Sliding Past Vertical

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Authors: Laurie Boris
    Dee Dee would have rushed out
and bitched her up and down for abusing her precious phone, but so what. Dee
Dee wasn’t home. She’d gone to see her boyfriend—the parakeet’s latest
namesake—to be comforted.
    Comfortless, Sarah stayed
    She let out a long sigh. Feeling
calmer, she got Jay’s machine again and told him to call immediately. Then she
fetched a pair of rubber gloves, a clothespin, and a plastic bag. She disposed of
the T-shirt, the tampons, and the shredded plants. Gathered up the bedding and
the stuff from the drawers and began the first of many loads of wash.
    As she was running back
upstairs, the phone rang. An adrenaline buzz surged through her with all the
nasty things she wanted to tell Jay. She grabbed the receiver.
    “You son of a bitch, you tell
your friends to keep the fuck away
from us.”
    There was a long pause.
    She covered her eyes and sank
to the floor. “Em. I’m sorry, I thought you were...someone else.”
    “Are you all right?” His
voice sounded quiet and serious.
    “Yeah, I guess, I...” She let
out her breath. “Our place was just ransacked.”
    She could almost hear his
heartbeat. Or maybe it was her own. “But you’re okay?”
    “We’re both fine.”
    “So…Dee Dee’s there with you?”
      “The little wimp went to her boyfriend’s.
No one here but me and a pair of rubber gloves and about a thousand loads of
laundry.” She thought it best not to mention the dead parakeet.
    “You shouldn’t be alone.”
    Sarah didn’t want to be alone
and especially didn’t want to sleep in her apartment alone. She hadn’t thought
of that until he brought it up.
    “Did they take anything?”
    “Well, not really, they
were—” She considered that the scum could have bugged the phone when they
were here. Maybe she shouldn’t have said she was alone. “I don’t get it. They
just kind of shredded everything.”
    “Sarah. Your voice sounds
funny. Are you sure you’re okay?”
    She felt nauseated again.
“Not really.”
    “I’ll be there as soon as I

    * * * * *

    A few minutes later, Emerson called
back to ask if he could bring his friend, Rashid. “Bring all your friends,” she
told him, hoping those dirtbags were listening. “The bigger and more dangerous,
the better.”
    She continued to clean,
concentrating on the kitchen and bathroom. She was in the tub washing coconut-scented
conditioner off the tile walls, and more than anything, she wanted to take a
shower, dissolve under the steamy spray. But the thought of pulling the curtain
gave her the willies. If the bastards came back, how would she hear them? She’d
be trapped. She jumped out of the tub, leaving a trail of wet footprints to the
front door. Nobody was there. The downstairs lock held firm. Even so, she decided
to wait on the shower until reinforcements arrived.
    The bathroom and kitchen were
done. It was ten o’clock. She hadn’t had supper—as if she could eat—but
she should have something ready for Emerson and his friend.
    She checked what was still salvageable
of the provisions. Garlic, onions, half a shriveled pepper. A box of spaghetti.
A tiny bottle of extra-virgin olive oil from an old Christmas gift basket.
Canned tomatoes. A half-loaf of Italian bread in the freezer.
    Twenty minutes later,
marinara sauce simmered on the stove. She stirred in spices and watched it
bubble. The kitchen filled with smells that should have been comforting, aromas
that should have made it feel like home. But it no longer felt like home. It
was just an apartment, in a city that had turned on her.



    To Emerson’s displeasure, the
Americanization of Rashid had included the discovery of a fondness for a
particular segment of popular music: easy-listening hits of the previous decade.
It had been generous of Rashid to offer his car for the trip—Emerson’s
rattletrap probably wouldn’t have made it past the Massachusetts border, and

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