The House has Come North!
A HOT DAY IN MONTANA.
“Honey?” Wanda Silverthorne’s voice floated through the house, an ethereal clarion, searching…searching.
She was sitting in the bedroom now, between the twin beds, ensconced in a puddle of family photos, searching for an existence that was no longer hers. “Where’s Jimmy?”
Chief Silverthorne, a tall, angular man with steel gray hair, sat at the maple table in the kitchen. His head was in his hands, a coffee cup was between his elbows, and he wished the sound of her voice would die out forever. It was hot outside, but it was cold in his coffee.
The kitchen–a kitchen, it should be noted, that he had rebuilt only one summer before, and which he took great pride in–was a mess.
The table was littered with dirty dishes.
The sink overflowed with garbage.
The air, normally thick with the sweet smell of Montana, was rich with the odor of refuse and rot.
A puddle of Rover, deposited on the floor under the meat grinder, added a pungent, coppery smell to the air.
Rover had run out of Purina, and Silverthorne had gotten a little confused–maybe it was the insistent barking–as to what, exactly, dog food was.
If only he could handle his wife the same way–but his confusions with the English language only went so far.
She was up now, and moving. She would move from room to room, a disheveled, slatternly mess, straightening pictures that hung askew, tilting pictures that hung straight, adjusting the house entire, as if that adjustment would bring back her baby.
Chief Silverthorne sighed, rubbed his fists against his temples, and listened to her repeat the pattern of movement which she had constructed out of her ruined life.
Across the hall and into Jimmy’s room. Look in the crib. Wail. Out of the room and into the bathroom. Sniffle and moan. Peer into the linen closet, open the door to the furnace, walk around the living room. And while pieces of her growing mental fog would fray and shred and add to the gloomy ambience of a once happy house.
Silverthorne, trying to ignore her, lost in his own mental repetitions, knew that he would, when she finally reached the kitchen, explode.
He would start by shaking his head and making hurt, guttural sounds, gruntings that would turn into moans, and moans that would transfigure into shouts and yells and he would call her a cow and a bitch and what the fuck was she thinking of? What was she doing? Didn’t she know that Jimmy had died ten years ago? Had died a peaceful crib death? Had never lived beyond the ripe old age of two? Did she think it didn’t hurt him? That she could rip and pull at the old wounds and not expect him to suffer? What was she thinking of? What the fuck was she thinking?
But he knew what she was thinking. Or, at least, he knew what the fuck was thinking for her. It was the same thing that was thinking for him.
The House had come North.
And his wife (who he knew, underneath his seething thoughts, that he loved) wandered from room to room, the worst nightmares, the worst memories of her life brought into focus, made to manifest, and–
She was in the living room. The bang and slam of door and drawers replaced by the shuffle of her feet as she spiraled around furniture, through the debris of their life, searching, searching.
And what the fuck was he thinking of?
Why wasn’t he in town? Why wasn’t he at least trying to stop the killing, trying to save people? Why the fuck was he sitting and listening to the dumb, bitch cow wife of his migrate from room to room like a raving, fucking maniac that–
She opened the sliding glass door, the sound of the jammed grooves grating on his nerves. He knew, as the sounds of her momentarily faded, that she would be searching the backyard, peering behind the woodpile, looking in the tool shed, bending to peak into the dog house (where oh where has our little dog gone? Into the meat grinder, he barked too damn long.)
Chief Silverthorne, given momentary surcease from his wife’s unmutted nutterings, had another strange confusion of language–and pictured a dog barking into a meat grinder.
There was a thought there–a thought in the meat grinder–but what was it? What was the dog barking at? What strange, dark epiphany was being ground by crank and screw? What–
Silverthorne, jerked out of his wonderings, started.
Wanda stood just inside the kitchen door, was framed by the doorway, and pointed an exquisitely pained expression at him. Behind her was a carpet of trees neverending, and–The House.
“Honey? I can’t find Jimmy!”
Her voice was plaintive, moaning, and filled with ten year agony made fresh.
Silverthorne stared at her, the heat coming through the door, bringing her fearful, unwashed smell to him.
She held a bathrobe she’s changed from that filthy housedress, here’s something new slackly about herself.
Her hair was an electrified tangle. It sprung in all directions and curlers clung in various stages of unravelment, hanging like tin cans from a bramble bush. Her mouth was open and she breathed loudly and spittle had dried on her cheeks. Spittle and foam. Foam and spittle.
She’s a fucking rabid dog! something (not him) thought. Just like Rover! But she won’t fit into the meat grinder and I don’t have a lead pipe, but I got something better. I got….
He reached towards his belt. He didn’t scream at her this time, as his thought processes had been somehow respooled and retooled and meat grinder cognitions made his hand unsnap the leather strip holding his revolver in the holster and the revolver was suddenly in his hand pointing at her and he was looking at her, looking at her, looking at her.
Wanda started screaming, her voice high and undulating, wavering like an opera singer’s in some bizarre falsetto. Her face was a frame upon which stretched her mouth and her voice was warbled out of the pit of her mouth and her eyes looked at him, looked at him, looked at him.
Silverthorne saw into the face, into the eyes, through the eyes (so blackened by insanity), perceived a weird ‘otherness’ that looked at him, enjoyed him, her, him, her, this moment, this consummate moment.
His whole body was shaking, his arm curiously still, the thumb on his hand pulling back the hammer, the revolver aimed directly at his wife’s face between the eyes that looked, looked, looked.
Laughed, laughed, laughed.
Enjoying, enjoying, enjoying.
Who am I killing? Silverthorne, out of some residual sense of self, asked.
The thought was enough to forestall the cycle that had been so carefully constructed.
Wanda, still warbling, an amazing example of breath control, turned and walked out of the kitchen, across the backyard, into the woods. As she walked her voice faded, sounded like an old siren trying to die.
Silverthorne kept his revolver aimed at his back the whole way.
She didn’t turn around. She didn’t acknowledge him. She just kept waling into the dark, neverending carpet of trees.
Silverthorne, absolved of his own insane circuitry by his wife’s sudden absence, uncocked the revolver and slid it back into it’s worn holster. He resnapped the leather strap and put his elbows back on the table.
Now, maybe, he could have some peace and quiet. No more dog yapping. No more wife yowling. Maybe he could even go to town and find a little law and order.
Yeah. Go to town.
So thinking, he took a sip of cold coffee.
The House had come North.
Click on The North Mansion to find out more.