By Francis Scudellari
“Hang on a minute. I’ll give these heads a couple turns.” Virgil paused on the landing; his body folded unevenly to fix the railing.
Jacob straddled the top step and waited; his eyes captivated by a blue light, a flickering wedge that poured from the breached wall ahead. A still life’s dust-dimmed fruit danced within its sparkling kiss. A potted fern’s drooping fronds stiffened, stretched, aroused by its tinted touch. Jacob was also attracted to the cool glow, but before he could reach out to it, Virgil’s voice tugged him back.
“They tell me this area’s becoming sorta trendy. Couple neighborhood joints are real popular …” Virgil's words walked Jacob through the neighborhood; stepping him past the bars, shops, cafes, diners, and churches.
Jacob attended the coarse ramblings at first, but soon lost patience. His ears lost their grip on the hoarse-throated gurgle, and let it amble by into the darkness. His attention refocused on the light emanating from the cracked door. The muted sounds of televised laughter, ritual applause, erupted out into the stairway. Faint, irregular breathing filled the short spasms of silence.
Curious, unable to resist its pull, Jacob craned his neck past the molding. He thrust his head toward the pale rays and pressed his eye into the two-inch gap. It met its veined reflection; its stunned, disembodied twin that floated alone above a steel chain. In an instant, the laughter stopped, the light ceased, the door slammed shut.
“That’s Wilson. You won’t see much of him or his wife. They keep to themselves. They’re a little strange, but harmless. I think he’s, how d’ya say it, you know, a little slow.”
Virgil winked at Jacob, sheathed his tool and continued his ascent. “I gotta get in shape, these stairs are killing me.”