Liz walked across the wrap-around porch. Rotten wood sagged under her feet. She peered through the bullseye glass sidelights. The knobby circles, muddied by layers of dirt, distorted the view of the central staircase that ascended into nothingness.
Her hands fumbled with excitement as she struggled with the old brass lock. The double doors creaked apart. She took a deep breath and stepped inside. Looking past the neglect, she blew the fly carcasses away and caressed the wainscoting with the touch of a woman in love. A sense of déjà vu, a chill, a fleeting vision of the house bustling with activity vanished into the silence.
She wiped her palms on her sweatpants and opened the mullioned windows, banging until her wrists hurt, to loosen the swollen wooden sashes. The water had been turned on as promised, but the tap in the kitchen burst out in spurts, so rusty it appeared tinged with blood. Liz left it running so it would clear.
There was so much to do to make things comfortable, but purposeful activity and moving forward made her feel at home. Her footsteps echoed like leaden boots on the bare wood floors. A dust ball under an end table turned out to be the remains of a rat, eye sockets empty, teeth visible in a jawbone, desiccated fur barely holding onto the long tail. Bile rose into her throat.
After a fruitless search for a dustpan and broom, she fashioned a rodent scooper from a piece of cardboard and a newspaper dated January 26, 1991. Holding it at arm’s length, Liz jiggled open the back door and thanked God it wasn’t swollen shut.
She stepped onto the porch and tossed the whole thing into the yard. The rat broke into two pieces as it bounced off the chest of a man coming up the path through the pine grove.
He watched it fall to the ground, brushed off his shirt, and shook his head. “Now there’s a brave lady,” he said with a heavy Cape Cod accent. “Not only doesn’t she scream for help when she sees a mouse, she heaves it at the fella who’s got the nerve to come walking up to her back door unannounced.”
“I’m so sorry, sir!” Liz looked up as he ascended the rickety steps. About six feet, the same height as Gerry, he sported a neatly trimmed gray moustache and beard. His voice was more lilting than his broad chest and arms suggested. Muscles bulged under a ‘Yankees Suck!’ tee shirt. His eyes, framed by delicate laugh lines, were the same shade of blue as the sky.
“You must be from New York.” He removed his Red Sox cap. “The ladies from down there don’t put up with anything.”
“It was a rat, and I wanted to get rid of it. And I’m from Boston. Liz Levine.” She extended her palm.
He grabbed it in a gentle, but firm handshake and winked. “And I didn’t even ask which hand you used to pick up the rat.” He backed down the stairs and kicked the carcass under the privet hedge bordering a broken picket fence.
“Now it’s fertilizer. Mike Keeny. I live up Stony Brook Road and came to see who bought the house. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, but the cost of real estate in Brewster is sky high, and this place needs some restoration.”
His gracious humor eased Liz’s mortification. “So you appreciate historical property, Mr. Keeny.”
“They don’t build them like this anymore. And it’s Mike. My mother called me Michael, and only the nuns and priests called me Mr. Keeny.” His voice deepened, and he paused, as if being drawn back into memories of happier times.
Prize Two - book bundle
Prize Three - Book Bundle
1. Comment below on your favorite part of the excerpt.
2. Have you read Carole Moleti before?
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