Hau Tree Green


Annie Kahlo’s windows were black. If she had come home, she was keeping a low profile. Some nights, the flowering hedge between her house and mine smelled nice in the dark, but tonight there was just the faint odor of sleeping city.


I wondered where she was dreaming tonight.


I wondered if I had any chance of keeping her safe, and why she wouldn’t marry me, and if I was too old to marry anyone in the first place. I wondered who had killed Beatrice Stone, and if the Boston Braves could turn the corner this year. I wondered what made people act the way they did. I wondered a lot of things.


Inside the front door, I switched on a light. My living room looked as empty as it always did. One of these days, I was going to hang a picture or two. There were a lot of naked walls in the bedroom as well, so maybe I was going to need a lot of pictures. I emptied my pockets onto the dresser, and left my gun on the small table beside the bed.


I took a tepid shower, and the faucets squeaked louder than usual when I turned them off. The noise echoed from the tiles. I got my threadbare robe off the hook, belted it, and went out to the kitchen. There was a bottle of Kentucky Cream doing nothing much in the cabinet over the sink, so I got it down and splashed one of the jelly jars that I saved for special occasions.


Back in the living room, I flipped through cardboard record sleeves until I found the one I wanted. When the needle dropped and started to hiss, I left the record player behind and went to sit at the kitchen table. Charlie Parker’s saxophone followed me, and began to nibble at the opening bars of ‘I Love You Madly’.


After I lit a cigarette, I tried some bourbon. I didn’t much like Kentucky Cream. I thought it tried too hard to taste expensive, and that’s why I had a half-bottle wasting space on the shelf. It seemed swell tonight though, so I poured myself another inch. When the record finished, I didn’t get up to change it; there was enough of Bird’s saxophone lingering that I didn’t need to.


I was homesick. It made no sense, since I was at home.


Annie’s house was visible through the kitchen window. It was still dark, but I watched it for a while to see if anything changed. Nothing did, so when the bottle was as empty as me, I got up and went to bed.


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