Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Hands 4





____________________________________________________________________________

4

Their life became a comfortable routine and they were happy. Brad grew used to Marion getting up in the middle of the night and she accustomed herself to his little eccentricities. Officially married in the eyes of the law and their friends a month after Marion’s return, the remainder of that year and the next were the happiest either had ever known.

One Saturday afternoon Beatrice Chandler burst through the front door and stomped down the stairs. Brad was sitting on the porch, his usual position when she visited. She reached the sidewalk before turning to acknowledge him. “She’s stubborn, Bradley.” Brad nodded as the old woman disappeared up the tree-lined street.

He waited for Marion (his habit when it was nice and Mrs. Chandler came over) by reading more on super string theory. Marion was fuming when she finally came out. Brad closed his book and counted six times she paced the entire length of the porch before sitting next to him. “Infuriating,” she said.

“Anything I can do?”

“No,” she said. “I’m just frustrated with her. She won’t let me go.”

“Ah,” Brad said not understanding. The long silence was accompanied by the sounds of the neighborhood.

Finally, Marion relaxed. “Wanna fool around?”

***___***___***

The house was still dark when Brad woke and he looked at the clock: 3:47. She was almost never up this late. “Marion?” he said. “You out there?” No answer. He got out of bed and padded to the hall: dark there, too. The living room was empty, the kitchen, the dining room were all bereft of his wife. Something out of the corner of his eye on the wall behind him caused him to jump. When he looked again it was just shadow of the elm tree’s leaves in the wind. Calm, he went to the basement door.

Downstairs in the light of the moon filtered through the window wells he found Marion seated, cross-legged, next to the bloodstain still on the carpet. “Marion?” She looked up at him through the murk and he gasped and sat on the stair. Her eyes were completely black, a little point of white where her pupils were supposed to be. She tilted her head and said something in an alien language, then closed her eyes and bowed her head.

When she looked at him again, her eyes were back to normal and she tried to smile at him. “Sorry to wake you, sweetheart,” she said. “I was talking with a counterpart, asking advice.”

“What sort of advice?”

Marion stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Bea is demanding I take on a student. Like I haven’t done enough for her and the Chondria.”

“Do you have to go away again?”

Marion came over to Brad and put her hands on his shoulders. “No, sweetie, I don’t. I won’t ever have to go away like that again.” She gently pulled him to his feet. “Come on, let’s go back to bed.”

***___***___***

The following week, Brad came home from the garage to find a young woman in his dining room with his wife. He smiled, kissed Marion on the cheek and went upstairs to shower off the day’s grime. When he came back downstairs, Marion was fixing dinner and the girl was gone. As she stood at the stove stirring the soup he put his arms around her and nuzzled her neck, pulled as close as he could to her. She laughed. “Stop it,” she said. “I’m trying to get your dinner here.”

“Need any help?”

“Not the kind you’re offering. Sit down and keep me company.”

“How was your day?”

Marion sighed. “All right. No real excitement, except for my visitor.”

“She was cute.”

“Nice of you to notice,” Marion said. “She’s the student Beatrice wanted me to take on. Today was my first meeting with her. She’s smart, and already knows a lot. I’ll introduce you.”

“What’s the commitment?”

“Quite a lot. More than I want it to be.”

“So,” Brad said. “You gonna take her on? Teach her?”

Marion pulled the spoon out of the soup and set it on the ceramic rest she kept in the middle of the stovetop. Opening the refrigerator, she pulled out a head of lettuce, a cucumber and two tomatoes. She washed the vegetables and set them next to the sink before reaching into a cupboard to pull out a cutting board, then into a drawer to grab a chef’s knife and a serrated knife, both of which she placed next to the cutting board. Everything was carefully arranged. She crossed her arms and leaned against the sink.

“Mare?”

“I’m going to have to, Brad. I’m training my replacement when I take her on. It means we can have a normal life once I’m done.”

“Normal?”

“Normal. Kids and everything. You know, when you’re ready to have kids.”

Brad stood up and grabbed her, full of joy. They kissed and laughed until she put her hand on his chest. “Two years, at least, maybe a little less but you should count on two years.” He frowned at her. “I’m sorry,” she said. Brad pulled away and turned his back to her.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

Pained, Marion turned toward the counter where the salad makings were so carefully laid out. “It’s pretty involved,” she said. “I can’t explain it all. I wish I could”

“I put up with a lot, Marion,” he said looking straight ahead and not at her.

The silences that usually followed such conversations were awful for them both. This one was terrible. It lasted for days and resulted in an uneasy, unspoken acceptance.

***___***___***

Six months later, Brad woke alone in the night. He didn’t look at the clock and lay in the bed staring at the ceiling. Shadows from the trees played in the full moonlight across the walls and the ceilings. Brad got up and went to the window. The enormous white disk hung in the western sky lighting up the landscape as though it were the sun.

A shadow, huge, mercurial and black, ran across the face of the moon from south to north, followed by a shattering, stabbing pain behind his eyes. Brad fell backwards, half on the bed when Marion’s voice called his name softly, weakly. Panicked, he ran to the basement door. In the kitchen he saw the elm’s shadow on the wall, but there was something else: letters, words in a strange language he didn’t recognize, arranged in phrases or sentences that moved across the walls like a news ticker. Even more frightened, he grabbed the doorknob, barely noticing the heat or the resultant burn and dashed downstairs.

At the bottom of the stairs he saw Marion, covered in blood. She was crawling towards their spot, struggling to breathe. Stunned, Brad forced himself to go to her. “Need to get,” Marion said, took a huge gasp of air and coughed. “There.”

He helped her to the stain on the carpet and cradled her head in his lap. Her throat was spurting blood out of a short, ragged gash and there were cuts to her chest and hands. Her breathing was shallow, punctuated by deep hucking sounds. Marion rolled on her left side and put her right hand on the spot, spread her fingers over the center of it and slapped at the space. “No,” she whispered. “Damn it. No.” She collapsed backward into Brad’s lap. Her eyes were closed.

“Mare?”

“She’s --- killed me,” Marion said. The words were slow and nearly silent. “Emily. Bitch --- killed me.”

“I should call an ambulance,” Brad said. “I need to get you help.”

“Fooled --- me. Love you --- Bradley,” she said. Marion’s eyes misted over and she smiled a sad smile. “I love --- you.”

His left hand was on her heart; she brought her right hand up to lay on his and tried to squeeze. “What can I do?”

“N – nothing,” she said. “It’s ah – already done. Love finds,” she gasped. “Find me.” The last vowel rode the breath out of her body. Her hand fell away, her eyes unfocused, she went limp; he shouted her name over and over until a neighbor called 911 about the noise and police and an ambulance came.

***___***___***

Beatrice Chandler was at the funeral: Dale Crown was there, all their friends came and more. Standing together were a dark-eyed, heavyset man in an elegant suit and a handsome man with flowing chestnut brown hair and a goatee. They approached Brad after the graveside ceremony, a short, strange affair conducted exactly according to Marion’s will.

“My name is Strangiato,” the dark-eyed man said. “Marion was a --- colleague of mine and a friend.” Brad looked suspiciously at him. “I can help you find her.”

Brad nodded slowly.



Thanks for reading Two Hands. Come back next week Click Here for The Insulated Man..


©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




You can buy the whole story for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.






Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two Hands 3




_____________________________________________________________________________________
3

The first month was difficult. After she’d left, Brad thought he’d seen her around corners in the grocery store, at the top of the stairs in the house when he was working late at night, standing across the street when he left to go to work in the morning. He was proud that he’d done pretty well at hiding the fact that she was gone until Dale questioned him.

“You and Marion okay? You haven’t mentioned her in a couple of weeks.” The shop was closed and Dale had loitered purposefully.

“Yeah,” Brad said. He made a pencil mark on the ledger in front of him. “She’s just been on a lot of trips for the librarian’s association. Ever since she was elected president it’s been non-stop.”

“Oh,” Dale said, shuffling some papers. “When’s she due back?”

“Uh, Wednesday night late, then she’s out again Thursday morning for a conference in England.” Brad laughed. “Wish I could go on that trip. Too much to do here.”

“You know, Brad, me and the guys’ve got it here if you want to take a couple weeks and travel with her.”

Brad turned the page of the ledger. “Thanks, but she’s so busy on these trips she barely has time to call. I’d just be in the way.”

“All right,” Dale said. “You go if you wanna, though. We’ve got your back.”

“I really appreciate it, Dale. Thanks.” Brad looked wistfully at his friend and tried to smile.

He spent more time at the University Library on the weekends, trying to research Super String Theory, subscribed to magazines that he thought might help him, even wrote a letter to Isaac Asimov to ask for some clarity. Brad wanted desperately to understand where Marion might be. He wanted to do what he could to support her and he was afraid it wouldn’t be enough.

***___***___***

The dreams started in the second month. Horrifying landscapes of blasted trees and barren plains. Castles made of heavy rock and stone reduced to piles of smoking rubble. Bodies strewn across miles of no-man’s lands, bodies that were distinctly not human piled thousands upon thousands; dusty almost-roads made of armor and armament broken and bloodied. Terrible creatures with thousands of sharp teeth, hundreds of eyes and dozens of arms, each holding strange weapons approached, roared and charged.

In these dreams Brad fell to the ground every time he confronted one of these creatures and they passed him by as though he were as much a dream as they. He woke from these dreams sometimes on the floor shivering, always sweaty and screaming. At the end of the month, he missed work and went back to the house he was readying for her, down to the basement, the corner where they had mingled and spilled their blood. He cried himself to sleep on the spot.

He dreamt of Marion in a stone room, with windows all round and a single crude table in the center with two chairs. A breeze ruffled the sheer silk curtains. She’d cut her hair short and looked incredibly tired but pleased to see him.

“I miss you, Brad.”

“I’m desperate, Mare. When do you think you’ll be coming home?”

“I don’t know, it’s not going well.” She sighed. “Brahmen is stronger than we thought. Strangiato is missing, Cavanaugh, too.”

“Who?”

They walked out of the stone room down a winding stone stair and out into a bright green morning. Robins and sparrows were singing and the jays were hunting for nesting materials.

“Never mind,” Marion said. “How’s the house coming?”

“Slow. I don’t know what I’m going to do if you don’t come back.”

“Find Beatrice,” Marion said. “She’ll explain. I really have to go. I’m sorry, I love you, Brad.” She put her hand on his heart, kissed him. “I’ll come home as soon as I can. I promise.”

He woke refreshed and rested, but in his own bed. He didn’t think too hard on it, but he went back to the house anyway to check that he’d locked it up and to ensure that he wasn’t there in the basement.

***___***___***

The third month was better until he found Beatrice Chandler in Chancellor’s Park one fall evening. She was rocking back and forth, her eyes closed, her mouth moving in time with the rocking but no sound escaped her lips. Brad had read enough to not interrupt her, so he sat across the path on a twin bench and waited.

Passersby laughed at her, looked sideways at her, ignored her for hours as Brad watched. He felt helpless, but this was the first time he’d been able to find her so all he could do was wait. As the sun set and the evening began to chill, she stopped rocking and her words were finally audible though they were not a language that Brad recognized. Beatrice Chandler stopped talking abruptly and sat back heavily on the park bench, sighed and slowly opened her eyes. “Glad you waited,” she said.

“Everything okay?”

“For the moment.” She stretched her arms and legs, rolled her wrists and ankles. “She’s gonna be all right there. It’s all but over. Some details that need cleanin’ up, but it won’t be long ‘fore she comes home.”

Brad sat forward on the bench. “Really?”

“She said to tell you soon, though none of us knows how long that really is. You got the house ready? You moved in?”

Brad stood. “Almost. There’re some details that I have to finish up.”

“You finish ‘em. She’ll need all your attention when she gets here.”

***___***___***

It was the middle of the fourth month, about three weeks later, that Brad and Dale and a couple of other of the guys from the garage spent a Sunday moving his old household into the new one. Brad got out the notes that he and Marion had made before she left and he placed everything exactly the way she wanted it. The last load from the old house on the truck, he walked through the place. “Time for the new life,” he said to the empty bedroom.

Having eaten some pizza with the boys before they left and showered, Brad sat in his basement office with a beer in hand. He listened to the ticking of the clockon the wall, the chimes from the heirloom grandfather clock upstairs and the crickets’ nightsongs from the window well. He ran through all the preparations he’d made for Marion’s return and when he finished the bottle, he decided to vacuum the basement since it was really the last thing he had to do.

When he came back down the carpeted stairs, she was laying in the corner where they’d sealed their commitment to one another. “Marion!”

He dropped the vacuum and rushed to her, cradled her in his arms until her eyes opened and she smiled a weak smile. Despite being thin and pale, there was a light of happiness that shone from her. “Hi,” she said. “You haven’t been eating well, have you?”

***___***___***

Brad took two weeks off from the garage to nurse Marion back to health. Marion got strong again fairly quickly. They ate together, slept together, laughed and loved. They took long walks in the park, around the state lake, across the university campus; they talked about lots of things, but not about where she’d been or what she’d done while she was there. She didn’t ask about anything he might have done during that time and they didn’t talk about magic or science. They talked about mundane things, the house, the city, the weather. It took a lot for Brad to mention that she didn’t seem to be sleeping well.

“You’re up in the middle of the night, nearly the same time every night,” he said.

“I didn’t mean to wake you. I’ll try to be more quiet.”

“Not the point, my love. Am I waking you up? Bothering you?”

Marion smiled. “Of course not. It’s dreams, memories.”

“Have you talked to Beatrice? Would she be able to help?”

“Yes, I have and she has. It’s just ---“ Marion wasn’t smiling any more. She stopped walking and looked at Brad sympathetically. “I don’t have the words to explain it. I want to --- it’s more than just complicated. I don’t know how to explain it.”

“We don’t have the legal document, but we’re married, right?”

“Yes,” Marion said. “Without question.”

“Then whatever I can do to help you I will do. You’re my wife and I love you beyond all reason, more than anything else. You teach me so I can support you.”

They hugged each other tight in the light of day.

“I’m serious,” he said. “I want to learn.”


Marion sighed and held him tighter. “I know you do. I wish it were that easy. Bear with me, will you?”

“With all of me,” he said, pulling back to see her, “I love you, Marion.”

“I love you, too, Brad. Let’s go home.”




Come back next Wednesday for the conclusion of Two Hands!
Click here for the conclusion.

©2009, 2012 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




Can’t wait? You can buy the whole story for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.






Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two Hands 2





_______________________________________________
2

Marion and Beatrice Chandler excused themselves to the basement leaving Brad to clean the broken glass and wash the dishes. He could hear their voices but no distinct words. As he was finishing up, it seemed the conversation was becoming heated and he heard Marion: “He doesn’t know!”

Soon after, both women came back up the carpeted stairs. Marion kissed him on the cheek. “Will you put on some tea and bring it into the dining room? We have to talk.”

Ten minutes later Brad came into the dining room with a tea service tray of Marion’s. He poured for all of them and sat next to Marion. “Bea is my mentor,” she said.

“Oh,” Brad said.

“She’s been teaching me how to see things, how to be part of the Universe. I’m a novice, but I have some talent.”

“You’re more than a novice.” Beatrice Chandler said. “You be honest with him.”

“Anyway,” Marion said.

Brad sipped his tea to hide the whitewater rush of thoughts in his head.

“There’s things need doin’, and she’s volunteered.”

“Whoa,” Brad said. “What?”

“Brad,” Marion said. “Beatrice, let me.”

Marion took Brad’s two hands in her own. Beatrice Chandler sipped her tea. “I’m a witch, Brad. I used to use Tarot to see the future. Bea and several others are teaching me to be a conjurer. Training me to be a protector.”

“Modesty don’t suit you, Marion.” The younger woman shot a look of frustration at her mentor who only motioned for her to continue.

“There’s an entity named Brahmen out there who is threatening to do some very bad things that will affect everyone across several planes of reality. I’m going to try to stop him.”

Brad’s face was a mask. He pulled one hand away to pick up a tea cup and sip from it. “This sounds like a Doctor Strange comic book, Marion.”

Marion said, “I know it’s a lot to take in. There’s a thing called the Green-Schwarz mechanism that cancels out anomalies in superstring theory, which explains multiple dimensions. It’s science that might help you get your head around this.”

“The woman I love more than anything in the world is off to fight a huge cosmic menace,” Brad said, shaking his head. “This is crazy.”

Silence around the table: Brad and Marion unable to look at one another and Beatrice Chandler getting impatient. Brad stood up.

“Let’s say that because I love you, because I don’t believe you’re crazy, I’m willing to go along with this. Let’s say that.”

“That’d be good,” Beatrice Chandler said. “Marion’s going to need your support, she’s going to need your love to face off against Brahmen.”

“Why her? Why does it have to be Marion?”

“History,” Beatrice Chandler said. “Fate. Destiny. Divine providence. She’s born to it. Take your pick. Any and all of those reasons fit jus’ fine.”

Brad walked into the kitchen, tossing up his hands.

Marion wanted to get up and follow him, but instead she watched him pace the floor there, then get a glass from the cabinet above the toaster, open the freezer and drop ice into the glass. He reached into a cabinet under that counter and pulled out a bottle, poured a drink that floated the ice. He swirled the glass and sipped as he leaned against the counter, sipped again and came back into the dining room. He sat next to Marion and held his glass with both hands.

“You’re going no matter what, aren’t you?”

“I have to,” Marion said.

“Are you coming back?”

“Yes,” Marion said. “Yes, I’m coming back to you, to us.”

The ice cubes clinked in Brad’s glass. His breathing got heavier. “There’s a chance you won’t make it back, isn’t there? If you don’t make it back, it won’t matter much to us, will it?”

“No,” Marion said. “Not much.”

“So what are your chances here?”

“You’re over thinking this,” Beatrice Chandler said, slapping the tabletop. “You have to believe in your woman and give her your love because she needs it. Give it because she’s askin’. Don’t think about no odds, you got to believe that she’s comin’ back.” The older woman sat back, breathed out a gush of air. “She believes it ‘n’ so do I.”

“I’m not good with faith.”

“Then you got things to do while she’s gone, to keep your mind occupied. How’s the house comin’?”

Surprise from the two lovers. “What house?” Marion said.

“Be honest with each other.” Beatrice Chandler stood up. “I’ll be back in two weeks, Marion, on the full moon. You both be ready.” The old woman gathered her things and left without another word.

***___***___***

“It’s beautiful,” Marion said as she stood next to the car. The lilacs were full and the flowerbeds were crammed with purples and oranges and yellows and reds. “How long have you ---?”

“About six months,” Brad said. He took her hand and led her up the steps to the yard. “I’m renovating the inside with Dale’s and a couple of other guys’ help. It’s almost done.”

Marion was enchanted with the whole idea and could barely contain herself. “Can we go inside?”

The oak floors weren’t polished and there was no furniture, but that didn’t dampen Marion’s enthusiasm. “The kitchen is HUGE! Look at that staircase! Oh, the windows!” She failed to notice the holes in the plaster and lath and the layers of dust around drop cloths and tool buckets. “What’s upstairs?” she said.

“Let’s go and see,” Brad said. He became as giddy as she when they reached the top. “Our bedroom here, another there, and a library at the end of the hall. There’s a second library off the dining room and an office for me in the basement.” She kissed him hard. He kissed her and each tore the other’s clothes off. They stroked and kissed passionately, panted and sweated frantically, rolled on top of each other playfully, shouted their love and their ecstasy.

“Perfect,” Marion said in the afterglow. “Perfect.”

“The house?”

“The house, you, my love for you,” Marion did a 360 with her arms out, “all of it. Perfect.”

“This is my love for you, Marion. I want us to be together forever.”

“You’re my anchor, my rock. You are my life.”

They came in from a final tour of the basement and backyard as the sun set. They stood in the dining room and looked around at their future. “How long until we can move in?”

Brad looked at the floor, swallowed hard. “Probably another six months. There’s some plumbing issues, code things on the electricity, too. Then the cosmetic stuff: wallpaper and such. Maybe only four months.”

“Oh,” Marion said.

“How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

Marion studied the floor. “I don’t know. Time’s --- different on other planes. Things get weird.”

Brad turned Marion towards him, looked at her seriously. “I don’t understand all this with that woman last night. I’m not sure I accept that you’re a witch who can save the Universe by facing down some sort of demonic entity on another plane of reality. I’ll study up on this Super String Theory to wrap my head around the ideas, though.” He took her then moved them up to hold her shoulders tightly until her eyes locked with his.

“What I know and believe is that I love you, and I will wait for you no matter what it is you’re doing. I will be here when you get back and I will be faithful while you’re gone. I want you to tell me that you will come back. That these next two weeks aren’t all we’ll have.”

“Take me to the basement,” she said.



In the southeast corner of the basement, she had him sit down with her. Side by side they faced into the center of the family room in line with the door to the office there. She pulled a small, curved knife from her purse and held her left wrist up. “Do like this with your right,” she said. “Trust me.”

She gently pulled the blade across her skin, above the artery, and then handed it to him. “Do the same,” she said. She winced a little as he mirrored her movement with only a slight hesitation and handed it back to her. She set the blade aside and put her wrist on top of his. Their blood mixed and dripped to the floor. She pulled him close, crushing their wrists between them, smearing their chests with the blood. He kissed her hard. Marion looked him in the eye. “Repeat after me: You are my home, this is my home.” He said the words slowly, giving them as much weight as he could. “You are my soul’s breath,” she said. “you are my life. I will warm my heart in the fire of your hearth. The only certainty is my honest and abiding love for you.” She nodded and blushed when he was done.

“I am yours forever, Bradley Martin, as you are mine. Bound by the rules of creation, I will return to my husband, I promise.”



Come back next Wednesday for part 3 of Two Hands!
Click Here for Part 3.

©2009, 2012 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




Can’t wait? You can buy the whole story for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.







Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Two Hands 1






__________________________________________
1

“Watch out!”

Thirty feet of hissing rubber hose with two inches of stainless steel coupling on the end was threatening every mechanic in the garage. George Funk had already been hit in the temple and was down. Dale Crown was trying to get to the air compressor the hose was attached to, but slipped in an oil spill and tipped over a Craftsman tool chest. No one could get close to the injured man now. The garage’s owner calmly went to the electrical panel at the back of the garage and found the fuse switch. The lights, the radio and the air compressor all stopped working, the hose flailed another few seconds while the pressure escaped.

“George, you okay?” Brad Martin was next to the downed mechanic having flipped the fuse switch. He grabbed a couple of wadded up shop towels and put them under George’s head. “Can you hear me, guy?”

“Yeah,” George said, groggy and with his eyes closed. His left temple was purple and bleeding where he’d been hit by the errant air hose.

“Sandy’s calling an ambulance, man. I want you to talk with them and if they want you to go to the hospital, you’re going with ‘em, no arguments.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re gonna be all right. You see that Royals game last night?”

The ambulance came and the EMTs took George to the hospital. They left hopeful and Brad had the four garage bay doors closed, locked the access door from the garage to the office. The other five mechanics were standing in a circle as Brad came to them.

“What the hell happened, Bill?”

“I pulled the trigger on the air wrench and the coupling just blew off, Brad. It was secure when I connected, I know it was.”

“All right, Bill. Dale, will you check it to be sure? If it’s good, then fine. If not, well,” Brad said, “I’ll decide later. Who’s going to the hospital?”




***___***___***


That night after knocking off, Brad called the hospital. Bill and Sandy and Dale were all there already so he told George he’d come see him tomorrow. Despite being the owner for five years, and being a genius in automotive technology, he didn’t have the respect of his employees. He treated them fairly, paid them well and took care of them when things happened, but his relative youth and genuine social awkwardness caused some uncomfortable talk. Brad sought refuge in the library.

“You go on now, Raymond,” said the very pretty woman at the reference desk. “I’ve got work to do.” The boy with the coke bottle glasses took a book on riverboats off the desk and said goodbye to her as Brad passed them and made his way to the fiction section. He searched Burroughs, Peake, Moorcock, Bradbury and finally settled on a Heinlein that was new. He took his choice to the checkout desk.

The woman from the reference desk was there and took his card. He noticed her glasses midway on her perfect nose, how a couple of strands of her dark brown hair had escaped from the bun tied loosely on the back of her head. He watched the way the cloth of her blouse moved over her shoulder, across her chest and then, shamed, looked away. She pressed the button on the machine that took a microfilm picture of the card and the book then stamped the inside gently with the due date. “Here you go, Brad. It’s due back in two weeks.” He took his book and looked at her.

“What’s your name?” he said without thinking.

“Marion Sanders.”

Spellbound, Brad scrabbled for a business card and handed it to her. “If you ever need any work done on your car, come on by. Ask for me and I’ll make you a deal.”

“Thanks,” she said, taking the car carefully. “It’s nice to meet you.”



***___***___***


The next day as Brad was unlocking and raising the first bay door, he saw the librarian waiting. “Good morning, Miss Sanders,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

“Well, I don’t have a car,” she said, “but I was hoping --- are you busy for lunch?”

Brad smiled. “I was going to have lunch with Deety Burroughs, but I suppose she’ll wait.”

She looked puzzled and said, “Oh.”

“I meant,” he cleared his throat, “I was only going to read out back here with a sandwich, but I’d much rather have lunch with you. One o’clock?” Another bay door opened behind him and Dale Crown turned immediately go behind the next closed door.

She smiled back. “Tin Pan Alley?”

“Yeah,” Brad said. “I’ll see you there.” She waved a little wave and he watched her walk up the street toward the library.

“She’s hot,” Dale said back in the garage, “but there’s something about her.” He shrugged and went to a tool chest.

“You’re not the one having lunch with her today. Maybe that’s it.”



***___***___***


Lunches became frequent and soon became dinners and then weekends became vacation getaways together. When he asked Marion to move in with him, Brad was so deeply in love with her that he whooped and jumped as high as he could when she said yes.

Dale Crown remained doubtful. “You’re sure about this? Seems awfully fast.”

“It’s the eighties, Dale,” Brad said. “Us youngsters do things a little differently. I’m going to ask her to marry me as soon as I think it’s right.”

Dale scratched the gray hair on the back of his head and flipped a switch. “Congratulations, I guess.”

The hydraulic whine of the lift moving upward with a foreign-made car atop it gave Brad a chance to consider. “Anything you want to share?” The lift stopped with a heavy clunk.

“I’ve known you a long time,” Dale said. “You’re not impulsive. You own your house; you’ve got savings and your own business.. This seems impulsive, not quite like you.”

“Eight months, Dale,” Brad said, “isn’t really impulse. Marion makes me feel like a whole person. I can’t explain it any other way. You know?”

The older man nodded.

“She’s amazing, a great cook, knows so much about so many things,” Brad said looking over the exhaust system of the car over his head. “Loose heat shield.”

“Check all the welds, make sure it’s tight” Dale said. “Those guys on 23rd street are good, but they smoke an awful lot of pot.”



***___***___***


Three weeks later, Marion moved in with more bookcases than anything else, except the books to go on the shelves. They made space in Brad’s little house for her library in the living room and more in the basement. “Have you read all these?”

“Mm hm,” she said meticulously arranging titles by author and subject. “I didn’t date a lot in my twenties.”

“Oh,” Brad said. He broke down the cardboard box she’d just emptied and folded it as flat as he could. “You sure you want to be here with me, then?”

Marion put her hands on the shelf in front of her and looked at him through her librarian glasses. “Do you really think I’d move in with you if I didn’t?” She smiled.

“I just want to be sure, is all,” he said. “You’re everything to me.” He kissed her and she kissed him back. They tore at each other’s clothes and lay down among the piles of books.



***___***___***


Two dreamlike months later, on a rainy Friday night, Brad and Marion were finishing as fine a bottle of red wine as could be bought locally when there came a loud knock on the door. “Awful late,” Brad said looking at the clock. “You expecting anyone?”

“No,” she said. “I’ll start the dishes, though.” She kissed him. “Don’t be long.”

Brad floated across the living room then flipped the switch that turned on the porch light. He pulled his hand back to his chest quickly. “Shit,” he said. Frowning, he rubbed his hand. “Static electricity or something. Better check it, though.” He shook his head, put on a smile and flipped the deadbolt. The door opened smoothly and quietly on well-oiled hinges.

The old woman on the doorstep was wearing a yellow rain coat and held a colorful umbrella point down and dripping rain on the Welcome mat. Her galoshes were probably two sizes too big and she looked impatient. The rain slick street was empty and thunder cracked across the sky. “Yes?” he said.

“I need to talk to her, boy. Where’s Marion?”

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Brad stepped fully into the doorway trying to block the visitor’s view of the interior of the house.

The woman on the porch raised her voice. “I’m in the right place and so’re you to get this umbrella to the side of your head if you don’t move. Now invite me in and run and tell Marion Beatrice Chandler’s here to talk to her.”

Behind him, Brad heard the distinctive sound of a wine glass breaking on the kitchen floor.






Come back next Wednesday for part 2 of Two Hands!
Click Here to Read Part 2

©2009, 2012 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




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