“One, two, three – what do I see?” My words were slurred. “Four, five, six – stucco instead of bricks. Seven, eight, nine – to go inside would be fine. But it is three, four, five and I’ll never return alive.”
I was home for Spring Break. My college friends were all someplace warm and my townie friends, well, in the two years at University I had outgrown the ones that hadn’t moved on. They were all like Matt. All Matt talked about was the “Two H-s”, hunting and hockey. His eyes blurred if I brought up anything bigger, even local politics. Mention, say, Noam Chomsky, and his face would shut down.
I had been over to Matt’s house, but got bored with his little minded attitude and wandered away. I soon found myself in front of number 345 Cedar Street saying that little chant I had made up when I was all of 12 years old. “Two, one, zero – if I do it, I’ll be a hero.” I could see my breath in the cold air.
I had always wondered about old number 345, a wonder that bordered on obsession during my middle school days.
Old number 345, yeah, what a house.
Oddly enough, it sat between 337 and 351, as if an entire block was missing except that one strange, out of place house.
I hit the flask I had hidden in my coat. The liquor burned as it went down, driving out the mid-March cold.
I had never seen a person there nor a light on in any of its windows. Ever. As far as I knew, it was abandoned. Who took care of the flowers? I once asked my dad that very question, about the flowers and all, but he told me that there was no number 345. I pointed and he shook his head.
Old number 345 was a typical Mediterranean Revival with bold turquoise shutters, a tile roof and adobe walls. My sister Karen joked that Malibu Barbie lived there.
It was a bit out of place in northern Minnesota.
There was no way to get in on the ground floor and even the downstairs windows were hidden behind those turquoise shutters so nobody could peek in. A winding staircase led to the second floor front door. Planters flanked either side of this stairway. The flowering plants were great, particularly when it was 20 below zero, a typical winter night.
I was maybe 13 when I told Karen that I thought perhaps when the owners moved house, they did it literally. Like picked it up from Southern California and dropped it on the flat frigid landscape of my home town. She laughed. She was 10 at the time.
Funny, but that was my last memory of old number 345 until I stumbled on it in my alcoholic daze.
I took another sip from the flask before daring the stairs.
I was surprised that I felt warmer as soon as I took my first step up. Was it just the liquor? I continued on, a little woozey. It grew warmer the higher I ascended.
In only a minute I stood on the little balcony, studying the door. I reached out to the nob and turned. It wasn’t locked. The mystery of “Malibu Home in Minnesota” was about to be solved.
Inside seemed normal at first. The furniture was ordinary if a bit dated. The place was clean to the point where I would call it almost sterile. I began to realize, though, that something was wrong. I looked closely at the tasteful furniture, all from the mid-1960s but immaculate, and just couldn’t see it. And then I figured out what was bothering me.
How could I see anything? There were no lights on.
The front windows still looked out over a darkened Cedar Street. The back windows, though, glowed. I walked over to investigate and froze.
Out of the windows I could see the suns set over the mountains.
Mountains? In Northern Minnesota?
But then my mind did another leap. I closed my eyes for a moment and then looked again.
There were two suns on the horizon, one about half of the size of the other.
I backed up a step. I knew I had to do something. What?
From the way I figured, I had two choices. I could turn around and go back out into the cold Minnesota night on Cedar Street or I could find a way out into the semi-arid mountainous landscape on the other side of the house.
I glanced around the room. There was a nice, comfortable couch there.
A third choice would be to lie down on the couch and sleep it off. Perhaps it was just the alcohol. I usually didn’t drink very much but, well, Matt. Damn….
A thought about getting caught crossed my mind as I lied down. The couch wasn’t as comfortable as it had looked, but it was pleasantly warm.
If I dreamed, I can’t remember.
Note – I just added a second chapter – See Chapter 2