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Diane Young

The Hairline Crack

 

I want so desperately to sleep but I can’t! Dave’s snoring and his hot breath on

the back of my neck doesn’t help. It’s been a rough week. I can’t get the

televised images of the funeral procession out of my mind. I get up and take one

of the Valium prescribed by Dr. McCarthy and return to bed. I lie staring into the

dark.

My eyelids are heavy as I peer across the sunlit room at the clock on the dresser.

Oh my God! It’s quarter to nine! I’ve slept in and now the kids are going to be

late for school! I notice Dave heading out of our bedroom.

“Dave! Why did you let me sleep so long?”

“ Sorry, dear, I slept in, too! Gotta rush, I have a meeting with Mr. Dixon.”

“But we’ve missed the school bus! Can’t you at least drive the kids to school on

your way?”

“No! I’m LATE! Drive them in the Volkswagon!”

“ You know how temperamental that thing is! PLEASE, Dave!”

“ NO! I SAID I have to go! Work it out yourself! My job is more important than

your little problems!”

Rushing into Cassie’s room, I see my daughter, clad in her pajamas, calmly

brushing her doll’s hair.

“ Cassie! Mommy slept in! You have to get yourself dressed quickly while I get

breakfast ready! ”

“ No, Mommy. Sheila wants me to make her pretty!”

“ I don’t care what Sheila wants … get dressed NOW!

Trenton’s room is empty and I am relieved to find him fully clothed and watching

cartoons on the television set in the living room. I pour Cheerios and milk into

three bowls, let Chester out to pee and scoop kibble into his dish. Behind me, I

hear Cassie’s whine.

“ Mommy! Me and Sheila want pancakes for breakfast!”

“There’s no time! Sit down and eat!”

“We want PANCAKES!” Cassie picks up her bowl and hurls it to the floor. Shards

of glass, cereal and milk are everywhere but what’s worse, there’s a hairline

crack in the ceramic tile.

“Look, Mom! The crack is in the shape of a “Y” just like the first letter of our last

name!” Trenton says gleefully.

“I don’t think that Daddy will find it very amusing!” I retort, glaring at Cassie.

I bundle the kids up and pile them into the car. I cross my fingers that the cranky

old thing will start. But no, of course not, it sputters, coughs and then dies.

“ Okay, kids, we’re going to have to walk to school! Let’s MOVE it!”

“ Walk? We can’t WALK to school!”

“ Oh yes we can. I walked to school every day of my life and a lot further than

six blocks. Now hurry up! Let’s go!”

As we walk up the sidewalk, the principal, Mr. Connors, is standing on the school

steps with his arms folded across his chest.

“ Mrs. Young, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that tardiness is

not a desirable example to set for your children.”

“ I’m so sorry, Mr. Connors, my alarm failed to go off. It won’t happen again.”

I kiss the children goodbye on the top of their heads and turn around to head

back home. Dark clouds are gathering and I’m going to have to hurry to make it

back before the downpour. My legs feel unusually sluggish and my body aches all

over. It must be the remnants of the Valium.

I mull over what I’m going to talk about with Dr. McCarthy at my session this

afternoon. I must admit that he has been very helpful. I was in a pretty bad way

after I lost the baby. I had been doing really well up until President Kennedy’s

assassination last week. I’m going to have to confess to Dr. McCarthy that I cried

hysterically for days. It’s just all so sad! John Kennedy was such a vibrant man as

well as an excellent president. And poor Jackie! She has been so stoic, and to

think that she’ll have to raise those young children without a father. I’ll tell Dr.

McCarthy that at least Jackie’s tragedy has helped me put my own life into

perspective.

As I cut diagonally across our lawn, I am surprised to see so many weeds. It’s

not like Dave to let the lawn go. Damn! I can’t open the front door … I’m certain

that I didn’t lock it! The rain is starting to come down in sheets so I hurry around

to the back door. It’s locked as well. How can this be? I’m just about to head

over to Doris’s to get my spare key when I glance through the window and see

that there is a man in my house! He is standing in my kitchen, eating out of a

bowl, dressed in an undershirt and dungarees. I rap on the door and he opens it

with a quizzical look on his face.

“ Excuse me, sir, but may I ask just what the hell you are doing in my house?”

“ Lady, you maka mistake, thissa here is my house.” A piece of his breakfast is

dangling from his moustache.

I am horrified to think that in my haste to dodge the rain, I am perhaps, at a

house one block over from my own. I turn around to look at the back yard. The

trees do appear to be much larger than ours, but no, wait! This is our fence! I

can see the replacement boards from where the motorcycle crashed through it

last summer.

I barge past the man and step into my kitchen. I am once again bewildered.

Where is my maple dinette suite? Where are my new avocado appliances? I’m

about to admit I am mistaken, until I look at the floor. There is the tile with the

hairline crack in it!

“Sir! This is MY house and I want you out of it RIGHT NOW!”

“ Lady. I am Andreus Stromopoulos. I buy this house when I come from my

homeland, Greece. I be here very long time now. I think maybe it should be you

who leave.”

“ I’m not going anywhere!” I look for the phone on the wall so that I can call

Dave at the office. It isn’t there.

“ Look. I thinka you maybe a little crazy in the head. Ima going to call to the

police. Maybe they can help you.”

“ You’re bloody right they can help me! They can help me get you out of my

house!”

He picks up a piece of plastic, the size of half a deck of cards, and speaks into it

as though it were a telephone. And he’s calling ME crazy?

“ The police are going to be here in a few minutes. You like maybe you sit

down?”

He takes me by the elbow and guides me towards the living room. As we pass a

large mirror in the hallway, I see the reflection of the man, but to my horror, he

is guiding an old woman. Her deeply etched face is surrounded by a halo of silver

hair and there is a definite hunch to her back. I put up my hand to touch my

cheek and the old woman does the same, simultaneously. I gratefully sink into a

soft chair.

“Lady, you maybe lika some water?”

I am too stunned to find my voice so I just shake my head. I look down at my

gnarled hands. I am wearing a heavy woolen coat and when I slide it open I see

a flowered cotton nightdress underneath. My legs are swollen with bulging blue

veins and on my feet are frayed pink bedroom slippers. Blood from my big toe is

turning one of the slippers scarlet.

The doorbell rings. The man opens the door to reveal a tall uniformed police

officer.

“Mr. Stromopoulos? I am Officer Sterling. We’ve had a report from The Shady

Rest Nursing Home about a resident who wandered away early this morning. It

fits the description of the woman that you called about. May I come in?”

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