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Rick J Lodewell

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Member Since: Nov, 2006

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The Screen Door of Fate
By Rick J Lodewell
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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Her big rambling Victorian house sat in the middle of a stand of tall oaks and sweetgum trees. The stream which used to run past the house had long ago dried up and the pond at the bottom of her property only remained a pond because her gardener ran a hose to it twice a week. I drove past the pond and across the bridge over the dry stream bed and up to the steps leading up to the porch. I put the car into park and sat for a moment listening. To the south, in the distance, I heard trucks grinding their gears on the interstate on-ramp, an occasional airhorn blast for the obtuse, and ahead of me, to the north, I heard the low chug chug of a passing train. All around people were fighting to survive, selling products no one wanted, or repairing machinery no one needed, struggling to be someone more important than their friends, or struggling to become someone more important than they were just the day before. The closer I listened, the less I heard. In her yard I heard nothing. Her yard was an idyllic aural paradise in the middle of the nasty, modern world. The air in her yard was hemmed in and still and filled with a sweet, sticky, sickly smell as if she had picked all the flowers in her yard, put them into pots and let them sit as the water turned rancid with an awful decay. Then the longer I listened the more I heard. Sitting there quietly I became a part of the yard and the birds began to sing, no longer terrified my car was an unknown predator come to slaughter them for the fun of it.

Then I heard the shot. Loud at first then echoing off into the trees with a sibilant sigh worthy of a child’s first disappointment. The sound spread outward in one concentric circle taking with it the innocence of the day. It passed and the yard was still again. The birds quiet and even the insects pausing to reconsider. I sat perfectly still. Then the only sound I heard was my car door opening and my feet scraping over the granite gravel of the driveway. I shut the door quietly, holding the handle out until the interior light flickered, then I kneed it into place. I stepped away from the car, and circling behind it walked slowly toward the house.

The decaying smell of overripe flowers and stagnant water grew stronger as I reached the yard. A child’s tricycle, baked a dull, brick red by the sun, lay overturned in the gravel. Beside it a baseball cap, adjustable strap cinched tight and small, sat upturned in the grass. I reached the steps to the porch and as I lifted my foot to climb I heard in the distance the soft train whistle one last time as the faintly audible screeches of the wheels faded amongst the trees.

I stood on the wooden steps and paused to listen again. The trucks were dueling on the interstate and a lone plane drifted overhead; the birds were still quiet. I listened again and tried to feel the vibrations of the old house. Nothing. I took more steps toward the door and then I felt it. The porch shook slightly and a noise like a screen door slamming

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