Apartment 13

“Thank you so much Mrs. Berry.”
“Oh, don’t be silly. It’s not a bother at all, Muriel. Gabriel’s such a dear, I never mind watching him.”
The baby smiled and cooed as Mrs. Berry took him in her arms.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Mrs. Berry. I shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours.”
“Take your time dear. I could watch him forever.”


“Don’t I know you?”
Muriel looked out from behind her compact at the receptionist. He was wearing a suit. She should have dressed nicer.
“Excuse me?”
“You live in my building. Mary… Marion… Muriel! Muriel in the attic apartment, 13.”
“13A, yes. You are… I’m sorry I don’t…”
“I’m Tom, from 4B.”
“You’re the one with the kid.”
“Wow. What are the odds?”
“Yeah, what are the odds?”
Muriel went back to her compact and the receptionist, after a moment, to his computer.
“It’s got to be hard.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“It’s got to be hard. The single mom thing and all.” The receptionist kicked himself under the table.
“Especially if you don’t have a job. I bet it’s really hard to make ends meet to begin with…” He couldn’t believe he was still talking. He was messing this up like always. “and then to have to pay a babysitter just so you can go to job interview when you have no guarantee that you’ll get the job to get the money to pay the babysitter. It’s just… got to be… hard.”
The receptionist clenched his toes into fists.
“I don’t,” continued Muriel, “I actually don’t pay for a babysitter. Mrs. Berry watches her.”
“Ah,” the receptionist glanced back at his computer. “Mrs. Berry? She a friend?”
“She lives in 13B.”
“Ah, 13B.” The receptionist answered the phone. When he was done, he looked up. “I didn’t know there was a 13B.”
“Um… Yes. It’s just up the little stairs and around the corner.”
“Ah.” He went back to his work. “I just thought you were the top apartment. Being in the attic and all.”
“No. there’s another one.”


Muriel pulled into her parking space next to the dumpster, locked the car, and walked around to the front of the house in the dark. In the dim porch light, she slid her mail key into her box and opened it. She closed it again. Bills. As she was about to unlock the front door she glanced back at the long row of shiny metal mailboxes. They ended at 13. She wondered how Mrs. Berry gets her mail.

Halfway up the stairs to the attic, a blur of pink nearly ran her over.

“Betsy!” yelled a balding man, “Don’t run on the stairs.”
“I’m sorry.” Betsy said to Muriel.
“That’s ok.”
“Please excuse her,” said the man. “I only get her two weeks a year, and she thinks the stairs are her own private jungle gym.”
“That’s all right.”
“Have a nice night!” They hurried down the stairs. “Oh!” from the landing below “If you need a babysitter while Betsy’s visiting. Let me know. She’s very eager.”
“Ok, but Mrs. Berry usually watches her for me.”
“Oh, Mrs. Berry?”
“From 13B.”
“Oh.” He made a face and continued down. That’s when the doubt started forming in the back of her mind. She pushed it away as ridiculous.
“What’s all the ruckus?” A nose and eyes peaked out from behind the door of 7A.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was just talking to Mr...”
“Don’t you talk about Mrs. Berry when I’m around. Her dog used to bark all day long. Made an awful racket.”
“I didn’t think the building allowed pets.”
“It doesn’t. Not anymore. Thank goodness.”
“So after Mrs. Berry’s dog died they stopped…”
“Oh, I don’t know if that dog died. I don’t care.” The door slammed.

The dog must’ve died. Still she hurried up the stairs faster now, not entirely sure what she was afraid of.

Two more floors up and the door of 12B was open. As she hurried past, a woman came out.
“Oh, you must be Muriel, in 13.”
“13A, yes.”
A voice bellowed from inside. “Who are you talking to, Agnes?”
“The woman from 13!”
“Why are you talking to her.”
“Because she went by and we haven’t met her yet!”
“Aw, come back to-“
“I’ll come back-“
“come back-“
“I’m sorry dear. Don’t mind him. Say, if you ever need someone to watch the little one, I’m always happy to have a baby around.”
“That’s Ok. Mrs. Berry watches her for me.”
“What did you just say?”
Muriel’s heart was now beating through her chest.
“Mrs. Berry watches her for me, from 13B.”
“There is no 13B honey.”
“Don’t be silly, it’s just around-“ Muriel dug her fingernails into her palms.
“And Mrs. Berry died 9 years ago, in 13, in your apartment. Where are you going!?”

Muriel ran up the stairs, chasing after her beating heart. Her door, her door that she could swear said 13A this morning, just said 13 tonight. “No!”

She fumbled with her keys, unlocked the door and flew through to her empty apartment.

1 comment:

improvtara said...

Eeeee. Good one, Alan. Happy Halloween!