The smooth way Annalie said, ‘That is what you have to do.’
As she swooped down on two china dogs standing innocuously at opposite ends of the shelf above the fireplace.
She picked them up and stood for a moment in a flare of sudden sunlight from the open windows.
The ultra-confident way her body shot forward.
As she aimed towards the middle of the shelf a china dog held pointedly in each hand.
‘This is how you organize your life,’ Annalie instructed me, a glisten of superiority in her eyes. After all, I was a good bit older than her. Yet here she was in possession of knowledge: of the ultimate truth of things; of the best way forward. She, the one who had cracked life’s secret code for the maximum accumulation of happiness.
After holding her head to one side for a second’s reflection she stood the two china dogs neatly together. Facing towards one another but not quite touching.
The gloating way she looked at me.
As she slipped her hands away and stood back to admire her precise placing of the objects. She was visibly satisfied and proud.
‘It’s fine now. All will be fine. Your life will be fine.’
And I thought, What if she’d dropped one of the dogs and it had smashed – which would have meant the other dog had been left by itself. Just one dog! What then for her/your life? How would she/we have coped with that?
But this is negativity. These are the things I’m not allowed to say to Annalie.
The angry way she would almost certainly shout:
‘Don’t speak like that. You have to keep positive if you want to stay on top of everything.
If you want things to go your way. If you don’t want to end up on your own.’
Staying for the weekend I noticed objects in couples all over the place. On the draining board: two plates , two knives, two forks, two spoons. On the coffee table the mugs, the magazines and drink mats were paired off in a similar way. It could hardly be an accident. And when I visited the bathroom I saw it was the same thing with the soaps, bath oils and toilet bleaches. There were no singles anywhere in sight. As though any sign of singleness would be an affront to the perfect ideal. And could not be tolerated; and had to be unthought.
Otherwise… What might happen?
As we sat at the dinner table in the evening I noticed two identical vases standing on the sideboard. One was empty. The other had a matted bushy plant inside. A few dried out fallen flower heads lay on the cupboard top. But in the vase itself there was one yellow flower still unwithered. I felt a sense of alarm and glanced over at Annalie to see the effect of this on her. It was almost impossible to imagine that she wouldn’t have noticed the discrepancy.
The nervous way she stared around before she abruptly got up and stomped out of the room.
Though next minute she was back with a defiant look. I saw she was wearing a large and clasping bracelet halfway down her arm. She was tapping at it methodically as she walked across to the table. And she was whispering something in the same rhythm as the taps.
‘It’s ok,’ she said, as she sat down again. ‘It’s good. Sometimes it is important to see the signs of danger so you can practice the most effective way of dealing with everything. You know, clean up.’
After saying this Annalie gave a loud and hoarse sounding cough. ‘Let them know they won’t be able to get away with any attempts to perform evil magic here. I have my amulet.’ And she tapped her bracelet again.
She was putting me up for the night on her couch and so I suppose she was telling me I could rest easy because they could not.
In her bedroom all was as it should be. Two bedside tables, two night lights, two pillows. What you would expect.
The challenging way she sat up in her bed before turning the lights out. As though she was wholeheartedly determined to ignore the fact that the only singleton in evidence was herself.
By Jay Merill
- Jay Merill has fiction in Bare Fiction Magazine, The Bohemyth, Bunbury Magazine, Cabinet of Heed, Casket of Fictional Delights, Crannog, Ellipsis Zine, Eunoia Review, Fictive Dream, Here Comes Everyone, The Irish Literary Review, Jellyfish Review, Liminal Residency, Litro, The Lonely Crowd, The Manchester Review, MIR Online, New Flash Fiction Review, The Nottingham Review, Spelk, Storgy and Unthology 10.