By Alyssa Lindley Kilzer
I found out the next day. The police came down to my house, took my name and asked me if I knew anything. Of course my brain was wracked with thoughts of the money. But I just told them that he’d done some work on the house and I didn’t know anything.
I should’ve known better, is what I was thinking. If I couldn’t stand to keep that money then I shouldn’t have given it away to some sixteen-year-old. The only explanation I have is that living out there made me crazy. I started hearing things and seeing things and something from outside myself drove me to do it.
All I could do was clean the house. I cleaned for five hours that day. I started on the outside, sweeping the porch and cleaning the windows, and then I moved my way in. I pushed the sofa and the rug to the corner and I washed the floor three times. Then on hands and knees, I waxed it. The chemicals put me into a dizzy frenzy. I didn’t know how much time had passed as I washed the walls, and then started on the bedroom. I took the mattress outside and beat it against the side of the house. Clouds of dust came floating out of it and I couldn’t believe I had been sleeping on something so filthy.
After I had finished with the cleaning I opened the windows and the doors and let the cool air sweep through, rinsing it out like a mouth. I stood in the middle of the room and thought it felt like a different place. It was more of a skeleton with no meat on its bones, no stories hanging heavy from the ceiling. I had struck those down, that presence looming over me.
The last thing I did was pick up the phone and call my dad. It was almost his birthday.
“How’s it going out there?” he asked.
“It’s fine,” I said. “It’s a lot…of work.”
“Why are you living out there again?” He asked.
“I just wanted to…to live in the country,” I said, “You know, get some peace and quiet, have some time to myself.” But that wasn’t it at all and I couldn’t separate why I had moved out there from what had happened. It didn’t make sense at all anymore, why I was out there, and I was wondering what my father must have thought about me.
“Ah, heck,” he said, sounding so far off through the telephone receiver. “You don’t want to live in the country,” he said, “You just want to visit the country.” I thought he probably knew what he was talking about, having grown up in the country himself.
“Yeah,” I said. “I dunno. I’m just not sure anymore.”
I hung up the phone. The house felt empty in the wind and I was shaking. I went and sat in my car and turned on the radio. I couldn’t stop my jaw from chattering as I stared at the house. I turned up the heat and let it blast hot and dry until my fingers and toes started to warm up. The music came through static but I turned it up as loud as it would go. I thought about closing up the windows of the house and locking the doors. I thought about loading my few possessions into the car, but I couldn’t stand to go back in there. I didn’t want any of my things that had been inside. The house was in me forever and that was enough. Finally I thought about burning it down and in my mind’s eye I saw the old house blazing to the ground as the sun set behind it. But in the end I couldn’t. I drove away.