Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow – I keep hearing this word echo in my head. I said “tomorrow;” I said “I’ll write again tomorrow;” but when I wrote “tomorrow,” I had no clue what kind of a tomorrow it would be.
I found a dead body. In my backyard. Under Aunt Pricilla’s rosebushes.
So. Ugh. Where do I even begin?
Ok, so I ended my last letter by telling you that Gordon Ripley had dropped me off at the house because there was a storm coming. And it wasn’t until I was standing there at the front door, and he was roaring away in that old truck, and the thunder and lightning were coming down all over, that I remembered the papers, and realized I had been conned. He seemed like such a nice old guy, too; an uncle sort of guy. Remember Uncle Charlie? You probably don’t remember him as well as I do, and I only remember meeting him once. I remember he gave us golf balls, and he had sticky notes all over the house, with written reminders to himself. So, kind of like him, only more lumbering and more muttering and more – well, altogether overwhelming. But kind and inviting and hospitable all at the same time. The sort of person who loves kittens but could stare down a grizzly. The point is, I stood there and let the rain drench me as I realized that this nice Santa Claus kind of guy had taken my papers, given me lemonade, and sent me home.
So I was in a grumpy mood when I got inside and all the cats were meowing for food. I didn’t have any more tuna, so I opened the back door and picked them up and threw them out one by one. Of course, I quickly realized this wasn’t an efficient method, since they just came scurrying back in again, but that didn’t stop me from picking them up and throwing them out, one by one by one, until I was exhausted and they were persistently getting the better of me, and so I closed the door and collapsed into the living room chair and closed my eyes. The cats swarmed back with me, of course, into the living room and into the kitchen and up the stairs to who knows where. There’s no controlling them. So I gave up. So it was just me and the cats and the storm until I heard one of them scratching at the door. It was just a little scratch: scratch-scratch-scratch. It was a gentle scratch; it was an apologetic scratch. Somebody must have gotten stuck outside when I closed the door. I took a deep breath and pulled myself out of the chair and me and my feline hoard went to let in the prodigal child.
I could hear the wind and the rain outside, and I quickly opened the door. There, in the cold and wet, sat little Smokey, swishing his tail miserably. “Come inside, you stupid animal,” I said, and so he did, and I slammed the door behind him. When I turned around, I saw a tiny trail of bloody pawprints behind him.
“Hey, come here,” I cried out, thinking he had hurt himself. I scooped him up and looked at each of his paws. He wasn’t bleeding anywhere, but he had walked through what seemed to be a lot of blood. Suddenly I smelled it, and my stomach turned. I dropped him in the sink and tried to wash off his paws, but of course he wouldn’t sit still, so he just jumped out of the sink and ran away, trailing a wet mess of blood and soap and water behind him.
That’s it, I thought. I’ve had enough. Cats are impossible. People are impossible. Weather is impossible. I wanted to curl up in my apartment back in D.C., log onto the computer, and watch Netflix for the rest of the evening.
But I couldn’t. Something, I knew, was terribly, terribly wrong. So I pulled on Aunt Pricilla’s old 70’s style rain coat from behind the kitchen door and stepped outside into the rain.
I could see nothing. I could hear nothing but the rush of water as it came pouring down my face and into my eyes and mouth and ears. I could almost smell – no, that wasn’t right. I told myself it wasn’t possible; I told myself it was all a mistake, a horrible, horrible nightmare, that these cats had driven me insane, and I needed to pack up and go home first thing in the morning to see Dr. Shutzpretzel and make him tell me I wasn’t hallucinating again. But a burst of wind blew up and smacked me across the face, and I could almost hear it sighing with strained forbearance at my desperate cowardice. Slowly, I opened my eyes, and I looked out across the backyard.
All was still. Everything was soaked: the concrete patio, the rusty old lawn chairs tossed here and there, the trees, the flowers, the bushes … and there, underneath the row of dainty white rosebushes against the rickety old wooden fence, there was a human leg. I stepped out across the patio, my feet leaden with fear and disgust. I reached the edge of the row, and despite the pouring rain, I could see most of the body: a woman in baggy pants and an orange sweater lay tossed under the rosebushes. Well, maybe tossed isn’t the right word; dropped, forgotten, hastily set aside, to be claimed at a later date? Anyway, she was there. And I was there. Well, not THERE, but there, at the edge of the bushes, in the pouring rain, thinking things just couldn’t get worse. And then I caught a whiff of the most putrid smell on this earth.