nilesite writes


New York, New York, USA
January 08
The Backpack Press
Pilgrim, writer, photographer, mom, singer - author of "A Marshmallow on the Bus: A Collection of Stories Written on the MTA."


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NOVEMBER 30, 2012 12:01AM

OS Weekend Fiction: Collecting Days

Rate: 4 Flag
This week's prompt was:   Write a story that incorporates the phrase "the mysterious apartment" 

Today is Monday, today is Monday
Monday, string beans
Tuesday, spaghetti

Wednesday, soup
Thursday, roast beef

Friday, fresh fish
Saturday, chicken

Sunday, ice cream
All you hungry children, we wish the best to you!*

Carol started buying the newspapers the day after her sister Sandra died.  I just wanted to make a scrapbook, she told everyone, a scrapbook with all her write-ups in it.  I don’t know what all the fuss is about.  It’s just a few newspapers, after all.  And Carol kept them in stacks, so one day when she was ready, she’d make Sandra’s scrapbook.

It started innocently enough, didn’t it?  Just stacks of newspapers, sorted by day, then by week, then by month.  Everything neat and tidy.  I’ll just be going out now, she told everyone, out to the newsman on the corner.  Be right back!  And the papers piled up, very neat and tidy.

Now that Sandra wasn’t living there anymore, Carol bought the magazines too.  Not the sports ones or the ones that the men looked at.  I’ll just be picking up those fan magazines.  You know, the ones about the Hollywood stars?  It’s my collection.  I need Tuesday to be complete, after all.  And the newsman is very kind.  It’s like he knows what I want before I ask him for it. 

“Hello?”  Carol picked up the phone that sat on top of Tuesday.  “Hello? Is anybody there?” she asked the phone that never rang anymore.  Now that Sandra was gone, who would call?  “Hello?  Hello?”

And it became a routine.  Everyone finds comfort in a routine, she told everyone.  I like things neat and tidy.  So, next to Tuesday, Wednesday sat.  Thursday’s pile stacked up next, neatly.

And there were codes too.  “All you hungry children, I wish the best to you!”  On Monday, Carol shopped for string beans.  Monday’s paper, Monday’s Hollywood stars, Monday’s string beans, and can after can of beans came into the house to take its place.  Just in case, there were cans of string beans.  Carol wouldn’t want to go hungry on Monday.  On Tuesday, spaghetti.  Cans of spaghetti, all alike, stacked in piles next to the Tuesday papers, and so on to make the week.  The Sunday ice cream piled up in the freezer so Carol went over to the Tuesday pile and phoned in another freezer, just in case, and then filled it up too, piling the Sunday papers and the Sunday magazines right next to it.

Then Carol started getting confused.  Once the week was done, where could she put the next Monday if not in the pile of last Monday’s things?  Everything neat and tidy, Monday must go with Monday, week after week.  After a few months, Carol’s neat day piles stacked up to the top of her couch and slowly, so slowly she barely noticed, everything she had when Sandra was still there was consumed, swallowed up, just gone now under the piles of the days of the week.  So she made a path and the path was neat and tidy too.  It was wide at first, then smaller and smaller as it snaked down the hall, through the kitchen, into the dining room, and ended in the double parlor next to the new freezer. 

But it didn’t stop there.  The path was leading Carol now, pulling her along, day after day, room after room.  She would start on her path, visiting her days, one by one as she passed, and the path would carry her along.  It was hard to guess how many trips, back and forth, she would make on any given day, but it was many.  Sometimes she would watch the moon rise out the living room window, just past Friday, and she'd think to herself, Sandra's really missing something.

Carol decided to use the extra sections in her Sunday papers to cover up the windows.  This was a comfort to her.  They were starting to watch.  They were always looking in, judging her.  But once the papers were up and the lights were on, they all went away and she would watch the moon in peace through a tiny corner of glass.

The money held out, the newsman had every day’s purchases ready for her, the paper hung neatly against the windows, Monday stacked on Monday, and she couldn’t see them looking in anymore.  The newspaper in the windows started to crack and yellow from the sun and Carol didn't notice.  Carol wasn’t feeling well and she worried she might be dying like Sandra.  So, on Thursday, she decided to stop by the drugstore on her way to the newsman.  She looked both ways and crossed the street at the corner.  But something tugged at her arm suddenly and wouldn’t let go.  Carol argued, please let me go, I have to get drugs, or I’ll die. 

And it was too late.  Sandra pulled her away and Carol was gone.

For the next three weeks, the building people pulled apart Carol’s piles of days.  They didn’t know to start with Monday and they pulled and dragged willy-nilly until all her days were gone from her hall and her kitchen and her dining room, all the way into her double parlor where they found all the Sunday ice cream in her freezer.  When they were done, the real estate people moved in to stage it for the sale.  Someone said it was a mysterious apartment, but it wasn’t really.  Now, it was just neat and tidy.

*This is a children's song I remember from years ago with the lyric "all the best to you."  There are several versions of the tag line, but the operative is to remember which food goes with which day of the week. 


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Very nicely written. As usual you had me rapt from the first paragraph....... ;-)

sky - thank you! I'm always glad you take time to read my meager efforts. It's been a while since I wrote something like this. I've been reading about the Collyer brothers and was inspired too by a story I heard when I bought my first apartment, that there had been a woman who lived in it for 47 years who was a hoarder. One day, she walked out and died in the middle of the street and it took two full-sized commercial dumpsters to haul away her papers.
How easy it is to fall into a chasm of grief. Excellent story, and she got to be with her sister at the end.
How easy it is to fall into a chasm of grief. Excellent story, and she got to be with her sister at the end.
jp - it's hard sometimes to pinpoint what pushes people over the edge like this. But I liked that she wasn't alone at the end.
Wow, that was really great, nilesite! Strange as humans can be and totally believable and empathic. The diction and cadence matched perfectly Carol's obsessive mindset, picking up pace as the story came to its resolution. I enjoyed this a lot.
I really enjoyed this - a sad, stark,and fascinating look at the mind of someone we'd normally just be gawping at on the outside, on reality TV. And I love how you used the prompt sentence.