Paul Anderson awakens in an emerald chair at two o'clock in the morning on July the twenty-second of 1972 outside New Orleans without a recollection of his last week.
Paul Anderson dozed in the emerald chair at two o’clock in the morning on July the twenty-second of 1972.
The grandfather clock across the study chimed the hour and he stirred. Squinting in the pale light emitted from the dim fixtures against the walls he recognized his aunt’s home in Louisiana. Waiting to hear her rustling in the kitchen he remembered that she had died yesterday of breast cancer. The last thing he remembered was getting off the plane in New Orleans. He was alone. He’d felt the sizzling heat of the south brush between the gap in the loading tunnel and up against his socks, then under his pant leg.
Now, outside he could hear the rustling of the wind, but nothing more. The chair he was sitting in was facing the front door, which stood open. Streaks of clumpy dirt were scattered about the entryway. A glass of bourbon he didn’t remember pouring sat next to him on the table next to the chair, soiled with melted ice on the surface. He realized that his head hurt but not in the way a hangover might. He lifted himself out of the chair very gently. Stumbling through the hall he saw that the lights were on in the bathroom. Carefully, he inched the door open. Inside he saw the familiar layout, the white porcelain sink and bathtub, and the towels with floral print. Against the stark white tile and grout near the tub was a spill of blood. Paul’s eyes moved to the mirror in front of him, to his own reflection. Against his dark blond hair was a bloody gash that had long since clotted. His throat had two deep scratches on the left side and his right eye was black. He surveyed his body and found no serious injury. His nails were stuffed with blood and dirt.
Yesterday, his uncle Matt had left him a message at Paul’s sisters’ place of work. He’d said that his aunt Caroline had passed and that Paul was responsible for the burial as the house had been left to Paul and his sister, Anna. That night Paul had bussed to the airport and bought the next plane ticket to New Orleans. His aunt’s home was a gigantic plantation seventy miles outside of the city that she’d purchased at a bargain because no one wanted to be associated with the property. The locals thought that it was haunted or under a voodoo curse or some such and newcomers rarely were interested in owning plantations, merely visiting them. Paul had told his aunt when she’d bought it that if she didn’t preserve the house and keep it in its original condition she shouldn’t bother. Caroline had taken his advice and everything had been preserved, right up to the graveyard in the front that held the previous owners. Shortly after she moved in she’d been diagnosed.
Paul hadn’t been to the house in some years. Through the bathroom window in the driveway he saw an unfamiliar car in the driveway with its headlights on. He left the house and noticed the car door was standing open. Checking his pockets he found a receipt for rental of the vehicle and pulled keys out of the ignition. He flipped off the headlights.
Two o’clock in Louisiana, eleven o’clock in Valencia, California. He tried the phone line in the study and sat back in the emerald chair. He entered in his sister’s number.
“Hello?” she responded. He’d woken her.
“Hi, sorry. It’s me.” he said.
“What do you want, Paul? Did everything go okay?” she asked.
“Uh, I’m not sure. I think I fell asleep early.” he answered.
“What do you mean? I thought you were going to meet with the funeral home?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah. You mean the one in town? Everything went okay.” he said.
“Oh great,” she answered, yawning, “so what do you need?”
He hesitated. Telling her that he’d lost the last day might send her into a frenzy of worry. Besides, he'd lost some credibility with Anna.
“Umm, I need to know what the last time I called you was. For work. They need to know. I didn’t write it down.”
“Oh my god, Paul. I’m exhausted. Do you know what time it is here? Couldn’t this have waited until morning?” she whined.
“Yeah, it could have. When did I last call you?” he asked.
“Jesus, Paul. Maybe five o’clock yesterday? You were asking what I thought about selling the house, you know that new couple looking for a big place? You said you thought it was a shotgun wedding?” she asked.
“What do you mean? I’ve only been here a day.” he blurted out.
“Paul, it’s Wednesday.” she said.
It seemed out of nowhere he started to hear a high pitched ring. He’d left on a Thursday evening, July the sixteenth. He’d lost more than a day, he’d lost nearly a week.
“Right.” He said, “Sorry. I’m really tired. I just woke up too. I just wanted to call you before it got even later.”
“Uh huh. Are you still coming home tomorrow?” she asked.
“No. I think I’m going to stay here a while longer.” he answered.