.
“You burned six tourists to death and didn’t have the decency to give me more than a waxing would do. Do you know how that feels?”
He lobbed the poker at the door to the basement. The antique panel sundered, letting him see into the stairwell. His teeth grinded into each other until the TMJ beat him. His joints had been disintegrating when she’d hanged two handymen in that basement. Two! The police hadn’t even figured out how the second could have tied a noose.
“But I did. It was you. You who made the wife shoot her husband right here.” He stamped his bad foot on the old rug with the fake bloodstain. There was no evidence of an actual homicide in the living room, but he knew. Vincent knew everything about her. “You who sucked the Tanner boys into your attic. You who gave the Baskervilles scarlet fever. You.”
He fidgeted with the latch to the grand windows. As though to dissuade him, a gust blew up the cliff face and rattled the panes inward.
“Do you know what you’ve gotten us? What your long legacy of violence means? Bulldozers. Wrecking balls. They’ll be here Wednesday. No more patrons. No more victims. No more overnight parties on Halloween.”
Finally he thrust his shoulder into that window. He’d daydreamed of charging through the foyer and out these damned windows for a decade. To dive into the grey
New England bay. This forcing her windows was only a measure of comfort. His emotional severance pay came in the form of rain slashing his brow.
“Cute young couples. Wicked old politicians. Children and photographers and exorcists and skeptics, but never me! What did they do that I didn’t?”
The windows flapped at his arms. He punched one, cracking a square of glass. He looked in excitement to his knuckles. But there was no blood. Not even a hairline cut.
He grabbed onto the windowsill. This was the one room without a veranda. The water in his soles squished as he mounted the window, taking in a view of a drop so familiar it couldn’t terrify. He’d given himself a sciatica washing the windows over this drop. She’d have to do better than some storm clouds and wind to dissuade him.
“Wednesday. That’s it for the both of us. Our relationship. Your relationship to this world ends, not in a landmark, but in the parking lot for a Target. Your cellars will be cemented so they can put in a T.J. Maxx to leach customers from a second-rate big-box store. That’s what
thinks of your horrors.” America
She wouldn’t even make it thunder for him. He curled his hands over the tops of the windows and leaned out over the sound. What remained of his hair fluttered in a staccato gale. He breathed it as deliberately as he could, waiting for her to do the decent thing.
“I told your stories. I swept your floors. I dusted your rafters and refurbished your curtains when I could have lived. I loved you. If you ever loved me, you old bitch, do me the favor. Do me the one generosity. Make me your last story.”
He cast his chin up to the sky and leaned out as far as he could, leaning out into the fiction about the eccentric old caretaker who was blown out the windows just before the haunted house was torn down. This way they’d both live so much longer - if she'd push him.