The Garage

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The Garage

By Michael James Gallagher

          The largest spider he had ever seen was perched in its web about six inches above the outdoor faucet. A window, venting the sounds of meal preparation and hit parade radio, was open about 3 feet over the spider. One of his sisters was making toast and the smell of cinnamon wafted out as Johnathan stood staring at the spider web. Spring flowers were budding on the bushes to the left and right of the faucet.

          'Have to have water to use my big Tonka,' thought Johnathan.

          He reached out toward the faucet. The spider responded moving toward the tap.  Johnathan recoiled, perplexed by his fear of spiders. He experimented from every possible angle, but the spider always moved toward the tap.

          'I know,' he said aloud. 'I'll get that big pale in the garage and crush the spider with it. Yes, that's what l'll do.'

          He passed through the green picket gate beside the garage on his left. The gate opened into a small garden with a towering elm tree in it. He looked up at the tree and recalled his father saying, "the Dutch Elm skipped this one."  As he turned right, he walked to the side entrance to the garage.  The door opening apparatus swooshed as he looked at the dull, curly, aluminum flowers covering the opaque, dirty glass of the door.

          'Funny, why's the car in the garage?' he thought.

          The metal mopping pot was on the right by the main door. Johnathan turned. The garage always smelled musty, but today it was worse usual. Squeezed between the wall and the Green Ford Fairlane, he looked toward the main door. Sunlight streaked through the dirty windows. Then he noticed the car door.  It was open on his side of the car. The silence was strange. The hydraulic pump controlling the side door made a sound like air was escaping from it and the side door clicked closed.  The click of the lock created a cloistered feeling made more intense by the smell. Johnathan felt trapped.

          He looked down and noticed a shape.  It was a person, lying prone, part in the car and part on the floor. The arm was stretched outward and the person's head was reposing on the arm, slightly tilted toward the ceiling.

          'Are you asleep?' he asked the dead air.

          There was no reply.  The person did not move. He walked a little closer and recognized the person. A sharp intake of breath accompanied his next utterance.

          'Mommy, why are you sleeping on the floor?'

          Johnathan knelt down and touched her hair, then her face. Even though he was only six, the temperature of her skin communicated something not right to him.

          'Mommy, get up,' he said as he stood up, forgetting about the spider and the pale he came to fetch.

          He fled out of the garage after fighting with the lock on the side door, turned and ran to the back porch. Once in the kitchen, he became tongue-tied. His sister was absorbed in toast and hit music. The smell of cinnamon lingered as he passed through the kitchen and headed up the stairs to the second storey bedrooms.  He stumbled on the stairs and ignored a rug burn. Turning right at the top of the stairs he walked towards his parent's room. On his left the door to his other sister's room stood open. She looked at him as he walked by. He said nothing. She went back to her studies.

          His father smelled of not washing. His heavy tweed jacket was on the bed. He turned to look at his son. Half naked, the man looked at the boy.

          "Mommy is asleep on the floor of the garage," said Johnathan.

          The father stopped dressing. "What?" he asked.

          His father, who was never inclined to moving fast, dropped his shirt, and ran down the stairs, two at a time. Johnathan heard the slamming of the back door. Then everything seemed to go blank. 

          When Johnathan finally came downstairs, his father was leaning an elbow on the mantelpiece over the fireplace in the living room. It was still bright outside. No one was talking in the house. Everyone stood and looked. Finally, one of his sisters took him to the neighbor's house and left him there. Johnathan wandered around their house feeling like he had the plague.

          As the sun went down, an ambulance arrived. The flashing lights strobing the area between the two houses. Johnathan looked through the summer drapes. His vision was bleary with tears and made worse by the gauzy curtains. Mrs Amise, his best friend's mother, closed the window so he could neither hear nor see. She took him in her arms from behind and cooed a kind of lullaby. The ambulance left. Its flashing lights pacing his sobs. A muffled thump indicated the closing of the garage door. It was dark. Everyone looked at Johnathan. No one spoke.

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