UP - THOMAS DAVIDSON
Originally published in The American Drivel Review in Autumn of 2005
I woke up on the ceiling.
And saw a tiny chip of peeled paint set to fall like a snowflake. I was naked and alone, floating on my back in midair.
The ceiling reminded me of a large blank page, ready to be filled in. What was the story? Why was I up here? I bobbed, dipped, rolled over in slow motion.
And saw myself directly below, ten feet down, asleep on the couch. Me, Buford Q. Hornbuckle.
This happened to me once before. An out-of-body experience. OBE. The first time was frightening. This time I felt dazed, detached, staring at the shell called Buford.
Down there, my head was squished against the armrest, mouth half-open, left arm dangling over the side of the couch. Nearby, the coffee table was littered with a wallet, keys, crushed cigarettes, and empty bottles.
The night’s highlights flickered in my skull, flashbacks of an incendiary exchange. Voices and tempers rose in tandem, scorching the room. Pointed fingers dueled in the air. A sandstorm of shouts and accusations.
I had suspicions about my sneaky wife and her boss, a silk-suited snake. I couldn’t prove it, but, oh, I knew. Lately, she had that faraway glint in her eyes.
Something was off.
As I inventoried the ruins of the evening, the detritus of the debacle, the bottles and butts, a noise broke the silence. Furtive footsteps padded along the hallway. Floorboards squeaked. The thump-thump stopped outside the doorway.
I felt increasingly edgy. I studied myself lying twisted on the couch, blitzed blind. The last time I had an OBE, I woke inside the chimney, but soon descended through the air, mercifully, and reeled back into my body. Perfectly conjoined. One plus one equals one.
Now...a hushed voice.
A second pair of footsteps in the hall. Treading closer. I tried to turn, a human blimp scraping the ceiling, but couldn’t move. I could only look down and observe my slumbering self. Lights out. Adrift in sodden dreams.
Eerie silence. Then: squeak, squeak.
Frieda Sue Wackett-Hornbuckle, my disheveled wife, appeared below me. Her hair, an explosion of corkscrew curls, jiggled as she sneaked toward the couch on unsteady feet. Clearly plastered. She braked, looked down, and watched me as I watched her from above. Then I heard a man’s voice, low and sinister, from the hallway behind me.
“Do it,” he hissed.
The two words triggered panic. I pictured her belly-crawling boss slithering into my apartment, provoking my wife with his sordid scheme. He violated her at work, and now he violated my home.
A moment later, fried Frieda—my unfaithful, drunken wife with the bewildered hairdo—grabbed a brass lamp from an end table, as if a designated hitter grabbing a bat.
“Don’t!” I silently screamed. I thrashed against the ceiling, a hooked fish fighting for its life.
She held the lamp high in the air like a trophy.
And with a horrific downswing...
Sometime before dawn I came to, aware again of floating like a balloon. I saw an empty, bloodstained couch. My body was adios. I thought of Frieda, the lamp. And most of all, I thought of her evil cohort—Mr. Do It. I never saw him, but I imagined his moussed hair, fluffed to perfection, his linen sport jacket with a Nehru collar, and his flat black eyes rolling in their sockets while he egged her on...Do it!
A thumping sound snapped my reverie. Shifting my gaze, I spotted a visitor floating outside my second-floor window. I recognized the plump, freckled face. The frizzy red hair. The protuberant front teeth and goofy grin.
My neighbor, Bucky Schwartz.
Bucky lived alone downstairs on the first floor. Then it occurred to me—Bucky, too, was having an OBE. The real Bucky had to be snoring downstairs. Here was out-of-body Bucky floating in midair.
Bucky tapped the window again, and smiled.
I stared at Bucky. How had he slept through the recent racket? Why hadn’t he been alarmed and run upstairs, or called the cops? Was he a sound sleeper or...?
“Egads, Bucky,” I said. “I witnessed my own murder, and am doomed to spend eternity in the nude by the ceiling. What should I do?”
Out-of-body Bucky grinned at me through the window pane, proudly tapped his chest, and said:
In a flash, I recognized the voice from the hallway. All along, I’d been cuckolded by Bucky.
Then Bucky stuck out his little pink tongue, waved bye-bye, and sank from sight.
Mitzie Myckleby opened the window for a spring breeze, and stretched out on her couch. Tonight was her first night in her new apartment and despite—or because of—its recent history, the place was a bargain. If she didn’t dwell on the previous tenant being murdered here, she was left with a rare gem in today’s tight housing market.
“From crime scene to real steal,” the realtor had declared. “Crime pays!”
Like much of modern life, the trick was not to think. Fortunately, being thoughtless was easy. So Mitzie didn’t think while lying on her couch, tired after a long day of moving. She needed a nap before continuing to unpack. Just a little snooze...zzzzz...
Later, she stirred. Opening her eyes in the dark, she detected a vague shadow directly overhead on the ceiling. The shadow shifted a few inches, as if a tiny cloud scudding across an overcast sky.
Mitzie blinked, and for some reason thought of the hapless tenant from last winter, the poor schmuck who made a celestial transfer from a couch. She giggled at the image. How unlucky could you be?
The shadow stopped, its edges blurred, and blended with the night.
Maybe she was imagining things. Oh well. She’d heard a silly rumor about the place being haunted. If so, a ghost guaranteed an afterlife, however heavenly or hideous. So she called out with forced bravado, “Hey schmuck—what’s up? Is there life after death?”
She waited for an answer from on high.
A few seconds later, something fell through the air like a single snowflake, landed softly on her forehead. She reached for it.
A paint chip.
The rest of the night, Mitzie couldn’t sleep and stared straight up.
BIO: Thomas Davidson lives near Boston. His nonfiction has appeared in "The Boston Phoenix." His fiction has been published (or is forthcoming) in "MudRock: Stories and Tales," "Powder Burn Flash," and "The American Drivel Review." His humor column appeared at "The Electronic Drivel Review," ADR's online supplement. These days, he cranks out queries to agents regarding his crime novel. He can be reached at TDavid9999@aol.com.
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