Upon entering the small pink house with a tilted “7” on the white door, there was loud, high-pitched barking coming from the neighbor’s Chihuahua next door, Jimmy. Jimmy, however, couldn’t be heard once the front door was closed.
Next to the front door was an eight-hook coat rack that doubled as a mirror. A shoe rack cluttered with the departed shoes of the family scattered all around, but rarely put away, was to the right, while the brown suede couch was to the left. A large TV hung from the wall next to the family computer and desk, cluttered with paperwork and assorted art supplies from the daughter who liked to draw. On the stairway going up, one could see the cobwebs that had yet to be cleaned and the dirty paw prints of the family’s cat that usually liked to go in and out for food and water. However, she was comfortably napping on the sill of the small square window on the landing, dreaming of warmer days and rays of sunshine. The second floor had three sets of doors, two bedrooms and the bathroom. Both bedrooms were closed, but the bathroom door sat slightly ajar, letting the chorus of dripping faucets and showerheads echo down the hall.
As you turned the corner, the third floor attic, which at this point was a third bedroom, had its own set of creaky stairs and sticky door hinges. But all was ignored by the old man who was sitting in a sand-colored armchair in the corner of the room, where white bookshelves eased into the backdrop of the room that was painted a pale blue.
The man’s wife, who had originally bought the house to vacation in nearly 10 years ago, painted the walls blue and the shelves white to make them feel like they were closer to the beach, even though the house was miles away from the shore, which also happened to be manmade. But typically the man didn’t mind. This space, for him, was as close to the beach as he wanted to get. All of that noise, and all of those figures with confusing faces and features he could never quite get a good hold of. His wife had tried to hang photos of their few trips to the real beach, but he eventually took down all of the photos.
The pastel-colors of what his wife called “umbrellas,” looked more like the beaks of discolored birds, which only made him more uncomfortable with his love-hate relationship with birds. He loved their music, but could never be in the same room with a bird. They loved to begin long, beautiful songs of tweets and charming chirps that always delighted him, but then would stop midway through the sonata without finishing. It broke his heart every time.
He began to sing one of his favorite songs while he sat in his chair, a particularly cheery song by a chickadee he heard once in the park. He had almost reached the first chorus when his wife called up to him that it was time for dinner. The break in concentration startled him, opening his eyes that had been closed to further help his memory. All of a sudden he became nervous. The white shelves around him with stacks of books looked like sharks swimming all around him with brown leather books for teeth. Thankfully, the man was used to their circling. The man threw his glasses on, which usually calmed the sharks and sent them away, and headed downstairs.
Thankfully, the chickadee concert was still playing in his head. He just hated it when songs he could actually remember disappeared on him like that. His wife said she had the opposite of that problem, with small snippets of songs getting stuck in her head that were nearly impossible to forget, which she found terribly annoying. How often he envied her. Most of the time he would forget a song and try his hardest to remember it, sometimes moving his head in certain directions or tilting his neck side to side to see if he could find it in a corner of the room. The bird song decided to linger for a while, which was fantastic. He heard it as he headed down the old stairs from the attic, its long, drawn out notes adding to the concerto like a trombone adds to an orchestra. As he reached the second floor the dripping sound of the water from the bathroom distracted him, making him glance into the room. He looked bewildered as he saw the crook of an umbrella in the middle of the sink. The man reached in to pick it up, but found he could not pull it, realizing it was the faucet instead. Annoyed, he tapped his knuckles against the wall and walked back into the hall. He was surprised to see a frizzy, frumpy sweater balled up in the middle of the open window sill. He bent down to pick it up, seeing if his wife had left it there by accident, and was met with a vicious swipe of an outstretched limb. His astonishment was that the sweater was a cat, one he had forgotten was still living in their home and he growled back at the cat.
“What are you doing up there, Harold?” his dear wife asked from below, her voice surprising the man and nearly making him fall down the stairs. His stomach leapt into his throat and he took a minute to swallow and let his breathing go back to its steady rhythm. As he took his breaths, the smell of garlic reached his nostrils and he was intoxicated by the smell. It helped him find his place in the song again, each inhale leveling his heartbeat.
Thankfully, with this level rhythm came the return of the bird song. He began to hum it, hoping to make it stick this time, as he finally reached the bottom floor. The dining table sat in the middle of the room, but its presence seemed different this evening. Its mahogany legs and hard feet never usually moved, but not only was it resting in a different spot on the floor, but there was a new object sitting on the top that never seemed to be there before. He put his hand on the brown, flat surface, making sure as always that it was stable, and then sat at his chair and marveled at the new centerpiece that looked like a three headed white serpent with flames on its head.