by Sean Hower
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
“I agree, but Michael’s stubborn and once he thinks you’re trying to stop him from doing what he wants, he gets really pushy.”
“Sounds like my wife.”
They both chuckled and Clive wondered how life would have been with a woman like her instead of Janine. Would they have built a life together? Would they have grieved together?
“Well,” she said softly, intimately, “I won’t fight you on this, especially since this room doesn’t really like us.”
“I appreciate that, Mrs. Lander.” He pat the floor. “So does the room.”
“Call me Lisa.”
“Call me Clive, ma’am.” He liked this woman.
“We’ll get this settled,” Michael said, folding up his cell phone and clipping it back on his belt. “I called the detective. He’s coming out right now.” He looked at Clive. “So if you want to stay out of trouble, old timer, you should just step on out of there.”
Clive stiffened. He thought about hiding his irritation but just didn’t care enough to make the effort. He was fed up with being threatened over one thing or another. “It’s out of my hands,” he grinned.
“It will be if you don’t let us have our room back.”
Lisa took her husband’s hand. “Michael,” she said. “Maybe we should just let his room stay.”
“What? What do you mean ‘his room’?”
“You know I’ve never felt comfortable with Jimmy in this room.” To the structure, “No offense.”
Clive nodded his understanding. “None taken, I’m sure.”
“It doesn’t like us.”
“It doesn’t like us?” Michael said. “It doesn’t have feelings. It is just a room. It is part of the house that we bought.”
“It’s more than that,” Lisa and Clive said.
Michael stared at both of them, incredulous.
“Honey,” Lisa began, “look, the room, it, well, it wants to be here with Clive. Why else would it have come here? And honestly, it won’t allow itself to be a part of our home. Why cause waves?”
“It didn’t come here, Lisa” Michael said. He jabbed his finger at Clive. “He brought it here.”
“How could he have done that, Michael?” Lisa asked, staying amazingly calm despite her shaking.
“With a truck, a bulldozer. How should I know. All I know is that the room is in his driveway so he must have taken it.”
Clive didn’t like that and he grew hot with anger. He had done a lot of things but he had never stolen anything in his life. Not even office supplies from work. “Are you calling me a thief?”
“What else should I call you?”
Clive grabbed the paint can and splashed its contents across Michael.
The man stood, dripping in liquid sage, shocked.
Lisa gasped but a little grin tickled the edges of her mouth. Even the bay window snickered.
“You crazy!” Michael ran at Clive.
“No, it’s not worth it!” Lisa shouted.
Michael knocked Clive to the floor of the room.
Clive’s whole body vibrated. His back felt as though it had snapped and globs of paint stung his eyes. He was surprised at how much his body hurt. Age certainly was not kind to this sort of physical activity.
“Michael,” Lisa said. “Let’s just go home.”
“Michael, please. It’s just a room. We can patch up the wall.”
“That’ll cut into the resale value. No one wants a house with just two bedrooms.”
“Then we’ll rebuild the room. One that will welcome us.”
“Please, just this once, please. We’re in the wrong here.”
“What? We bought it.”
“I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about how people feel about things. I’m talking about their emotional claim to something. What would you do if someone tried to take Jimmy?”
“I’d kill them.”
“This room means that much to Clive. He means that much to the room. I would hate to ruin that sort of bond.”
Michael sighed. “Fine,” he said. “We’ll let the cops take care of this creep.”
Clive got his wind back and grew more angry. Who was this guy to knock him down and call him names — in his own room no less? It was just too much. He heaved up both legs and planted a solid kick into Michael’s chest. It felt good. Really good. He wondered why he hadn’t done the same to Janine years ago.
Michael stumbled back, clutching his chest and grunting. He recovered though and came at Clive again.
The room bent inward and twisted. A loud crack thundered around Clive and a piece of the frame exploded out from beneath the drywall. It caught Michael square in the chest and threw him a good ten feet back onto the lawn.
Lisa ran to his side.
“What’s going on?” It was Janine. She was sizing up the situation and was not pleased.
“Just a little misunderstanding,” Clive said.
“Looks to me like you’re causing trouble again.”
“Janine, will you just this once take a look at things from my side? I didn’t start this.”
“From your side? It’s always been about your side.”
“No, I suppose it’s too much to ask for support from my wife. I must be selfish. That’s what you always say, isn’t it Janine? That I’m selfish. Well, for once, I might agree with you. I am being selfish this time. I’m not giving up my room.”
“You’ve gone mad.”
Clive ignored his wife. “It doesn’t want to go,” he said to the Landers. He pulled himself up and leaned against the wall for support. “It loves me. Not you, Mr. Lander and, with all due respect, not you Lisa, and certainly not you, you old bag.”
Janine scoffed. “Of course it wouldn’t. You poison everything against me. I never gave you support? Bull! I knew what was going on with you and that Laurie woman. I looked the other way, not because it didn’t hurt but because she made you happy when I couldn’t. I needed someone, too, though. So I went looking. Now get down out of there before you get yourself into more trouble.”
“So, you folks just need to leave us be,” Clive said to the Landers.
The room bent closer around Clive, trembled, and took a step towards the Landers.
Lisa helped her husband to his feet.
The room took another step closer.
Michael shook himself free and stormed into the SUV.
The room continued towards Lisa.
“Now hold on,” Clive said to the room. “Hold it now, this woman understands us. Don’t go hurting her.”
The SUV screeched backwards up the street.
“Call it off,” Lisa said, too afraid to run.
The SUV skidded to a stop several houses away and in another moment shot down the road towards the scene.
The room moved closer.
“I said stop!” Clive shouted. He had the impulse to spank the wall as though the room were a disobedient child.
The SUV bounced up over the curb and smashed into the side of the room. The wall shattered as the structure jerked and lurched into Janine.
Clive crashed against the wall and nearly through the window. His limbs bent at awkward angles. Then a great weight of hot metal shoved him against the wall.
Clive’s world spun for a moment then settled. The great hulk of the SUV had pushed against him. Michael was slumped over the steering wheel. Blood was splattered on the air bag.
Lisa screamed and ran to her husband. She struggled to pull him from the vehicle.
Clive caught her eyes and she stared at him sidelong. There was no malice, only confusion. She mouthed the word “why” and then went back to her desperate rescue.
Clive looked away, ashamed, and noticed a streamer of his wife’s dress snared on a splintered stud. A shoe was squished into a crack in the outer wall. She must be pinned under the room somewhere, he thought. He imagined her just below his feet cursing him with her last bitter breath. He couldn’t quite tell how he felt — just that he was oddly relieved and quietly sad to be free of her.
Lisa dragged her husband onto the lawn. She was sobbing and shouting his name.
Clive felt sorry for her. He wondered why it was that everything turned out this way. Janine had been right; Clive did poison everything he touched. Not intentionally. But things always just turned out bad and there was nothing he could do about it.
“I’m sorry,” Clive said, petting the wall nearest him.
The room quivered and bent. It tried to pull itself away from the SUV but the front tires were hooked around what was left of the frame.
Lisa watched the room struggle and after a moment crawled into the SUV. “I’m sorry,” she mouthed.
A breath of heat flashed over Clive when she started up the vehicle. The SUV’s front wheels turned slowly, slipped, then caught on debris. It eased back and out of the room in a shower of dusty drywall and splinters.
Clive fell to the floor, exhausted and a bit beaten up. For a moment, complete peace settled over him and the room. Then, the structure took a step towards the road, shedding siding, shingles, and bits of other debris.
“Wait,” Lisa shouted. She ran to Clive’s garage door and pulled it open. She returned to the room with Clive’s tool chest. “You’ll need these,” she said, and made a few more trips for a saw, nails, and other tools.
“Thank you,” Clive said, amazed by this woman, “but I don’t think there’s much hope here.” It hurt to admit that once again he was going to lose something he loved.
“Nonsense,” Lisa said. “You can’t give up. Not after what’s happened here. I’m sure your wife is gone, and I think Michael won’t make it either.” She stifled her own sobs. “If you give up, what will all of this mean?”
“What’s it mean now?”
“Memories, Clive. It’s about memories. They make us who we are. They keep us going. They keep us centered and give us hope for the future. The things we surround ourselves with keep those memories fresh in our minds. They keep us fresh.”
“I’m too old to think about the future. All I really have is the past, with all its darkness.”
“Please, Clive. Go some place where you can have your memories.”
“I’m sorry for this, Lisa. I truly am sorry.”
“I know, Clive. I forgive you. Just go.”
“Thank you, Lisa. You’re a good woman. Good-bye.”
The room stumbled to street and headed east towards the hills. In that solitude, they would have each other and their memories. It was what Clive had always wanted in the place he had always needed. It would be home.
Copyright © 2006 by Sean Hower