Some people swore that the house was haunted. I hoped so. It should be. I’d buried two wives and an increasingly demanding girlfriend in the basement, and seeded several other wives, girlfriends, and acquaintances throughout the place. They were probably haunting each other in the old bay-and-gable row house in what had been a working class neighborhood of Baltimore, but was now what the city fathers euphemistically termed a "blighted area."
I walked down a sidewalk showing signs of severe earthquake damage lugging my parcel, glancing up at a darkening sky. My breath came in strangled gasps as I finally reached the wreak of a house. I pledged for the umpteenth time to make the gym a regular destination.
I paused at the steps, staring at the grey shamble of a porch. The front screen door swung wildly in the wind, banging and screeching like my dearly departed girlfriend, Sonora, as I held her down and deepened the part in her jet black hair. What a temper she had. The first two wives were angels compared to her, and they were no angels.
I hated having to come back to this dump, but I received yet another notice from the city that I was in violation of code, something to do with unsightly, unsanitary, unsafe, and probably just damned unappealing conditions. Mostly, it was the smell; probably a cracked sewer pipe, a city inspector suggested. I argued that the whole area was about to be bulldozed and converted to "open space,"another euphemism for no more affordable housing, but my pleading fell on deaf ears. Not wanting to break any laws, I’d come to remedy the unfortunate smell emanating from the premises.
I let the 50-pound bag of lye slide off my shoulder onto the porch and walked into the house. The wind whipping across the door made a scream not unlike that wrenched from Marley, my first wife, when I pushed the kitchen knife up under her ribcage. So many women. So much blood.
Marley, Denara, my second wife, and Sonora, were just three of the ten (or was it eleven?) women I’d terminally reprimanded (yes, eleven). I stood in the foyer and surveyed the empty spaces around me; living room (a misnomer in this house), dining room (I chewed off two of Sonora’s fingers in there; served her right for shoving her hand in my face as I choked her), and back through there, the kitchen, where the knives had been kept.
I headed for the stairs. I wanted to check the upstairs bedrooms and play a little game with myself. There was a dead rat on the landing. “That’s what you get for nibbling on Nora,” I said to the desiccated creature. I glanced to my left, towards the master bedroom. Is that where Nora is? I wondered. I went into each bedroom and tried to remember which former woman friend was where. I should have brought a pen and note pad.
Walking through each bedroom I was dismayed to see what age and neglect had done to the remodeling I’d spent so much time on in each room; replacing drywall, baseboards, paint, wall paper. Don’t let anyone tell you that hiding bodies in walls is easy. For one thing, there’s only sixteen inches between wall studs and some of my “projects” were, shall we say, Rubenesque in stature. The purchase of a Craftsman 10” Table Saw allowed me to artfully place body parts in the wall spaces without degrading load-bearing beams.
My game of hide and seek was, I’m afraid, a bit of a dud. I couldn’t remember who was where. It had just been so long ago. Only the gals in the basement were, shall we say, “fresh,” and this was the source of the problem I’d come out to fix.
I went back down stairs shaking my head. How quickly we forget the good times. I opened the door under the stairs, only to be repelled bodily by a brawny aroma that was physical in its intensity. I wondered about my ability to go down those steep stairs to the basement and dig up Marley, Denara, and Sonora, and sprinkle them with the lye I’d left on the porch. Why the hell hadn’t I thought to do this in the first place? They all used too much perfume, but surely I’d had no thought that this affectation would tied them over into putrefaction.
I went back to the porch to retrieve the bag of lye. Two small boys were on the porch. The larger of the two was methodically kicking the bag. A fine dusting of white powder decorated his scuffed Air Jordans and was spreading across the porch.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing!” I said.
“Dat meth?” the boy said, looking at me with a mixture of curiosity and cunning.
To be continued (but how?)