The Rooming House

THE ROOMING HOUSE
Victoria Nations

Anders, an aging hippie, lives over the converted garage studio where he builds harpsichords. His barrel chest and graying beard seem too coarse for the fine forms and delicate gold accents he creates. He works in sawdusty chinos, stripped to the waist. Those pants, stretched tight over thighs muscled from pumping the foot pedals, has encouraged lingering looks from…

Zelda, a winsome girl who seems to float in gauzy dresses, wanders through her long, second floor room. Her pale hair streams over her shoulders, lank and drowned. She drapes on furniture, pining for something. She leans in doorways to talk to the residents, round damsel eyes asking to be saved.  Her lithe body shining through her gown as she stands at her window has caught the notice of…

Oxford, a spectral academic, floats through the halls and, disconcertingly, through the floors. He shirks his responsibilities as house spirit by refusing to moan or rattle the cutlery. Such pedestrian acts do not suit a man of letters and are beneath him. He describes his afterlife as contemplative, spent pondering questions that eluded him in life. The residents snark that his contemplation extends to the hall shower when it is occupied. The highbrow sweep of his professorial robes has irritated…

William, a frustrated writer, lives cloistered in his room down the second floor hall. He’s carried his laptop from table to sofa, from window to alcove, demanding the Muses speak to him. His frame is too lean; his skin is too sallow.  He blames the banging of his neighbors for his empty head. Someday he’ll write a manifesto on killing them all, if he could just figure out the first line. He’s tried to confront them, staring angrily through the cracked door, but it was too overwhelming. His skulking has generated a bemused stare from…

Ms. Smith, as she expects to be addressed, lives in the high, sunny room on the third floor. Do not suggest she may want to live lower, with fewer stairs.  Do not imply anything that includes “at her age.”  The house residents note, as she wishes them to, that she is always impeccably dressed.  Her adult students carry their violin cases up her private back stair, and she gives precise, 2-hour lessons each day.  Her severe face conveys lateness is not tolerated, and occasionally the residents hear muffled sobs from someone she’s been cross with. The disheveled clothes and euphoric faces of her exiting students have inspired some gossip from…

Mandy, a sporty graduate student, is finishing her dissertation in the shabby front room on the first floor. With a flushed face usually shining with sweat, she is casually friendly with everyone. She keeps odd hours, at home and out. A 3:00 am jog is sometimes a must after a day bent over her computer. She’s worked her way through half the house so far, finding other ways to release her tension and supplementing her student stipend, too.  She’s shared her price list, but hasn’t closed a sale yet with…

Bob, formerly Louis, takes care of the yard in exchange for living in the dark room in the back of the first floor. He works hard to cultivate new scars and callouses, wiping the blood and grass stains on filthy overalls.  He tears up his hands with thorns and wood, rubbing his fingertips raw. His hair is his last vanity, too styled for the mysterious gardener character he’s playing. It’s his careful coif, standing out from his raggedy image, that has raised the suspicions of…

Birdie, a hairy monster with glowing gold eyes, snoozes beneath the rose chaise lounge in the foyer. She is just able to squint under the brocade skirt, daring herself to reach out and tickle the ankles of the residents as they walk by. Now that she’s eaten up through the bottom, there’s plenty of room to roll over, and she doesn‘t squeak like the old springs when the residents occasionally sit on her. Her wiry hairs that collect in the corners have caught the nose of…

Rufus, who jumps on the furniture since he was buried in the yard. He used to watch his owners go inside and lay on the puffy sofas. The cats said there were even softer beds upstairs. But Rufus was a good dog, and never went farther than the kitchen. Afterwards, he stayed, his little ball of ectoplasm shimmering by the stove where his bed used to be. Then one day he tried floating into the main house, and no one scolded him. Ever since, he romps room to room, bouncing on cushions and nestling down in the coverlets. His sticky tracks provoke dry heaves from…

Harry, a high strung realtor, pounds a For Sale sign into the front yard again. The brokerage won’t install any more of his signs. They told him they installed new signs, but he’s watched them lean and fade in just a few days. The voices told him it was the house; he needs special signs. He needs a barrier. He mutters to himself as he grimly shakes the new sign post, checking it is stable. His ranting has stirred up trouble with…

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