Stillwell – A Haunting on Long Island
by Michael Phillip Cash
Paul turned from the dark window, twitching the drapes back in place. It was cold in the house, it had the dank feel of being unused. It had only been empty for a week, and yet it held a stale feeling of overripe food and decaying garbage.
The kids would be coming home tomorrow. He had sent them to his sister for the last week. It was too hard to have to worry about their schedules when he was sitting by Allison’s side. The funeral was yesterday, and he asked his sister to keep them one more day. He needed to have some time to collect himself. He spent the last twenty four hours sitting in the dark, staring at nothing, his mind too numb to think.
Lisa had taken over with the brisk efficiency of the nurse that she was trained to be. Stella was eating once again and Jesse and his twin Veronica were able to sleep at night. His sister’s was the safe house and while he desperately missed his children, he couldn’t deal with their everyday drama while he stayed with Allison for her final weeks. He played with the chain around his neck. Placing the gold band that hung from it on his lips, he closed his eyes, feeling alone. It was his wife’s wedding band and it had never left her hand from the time he had placed it there almost fifteen years ago.
Everything happened so fast. Too fast, his mind replayed the last six months in a montage of colors flashing like an out of control merry go round. Only it wasn’t a happy ride. Well, he sighed, he had to admit that he did feel relief. It felt wrong to have this burden taken off his shoulders, but there was a respite his wife didn’t have to suffer anymore. He admitted to himself that was weary too. She had gone from bad to worse in such a short time. Slipping into a coma, he held her skeletal hand for a solid week, watching hope die alongside his wife. HIs family had brought in food, but he felt no hunger. HIs future was a great vastness of emptiness that stretched endlessly before him. Alone, mute and his thoughts clogged in his head, he couldn’t find words to say what he needed. It was that burnt out feeling like after you’ve drunk so much that the liquor loses it taste and cigarettes burn with dying fire.
The irony was that he was the smoker, even though he had stopped when the twins were born, thirteen years ago. Allison wouldn’t have it at the house. He cheated at work, chewing gum to disguise the smell on his breath. It had always been a huge fight, and while she painted all kinds of devastating scenarios if he continued to smoke, they never expected her to be the one to fall victim to cancer.
The twins were a rare handful for them. Married for just over a year, they were unprepared for the incessant work. He was building his reputation as a go to guy for the McMansions that dotted Long Island’s North Shore. The pull of work and two newborns tested their marriage, Allison breast fed until utter exhaustion, or as he like to call it ‘udder’ exhaustion, made her stop. She always laughed at that.
Jesse, his son, was all brooding intensity, while Veronica, the elder twin by six minutes was sweet, faithful and resilient. They were golden children, kissed by sunlight, with blonde hair, freckles and odd silver eyes, like their mother. They communicated in a strange language, that worked only for the two of them. They had a silent collusion between themselves like they knew exactly what the other was thinking. When words came out, they could finish each others sentences.
While he was happy with his family, Allison had wanted another child. Reluctantly, he agreed and was shocked at his devastation when Allison miscarried. His despair turned to a relentless hope, and though they then faced a period of secondary infertility, he pushed until after seven years, they became pregnant once again. He called her Stella Luna, because she was the stars and moon for him. With Stella, he had time to play. She was a fey child, filled with whimsy and a touch of an old soul. Brown haired, brown eyed, she was the image of his older sister. Shut out of the twin’s world, he made sure she never felt alone. When she turned two, her soulful brown eyes induced him to give up smoking once and for all. God, he wished he had a cigarette, right now.
The house screamed with silence, it’s heavy pall smothering any sense of light. It closed over him. The acid ache in his gut he’s been experiencing since she got sick made its presence known. Padding to the kitchen, he went in search of milk to put out the fire. Opening the refrigerator door, he stood for a minute staring at the empty shelves. Smelling the open carton of milk, he recoiled at the odor. He never remembered buying it and could only guess how old it was. Well, the milk was plainly spoiled, as was the cheese. They had to be at least a month old. Maybe he should just eat the yogurt, let it kill him and the kids would be done with mourning. Two for the price of one, he slammed the door closed. He’d have to go food shopping at some point. Yep, the kids were coming home tomorrow. He’d have to go to the supermarket.
The early light of morning invaded the room, chasing the demons of darkness. Paul lay still, his eyes watching the shafts of sunlight piercing the holes of his shade. He didn’t want to move, didn’t want to get up. Bed felt safe. He rolled over covering his head with the blanket, wanting to bury himself and pretend this day had never come.
It had all happened too fast. There were headaches, pre menstral, post menstral, hormonal, stress related. Oh, there were sensible reason for all the signs leading up to the big kahoona. Numbness in her fingers, well, he told her she was excersizing too much. Maybe it was that damn chirophactor she had started seeing. Carpel tunnel syndrome seemed was an easy blame . They never thought of a brain tumor. Hah. She was thirty four. Who got brain tumors at thirty four?
Hopeful, they entered the cancer treatment center hand in hand, planning on battling this thing together. First came all the tests - cat scans, pet scans, mri’s, every day new test to see what the next step should be. Paul only heard about these types of tests through television shows. He never thought it would become a part of his daily lexicon. Two hour long commutes to the best in the city, waiting rooms filled with hopeful candidates, stories swapped of miracles and science-fiction- like treatments.
When he was young, a friend of his had a father who was going through cancer treatment and he vaguely remembered the battery of treatments they undertook. It all seemed unreal to them when they got the first results. Even back then, he felt worlds apart from the worm hole of cancer. Now that he lived in that universe, he knew the difference between a pet scan or a cat scan. He could give a lecture on what to do if there was a fever, or how to guard against infection. Constipation became a conversation starter. Blood counts, part of his vocabulary. He learned about white blood cell counts and all the dangers that could incite a setback. He knew what raki could do, or the power of music at a bedside. He spoke to anyone who could help them, shared his own information as well. His entire existence was wrapped in what he could do to help his wife, in any way. Certainly surgery could have worked, he remembered grasping at straws. Root it out, cut it away, dangerous, of course, but with lasers a sure thing. Only minor lateral damage the doctors thought, nothing they couldn’t handle. But after a long 12 hour day of surgery and waiting, it was still there on the next scan. A small dot, resistant. Chemo and radiation would handle that. It worked for that actress, yes, that one. She wore a headscarf at the Oscars, Hell Michael Douglas had throat cancer and a year later was starring in movies again. He was making late night appearances on the talk show circuit while he was in treatment. See, cancer doesn’t have interrupt your life. If it worked for them, then it would work for Allison. Why not, she never even smoked.
Only it didn’t work, and Paul and Allison and everyone who loved them fell into the rabbit hole of despair. They tumbled down, down, down where nothing makes anything feel better. How do you tell your mother, you will not outlive her? How do you prepare your children, you won’t be there for Prom, graduations, or weddings? Lastly, how do you tell your partner, your best friend that he will be alone for the rest of his life? Paul the husband and father had disappeared and he became a person running on autopilot, going from one hope to the next, trying anything for a cure, until he realized he had to change his tactics to be satisfied that he brought her an ounce of peace. He read every book to ease Allison's travail, but it was all for nothing.
Tears pooled in Paul’s eyes, and he let them slide down in self pity. His chest ached with hollow despair. He wanted to hold Allison. He needed her to stroke his head, like she did when she miscarried and make him feel his misery was not alone. His missed her with every fiber of his being and didn’t want to talk to anyone, anymore, ever again. He had never known a time without Allison, she was his better half. Alone, how was he going to live without her?
He became aware of noise first. The sun had sunk low over the rooftops and he realized it was four in the afternoon, not four in the morning. He must have fallen asleep after all. Feet pounded on the steps and he heard all three of his kids scramble upstairs to his bedroom. They burst into his room and leaped on the bed. His sister Lisa, stood with her arms crossed in the doorway. She was older than him by four years, short, stocky with a double chin she hated. They shared the same brown hair and dark chocolate eyes, but in some cosmic joke, he got the long lashes to go with it.
“I bought you groceries.” She walked into the room and sat on the edge of the bed smiling gently. “I fed your monsters before we came, but they’ll want snacks. Aunt Lou sent lasana. It’s in the freezer.” Lisa resisted the urge to brush the tangle of hair from her brother’s eyes. It was long and unkempt, there had been no time for him to take care of himself these last few weeks. His suit had hung on his large frame at the funeral. He looked abandoned and neglected, and she thought ruefully, he must have lost fifteen pounds. Looking down at the new spare tire decorating her waist, she mused that grief worked on people differently.
Veronica lay flat, her twin brother Jesse dangling off the edge of the other side of the king size bed and he assumed the lump under the covers was Stella. “I have to be at work by six,” she said. “Did you eat anything today? You gotta eat Paulie.” She looked at the wedding band on a chain, laying across his bare chest. She knew it was engraved on the outside, but couldn’t remember the words. On the inside, she knew they both had their initials and the date of their wedding. Paul always joked that he’d never forget it that way. As if he would, Lisa laughed to herself. Paul and Allison had the unique experience of love at first sight, as if their was such a thing. Added to that, it was when they were toddlers. How’s that for fate? Well, look what fate did to them now. She looked at her brother’s gaunt face and sighed, “Fate sucks.”
“What?” Paul made a sour face. “What?”
Lisa stood. “Come on, I’ll make you eggs.” She was living proof that food made everything feel better.
He lay back down. “I’m not hungry.”
As if it had a mind of it’s own, Paul’s stomach gurgled loudly and this set off the children with peals of laughter. It sounded strange in the house, and Paul fought the urge to yell at them to be quiet.
They didn’t have to be quiet. No one was sick here anymore. They could be loud and silly and he knew he had to get out of the bed.
“Out, everybody out,” he shouted playfully. “Give me five minutes. Would you mind making me coffee?”
Veronica jumped out of the bed, her silver eyes wide in her face, so like her mother’s. His breath caught in his chest for a moment. “I’ll make you coffee, Daddy,” she offered. “Aunt Lisa showed me how to use the machine,” she told him softly.
“Great.” It came out gravelly, his voice sounded unused. “Yeah, that would be great.”
The kids got up, and Stella poked a brown haired head out of the covers. She slid onto the floor and picked up the dust ruffle to peer under the bed.
“What are you doing?” Jesse yanked her sloppy pigtail.
“Leave your sister alone,” Lisa snapped.
“I heard something.” Stella’s wide brown eyes looked at them. “Didn’t you hear it?” she asked again in a shocked whisper.
They all stood mutely looking at each other and Jesse jumped onto the bed and screamed, “Stella’s hearing things. Do you see dead people too?” he sneered.
Paul grabbed his son roughly, and shook him hard. “Stop that.”
Jesse’s stubborn lip stuck out. He was angry, his resentment simmering under his freckled skin. He had Allison’s fair skin. “Don’t do that.”
“Why? You gonna go back and hide under the covers?” his son snapped back.
Rage roiled in Paul and he held himself so rigid, he thought he might crack. A warm hand touched his muscled arm, soothing him. “Leave it Paul. He’s tired. The kids have had a rough day. Jesse, apologize. Jesse” she hissed, “now!”
“Sorry.” Jesse mumbled, his eyes shiny with unshed tears. Paul pulled him close and ruffled his blonde curls.
“Go get out some food and let’s eat.” He sighed as they filed out of the room, thinking how was he going to manage bringing up the children without his wife.
The kitchen smelled of eggs and cheese, and as much as Paul loved omelets, he had no appetite. They were all seated at the table, ripped packages of snack foods, open containers of artificial dips and brightly colored sugar candies strewn all over the counter. At the very least, he thought, his newly planted wife would be rolling in her grave.
“Mom and Dad will stop by tomorrow. I told them you have to get into some kind of normalcy.”
Veronica served him a hot cup of coffee. It had too much cream in it. He missed the way his wife always put in the right amount. His daughter was watching him as he took the first sip, scalding his tongue. “Ahhh,” he smiled at her. “You made it just the way I like it.” She returned a sunny smile, took Stella’s hand and went into the den. Lisa sat down next to him, her beefy hands closing up the open packages. Jesse retreated to the den, he heard the tv on and the muffled beginnings of a fight over the remote. Rolling his eyes, he started to rise and Lisa put her hand over his, staying him.
“You have to have a little patience. It’s going to be hard. I know. You’ve got Mom and me. Dad will help too and then Allison’s parent’s are going to want to come...”
She stopped when he gave her a martyred look. “Well, they are grieving too. At least once they go home to the Carolinas, you will only have to deal with one set of parents. Look, I told everybody to lay off you guys. You have to find a rhythm. A new rhythm, you know.”
Paul hung his head, the eggs tasteless in his mouth. He shoved the plate away.
“She’s gone and you don’t have the luxury to keep wallowing. Man up, Paulie...” she gestured to the den. ”You don’t have time to be the grieving widower. The kids need you.”
“Thank you Dr. Phil,” Paul replied. “I don’t want to do this.”
“Well, you don’t have a choice,” she started cleaning up the mess. “When do you have to go back to work?”
“Soon. They give three days. I’ve been out so many. They’ve really been amazing, but I can’t afford to take much more.”
“Set up a routine. The kids need it. Jesse’s been a horror. Stella’s barely talking and Roni’s like a shadow. If you don’t start acting more normal, the kids are going to lose it.”
“I don’t want to be normal,” Paul insisted. “I want to go to sleep and wake up and find everything back like it was.”
“Well,” Lisa told him from the sink where she washed the dishes. “We don’t always get what we want.”
He managed to get the kids ready for bed. Jesse sullenly closed the door in his face asking for privacy. Veronica, sleepily kissed him goodnight. He had helped braid her blonde locks and his heart twisted. It was the same color as Alison’s. She was using her mother’s brush and when she asked him to help her get out the tangles, he saw his wife’s hair entwined with his daughters, trapped in the tines of the steel brush.
His throat felt blocked, and although he said goodnight, he found he couldn’t say anything else.
Stella’s room felt ice cold. It was mid-September and unseasonable cool. He checked the window and found it closed, but a draft blew from a vent. He flipped the switch and it closed, her curtains stopped fluttering.
“Oh, I thought that was Mommy’s ghost.”
“There’s no such thing as ghost’s Stella Luna,” he sat on the bed.
“How do you know? Maybe Mommy’s a ghost.”
Paul lay down next to her on the bed and wrapped his arms around her. Stella reached in and took out the chain around his neck. She put Allison's ring on her pointing finger, her eyes downcast.
“Mommy is safe in Heaven.”
“No she’s not. She’s here,” Stella insisted. “Well, she was at Aunt Lisa’s and now she’s here.”
“If it makes you feel better to think she’s...”
“No Daddy,” Stella said even more serious. She looked at Paul without blinking. “She’s here. I heard her.”
He gently disengaged her hands from the chain, and started to rise, “Okay babydoll, lay down,” he kissed her head. “She’s here.”
Stella smiled satisfied and watched her father leave the room, the door slightly ajar. He heard her whisper, “You can come out now, Mommy. He left.”
Lisa left hours before, the house fell empty. Shutting all the lights, he walked from room to room, picking up discarded clothes and leaving it in the laundry room. They had hired a cleaning woman towards the end, someone to keep up on the housework as Allison’s body failed. He’d have to see if he could work a deal to get her a few times a week. It was going to be hard, with all the bills, he missed so much work and hadn’t sold a house in a while. He shuddered thinking he’d have to start showing houses again. He worked a few miles from his home. He loved this neighborhood. Settled by the English in the 1600’s, it was rich in history. Both Paul and Allison had grown up here, next door to each other. They had played as babies together, their mothers had a rich friendship that went back to when they had each bought the first new tract homes when they developed it into a model neighborhood in the seventies. Paul was a year and a half older, but they had a lifetime of block parties, carnivals and barbeques that they had shared. There was no question that they were meant for each other and when they married they purchased a home in the newer section of the town. A colonial built in the 1980’s. It was a bit cramped. They never expected to have three children, when they bought the house. They were planning a move to the next village of Jericho, but then Allison got sick. He was a broker in one of the more prestigious Long Island realty companies. A boy wonder, he surfed the housing boom and made enough money. He had a stellar reputation for finding the right match and young couples loved to work with him. HIs reputation for finding great deals that worked within a budget made him extremely sought after. The added bonus was that Allison could quit her job as a buyer in the city and stay home to raise their growing family. He had the perfect life, the perfect wife. Now, to say the least, not so much. He needed a big sale to catch up on all the income he lost. She had gotten sick in early April. The year before she got sick, the housing market tanked, so they had been living off their savings for some time. He lost the whole end of the spring season, making a fraction of what he should have. Luckily, his partner Molly had been able to score some small sales, but he was the stronger of his team. The whole summer, he barely left her side, she entered hospice in late August and was gone the second week of September. The funeral was two days ago, and he hadn’t done any work in almost four weeks. He didn’t even know what was out there.
He meandered to the makeshift office he made for himself in a corner of the finished basement. It allowed him to search for listings and even check out Facebook once in awhile to see what his college buddies were up to. The kids generally played in their rooms so it was nice to get some private time. But he hadn’t sat at his home office desk in just over six months. It was a pleasure to be there and when he opened his laptop, a bright picture of him and Allison as his background displayed on the screen. He smiled. They took that picture when the kids were playing at a friend’s house. It was on his new phone that he wanted to test out. Allison dared him to upload it to his computer and save it as a background. She got sick about three weeks after the picture was taken. It was a pleasure to see her with a thick head of hair. But he couldn’t help and wonder if the cancer was brewing in this picture. She looked healthy, she even gained a little bit of weight. Her bright smile lit up the whole screen. The beacon of her warmth reached out from a picture. She had the capacity to light up a room with her laughter. Everyone liked her, she was the type of person that never spoke negatively about others. If she didn’t have something nice to say, it went unsaid. He touched her cheek on the screen, sighing, missing her company.
Paul didn’t remember how long he sat staring at the desktop picture. Snapping out of his stare, he scrolled through the new listings his office had taken on. There were quite a few exclusives, houses that should have been his. Calls he had made to older couples looking to downsize, that he never followed up. He had no inventory himself, the market had been so bad since the economy crashed. He stopped soliticiting new listings. He’d have to get back out there, that’s for sure.
He hadn’t cleaned up his emails for weeks and there were thousands of them. His hand hovered over the delete button. He paused and started going through them. He had a few leads, people looking for renting, that was always good. A few estates, people he knew trying to sell houses belonging to relatives that had passed away.One caught his eye, it was a returning client. An old friend, sort of. He had gone to school with both Melissa and her husband, Craig Andrews. They all ran in the same crowd when they were younger. He never really liked Melissa, but Craig had been a good friend. Allison never said anything, but he knew she didn’t like her. They did go to dinner a couple of times a year, he always had to coerse his wife into going. He knew that Melissa made Allison uncomfortable, and he didn’t blame her, she was a phony and he knew it. Melissa had asked him to sell her parent’s home after they both died. Now it seemed her husband’s parents had passed away. He had known them pretty well and was surprised that both were gone. He didn’t remember hearing that either was sick. She wanted to unload their house. The email was two weeks old, but he picked up the phone and cursed. She probably went with someone else.
He punched in her number, “Hi, Melissa,”
“Paul? How are you doing?” she asked hesitantly. “I heard about Allison, Is she doing better?”
“Well, “ Paul sighed, his throat clogged. He hated to have to keep repeating it. It never got easy. “She passed away last Friday.”
“Oh Paul, I am so sorry. How are you....and those kids? Oh my, how are the kids doing?
He cleared his throat swallowing a lump. “It’s been hard, but you know...”
“Yes. I know. I’ve been waiting for you to call. We would have gone to the funeral. What happened?”
“It was fast, just over six months ago, she was diagnosed. She wanted to keep everything normal,” He laughed sadly, “as if anything can be normal with brain cancer. She didn’t want a fuss and asked for immediate family only at the service. I had to honor her wishes. The kids stayed with my sister ‘til today. I’m trying to get it back on track.”
“She was a great person. I didn’t really know her in school, she was two years behind us, but I remember her as being very sweet.” It sounded like she took a long drag on a cigarette. “We waited for you Paul. I wouldn’t dream of going with anyone else. You’re the best in the area.”
With this Paul felt a lead weight come off his chest.
“You did such a good job on my parent’s house. Even in this economy, you got us more than we expected. This house is not going to be an easy sell.”
“Nothing is an easy sell in this economy,” Paul added.
“It’s not that. You may not want to take it. You didn’t know?”
“The house. It was a murder-suicide. Craig’s father killed his mom and then shot himself.”
“Jeez. Melissa, I am so sorry. I didn’t know. How horrible.”
“It was devastating. No motive. Well, not that we know of, and the mess. I hired two teams to clean it up.”
A chill danced along his spine and he fought the images of Craig’s parents. They were polite people, very proper. A bit on the cold side, they had always treated him nicely. As a teenager, he had swum in their pool many times during the hot summers as well as attended quite a few parties in their pool house. The amenities in the house were unbelievable and he had crashed there throughout high school with the rest of the crowd. For a very short time, he and Craig had a garage band that practiced there. There was a lot of land surrounding the house, and they could be as loud as they liked. They even won second place at the High School Battle of the Bands. Craig and Paul were so proud of that. but the band broke up when they all left for college. The Andrew’s were very rich, their family had been here for years, part of the original colonist to settle in the states. They were a permanent part of the landscape, streets were named for them.
“How are Craig and his brothers taking it?” Craig had two brothers and a sister. It was a large family and he remembered hearing that the siblings had all moved out of New York when they completed their education.
“Warped, as usual. I don’t know about men and the way they don’t acknoledge grief,” she stopped suddenly realizing who she was talking to. “They had a private funeral, there ‘s not much to say after murder involving your mother and Dad. Scott and Roy went back to Palm Springs and left us with the mess. Ellen, you remember her, Craig's sister is busy saving whales in Alaska and never bothered coming in." She sighed again, "Craig left for the Orient the next day. One of the factories had a fire. Lucky me,” she laughed
Paul shrugged and realized she couldn’t see his movements. Wanting to get off the phone, he said, “I’ll call him tomorrow. What was the name of the house again, Stillwater?”
“Stillwell,” she said coldly.
“Oh right, the Stillwell wishing well. We used throw coins down there as kids. Do you have the keys?”
“I have the rotary luncheon tomorrow, so let’s say we’ll meet there Tuesday at 11 am. Are you up to it? Craig gets home from China tomorrow. He’s been away for almost two weeks. I’ve had to handle everything myself. The fucking bodies were being lowered into the ground and he was already on an airplane. Along with the rest of his useless family. The father’s brothers stayed. His uncles are still around. I wish they’d leave. You remember them?”
“He has two, right? One of them built the senior housing on Cobble Hill.”
“Yeah, he’s a contractor and is bothering me to give him the house. He’s coveting the fifty acres Stillwell sits on. He wants to put up another one of those over fifty-five and over communities. I’m not to letting that happen. He screwed us over a Craig's grandparent's inheritance. He took a piece of land we were supposed to get. I'll give the house away before I see him get anything out of it."
"Doesn't the house belong to the whole family," Paul asked.
"No, Craig's father inherited it from the grandparents. Each of the brothers got a piece of land. They are only entitled to some of the contents. We'll see about that, though."
“What about the other brother?”
“He’s a lawyer. Selfish prick. He just wants his share of the pie.”
It was quiet for a minute. “I just want to dump the house,” she continued. “It has bad vibes.”
“Do you have a number in mind?” Paul asked.
“Craig mentioned the land alone is worth $25 million. I know the market is soft.”
Paul was quiet for a minute. “It depends on how fast you want it to go. Most people are going to rip down the house either way. I have to look at my comps, but I’m thinking if you want a quick, $19 million will get a lot of notice.
“It’s low, and I have to speak with Craig. I’ll you know when I see you.”
There was an awkward silence on the phone. Selling Stillwell for $19 million would repair Paul’s lose for all of this year. He needed this listing.
“I’m sorry about your in-laws, Melissa.” Paul said breaking the silence. “They were lovely people. I remember going to the house on Prom night…they made us a party. It was the biggest house in Mill Neck.”
“And the oldest. It’s been there for over a hundred years.”
“Do you have any of the history on it? Anything I could use to get rid of the taint of their deaths.”
“No, I hate the place. Always have.”
“I’ll go to the library and see what I can dig up about the house. Thanks Melissa. I really mean it. I have been wallowing for the last week. I couldn’t get out of bed. I have to thank you. You probably saved my life.”
“No problem, Paul. What are friends for? You need anything?"
“See you day after tomorrow,” she said and then hung up. Paul hung up the phone.
He closed his computer files to see Allison’s picture again. He stared at it.
He closed the laptop and walked back upstairs. He ambled into the den and reached for the remote while falling onto the couch. It was the first time he turned on the TV in over a month. He looked over at where Allison used to sit. He realized he is going to be watching television alone for the rest of his life.
Flipping the channels, he settled on a travel show and actually got involved in the commentary of the third world country the host was visiting. A chill swept through the room rattling the blinds on the window. Goosebumps danced up his arm, so he took a blue knitted afghan his aunt had made and wrapped it around his torso. Resting his head on a pillow, he observed the man on television eat the innards of rodents. HIs mind shut down, his eyes did all the work and he drifted as he watched. For the first time in a very long time, Paul found something to be interested in. He wondered if he should call his sister and let her know.