This is a short note to say that I have received a book that you donated to the Goodwill.
It’s funny because according to the inscription, your Grandmother and Grandad gave it to you on May 16, 2013 and nine years later, almost to the date I received it in the mail.
You will be glad to know that the book was in excellent condition. In fact the spine hadn’t been cracked yet. The pages weren’t folded or creased. In fact, it looks brand new considering it’s age. Your Grandmother’s handwritten inscription gifting it to you on your BIRTHDAY in ink was very sweet and it looked like she had just written it yesterday.
I should not to be judgy here.
Maybe you said thank you and kept it on your bookshelf- and when you saw it you thought fondly of them. Maybe you even wrote her a thank you card. Maybe you died and never read it. Maybe your Grandparents weren’t nice people and the gift meant nothing to you.
But as I consider these things, I think about my own Granddaughter’s bookshelf.
On the top shelf are a collection of books from her Great Grandparents to her Father ( my son ). Some are beautifully illustrated hardbacks, some are those little cardboard books that toddlers chew and sometimes sleep with. Others are just picture books that have seen better days.
Most of them have little messages from her Great Grandfathers that have passed on, other’s have little messages from her Great Grandmothers. I think that one day when she looks at them those signatures will tell her a little story too.
I’ll just say this,
I felt a little sad when I saw the story your book told. But it gave me a little to think about and as a writer moments like this are my bread and butter.That’s why I’m not going to remove or cover up the inscription after I’ve read it and added it to my library.
On the top floor of Mrs Alta Wellington’s house is an attic that has been divided into two rooms. One room is bright and sunny and Alta rents that room to an artist named Jorry Tomford.
Jorry is a painter, and a sometimes sculptor who likes to take his sketchbook to the park by the river. He sits at a bench on the main path and as he sketches he will look up from his pad and grit his teeth and scowl at people as people walk by so that they will have no doubt that they have interupted an important work of art in progress
But they haven’t of course. Jorry hasn’t painted a picture or gone to parties and drank to much or had affairs with women who drank poison after turned them away from his door and denied them his love since he took the room at Mrs. Wellingston’s house.
The other room is a little darker and a little cooler on hot Summer days and freezing on slightly cooler days and that room is occupied by Neely Hanan who writes stories about vampires who tear open women’s corsets before they drink their victim’s blood and poems where she compares women’s breasts to cupcakes and chocolate cordials.
Neely will tell you she doesn’t write “rapey” stories but really, she does. She also likes to day dream about pushing people in front of buses or cars and then walking away.
Neely and Jorry sometimes pass each other going up or down the attic stairs and sometimes they leave the house at exactly the same time and never once have they said hello to each other, or goodby or even go to Hell.
As far as they were concerned the other did not exist.
One day they were forced into a conversation, so on that day they had to actually look each other in the eye.
As they were both leaving the house that day they both saw a newspaper on the hall table and on the front page was a picture of a circus train and in front of the cars where tigers and lions rode were some of the performers decked out in their costumes.
Nobody was smiling-except for the tigers.
The headline read: Circus Train Disapears on route to Seattle, Washington
300 Passengers, Crew and Animals Unaccounted For.
Neely reached out for the paper, she picked it up and read it. Then she handed it to Jorry.
” You know what this means, don’t you? ” she asked Jorry.
Jorry folded the paper in half, then he rolled it up. ” She’s going to be bringing in new tennants.” he said.
” I suppose she’s going to want our rooms. ”
” As if it’s our fault she-”
Jorry and Neely hear a click. It’s as loud as a gunshot and as the sound echoes and begins to fade away they both look up and then they look at each other and scowl.
Alta is sitting in front of her laptop with a yellowpost it note stuck to the side. It reads:
Check this out – from 1918
Circus Train Disapears on route to Seattle, Washington
300 Passengers, Crew and Animals Unaccounted For.
She opens up a new window and makes a few notes and then she goes to another tab marked” Crazy Artist ” and closes it and then she clicks one that says” Serial Killer author “.
Her finger circles around and around the delete key, she bites her lip and then she looks at the post it and smiles and then she hits the delete key.
On the top floor of Mrs Alta Wellington’s house is an attic that has been divided into three rooms.
One room is dark, the other room is light and the third room has a bars across it’s windows and Mrs Alta’s five new tennants will be arriving shortly after dusk, by train.
Violet didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the end of the world; it was what happened after it was all over that would keep Violet awake at nights.
She’d would be laying there in the dark picturing a dead and lifeless world with a small yellow sun rising in front of a blood red moon while all around her room on tables and in the windows and on their own special tables were dead and dying plants in overpriced planters.
There were no starter plants with tiny little roots floating around in plastic fast food drinking cups in this room. Violet figured it was the least she could do for some poor plant that was bound to die once she got her hands on it.
However, what she did to plants was nothing compared to what she did to those colorful fish you kept in wine glasses with the half marbles scattered at the bottom glass.
Violet had come in from work one day and found all that was left of her fish were blue and red scales and brown goo sloshing around in the inside of the little glasses.
It was on that day she saw those little corpses floating in the cloudy water she decided it would probably be better if she avoided the live animal route all together.
It wasn’t like she didn’t know any better.
There was the puppy got when she was eight.
Santa had brought the puppy in the basket with the red bow tied to the handle and left it by Violet’s bed.
Violet had dragged the cold ‘sleeping puppy’ out to the living room stuck it in front of the Christmas Tree bright and early on Christmas morning and said to her parents, ” It coughed all night, I don’t think it feels well. Can we exchange it? “
There was the kitten four years later that started to bleed from it’s ears and not to soon after that the baby brother that turned from pink to dark red right in front of Violet’s eyes.
Then she grew up and moved out and started with the plants.
It was like having a bad tooth…your tongue just wants to go to it and poke around. That’s the way Violet was with plants; she just kept buying them or planting seeds and they just kept dying on her.
And Violet kept watching.
So it’s not really a shock that she couldn’t sleep at nights.
And then it got be too much.
One evening Violet’s dying and decomposing plants couldn’t keep her mind off of the little things that nibbled away at her mind during the day so she reached for her TV remote control and when she pushed the ‘on’ button the little black and silver box hummed in her hand and she knew the battery was dead.
She reached over and turned her bedroom light on and then she popped the back panel off of the remote.
Along with plant murder she had rotten luck with batteries too. She had guessed that if she bought batteries from someplace other than ” Dollar Bonanza” (where all the stock was a dollar or less) they might last a bit longer.
She reached into her nightstand drawer for some new batteries when she saw that the battery in the remote control had split at the seam and the acid had started to ooze out and then before it ran off the side of the battery it had hardened and turned to dust.
She dropped the remote on the floor and reached for the little ivy plant that was dieing in the planter shaped liked an elephant. She touched one of the leaves and felt it turn to power between her fingers.
Now that was a new one.
Violet reached over and turned off her lamp but she didn’t sleep.
It wasn’t soon after that she stopped sleeping all together.
So instead of sleeping Violet did a lot of thinking; she thought about her dead and dying plants, her puppy and kitten and little brother. She thought about the way no one ever sat next to her on the bus.
Even if her seat was the last open seat and they had to stand.
She remembered the way her own Mother would wipe her hand against her hip after helping Violet brush her hair and the way her Father would hold his hands out to stop Violet from rushing into his arms the way all little kids do.
It was strange, those little gestures that people used to keep Violet away. They were the same gestures Violet saw when someone had a coughing or sneezing fit and the person standing next to them would turn their head or pull in a long deep breath and try not to exhale until they were safely away.
That’s exactly the way people acted when they got to close to Violet.
One morning Violet brushed her teeth and combed her hair and put on a bright yellow t-shirt. Yellow was her favorite color and today she wanted to do something nice for herself.
She walked down to the Lake and watched birds fall from the sky and bees drop from flowers. The trees put up more of a fight. She could hear them creak and groan and she could hear the leaves whither and then curl and crumble right on the branches.
When she got to the lake she put her hand into the water and she watched it thicken and could smell it go bad and then the fish all rose to the surface and tried to jump to land and before they were airborne for more then a second they fell dead back into the water.
Violet got up and walked to a little hill and when she got to the top she sat on a bench and she could see the route she had walked because it was a dead route now and unless you were looking you probably wouldn’t notice the narrow trail of death; but Violet did.
That was it for Violet, this was all she would ever do-she would infect anything unlucky enough to get to close to her and then it would die.
Violet looked at the trail she had walked and saw the dead trees and plants she had passed could see the trees and grass and plants further away start to turn brown and curl and she could smell them turn to dust.
Violet Delaflote was spreading.
Violet walked to the lookout spot next to the Lake she had infected (there was no other way for her to think of it) and she figured she could just walk out and keep walking until the water covered her head.
She couldn’t swim, she had never learned how…not after watching her swimming instructor drown all those years ago. ” She had some kind of Virus, ” her Dad told her ” and when she dove into the water she got sick and couldn’t breathe and she drowned.”
Violet passed the picnic table and walked into the water and she was surprised at how easy this was turning out to be…but what was the alternative?
She was a serial plant killer and she lived alone.
That was Violet’s life.
She kept walking and by the time the water was up to her chest she realized what she was doing…she spun around went under and fought her way back to shore.
When she turned around and looked back at the lake…she covered her face with her hands and screamed until her throat felt raw.
Then she ran.
She ran and ran until she came to the Shopping Mall and she collapsed on a bench outside of the food court.
People were eating and laughing and scowling and living…and when it came down to it Violet decided she wanted to live too. She wanted to eat soft pretzels and drink strawberry lemonade and she wanted to shop and be rude to salespeople…just like everybody else.
That was what Violet wanted, she covered her face with her hands and she cried for the life she would never have.
When it came right down to it Violet decided she might only be a germ that had somehow disguised itself as a short woman with okay skin and dry hair but she still wanted to live just like anyone else.
She knew though she couldn’t do that like everyone else and Violet knew that was alright.
So she took her hand away from her mouth and nose….and she sneezed.