Sunday, February 23, 2014
When the door first appeared in a corner of the family room where there had never been a door before, reactions were mixed. Some were for opening it, others against. Mother suggested we sleep on it and decide in the morning. By breakfast, however, we had begun to believe that the door had always been there.
It was a closet, of course, better left undisturbed since we had undoubtedly been storing old jackets and boxes of photographs in there. Father even asserted that he now recollected having put his missing coin collection in there some months ago and this explained why he could not find it under the bed.
In our socks and robes, we drank glasses of orange juice and consumed bacon, eggs, and blueberry pancakes until we were convinced that it was an ordinary Sunday morning.
Father dressed and went out to mow the lawn. Mother got dolled up then helped grandmother into her best velour jogging set and took her to the Indian Casino for the day. The twins dug out their allowance and walked to the Cineplex to see a movie with some friends.
My sister Madge and I exchanged a significant look in the hall way, her brown eyes magnified by her thick glasses. We paused there silently assessing one another’s level of skepticism. It was clear that we both had our doubts, but her closed lipped retreat to her bedroom spoke of a willingness to go along with the others.
I went and stood in front of the door, studying its features. It seemed to me equally plausible that I could remember the door having always been there and that I could remember an empty space where now a door stood. It reminded me of the time I couldn’t remember whether I had left the hose on in the backyard or not. The vivid memory of having turned it off was made less credible by a certain nagging doubt. The same was true of the door.
I could simply open it and know the truth, but was too terrified, not only of the possibility of the mysterious but more so of the possibility of the mundane. I had almost made up my mind to do it when my father came in and suggested taking me out for ice cream. We fetched Madge out of her room and drove to the drugstore for double scoops of strawberry with sprinkles.
The first time that the door opened and one of THOSE came in, we were all sitting in the family room watching Masterpiece Theater on PBS.
Again I would say that reactions were mixed. The cat hissed and jumped off the back of the couch. I looked up and saw the door opening, saw IT coming in and glanced at my family to see if they could see IT too. Clearly they did. I observed each one react, even if for only a moment before they quickly averted their gaze and pretended to be watching TV. Madge continued to stare silently at it. Grandmother, sitting in her wheel chair clucked her tongue and said, “Gads, not this again.” but my mother quickly hushed her, “Ma, we’re trying to watch.”
My grandmother sighed and joined my parents and the twins in their defiant TV watching while Madge, the cat, and I watched IT walk out of the family room and down the hall.
By the end of the week their visits were quite frequent. They came in groups of two or three, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes during the day, to roll, run, and scamper down the hall. They would leave all the cupboard doors open. The cat grew accustomed to them and sometimes chased after them as they frolicked.
While we played a board game, did homework, or ate dinner at the kitchen table, one of THOSE would sometimes stand there and watch. They didn’t usually open packages, but were always interested in food that had been left open or left out. They would drink the remaining milk from our cereal bowls if we left them on the table and would eat the crusts of sandwiches left on plates. We could no longer keep a glass of water by the bed because they would come and drink it while we were sleeping.
Nobody besides the cat, myself, Madge, and occasionally Grandmother, acknowledged their presence. My parents and the twins pretended not to see or hear them. Eventually it began to seem as if they actually were unaware of them. Grandmother would shoo them away in the same manner that she shooed the cat, waving a hand if they came close or were in her path and saying “Git” or “Shoo.” Madge would have staring contests with them, gazing silently and expressionlessly at them. Mesmerized they would stare back.
I took a page from the cat’s book. I would pretend that I wasn’t paying attention to them. Then, just as they got close enough I would whirl, roar, and charge, sending them scattering. I had the impression that they enjoyed it, but to leave no doubt of my good will I would leave out cups of milk and plates of cookies or cheese.
At the height of their presence they began to come in groups of up to five. They giggled rather loudly in the night and banged around in the bathroom and kitchen while we tried to sleep. The cat would nap all day, tuckered out from the nightly rumpus. They had started doing little favors for Madge and I, finding items for us that we lamented loosing, fixing broken toys, leaving strange little gifts such as unusual coins and glass marbles.
One day I saw Madge issuing commands in her bedroom, “Pick up my socks and put them in the hamper please. And close the window.” They obliged and stood waiting for the next command as if playing a game of mother may I.
In February, things tapered off. They came less often and in smaller numbers. A week passed when none of THOSE was seen or heard. The cat sat in front of the door waiting, tail twitching. Then one night we came in to watch Masterpiece and the door was gone. My mother stood there and stared at the empty part of the wall looking puzzled.
“I thought there used to be a closet here.” she said.
“Don’t be ridiculous. The show’s about to start.” my father answered.
My grandmother shook her head. Madge looked at me. Her lip trembled a little and her eyes got watery, but in her usual style she managed to maintain a straight face. The twins were crunching loudly on a bowl of popcorn. I invited our poor lonesome cat to come sit in my lap and scratched her chin until she remembered how to purr. The sound soothed me, but I couldn’t concentrate on the show. Absently, I gazed on, bathed in the glow and garble of dialogue.
Like Madge, I was saddened by the disappearance of the door, but worse was a nagging fear that by tomorrow I wouldn’t be sure if it had ever been there at all. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that it was, but the cat still sits in front of the wall sometimes, waiting. Now and then I leave out milk and cookies, just in case.