Once, there was a woman called Sue, who lived in a house that was blue. Twice, there were women named Margaret, but neither of them have to do with this story.
Back to Sue, whose house was blue. Sue suffered from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (or Mad Cow Disease), which meant that every area rug in her home was a beatboxer who couldn’t hold a beat.
Sometimes, the birds outside Sue’s kitchen window could hear her stomping on one of the many inanimate rugs throughout her house— “This- is- the beat!” And the birds just shook their heads and sighed (mistaken for singers, birds actually just sigh a lot, and very beautifully).
One day, it began to rain outside. (It didn’t begin to rain inside because Sue’s blue house had a roof on it.) Sue sat in her favorite rocking chair, enjoying a mild-mannered morning with her crosswords. The sun had risen and fallen again with an encroaching line of thunderclouds.
“Phooey,” Sue remarked, shaking her head at the grey Q-tips in the sky.
She turned away from them and focused on her crossword instead: “Where was I- oh, yes… ‘another word for elderly.’” A moment of contemplation, followed by a chuckle. She scratched a few letters into the boxes: G-R-O-O-V-Y.
(Now is an appropriate time to mention the fact that Sue didn’t care if the words she picked for the clues were correct or not— she was a whatever-word-fits kind of lady.)
Satisfied with her answer, Sue moved on to the next clue: ’17th President of the United States.’ Sue’s chained glasses fell off her face as she scribbled excitedly inside the squares: A-N-D-R-E-W-J-O-H-N-S-O-N. Sue smiled, and mumbled appreciatively: “Such a handsome man…” She looked at the framed picture of Andrew Johnson which stood on her chair-side table; Andrew stared back numbly.
Rejuvenated by the remembrance of her historical heartthrob, Sue felt ready to tackle the next clue— only a noise interrupted her contemplation: “Puhpuhksh.”
Sue didn’t look up from clue 6: ‘not a curtain.’ “Yes, Reginald?” Not a curtain? That covered a lot of things…
“Puhpuhpsh, puhpuhpuhpsh, pshktsk.”
Sue turned her spectacled eyes on the beat-boxing area rug beneath her slippers. “What do you mean, something’s in the fireplace?”
The rug responded with a sharp series of lip-smacking sounds that would have been unintelligible to you and I, but to Sue, formed a coherent statement— a statement of alarm.
Sue shook her head. “Reggie, if this is another one of your little jokes, I just must tell you, they’re getting very old, and at my age, I can’t afford to waste time.” She turned back to her crossword, which she’d been working on for four hours.
The other three area rugs on that level of the house started joining in, bequeathing Sue so loudly that she turned her hearing aid off and could still hear them.
“My hearing is back!” Sue would have leapt out of the rocking chair in celebration, if only her sciatica wasn’t so vulnerable.
The rugs continued to beat-box until Sue finally got out of her chair and started toward her walker in the corner.
“Alright, alright, quit your jabbering, you sound like a bunch of horses trying to learn to whistle!” Sue put on her slippers and took ahold of her walker. The tennis balls on the bottom of her walker gently scraped the linoleum kitchen floor as she walked over it to the fireplace.
The rugs kept making impatient, anxious rhythms as she passed
over them. Sue couldn’t kneel, so she stood in front of the fire. The flames danced as if they wore orange ballgowns, and the wood beneath them crackled like Sue’s spine did every time she stood up. Absolutely nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“Reggie, this isn’t very f-,” Sue started to say, but when she turned, it wasn’t Reginald the Rug who received her surprise stare. It was a beast– bat-like and at least ten feet tall.
He slumped a little to keep his head from hitting the ceiling, his hands crossed awkwardly in front of his torso.
“Hi,” the monster said. His voice sounded like a tuba inside a clay pot.
“Hello,” Sue said politely. She gathered her shawl around her and gestured to the couch like this happened all the time. “Please, come in.”
“I did,” the monster said in confusion.
“Just- I mean- look, I don’t know why people say that, just sit,” she commanded him, taking a seat herself in one of the arm chairs. The beast, who knew the effect of his weight and tried to tip-toe to the couch, knocked over three vases before he made it to the cushion. Sue blinked and wondered why she’d put so many vases so close to each other.
“Sorry,” mumbled the monster . He scooped up every piece of every vase and every speck of soil into his scaly hands and placed it all on Sue’s pearly white ottoman.
“No trouble, young man.”
The beast looked at her in surprise, but said nothing, or at least he didn’t get the chance to because Sue continued, “What’s your name, sonny?”
The monster’s twelve jagged teeth stuck out menacingly (but again, it isn’t you or I we’re speaking of, who was in the company of this creature; it was Sue, and Sue was unperturbed). His eyes, yellow as radioactive waste, wandered around the room as he replied, “I… don’t have a name, ma’am. I just travel. Call myself a wanderer.” He stroked the nearby area rug with his toes, so soft and comforting it was to his well-worn feet…
(Only Sue could hear the alarmed, disgusted outcry of Warren the Living Room Rug as he had his threads fondled by the giant bat’s toenail.)
“A wanderer, eh?” Sue chuckled the chuckle of a person who was well-traveled, and knew a thing or two about living. In reality, she’d only been as far as Idaho, and no farther, because she loved potatoes and felt she needn’t look anywhere else for happiness. “Then I think I’ll call you… Wanda.”
The monster blinked and said, “But I’m a—”
“There there, Wanda, don’t be distressed,” she struggled to stand up again,
“There’s plenty of food for the both of us. Just grab your own pillow case, sheets, and quilt out of that closet over there and pick a spot to sleep on, I’m gonna start some baked potatoes.” Then she was off like a really slow bullet.
The monster now named Wanda, puzzled, didn’t ask questions, only said, “Uh, okay,” and tip-toed off to find whichever closet Sue had been referring to. Sue, who was content to host anyone who did what she said, threw a couple dozen potatoes into the microwave with a new spring in her orthopedic slippers.
Wanda, toting a small mountain of sheets (already a little tattered from his
carrying them a few feet), stepped as gently as possible through the kitchen, smiling strangely at Sue as he passed (“strangely” not because he had some hidden motives, but simply because his face was weird). He set his new bedding on the living room floor and waited wordlessly as Sue pulled a key lime pie out of the freezer.
“Dessert is ready,” she said. The pie sounded like a cinder block wearing a
hardhat as it landed on the counter.
Wanda carried the potatoes to the table for her, his hands unharmed by their scalding skins. They sat down to dinner and pre-made pie and talked about a number of things— the weather, the meaning of the life, whether toothpaste is secretly sweetened with sugar— and at the end of it, when they both said goodnight and Sue slipped off to bed, Wanda lay on the living room floor, happy and full-bellied and glad Sue had never given a second thought to that so-called bat infestation in her attic.
Gia Mesz is a Lindenwood senior, a storywriter, and a constant daydreamer, pursuing a Creative Writing degree and a certificate in Intercultural Fluency. Her writing voice is tender and playful, appealing to the imagination and speaking purposively to the childlike soul within every reader. (Don’t tell anyone, but she’s also a mermaid.)