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Ailanthus on Patchin Place
About the Author: Claude Chabot writes literary fiction and ghost stories.

The people know.

I have to be careful—they listen, they hear …

… and I’m afraid for the little girl. And Charlie.   

They keep me here, but I flee often only to return. Their voices guide me—but they are wicked guides, hateful voices, they protect me, but only for their own ends.

I close my eyes and to keep out the sounds I don’t want to hear. I put down my pen because I have to listen …

They don’t like me at the market when I call they say it’s her again they cup their hands on the receiver but I hear them say it’s her again it’s her again. Charlie told me last week he was coming today to bring me tomatoes fine lovely, late summer ones that’s all I want but when I call they say it’s her again. They make me sad that they think I’m loony but I’m not but now I hear her I hear her I hear the little girl crying so sad I think they have the little girl she’s crying now for days oh what to do what to do. It’s the people again the people.

The Ailanthus in the alleys now have so much color in autumn they grow straight through the macadam and shade my small apartment. I’m quiet quiet the neighbors never hear me see me they’re away now I see things that most people don’t I watch through a louver in one shutter I know no one will believe me about the little girl she was crying this morning the little girl. I live like this I have to if anyone knows me or sees me they laugh they laugh so it’s better inside with the kitties and the old movies and my books and typewriter I don’t go out except at night to run and run and I know they think I’m a loony old lady. The hippies say I’m not so old but the money comes every week I don’t know what to do with it I don’t care for worldly things I have my kitties my movies my stories to write and use a little coin and put the rest in a secret place …

The birds flutter on and off the Ailanthus I wonder if they find enough food the little girl does she get enough to eat? I heard the little girl again yesterday but now I hear nothing I sweep I dust Charlie brings the groceries I don’t need much not too much just a little food and saké and the kitties I could have twenty or even more but the people won’t let me they give me these headaches and I don’t know myself. I have everything I need here my books my books keep me company and a little drop just a little drop and going out late even here in the Village late at night you can go out and no one is around and I run and run and run in the cool air the still quiet streets. No one sees me no one can it’s dark and I come home and make a bowl of parsnips and take a snort just a little one and give the kitties some parsnips they love them then go to bed and wake up and the sun is shining. I’m lost like a shadow person coming out at night hiding from the world and the people the people always watching and the voices telling me I’m no good.

Charlie is coming today my babies my kittens I love you so much they nuzzle me they love me I see the light coming in through the shutters I see it so clear so bright the blue sky above Patchin Place.  Sometimes I hear the lady prisoners yell out for help so loud from the House of Detention I think maybe I’m a prisoner too …

I should wash my hair I can look nice I can I just don’t try so hard I just stay inside mostly and get sloppy with myself. A long hot bath and my salt and pepper mane clean and brushed I have some lipstick that’s right I have a hard time just keeping it on my lips oh that’s too much I’ll dress in white khaki shorts and a gray tee-shirt for Charlie. They used to say I was beautiful maybe in some way I still am when I look in the mirror I’m pleased the beautiful hair the soft sagging skin I may be loony but I’m pretty in my way I think Charlie said so yes. The buzzer rings it has to be Charlie and it is oh it is kittens oh the buzzer Charlie Charlie is it Charlie? Yes yes is it you Charlie your sweet voice in the intercom and Charlie laughs and he shouts I’m coming up! I clap my hands Charlie is a kind boy a wonderful boy maybe today I will have Charlie in so he can come in can’t he my kittens? My babies look at me rub against me I scratch their heads.

This story appears in our DEC 2017 Issue
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