Monday, February 3, 2014


Irina Kravchenko by Julia Hetta

The delivery man approached the door slowly, and breathed a heavy sigh.  There was, for a brief moment, hope that this delivery would be different - that the woman on the other end would open her door to greet him, even if she did so with tears in her eyes, and it exasperated him that he was still wishing for something that he knew would never take place. Being a grocery deliverer he was not inexperienced with reclusive behavior; quite the opposite as a substantial percentage of his route were, at least at some level, antisocial.  Still, the complete shut-ins - the ones that wouldn't open the door to him, would only acknowledge his presence with the sliding of money under the door or worse,  through a mail-slot stuffed with unread letters - made him especially sad.  It was with this fatalistic, morose demeanor that he approached the door and performed the agreed-upon announcement of his presence.

Knock (pause) knock-knock-knock (pause) knock.

Sarah had heard the figure approach her door.  She had heard that same sigh again as she had the time prior, and the time prior to that, from the man that delivered her groceries. Her mind raced through myriad possible reasons for his disdain.  Did she not tip him enough? Was there graffiti on her door?  Oh god, she thought, what if he smells something?  Sarah kept the place nearly immaculate, but she remembered being in someone's house once and it had a distinct smell that no one else seemed to notice.  She told her mother, who explained that everyone had a scent, and that after awhile when someplace becomes like a home you don't smell it anymore.  This terrified Sarah, and now she was remembering this event and her mind raced pondering what her scent could be like and what if it smelled just awful? She couldn't bear it, and sprayed a cloud of air freshener in the air, trailing her like jet wash as she tiptoed toward the door.

The cost was $33.42, paid the same way every week: 1 twenty, 2 fives, 1 two, a one, one quarter, a dime, a nickel, and two pennies.  She hoped the delivery man liked the two-dollar bills she left him as much as she did, and wonder what he did with the rare bills as she checked the back of the quarter to make sure that the state imprint was earlier in an alphabetical list than Missouri.  It was Missouri, so she tossed it into the air.  Heads, thus making it acceptable to include.  Missouri was 25th in the alphabetical list, which put it in the first half, but it was also an odd number, which Sarah didn't like, so she had to flip to make sure it was ok. She wondered if the delivery man ever noticed, but what if, she thought, the delivery man was from Wyoming or something and he only liked states from the second half of the alphabetical list?  She got her breath back to its normal rate after a few moments and proceeded to slip the money out of the empty side of the mail slot, which she had stuffed with mail so the delivery man or anyone else for that matter could not peer in.

She counted to eleven twice to make sure that the count was an even number and that the delivery man would be gone before she opened the door to receive her items, glaring through  the peep hole to make absolutely certain no one would see her.  There was no graffiti on the door, Sarah noticed.  It must be the smell, she concluded, and released another nimbus of air freshener on her way to the fridge.

The celery needed to go into the right crisper drawer, first a row of three, then two on top, and capped by another creating a green pyramid.  Four tomatoes would go next to this to keep the cucumbers from rolling away.  In the left crisper drawer she would put the lettuce and the carrots. The milk went in the refrigerator door, and the bread would go on the second shelf, as always.  Sarah hesitated, and began moving the loaf of bread to the top of the fridge next to the butter spread.  The end was just sliding onto the shelf when her hands began to shake. It doesn't belong there, she thought, but it doesn't matter; I can put things where I want. The shaking increased from a tremor to a quake, and her jaw began to hurt from clenching her teeth.  Sarah screamed a word that only she would ever consider a profanity, threw the bread on the floor, masked her face with her hands to hide her tears from no one in particular, then immediately picked up the bread and put it on the second shelf.  She closed the fridge with a timidity that had become all too routine for her, and slumped to the floor, sobbing.

She cried for a few minutes, feeling every second pass
as she lamented the impossibility of her life. Her stomach stopped constricting momentarily enough for her to catch her breath, and in the silence the lives from the apartment below reached through the floor to her.  Shouting. A woman was shouting with venom in her voice; Sarah could tell that the woman was out to hurt feelings from the tone, though she did not recognize the language being screamed.  A man yelled equally loudly, and she knew that he was saying things he will never be able to take back.  The sound of shattered glass, or porcelain called up to her, and the clatter and crash of furniture being thrown sounded like a symphony.  She lay there, hearing the violence and the screams and the emotional pain the two belted at each other and she caressed the floor with her hand, her ear still pressed hard to the burgundy carpet.  Her tears stopped, and as the police broke down the neighbors' door she drifted off into a tranquil, dreamless sleep, a smile stretched across her unmoving face.