Monday, October 29, 2012

Out of The Closet

I published this story a couple of years ago as part of Fridayflash.  Since it's Halloween week, I thought I would repost.  It's one of my favorites. Enjoy!

As he did before every appointment, Dr. Silverman wrapped his sweater around his shoulders, Mr. Rogers style. Everything about the man screamed “trust me” from the smile lines bordering his soft brown eyes to the picture of his family, lovingly displayed on his desk. But after six months, I’d never told him the truth. I was beginning to wonder why.

“Violet,” he began. “Tell me about your week. How are things going?”

“Just fine Dr. Silverman. I’ve got straight A’s in school and I’m really enjoying my new yoga class.”

His disappointment hung in the air between us. “That’s great, Violet, but how did you get those cuts on your arms? And does it have anything to do with the bags under your eyes? It looks like you haven’t been sleeping.”

I lowered my head. The burden of my secret rested against my teeth, ready to spring itself into that space. What was I waiting for?

“Tell me, Violet. I can’t help you, if I don’t know the truth.”

“I have skeletons in my closet,” I blurted.

“All of us have things in our past we’re not proud of,” Dr. Silverman said.

“No. I mean, I have actual skeletons in my closet.”

Dr. Silverman’s smile melted. “Violet, are you telling me you have a dead body in your closet? “

“Yes. Well, more than one actually.”

The shiver that ran up his spine let me know I’d blown it. I didn’t want to scare him away, so I clarified. “I didn’t kill anyone, Dr. Silverman. It’s just how they reach me.”

“How they reach you?”

“Right. See I’m the new Charon, the person who ushers the dead across the river Styx. I’m still not clear exactly how I got the job but just between you and me, I don’t think my mother is being totally honest about who my father was. But regardless, I’m in school all day and then there’s volleyball and these appointments. There are a lot of souls waiting, so I end up working most of the night. Plus you have the hell hounds and the banshees trying to pick one off here or there. It’s not an easy job. Gosh what I would do for a nap, you know?”

Dr. Silverman blinked at me. He sat so quietly, I could hear the clock tick.

“You must feel …overwhelmed by the responsibilities you have and betrayed by your mother’s deception. Sometimes strong feeling like these can confuse us—“

I shook my head and waved my hands to interrupt. “Come with me, Dr. Silverman.” I turned toward his office closet.

“Are you going to take me to Hades through my closet?” Dr. Silverman asked.

I nodded. He walked to the closet and threw it open forcefully, revealing a set of tennis racquets and a gym bag. “There’s nothing in here but my underused athletic equipment, Violet.”

“Grab the racquet.” I grabbed his hand and leapt past the door. The back of the closet broke away, as it always did, and we were welcomed by the smell of sulfur. My feet met volcanic rock on the shore in front of the ancient vessel that was mine to command. The dead crowded in, their bones rattling as they jostled for position.

“I’ve only got a few minutes. Form a single file line and I’ll get to as many of you as I can,” I commanded the group of skeletons. I turned to Dr. Silverman whose face had gone pale and whose hand was cutting off the circulation in mine. “It wouldn’t be fair not to take a load across, since we’re here anyway. Plus, if I let them go for too long, they come looking for me on the other side. “

I ushered the first thirty or so on board and gave Dr. Silverman a seat up front. To his credit, he did a nice job remaining neutral. It’s not a good idea to show fear in front of the newly dead. And when the Banshees swooped in, he promptly produced the tennis racquet and helped swat them from the blood red sky.

“They’re like mosquitoes this time of year.” A talon had shredded the sleeve of Dr. Silverman’s sweater. "I can fix that."  He didn’t look reassured.

The remaining souls were disappointed when I had to leave after only one trip across but I could tell Dr. Silverman wasn’t enjoying himself. I launched us back out of his closet, the wall rebuilding behind us.

He didn’t say anything at first, just stared at me and sighed. Then, he walked to his phone and buzzed his secretary. “Cancel my next appointment, Barbara,” he said. “And, call Violet’s parents. Tell them we’ve made a breakthrough and she’ll be late.”

Without a word, he motioned for me to lie down on the little sofa in his office. He tucked a handmade quilt around me, then turned off the light. From the glow of his office door, he said, “Goodnight, Violet.” Then, he left.

As I said before, some people you just know you can trust—with anything.

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