Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Collector (draft 918111)

The Collector

By: James E. Doud

(c) 9/2011 James E. Doud
Using Open Copyright

Published By: James E. Doud

The Collector -1-

My father was a hoarder, my mother a product of the former great depression, so it is not surprising that I tend towards collecting.  People collect things, nic-nacks of all sorts, treasure to one, brick-a-bract to the other.  

Everyone collects something to some extent.  When I walked into the house, I could see that it had collected about three years of dust.

Whatever else was in the house was only to be known from under that dust, and whatever else was waiting in the shadows.  After three years it was bound to be the haven of all manor of rodent and insect, all co-habating in this dusty old house.  That it had stood these last three years vacant is evidence of it structural integrity.  Judging from the vines that covered its exterior, its integrity was being tested.  This also told a little tale of those that had once lived here, that most likely they stopped caring more than three years ago.  That was evident from the first look inside.

The Realtor had said she did not go much past the front door, that there were no human tracks in the dust confirmed that.  Under the strong light of the sun streaming through the door into the shadowy interior, there was the evidence of much of the inhabitants of present.  There were pathways of several species of rodent, as well as webs undisturbed for at least as long.  The only unexpected thing about the picture is none of the tracks or webs looked recent.  They themselves all had layers of dust.  It is as if they raided the place and moved on.

It is said that most modern rodents can not live very long without humans, as they feed off our waste, and without us, they will move on to places where there are more human populations and easier foraging.  It is possible that out here, away from other homes, and distant from any form of civilization that the rodents did move on, but what of the spiders, certainly they are susceptible to the same laws.  Certainly they would have coveted this emptiness where they would be unhampered in their munitions.  Yet they appeared for all intents and purposes to have moved on as well.

It would all wait, it had waited this long, it would all wait a few more days, there were details yet to hammer out before the hammers could come out, in this house.

Twenty minutes later I drove back into town.  Not unlike every other small town, it had a main street, a church street, and not much else.  There were a couple of 24 hour gas stations, and the usual shops, nothing really different.  It had a distinct lack of appeal immediately.  What architecture was there was crumbling down, while the McDonald's had the look of recent renovations.  Typical of these no-where small towns these days.

Doesn't matter I would not be staying in town, there was no accommodations in town to stay at, I would be moving on, to the next city, and staying there, for now.

Why buy an old broken house near an old broken town?  I knew this was the question many would ask me, and one that I had asked myself briefly, but the answer was plain for anyone that could see.  No interference, no disturbance, keep to yourself and you are left alone.  That is exactly why I came here, and why I bought the house out side a forgotten town.

The nearby city was not much better, just a little larger, and nearly as forgotten.  Except one thing, the harbor, this still remained, maintained.  I stopped into the first hotel I came to, a little row hotel next to a Dunkin Doughnuts, how convenient.  It seemed likely they would have a room available, and I would not have to go far for coffee, perfect.

I pulled the car in, and headed for the office.

The desk attendant was a mid 30's man with a thick accent.
“Can I help you?” he asked.

“I sure hope so, I need a room, nothing fancy, just a room for a few days.”  I said.

“Well it is 125 a night for a single, they are all non-smoking, and you get a coupon book from Dunkin Doughnuts.” he said.

“Great, just what I needed, how much for three days?”  I asked.

“125 a night.” he answered.

“Yes, I know that, I will take a room, for three nights, how much is the bill?”

“Pre-paid?” he asked.

“Yes, pre-paid, as in here's my card, please tell me how much the total is, and please give me a key, thank you.” I said.

I was beginning to wonder if he ever had any paying customers.  Most likely it was the no discount thing, I didn't ask for the discount, that probably threw him off.

“Sure, right a way sir, the total with tax and fees is 575 on the Master Card, Mr. Smith.” he asked.

“Yea, that's fine, you can hold the card, in case there are any other fees you can think of.” I said.

“I will need another form of ID, like a drivers license, with a picture on it.” he said, as he ran the card through the machine.

“Sure, here,” I handed him a license with my picture on it, a NY license, that matched the credit card.

“Thank you Mr. Smith, it will be just a moment, your room number is 104, the door locks itself, and this key does not need to actually go in the lock, it is electronic, just walk up to the door with the key in your hand or pocket, and the door will unlock, as a convenience for our customers that have to carry things in.”  he said.

“Thank you,” I said.

I took the key and the packet of papers that included my license, credit card, and the hotel receipt, as well as coupons from local businesses, hotel contract, rules of conduct, and other such items.  Out of the office I walked to my car, and grabbed my suitcase, and headed for my room.

The Room
If you travel at all, they all look the same, a bed, sometimes a table, sometimes more, sometimes less, but they all had a bed, and a bathroom, and that is what is important.  I put my suitcase on top the dresser that was below the TV, and checked the bathroom out.  Not impressive, but clean, and with clean towels, certainly all that was needed.  I headed back to the bed, pulled the covers back, the sheets were for all appearances clean, or at least clean enough.  I took off my suit and set it on the suitcase after I removed from the case my bed clothes.  In hotels especially it is always best to sleep in bed clothes, you don't know who was here last.

It was warm, but not warm enough for an air conditioner, so I turned it off, the silence grew around me.

I got into bed and switched off the light, the darkness grew around me, and soon it all faded to black.

Night Vision -2-
The liquid black pulsed with unseen life.  Shadows that moved in the darkness.  Unseen except for their movement, and the slight hue darker than the surrounding darkness that enveloped everything else.  There was no sound, just movement, and darkness, a void with shapeless shadows that milled about, with no apparent purpose.  A tiny point of light in the distance danced as it came closer.  The heat itself was oppressive, nothing more was needed.  As the light came closer the shadows shrank back away from the light, and I covered my eyes, a guard against the light.  

The hollow sound of hooves echoed on the hard ground of the road, the light bouncing in rhythm with pace of the horses.  Soon the carriage was upon me, and I watched as it passed by, the sound of hooves fading with the light.  I stood alone again on the hard road, alone with the shadows.

I threw the hood of my cloak up over my head and headed off down the road, the shadows behind me, slowly fading into the blue black ink of night.  The only light was from a clear sky, moonless, as azure as the night, but broken by millions of points of illumination.  The lute caressed my back as I walked.

As I headed up the hill before me, I could hear waters rhythmic crash of waves, and knew that I was nearing the shore.  Once I crested the hill, I could see below me the lights of the small port village flickering in the haze of smoke that rose from every chimney.  The closer to the village I approached the more the lights blazed, with small huts now here and there some with a single light burning, some dark.

The shadows condensed as the light increased, becoming denser and heavier as I approached the tavern with its lights casting pools of flickering light onto the road that ran past its facade.  As I stepped into the light of the tavern the shadows thinned and dissipated into air leaving me to the dancing lights of the tavern.

The alarm sounded distant and hollow, from a far away place it came into the ear and slowly registered on the brain.  I awoke to the sound, not suddenly, but slowly realizing it was a sound nearby.  I looked over at the fold-up clock sitting on the night stand vibrating from the action of the alarm.  I turned it off, sitting up in the room I had fallen asleep in a few hours ago.  This was always re-assuring.

I got taking care of the basic needs of nature and grooming, and put on my suit placing in its place on top the case my bed clothes, neatly folded.  I checked to make sure I had the room key in my pocket, and headed for the door.

Outside I walked to the Dunkin Doughnuts, got a coffee and headed back to the car.  Miles before I sleep running through my thoughts as I started the car and backed out of the parking spot, headed back to the small town, east of the city.

It was a short drive, no more than a few minutes, and I knew the office of the Realtor would be just opening up.  I drank the coffee on the way, it was hot and the cream was sweet but other than that, nothing special, coffee from such places rarely ever was more than just drinkable.

The office was on Main Street, so I parked on the side of the road and headed for the office, it was just after nine, so I knew they would be just opening up for the day, best time to catch the Realators  before they headed out of the office on errands.  I had only talked to her on the phone, and through emails, so I had no idea who she was really, or what she looked like, but that was unimportant really.

I entered the office, it was relatively sparse in appointment, and quite obviously a converted home.  The receptionist was sitting at her desk in what was once a parlor off the front foyer.  She looked up at me as I entered the office.

“Hello, can I help you?” she asked.

“Well I sure hope so, I am looking Ms. Barbado I think it is.”  I said.

“And you are Mr. Smith, correct?” she asked.

“Yes, Paul John Smith, is Ms. Barbado in today?”  I asked.

I had made the appointment three weeks ago, so I assumed she would be here, but it is always best to play your hand slowly when dealing with professionals.

“Yes, she is here, I will page her for you Mr. Smith.”  she said.

The receptionist picked up her phone and began talking to someone on the receiver, I wasn’t sure who I had stopped paying her any attention.  I looked around at the front office, it reminded me more of a travel agency than a real estate office, with posters of exotic locations framed on the walls, with out the offers for trip deals.  There were two chairs with a small end table between them, and on the end table were several magazines, most of them appeared to be about travel as well.  There was a dried flower swag just above the table, all standard office materials, strait out of the office manuals of modern office design.

I heard the click of her heals come up behind me, and knew she was headed towards me.

“Mr. Smith” her voice from behind me projected.  It was the voice of soft woman who had been hard before, there was just the touch of rasp in her voice that said she had had to raise it too often to be heard.  She had the voice of a third grade teacher, soft with an edge of potential admonishment if you did not pay her just attention.

I turned to greet her.

Before stood a well dressed woman of even stature, in her early to mid forties most likely, but she gave the appearance of a younger woman in dress, manor and pose.  She looked to have been groomed, most likely a patron of one of the local salons, which she frequented frequently, although she did her own painting, as it appeared just a little heavy for her position, but not for her desire to give the appearance of a slightly younger woman.  She was smartly dressed, not a designer suit, but a well made construction of slacks, and blazer, with a blouse that was feminine but not frilly or frivolous.  I could definitely see how this woman had had to compete in a “mans” position and had fought that battle with pride and prejudice.  Outside she had won them, inside she had lost to her own sense of who she was, although that would not be apparent to most observers.  A very old set of wedding bands on her hand told me she was traditional at heart, and that family ties were important to her.  The amber broach on her lapel was small but significant, it showed that she valued workmanship, art, and most likely was from a local artist, someone she knew personally.  I could not see it, but I knew she also wore a cross, a small old cross, again from some previous generation of her family, and she was catholic, as she wore it hidden from sight.  Her posture was upright but open, from years of giving this same impression, and training to allow others to see just enough of her soft disposition, while her square demeanor indicated that she would not be easily persuaded, she was no pushover.  This woman was a bull dog in business, a mother of children, and a presence in her own town, known for her fame, and I imagine her infamy as well, depending on who you chose to question.

She immediately offered her hand to me, as a man would do, and I took it with an intentional slight hesitation.  She quickly affirmed the grip with slight pressure and assistance from her left hand, indicating that she was here for business, but that she was an old friend just met.  I smiled slightly, to show I was not offended by the gesture.

“Ms. Barbado?” I iquired.

“Yes, but you can call me Barb, most people do.”  she said as we each took our hands back to our perspective spaces.

“Thank you Barb, you can call me Mr. Smith, most people do.” I said removing the first volley in her arsenal.

There was instant recognition in her expression, which immediately was replaced by her mask of indifference and salemanship.

“Yes, Mr. Smith, lets go back to my office, the papers are on my desk, I wouldn’t want to hold you up, I am sure you would like to get right to work on your new home here.”  she said and then turned slightly back towards the back of the reception office to head towards the door which she had come through.

“Thank you Barb, that would be most appreciated”  I said providing her the opening to start the tour of the office in relative silence.
I am sure that with other clients she would have initiated additional conversation, and talked them through the office, keeping them entertained with her vast store of trivial knowledge of the area in which they were supposedly going to be living in.  

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