This is a continuation of Tom Bean
and before that: Their Glorious Almost
Fiona slept in the basement with my father’s tools and guns. Frogs were her personal saviors, the more bizarre their behaviors, their coloring or their venom, the more they delighted her. She kept her dark hair at an even inch all around and never wore makeup. This deviation during the time of beehives fed the curiosity of the neighborhood wags while intriguing their husbands. To say she was amused by gossip and innuendo would be to say cats toy with mice because they’re hungry.
Even though it was unfinished, the basement was well-heated. Casement windows provided some natural light and Fi, as she preferred to be called, had no trouble scaring my younger sister and me into leaving her alone when she needed to study. For a college kid with no money who didn’t mind watching “the brats” from time to time or vacuuming the floors, it suited her needs.
“Let’s ask Fi if we can play with her Ouija Board,” Bella Muselik said as she followed me to the door of my house.
“No. She’s got mid-terms.”
“I don’t understand. She works for you. You can tell her what to do.” In a previous life Bella had either lorded over slaves, or, as a Christian martyr, been roasted over a pile of twigs and oil-soaked rags, depending on her mood, but so far this life was a drag. She lived with parents already worn from life in one of Reno’s oldest neighborhoods, a place where brick bungalows had been built to withstand the cold but let in little light and where residents, mostly Basque emigrants, grew fruit trees and vegetable gardens more out of habit than necessity.
While ⏤ across the gravel road ⏤ lay subdivisions of newly constructed tract homes with dishwashers and attached garages, whose residents had no patience for fruit trees or vegetable gardens. Instead they drank too much, fed their children frozen dinners and allowed them to play with instruments of the Devil. All things which tempted the pure-as-driven-snow soul of Bella Muselik, who, in her grandest moments, claimed to be neither jealous nor resentful, because, she reminded me (and she was right), the land upon which those new subdivisions had been built was cursed.
However, the singular spot whereupon my father had built his experiment in space age design might be saved. Possibly. For a price.
“Just one question.”