Sunday, December 14, 2008

Couches on Curbs/3



The woman, Adele, was torn from her dream by the crashing of glass. She lay paralyzed at first, then looked around for something to defend herself with. There was only the nail file on her nightstand. It would have to do. And then she heard shuffling in the kitchen, and sounds of someone cleaning up.

In the kitchen was the young man from the sofa. He was wrapped in the blanket she'd put over him the night before. He was picking up shards of glass. While Patch, her cat, lapped at the milk around the shards. She rushed over to grab Patch so he wouldn't cut his tongue. Abel looked up at Adele.

"I found the glass on the table outside. I was trying to give her some milk. But she tipped it over."

"Him," Adele corrected Abel. "It's a wine glass. Or at least it was--what did you expect?"

"I thought he seemed hungry. The glass was there...."

"How did you get in?" As if it mattered, Adele thought.

"The door was open."

So, had she been that starved for contact? Had she really forgotten to lock the door? What was happening to her?

"These are Breuer knockoffs," he said of the chrome and cane chairs around the glass dining table, the whole set cheap 80's vintage. Why did you put the awful gray cushions on the seats?"

"They came that way." Adele was getting annoyed. She went into her bedroom and rifled through the clost and found some of her husband's old clothes. She had still not thrown them away. She came back into the kitchen and tossed them at the kid.

"What's your name?"

"Abel."

"Go into the bathroom and put these on. I'll take over in here." It occurred to her that Abel might be crazy, that she surely was, but would a psychopath care about a cat? Adele dropped the nail file on the table and cleaned up the milk and glass. She used four Clorox wipes to finish off the table and the floor. When she got up from her labors Abel was standing in the doorway, the pants hanging on his thin hips. She felt a pang, then noticed that his hand was bleeding.

"Sit down, Abel." I'm Adele." She bandaged his hand, gave Patch his dry food and some water, and made breakfast for Abel. She had a cup of coffee and watched him devour the eggs and toast.
"What's with this stuff about the chairs?"

"I'm an architecture student at UCLA," Abel told her. He suddenly became animated. He began telling her about a building he was designing for his thesis. He rattled off names she'd never heard of--Coolhouse or something, a bunch of others; the only one she recognized was Gehry. She'd seen pictures of the Disney concert hall in the paper.

"So what happened to you that you ended up without clothes on the street? Were you drunk?" All she could think of was her husband again.

"Someone hit me on the head. That's the last I remember."

"Maybe I should take you to Brotman--you might have a concussion."

"No, Adele, please. I'm okay now. I just need to...." He drifted off, looking out the window. Adele followed his gaze. A crystal hung from fishing line; the sun fragmented it into rays of color. They were both quiet for a few moments.

"Do you remember where you live, Abel?"

"Twelve twenty-one Weyburn. Apartment B."

"Do you have a roommate or somebody who can come get you?"

"I live alone." He looked down.

"Okay, Abel. I'm going to get dressed and go to church. When I get back I'll drive you home. Can I trust you not to rip me off?" As if she had anything he'd want. He could take the goddamn Breuer chairs. She was sick of them, anyway. Everything in her life had gotten old.

Adele did her ablutions and put on slacks and a cotton top and some sandals. When she came out, Patch was in Abel's lap and he was rubbing the bottom of the cat's neck. Patch was purring.

"No milk for him, okay? It gives him diarrhea." She opened the screen door.

"Adele?"

"Yes?"

"Why did you leave the wine glass out there on the patio table?"

"It's been there a long time."

"I know."

"And it's a long story." She went out. She passed the sofa--it seemed there was always one discarded somewhere in the neighborhood--and walked the four blocks to the brown-shingled church where Watseka and Faris meet in a triangle, at St. Mary's Episcopal, where she sometimes served in the hall as a volunteer for the voting polls. The priests in their green satin robes were already in procession, entering with their attendant color-coordinated altar boys. She liked this old church so much. It looked like an East Coast house. And when she was inside, time became suspended; reality and the things of this world were at bay.

Adele returned to her little tract to find the kitchen pristine. Dishes washed and neatly stacked in the drainer. Patch cried. Abel was gone. And so was her crystal. (To be continued....)

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