Dr. Ed Stroud, and his wife, June, had lived in the two story, eighteenth-century, block home for fifty-six years. The elegant home sat back from the street, accented by decorative and charming trees. The garden was reminiscent of a southern plantation with an assortment of various colored flowers that bloomed for every season and occasion.
Dr.Stoud had delivered many babies, but had been blessed with only one child of his own – Cathy, who was now an adult. Lately, the doctor and his wife had noticed the house had been very quite, but they were all right with the silence and thought the lack of noise was wonderful.
Recently, a man they did not know had been in and out of the house moving furniture, taking dishes, and other items out of cabinets. He carried furniture and other valuables from the rooms of the house, cleaned them, and examined them from top to bottom, stopping from time to time to get a book out of his pocket, and read awhile. Then he would carry whatever item he had in his hand back to the original room.
One day, June finally asked her husband, “Who is this strange man?”
“I think he is from the cleaning service Cathy talked of hiring, but I’m not positive. ” Ed said.
“Well, look at the mess he left on the floor. I can certainly clean better than him.”
Ed laughed. “You are so cute when you get mad. Now, be honest – isn’t it nice to let someone else take care of us for a change?”
“Yes, I suppose you are right. I didn’t realize I was so tired, but I can’t even get up and clean up his mess. Look, he is pulling my quilts out of the chest! Do you think he is going to steal them?”
“I don’t know what the man thinks he is doing with our quilts, but I will call Cathy as soon as possible. I am too tired to get up, but I’ll call her after I rest awhile.”
One day, the unknown man opened the door and allowed about twenty people to come inside the house. Immediately the people started picking up quilts, dishes, drapes, and even furniture. When they left and took the items, they gave the mysterious man money.
June asked. “Oh, what are they doing? This is disgraceful! What is happening?”
“I don’t know, but somebody is going to bloody well pay for this! Look, he has my old albums. Hey, put them down! I am calling the police! I mean it!”
“Oh honey, my hair is a mess and I want to be presentable when the police get here. I haven’t even dressed today.”
“I know; I’m not dressed either, but I do hope I have on my best pajamas, and not those that are so thin you can see my butt crack. Do I have on good pajamas?”
“You always look good to me.”
Throughout the rest of the day, the strangers took their furniture, clothing, dishes, and even June’s jewelry out of the house. As they left, they always gave the unknown man money for what they took. Ed tried to tell the people that everything belonged to him and June, and not to the man they were giving the money too. But no one would listen to him. He pleaded with the strangers to leave their home, and he even cursed at some of the ill-mannered, bedraggled men and women jerking their possessions around.
Finally the strangers were all gone, and June and Ed tried to rest. Morning soon arrived and they went through another long, grueling day, as a new group of strangers entered their lovely home and left with most of the treasures June and Ed had accumulated throughout their lifetime. By the end of the second day, they were exhausted. When they said goodnight to each other that night, they were too tired to talk. They knew Cathy must be very sick, or she would be here and stop these people.
The third day dawned and June softly said. “I don’t think I can take any more.”
“I know honey, but I want you to leave the worrying to me. Haven’t I always taken care of you?
The door opened, and Cathy walked in with the mysterious man from the cleaning service.
“Oh good, Cathy will set the terrible man straight!” June said.
“You’re darn tooting she will; now we’ll see what happens when Cathy discovers what this man has been up to.”
But strangers continued to arrive and take items out of the house. Ed and June’s hearts were broken because Cathy was helping the people vandalize their home. Soon all the people were gone except the unknown cleaning man, and Cathy. They were laughing and talking, but Ed and June couldn’t hear one word.
Ed was thinking, “Cathy’s actions are odd!”
At the same time June was saying to herself. “Cathy’s behavior is strange!”
They saw Cathy pick up a velvet throw of June’s and walk toward them. As Cathy run her hands lovingly over the portrait on the wall, she placed the throw over it, and suddenly everything went black for Ed and June.
After a short while, June asked. “Ed … do you think we are dead?”
Ed pondered the question for a minute, and then said. “Yes, my dear … I believe we are.”
When they woke the next morning, their view was very enchanting, with the dappling rays of sunlight gleaming on the polished oak floor. There was even a huge bouquet of fresh flowers sitting on the coffee table exactly like the flowers that had grown in June’s garden.
And from a portrait of Ed and June that hung on the wall in Cathy’s living room came quiet conversation:
“Oh, how wonderful!” June said. Now, isn’t this much better than being in a lonely house all by ourselves for eternity? And we can visit with Cathy every day. The house is so quiet and I will never have to clean.”
“Yes my dear. We will be much happier here.” Ed said.
Copyright © 2014 Jo Boester
All rights reserved
Photo: Public Domain in the U. S. Taken by Jack E. Boucher, Library of Congress