Every friend we invite over, every package we order, every new neighbor that moves into the community, admonishes the languid lifestyle in which Mickie and I partake. Something happened to the doorbell within our first week here. Instead of reverberating throughout our house the typical reminder that someone, or something, is at our doorstep, a muffed gurgle informs us that someone, or something, has arrived.
“Are you going to the door?” Mickie asks. Followed by, “Who do you think it is?”
I walk to the door, my body covered by nothing but boxer shorts and a stained tee, and fuss with lock-I-don’t-understand.
“Who is it?” Mickie echoes.
When I pull back the curtain, and connect the outside world with ours, a small, golden pup greets us with a fruit basket. A wicker basket, filled with Granny Smiths, bananas, oranges, and other-shit-I’ve-never-tasted, stands next to a similarly weaved contraption, which carries a purple fleece, which is covered in fur. Amongst the pile of fur sits the fur’s origin—a small, panting beast with four paws, a shiny coat, and what looks like a full set of teeth. I look for a note on the fruit basket, but find nothing to read. Picking up the assortment of produce, I leave the beast on the porch and shut myself off from the world.
The fruit basket bangs against the kitchen table and causes Mickie to stop her solipsistic fit and acknowledge my presence in the house. She walks over to the basket, tears apart the plastic, and, when she picks up the topmost fruit, she mouths what I think is ‘mango.’
Mickie takes a bite, and, before swallowing what she placed in her mouth, says, “Who was at the door?” She paces out the words like she always does, food or no food, like she’s giving a filibuster. She talks in the semblance of a child, confirming the definition of each word in her mind before verbalizing it and sharing her thoughts with the world.
“It was…no one?” I grab the only fruit that won’t cause others to fall, to succumb to the force of gravity, and mouth the word ‘kiwi,’ pushing air in the right directions, but somehow not making a sound.
Mickie jumps, nearly dropping what’s left of her mango on the floor. She sits down and spins the fruit basket around, studying its contents, what’s left of the plastic preventing the surviving fruit from contacting the kitchen table, or worse, the kitchen floor.
I open the door and next to the pup is a stack of Bibles, bound with thin, red ribbon. The corner of an envelope is tucked under the deftly tied bow, the remainder of the white paper flapping in the wind. I pack the note in my back pocket before fighting gravity and pulling the Bibles from Earth’s grasp. When I am safe within the walls of my home, I free one hand and shut the door.
Walking through the living room, I see Mickie sitting in her favorite chair, the one hidden in the corner, shadowed by the bookcase and the chest, eating what I think is a tomato. She’s pulled the chest directly in front of her, and the fruit basket hides most of her torso. I stare at her bodiless head that’s studying fruit.
The Bibles thud against the oak table and, again, Mickie meanders into the kitchen to see what the fuss is about, like I’m not even here and she needs to put her mind at ease, like she needs to determine the source of the sound.
“What’s that?” she asks. I quickly pull a protruding strand and untie the ribbon—enough so that I can dig one of the Bibles from out of the knot’s grasp—and, after doing so, toss her one of the tomes. She needs to drop the last few bites of her tomato to catch the book, a splattering of red juice contingent on the completed pass. She turns the book over so that the binding faces her vision, and she mouths what I believe is ‘what the Hell?’.
Mickie opens the book to the back page and looks for a summary printed on the inside flap. She grabs both covers and tilts the book over and shakes it. She closes the book and tests its binding, trying to crack its neck.
“Who wrote this?” she asks.
Before Mickie exits the kitchen, or has a chance to bat an eye, I say, “I’ll…” but trail off.
At the door and I find myself face to face with a vacuum cleaner. The purple fleece is no longer covered with dog hair, but the contraption still looks unused. I struggle to keep the connection between the real world and my small piece of it open, and the oak swings itself shut while I am dragging the large piece of machinery through the archway.
Mickie’s countenance, her body image, her abhorrence of high heels, hides behind the chest, the fruit basket, and the stack of Bibles. I stare at her pony-tailed hair that’s scoping the living room for predators.
When I turn on the vacuum cleaner, which is plugged in beneath the microwave, Mickie enters to see what she’s forgotten to turn off. She’s eating what I think is a lemon. Immediately after noticing Mickie’s presence, I push a button to make the vacuum hiss, which is followed by obedient silence.
“It was…no one,” I tell her, before she has a chance to ask the question. And before she has a chance to inquire about the vacuum cleaner—
I don’t say a word and exit the kitchen. When I remove the sheet of oak I stare at a Girl Scout, who fails to carry a box of cookies; who fails to pull a red wagon carrying her supply.
“Did you…” I ask.
She doesn’t say a word.
“Is that…” I ask.
And she doesn’t say a word.
I shrug and grab hold of the Girl Scout, and when she’s inside my part of reality I shut the door to the outside world.
Neither of us can see Mickie. Her soul, her essence, her plight, skulks beneath fruit, beneath her deity, beneath her pointless, household chores. I take the callow being dressed in aqua green into the kitchen.
As tranquil as possible, the little lady shows me how to cook Samoas. She shows me how to bake Do-si-dos. The pint-sized creature tells me the secret about Thin Mints. And then she leaves.
I guide her through the living room and we remain unseen throughout our jaunt from kitchen to sheet of oak. I open the door and let her walk back into the open part of reality.
Back in the kitchen, I sit and stare at nothing. Mickie enters the room, and stands over my shoulder. She’s eating what I think is a raw onion.
“Are you going to get that?” she asks.
And I say, “What?”
“Who do you think it is?” she asks.
And I say, “Who?”
After several awkward moments, I stand up and traverse the living room once again. And when I open the door, I stare at the empty, vapid world from which Mickie and I have been hiding since we moved in two years ago. I walk onto my porch, which fails to use its force to hold down anything but me. I stand atop the clear cement, covered in nothing but my feet and the remaining shards of a cracked flowerpot. The note from earlier flaps in my back pocket, just as it did before, and I take it out of its small corner of reality, take it out of its teeny sleeve of a world, and study the note.
A birthday card that reads: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your one and only savior?
I tear the pictured statue of the so-called savior in four and toss the pieces into the wind. And before I can re-enter my small piece of reality, the door blows shut. I try turning the handle, but the lock is set into place. I try knocking, but the cold air hurts my knuckles.
And I try ringing the doorbell, but it actually works—it makes the sound it should have been making all this time, a sound neither Mickie nor I can understand.
Ryan Dunham is currently a doctoral candidate at Ohio University in the Media Arts and Studies’ Mass Communications program. He earned both his B.A. and M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Binghamton University. His work has previously appeared in Helix Magazine, Jersey Devil Press, and Ricky’s Back Yard, and is forthcoming in The Bookends Review.