[posted 03.15.2005]


Following is the second of two episodes. Read the first installment.

THEA THOUGHT SHE HEARD familiar laughter, but the closet door flew open before she could give it further consideration. Catapulted by adrenaline, she sprang into action, lunging forward with the weight of the heavy urethane bowling ball into the startled face of her aggressor.

She had intended to aim for his stomach, hoping the pain would send him to the floor, and to continue swinging the ball wildly, taking out anyone else in her path, but to her surprise the intruder was much, much shorter than anticipated. The ball collided with her aggressor’s nose, producing a shockingly painful cracking sound, followed by two firm thuds.

The first thud was the bowling ball hitting the wooden floor. The second thud was the shocked would-be attacker crumpling to the ground, unconscious, blood spouting from her broken nose like lava erupting from a volcano.

Yes, the would-be-aggressor was a woman. And, with the exception of her watch and an oddly placed dog collar, she was completely naked. The entire scene was gory, yet puzzling. Then a second person cried out.

Though his voice was muffled by the closed zipper across the mouth of his black leather head gear, the well-known “L”-shaped birthmark on his right thigh suggested that he was indeed someone familiar. Through his stifled cries Thea understood that the only person being robbed that day was her. Any hope of rekindling her defunct romance drained from her body when the nude, masked man unzipped the mouth piece and confirming her suspicions.

“My god, Thea, what have you done?” he screeched. She watched him drop to his knees and take the limp body in his arms. “Ellen, oh my god, Ellen, please, please, talk to me—- Oh god, Ellen—- What has she done to you?” He rocked her lifeless body in his arms.

“You’ve killed her!” he shrieked then, leaping to his feet and lunging toward her like some sort of crazed naked wrestler. He made two unsuccessful swipes before the bedroom door burst open and a troop of police officers surrounded them, instantly knocking him to the ground and grabbing Thea into safety.

It was only then that the assumed deceased, Ellen, revived momentarily, letting out a series of blood-curdling howls before she again lost consciousness from the unbearable pain. (The bowling ball had not killed her, though her once perfectly constructed $10,000 nose was now a collapsed piece of pulp.)

Thea watched from the sidelines, dazed, and feeling rather faint, as the police forced the naked blood-stained gimp into handcuffs while he screamed his innocence, blaming the “monster” in the closet. Understandably, he was considered a lunatic and prime suspect. The paramedics followed soon after, wheeling the unconscious Ellen out on a stretcher, treating her with gauze and masses of ice.

Once the circus troop had departed, Thea was brought to the living room of her old apartment, where she was offered water by the officer who had saved her from her former companion’s grip. Still under the assumption he had answered a 911 robbery call, the officer was very surprised to learn of the vast misunderstanding that had unfolded.

Not wanting to appear completely unsympathetic, the officer assured her that no one would be charged with theft or assault. But in truth Thea wasn’t overly concerned about what might happen to the others; she considered herself the victim in all of this.

Meanwhile, the officer decided that the least he could do was leave Thea alone to finish collecting her belongings. He had seen and heard enough for the time being, and although these were bizarre circumstances, it seemed obvious she was telling the truth. In his 20 years on the job, he had found that most often the reality of the situation was much more unusual than any fabrication.

“Look ma’am, I’ve seen a lot of things in my years and well, retrospectively speaking, this ain’t nothing. You know, you’ll end up telling this as some laughable story at some dinner party. You’ll get over this… you will,” he assured her as she slumped even further into the sofa, hoping to somehow disappear.

“I suppose I should,” she replied meekly.

When at last left alone in the apartment, Thea didn’t move from the couch immediately, as she’d thought she would. She simply rested there. And when eventually she made her way back to the bedroom, a glance in the hall mirror revealed a white gym sock clinging to her navy shirt. She pulled the sock away and let it fall to the ground. The sock fell much more gracefully, she thought, than had his clobbered good-time girl.

She removed her suitcase from the bedroom closet and wheeled it quietly out into the hallway. Looking back on everything, she realized it didn’t really appear to be that altered, other than the closet was now bare on one side, the CD collection was no longer as fantastic, and of course there was the blood splatter on the bedroom rug.

Aware she would never come back, Thea scanned the apartment a final time, building a memory that would inevitably wilt as time moved on. On the stand in the hallway she noticed a dusty photo taken of them several summers ago. She moved to pick it up but then stopped, remembering her mother’s words: “Don’t trust strangers! Don’t talk to them, don’t listen to them and if you can help it, don’t even look at them!” She left the picture untouched.

Outside the apartment she turned the key, locking the door, and then slipped it underneath. She was surprised to notice a slight spring in her step as she walked away into her own unknown bliss.

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trish elms is a thursday’s child; she knows she has far to go. originally born and brewed in nova scotia, she now lives, loves and writes from ottawa, ontario. her poetry has been published in quills and will also be featured in harpweaver.