Miss Dabble’s In 4-A

Back in 1864, exactly 100 years before she was born the hotel that would one day become an apartment house that Mylee Dabbles would one day call home opened for business. 

On that day in 1864 all of its rooms were freshly painted, the doors had just been hung and the floors creaked and popped as they settled into place.

There was nothing extraordinary about the rooms at the Davenport House- except for a small problem in 4-A.

One of the closet doors  wouldn’t stay shut.

It was always swinging open-

all by itself.

Exactly 144 years to the date Mylee Dabbles turned up at the Davenport and she arrived, as she had promised the Manager, just after dinner on September 5th.

Mr. Teachman- Rodney Teachman the Manager of the Davenport and Mylee Dabbles chatted about Mylee’s trip- most of which she had taken by train- and the weather which was unseasonably cold and then she signed the last of the paperwork and gave him a check for her rent and for her moving in fees.

Rodney asked if she would need any help taking anything up to her place and she pointed to her two suitcases in the hall and told him she could manage.

” Well, I mean if you need help with your furniture of anything big like that. Being you’re up on the fourth floor and we don’t have elevators it’s a task but the Assistant Manager’s sons don’t mind helping new residents out and they’re  used to moving things up and down those narrow stairs, so if you need help just let her know.”

” Oh that. Yes, well thank you for the offer but I’ve got it covered.”

Rodney usually took new tenants to their door but Mylee Dabbles reached out for his hand and gave it a small shake and then she smiled at him and thanked him for letting her in after hours and on his own time.

Rodney Teachman tried to smile back and he couldn’t quite do it- instead he waited until she left and then he went into the bathroom and scrubbed his hands until they were raw.

 

After that first night Rodney only saw Miss Dabbles a few more times- he saw her on the stairs going up to the fourth floor and he also saw her once in the courtyard reading a book.

It was called, ” 101 Magic Tricks Made Easy.”

She was laughing as she read it.

 

It only ever took the tenants of the Davenport 72 hours from the time they first moved in to get into the private lives of the new residents.

Except for this time – no one really had a take on Miss Dabbles- all they had  to say about her was that she was so quiet it was like 4-A was empty and that no one lived there at all.

 

It was on Halloween that Mr. Teachman got a call to 4-C. 

4-C was the Bayer’s place and one of the little  Bayers had jammed something into one of the electrical outlets and now all of the power was out up on the 4th floor.

Everyone up there was annoyed-everyone except for Miss Dabbles.

She was taking her keys out of her bag just as Rodney came up the stairs and she moved just as easily in the dark as anyone else would in a well lit room.

He wasn’t sure why he did it, but Rodney was about to shine his flashlight at her door to help her find the lock when he heard a click.

He lifted the light to her face and saw that she was smiling at him with her mouth, and her teeth…

but not her eyes.

Those were as flat and dark as the blackness around them.

 

Worse then that look was the feeling he got she started to talk. Rodney backed up a little at the sound of her voice and when he realized how foolish he must look he tried to step forward and so did she.

She was still smiling.

” Would you mind taking my rent check with you now Mr. Teachman? I’m going away to visit some friends- they’re only in town for a few days and I must fly. “

” Well, I don’t have my receipt book…”

” Just tape it to the door” she said and then she reached out and pushed at his wrist and the beam from the flashlight went over her shoulder. ” If you don’t mind.”

No I don’t mind doing that, Rodney thought to himself, what I mind is standing here in the dark talking to you and I especially hate the feeling that I have right now that you can see my face and the rest of the hall just as easily in the dark as you can during the daylight.

I don’t think you’re normal Miss Dabbles.

” That’s funny, it usually dogs and sometimes cats who feel that way about me. “

” Excuse me? “

” Nothing, nothing at all, now if you don’t mind I would really to take care of my rent- “

YES I DO MIND his brain screamed and Rodney tried to hold his voice steady and he said, ” not at all.”

Just then the lights clicked on in the hallway and  then all of the lights in the apartments came on…all of the lights except for the ones in  Dabble’s place because…

from where he stood, with the door wide open Rodney could see that there were no lamps in 4-A.

 There were no bulbs in the over head fixtures there wasn’t a single piece of furniture in the living room or a picture hanging on the wall and right next to the entrance way to the kitchen Rodney could see Miss Dabbles two suitcases leaning against the wall.

Rodney could even smell the cleaner that the maintenance people used on the carpets and from the kitchen he caught a whiff of the vinegar and water mixture they used to clean the refrigerators.

” I’ll just grab my bag- it’s on the kitchen counter.” 

Just before she got to the kitchen she looked down the hallway to the back of her apartment.” Oh…you’re early, well I sup…”

Rodney watched her turn the corner and he only waited for a few seconds before  he called out, ” Miss Dabbles? Miss Dabbles?” and then he added ” Are you there Miss Dabbles? “

He walked into the apartment and he looked into the hall Miss Dabbles had just walked down and he could see that the bedroom and bathroom doors were wide open and that both rooms were empty.

Empty of any signs of life- and empty of Miss Dabbles.

And then to his right, in the kitchen he saw the broom closet door swing open and then it shut…

all by itself.

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The Mint Green Scooter

Parnell Braine saw the Mint Green Scooter parked by the curb right next to the ” Motor Cycle Parking Only ” sign  for the time two years ago.

It looked so out of place on a street that was full of SUV’s and sports cars and Mountain Bikes chained to parking meters and trash cans that have been bolted to the ground that it should have been easy to spot- instead most people didn’t even seem to notice that it was there.

Parnell noticed it, and when he saw it there against the curb it seemed like nothing else in the entire world existed except for that Scooter and the memory of a little girl who should have grown up to own one just like it.

But instead of riding a Scooter Leatha Gliston dead for thirty years now-poor Leatha who died  on the jagged rocks at the bottom of a cliff with the tide trying again and again to pull her ruined body out to Sea while Parnell and the Search and Rescue Crew stood on the shore and watched.

” What were those kids doing up there?” someone asked and Parnell wanted to say that he and Leatha had been goofing off, spitting over the railing when Parnell leaned over to far and Leatha grabbed his hand and pulled him back and then she…

“She slipped.”

He tried to say but he just couldn’t get the words out and then for awhile that’s all he could say to anyone and he said it over and over again.

 

The Mint Green Scooter was back the next day.

As Parnell walked up to the Scotter was now convinced that had Leatha lived she would have owned a Mint Green Scooter- she would have worn a matching helmet and Parnell had no doubts that she would even rode her Scooter in the rain and in a dress.

Now when he closed his eyes he could actually see her, alive and riding that Scooter and when he opened his eyes again he wished- as hard as he did the day at the beach that what he was seeing wasn’t there- but of course the Scooter was still there and standing right next to it was the  ghost of dead child.

 

The Scooter was now the most real and alive thing in Parnell’s world.

And he was afraid of it.

But when Parnell turned the corner the next day the Scooter wasn’t parked at the curb, it wasn’t there a week later, it wasn’t there a month later and he was able to forget all about it- until the end of Summer when it turned up again.

When Parnell saw the Scooter was back he crossed the street and ran into the Waterfall Garden and then he stopped and turned around and the only reason he didnt’ keep running was that the Scooter was indeed still parked at the curb.

He stood there for a few minutes and when the Scooter showed no signs of moving he took a seat at a table closest to the man made waterfall that smelled faintly of chlorine and mold and tried to not think about Leatha.

Instead he watched for the real of owner of the Scooter to show up and he hoped against hope that if he saw the real owner who was alive, he would stop thinking about it belonging to a dead girl.

And then he saw her.

He saw the real owner of the Mint Green Scooter.

Parnell told himself that if Leatha could, would she be wearing torn up jeans that were patched back together with safety pins? Would she have worn her hair in braids and would she have carried a back pack with a very pink and very happy looking at stenciled on the back?

Not Leatha, Parnell thought- and then he started to feel a little better.

And then he saw that the Scooter Rider was wearing brown and tan hiking boots and Parnell laughed because he knew that Leatha would never have given up wearing her black engineer boots.

A year before the day at the Cliffs just after they had turned 10, Leatha’s Mom had bought a pair of boys sized engineer boots for Leatha to wear because of Leatha’s bad ankles.

Her Mom had thought that if Leatha wore those, she wouldn’t have to wear ” prescription shoes ” to help strengthen her ankles. And it turned out she was right. In fact Leatha only really needed to wear them for a few months but in the end she wore them all of the time, she even wore them with dresses.

So not even in his worst nightmares would Leatha show up in anything but those boots.

Parnell didn’t feel like he needed to hide in the Waterfall Garden- now he knew that he could walk right up to that Scooter and take a good close look at it because it was just a Mint Green Scooter that belonged to a woman who could have been the type of person that Leatha might have grown up to become.

When he got across the street he actually touched the Scooter’s mirror and he laughed at himself for his daring and then he walked down the street and he stopped at the bookstore the woman on the Scooter had walked into.

He looked through the window and he watched the woman move from bookshelf to bookshelf and then he heard her laugh a little and when she did Parnell could feel his hand slipping from Leatha’s and he could hear the Sea crashing against the rocks below and looked up into a long ago sky  and  he cried, ” don’t let me go Leatha! “

” I won’t!  ” she called back to him from 30 years ago.

They both heard her, he and the woman in the store.

Then the woman who used to be a girl named Leatha looked out the window and when she saw Parnell the books in her hand slid to the floor and just before they hit, Parnell closed his eyes and then he opened them and  looked back into the window he saw his forever 11 year old face reflected back at him for a few seconds

 …and then it was gone.

Denio Litman Gets The Message

On a building near the train station, carved into a wall plastered with handbills and handmade posters announcing the time and dates for concerts and magic shows is a message.

There are only six words in the message and they have been carved very deep into the plywood wall that is starting to sag a little as the sidewalk under it sinks a little each day.

The message reads:

Give It Back To Me Rusty

That was all it said.

Nobody who saw it wondered who Rusty was or what it was Rusty had taken.

Eventually though somebody did notice and that somebody was Denio Litman.

Denio was 42 and in a month he was going to be 43 and the one thing Denio wanted for his birthday was a tattoo. That tatttoo was something he promised to give to himself every year since the year he turned 40.

Last year he had almost made good on the gift to himself- last year he had actually gone into the Tattoo Parlor and looked through the books. That was a step up from the previous years when he hadn’t even bothered to pull into the parking lot.

He did, however, drive by very slowly.

But this year was different.

This year it was really going to happen.

Denio was so certain of that fact that he had started to collect drawings and pictures of tattoos that he liked and he now had about a half dozen books next to his bed about the history and culture of tattoos.

And then one afternoon as he ran by the wall he noticed the message to Rusty and he wondered who would stand there and take the time to carve something like that into wood-each letter was about four inches tall and each letter was starting to splinter around the rounded letters so Denio guessed that not only had somebody put their back into carving the message they must have nearly carved their way through the plywood itself.

Now that, Denio thought, took commitment and that’s when he decided to take getting his tattoo seriously.

A few days later the wall was gone- there was a new plywood wall in it’s place and a boardwalk covering the place where the sidewalk used to be  and hanging from the wall were six posters for the same event which was:

“The Sixth Annual Twilight Tattoo Festival”

Denio stopped to look at the poster because this could be the place where his tattoo could happen-the needles and ink and the stinging could be happening to him…

this Friday.

Well- that was sudden.

Then Denio really looked at the poster and he couldn’t help but to notice that it was covered with lots and lots of women and that none of them had tattoos- though they did have very nice smiles.

Well, it was an Ink Fest alright, but Denio guessed that at this Fest the ink probably washed off with soap and water and that it was probably fruit flavored ink to boot.

Denio breathed something that he would never admit was a sign of relief and when he let that breath go he looked up and saw,  written in blackmarker just above the poster’s top edge was

Give It Back To Me Rusty

of course.

Denio’s birthday came and went and Denio had bagged the tattoo idea again, which was sort of present he had secretly given to himself. However, the people in Denio’s life gave him actual presents and one was a gift card for coffee from Club Earth which was just around the corner from his office.

Denio used his gift card on the day he forgot his lunch and because it was the lunch hour Denio figured the lines at Club Earth were going to be pretty long so he decided to cut through the alley to get over to Bonnie Street before the Office people from further uptown made it down for their hourly fix.

Standing in those coffee lines was a nasty situation- all of those people shaking because they were going through caffeine withdrawals and reeking like designer perfumes.

So to avoid that Denio cut through the alley which only sounded bad- as far as alleys went the one that led over to Bonnie was clean and well lit and it looked like a picture from an old fashioned Christmas card because of the low doorways ( bricked over now) and the cobbled street (paved over in most places) and along the outer walls you could still see the frames that the windows used to be in ( boarded up).

Only now, in addition to that, starting at one end of the alley and ending at the other were the words

GIVE

IT

BACK

TO

ME

RUSTY

The message had been written in chalk and as Denio stood there he could see the little puffs of yellow chalk dust coming up off the letters and he saw it get caught up in the breeze and then he watched it drift and settle all along Bonnie Street.

In the evening, when Denio got home from work he started to pay attenition to the news, he even checked the news services on the Internet and read the papers.

He was looking for Rusty- and unlike his tattoo- it wasn’t something planned to do, he was really doing it.

 

One evening at the train station, ,  Denio saw someone in a grey hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans facing  the wall that was now stripped of the Twilight Tattoo Festival posters.

Their arm was raised up and he could see  in their hand a can of spray paint.

He could also see that there were two letters under the hand:

GI

“Hey” Denio asked with a laugh- at least he hoped it sounded like a laugh “what did this Rusty take from you?”

The figure’s hand moved slowly from side to side, just a little and then the paint hissed out of the can:

VE

” Come on…what did Rusty take from you? ”  Denio reached out and touched the figure’s shoulder and as he did Denio’s thought to himself:

I really wished I’d gotten that tattoo.

The hooded figure turned towards him and as it did the paint can dropped to the ground and Denio heard it rolling all the way down the steps until it reached the train tracks below and stopped.

It’s probably still there.

Probably.

Keepsake

When I sit down and think about what it means to be possessed and trapped, all the while knowing that someone can be amused by my panic and that raspy sound I make when I’m so scared I have to force myself to breath I think about Mrs O’Hara’s garage.

In Mrs O’Hara’s garage, stacked against a wall covered with pale green wallpaper are pictures in heavy gold frames and cracked silver frames that range in size from something you could fit into the palm of your hand to ones that could only be moved by at least two people and a pickup truck.

It didn’t take us long to figure out that everyone in those pictures which were turned so that they faced the wall was dead.

Me and my friend Delilah found them the summer we had taken to breaking into people’s garages.

We had broken into every single garage on our street- we never took anything.  We were 11 years old and bored and nobody else would hang out with us because me and Delilah looked ” Arabic ” according to Mrs. Lee and to make it worse we looked like we had ‘some Mexican ‘ in us too ( according to Mr Lee ) and both of us had white Fathers and ” foreign looking Moms” so all we had was each other and because of that me and Delilah learned to make a heck of team.

Anyway we would bust into these garages and go through boxes and look through magazines and books and we use to cover our hands with chalk dust and leave imprints on the floors or sometimes we would get into the parked cars and pretend to drive to ” Arabic ” where apparently everyone looked like us.

Mrs O’Hara’s garage was the last one we broke into and the one we always went back to because every Friday Mrs O’Hara would drive up in her Station Wagon and take a new picture into her garage.

We must have spent the entire Summer trying to figure out why Mrs. O’Hara had pictures of dead people in her garage and it got to the point where we decided to either forget our once a week trip into Mrs. O’Hara’s garage or we find out, once and for all why she had pictures of dead people…

facing her garage wall.

Finally we came up with a plan to strike up a conversation with Mrs. O’Hara and it involved Mrs Swanson.

We were always trying to find ways to get at Mrs Swanson because she wouldn’t let us join her Girl Scout Troop- every single girl in the neighborhood belonged to that Troop and when she said that me and Delilah couldn’t join because we weren’t ” Girl Scout Material ” that put the nail in our social coffin. 

 Services were held shortly thereafter that and we never were accepted by any of our neighbors.

I know- it’s sad.

Anyway.

Every year Mrs. Swanson’s Girl Scout Troop sold cookies- someone would show up in their Scout Outfit with all these badges and pins on their chest and they’d unload boxes and boxes of cookies onto Mrs. Swanson’s front porch.

Right after they showed up me and Delilah would sneak up to the porch and we would each steal once box of cookies from each of the big boxes.

Later, Mrs. Swanson and her little troopers would show up and they would pull out these check lists and figure out they were about a dozen boxes short and Mrs Swanson would go into heart failure because in Mrs. Swanson’s world there wasn’t room for funny looking kids with mismatched parents or for shortages on her order forms.

So she would call in her missing cookie count and then she would race up and down the street trying to find someone who would be home during the day to receive the cookies.

I’ll give Mrs. Swanson this much- she was so focused that she didn’t even notice me and Delilah following her up and down the street with cookie crumbs smeared all over our faces.

So we were strolling behind Mrs. Swanson who was talking to Mrs Parnell about the cookies when I told Delilah, ” if I have to eat another cookie my guts are going to blow. “

” We could give them to your dog “

” Or…” I said as Mrs O’Hara’s station wagon purred by us ” we could sell them to Mrs. O’Hara”

In the end we decided to use the remaining boxes of cookies as bait, looking back at it thinking of the cookies as bait should have told us something about Mrs. O’Hara.

Mrs. O’Hara was late returning home from Picture Day but we were ready for her. We walked up her driveway with an assortment of cookies and offered to sell them to her.

Mrs. O’Hara had this round face and tiny blue eyes and white teeth that clicked when she talked and she said, ” Since when did you girls become Scouts. “

” We’re helping them out. ” Delilah said.

” That’s a relief. I thought you girls had joined them. I was sure you both had more sense then that “

Mrs O’Hara agreed to take the cookies off of our hands for half the price we had asked for and of course we didn’t press the point and after she took the bags of cookies from us she pointed to two small portraits on her back seat and asked if we would take them into the garage for her.

Glad too we told her.

So we each took a picture into the garage and leaned them against the wall with the rest and that’s when we saw that the pictures we had carried in were of a babies with a rose clenched in their chubby little baby fists and even an 11 yeras old kid could pick up on the fact that babies and roses just don’t look right together.

We looked back at Mrs. O’Hara.

“Twins.” she told us and then Mrs O’Hara reached over and turned both pictures against the wall.

” Who were they?” I asked looking at the rows and rows of pictures.

” Those are pictures of dead people. They all died a very long time ago. It hardly matters now to learn their names now, does it?”

” Why do you want pictures of Dead People Mrs. O’Hara? ” Delilah asked.

We turned back and looked up into Mrs. O’Hara’s round pleasant face and she smiled down on us and said, ” Some people believe  that when you take a picture of a person you steal their Souls…and I have stolen all of these…so that means ” she said as she rested her hand on one of the frames ” that means they’re mine now.”

Mrs. O’Hara either laughed or growled- I’m not sure which and then she said in her real voice:

” Mine. “

Far, Far Away

There’s a little post card that Ramona Jinx has just tacked to the bulletin board in the breakroom at work.

It says in orange and red letters:

Welcome To

Hotel de Sol

Enjoy your Stay!

Dwarfing the pen and ink style drawing of the mountains behind the hotel and engulfing the beach and the water below it…

is the Sun.

The sun is trimmed in read and filled in with streaks of orange and crimson and Ramona, whose Grandmother used to use the post card as a bookmark said that she liked having it around because the picture made her feel like she was burning up.

” And that’s a good thing? ” Ramona asked.

” It is when your bones get old Ramona” her Grandmother told her.

At the time that made sense, Ramona’s Grandmother was 97 when that particular conversation took place and Ramona guessed that by that age your bones must feel like ice-besides her Grandmother had  liked things that were ” hot and spicy ” and red…

Red was her favorite color- of course.

So that’s what was the color of the dress they buried her in when she passed away a few weeks later.

After the Funeral Ramona and her Mother were went over to Grandmother’s House to start packing up her Grandmother’s belongings when Ramona found the card next to the lamp on her nightstand.

” Can I have this? ” Ramona asked her Mother.

Her Mother looked at what Ramona was holding and she shook her head, ” I never had any use for that place, Mother could never get enough of it though. Honestly that woman…”

” This place is for real? “

” It certainly is Ramona, and it’s hot there, its hotter then Hell.”

Then her Mother laughed and even though she wasn’t sure why she did it-

Ramona laughed too.

 

It was on the bus ride to work that morning, when Ramona decided to take the card to work to hang on the bulletin board, that she acutually  saw what was written on the back of the card.

The ink was faded and Ramona guessed that at one time the writing had been done in purple ink. But you could still make out most of the writing and Ramona instanly recognized her Grandmother’s small neat precise block style printing.

The letters were all capitlized and the message read:

Sometimes Wishes Come True

Most of the writing under that was worn away but at the bottom of the message box you still read in part:

Hold This Near and

Fr m The Bottom Of My H art I C n Honestly Say

” I Wi h You W re  here “

Sure.

Where it’s hotter then Hell Ramona thought to herself and she wondered who would want to go to a place like that on purpose?

 

Bitsy Freemont was the head Cashier at the store Ramona worked at.

Bitsy didn’t like Ramona.

Bitsy told anyone who would stand still long enough for her to talk too that Ramona dressed funny, and that Ramona didn’t have much of a personality and the worst thing of all-despite of all of her obvious shortcomings Ramona manged to land herself a great fiance.

Bitsy was standing there when Ramona tacked the postcard to the bulletin board.

” Well that’s interesting. ” Bitsy said as Ramona stepped back away from the card “Look how big the Sun is… and the water…is it boiling? “

Ramona put her face next to the card and and then she looked back at Bitsy. ” I don’t think it’s water”

Bitsy turned her nose up at Ramona and she snorted…she actually snorted, ” well what kind of silly picture is it? “

” It’s a picture of a Hotel” Ramona said “it’s a picture of a hotel on the Sun.”

” Is that supposed to be funny? “

And then Ramona understood what the card said, what it did and she put her hand on top of it and then she looked into Bitsy’s pinched up overly made up face and said,

” From The Bottom Of My Heart, I Wish You Were There. “

There in the breakroom one card on the bulletinboard moved around a bit and then it settled back against the board and Ramona went back to work.

Bitsy Freemont- of course-

never did.

Waking Up the Dead Girls

Dead girls don’t have wishes.
They don’t dream like other girls.

They sit at home, and watch the news;
they talk with speechless familiars.

Watch as the jaded line up for coffee
each morning, eyes downcast

searching the dusky corners for
direction;  finding no one.

Didn’t you wish you could
be dead like them?  Slender and

translucent, unsmiling,
unbending to the music:

curled in shadows like spiders,
and weeping for every woe in the world.

Watch as the fading-fast tuck strength away
in silver knots, droplet by droplet,

their prayers lost as spoken:
cast down unknown wells.

Didn’t you ever wander to the bluffs
to look out on the ocean with new eyes?  To

drown indifference with ineffable moonlight,
and draw night into your lungs with a long, low stream…

Dead girls don’t swim either.
They float on hot air and sweat clouds.

Watch as the awkward learn to walk
around broken; to stand split apart in the sun.

© 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks to Anita Marie Moscoso for generously inviting (and encouraging) me to share at Anita’s Owl Creek Bridge.  I welcome constructive feedback on my writing any time.  To learn more about my work, or to contact me via email, please visit me at Brainripples.

Washington Street

On the corner of Washington Street, just down the street from where I get off the bus in the morning was the rusted ruined shell of a phone booth standing in the corner of a Parking Lot.

The glass was gone, the coin box was gone and the metal cord that connects the receiver to the phone was gone too.

All that was left intact was a phone book that had to be about 6 years old.

One day I saw someone who looked looked like my childhood friend standing in the booth with the receiver to his ear.

 As I walked by he held it out to me and said,

” it’s for you. “

It’s not you- I thought to myself-

 I haven’t seen you in years

not since the first day of work when my code that was supposed to open all of the doors

wouldn’t work  and the Manager had to key his code in for me and  he couldn’t stop aplogizing because not only could I not get into the work area I also couldn’t get into my office  or to the room where we kept the keys for the cars or the supply room

 and

when the door to the work area swung open there was my friend

laying on the cot.

My first best friend

was the first person I embalmed.

It’s not you

I thought to myself as I walked down the street.

And the man in the booth called out to me.

” They’ll try you again later.”

A week later the phone booth was gone – the city was about to start construction on a new building across the street- and that corner was now being used for the Job Sight Shack.

The New Building is up now

The Parking lot is back

and so is the phone booth.

 I don’t walk on that side of the street anymore.

I can’t.