The Grifted

Jac Jemc

It was Saturday at the mansion. Grandfather had finished breakfast. I was bussing the dishes to the kitchen, as it was Enza’s day off. “You’ve turned into a nice young man, Jim,” Grandfather called from the rear sun porch. The doorbell rang.

In hindsight, I’m sure she moved much more slowly, but in the moment, it seemed like she had her hand in my pocket as soon as I opened the door. Then she was leading me on a tour of my own home, starting with my bedroom.

“Trust me,” she breathed in my ear, as her hands slid down my abdomen and robbed me of my shirt.

“Who are you?” I asked.

Her face blossomed several tiny smiles. “Let’s just say my soul is full of guests.” She looked around, “Do you have the time?” I was confused, excited, stupid—I pointed to my watch on the dresser.  She grabbed it, scanned the face, and shoved it into a pocket before she lifted her dress over her head. When she dropped the dress to the ground, she was on me, my clothes off before I even registered the muffled clank of my watch against the floorboards. She worked her thumb into my mouth, fit her other hand into the stirrup of my collarbone, pushed herself around. She was good. I gathered myself snugly into some fantasy as she examined the room for weak underbellies, raided the surface of my desk from across the room. My eyes shut tight with my rising detachment until she forced a plea from me. Her clothes were back on and she was up, wandering the room, opening doors and drawers before I’d even opened my eyes again. Her hands seemed full. I didn’t ask her to leave. My grandfather was calling my name.

“Are you Jimmy?” she asked with a mouth full of teeth. I nodded, my eyes unfocused, like glass marbles rolling around. “You should probably respond to whoever’s down there calling you then, Cowboy.” I nodded again and she threw my pants at me. As I stretched my shirt over my head, I kept thinking, carpetbag pockets, carpetbag pockets, carpetbag pockets. Her hands filled and emptied themselves again, closed around the collection of small liquor bottles I’d been gathering for years and when I heard them land inside her dress, the clatter sounded farther away than the bottom of her pocket. I kissed her neck, blindly, hesitated leaving her. Not because I was afraid of why she was there, but because I thought she might be gone before I made it back.

When I arrived to Grandfather, he asked me to wheel him back inside before he asked who was at the door. “Just a canvasser,” I lied. My lips felt swollen, roughed up. I wanted him to be able to tell. I could hear her steps above me. She was in Grandfather’s room now. Something shattered. I heard the drag of wood against wood. Grandfather’s hearing was almost gone. He just asked for his book. Everything in me was sinking with relief and I tried to pretend it wasn’t.

I rushed back upstairs. I checked the room in which I’d left her first, but it was empty. Only the bed, the dresser, a night table remained. The Tiffany lamp was missing. Each drawer was purged. The windows were bare of their tapestry curtains.

I ran to Grandfather’s room. The furniture was gone. The oriental rug that had cloaked the ancient mahogany floors had been taken away. Holes hid in plain view where pictures and nails had once been. I shook my head around, tried to startle everything back into view. The room looked more occupied for a second, then settled back into emptiness.

Numbly, I moved myself next door to the library. There was nothing. Even the heat of the sun through the skylights was absent.  I could hear her downstairs now. I hadn’t seen her pass me. How must she have moved?

I descended the service stairs, emerged in the kitchen, now the plain white interior of a box. There was not the hint of a countertop, no pipes emerging where the sink had once run. There was only the rectangular absence of the doorway to the dining room. It felt hard to breathe, like the oxygen was fleeing the air.

The dining room loomed pitch black. Once I walked through the doorway, I could not even see the way back into the kitchen. No light stretched in. I could still hear the intruder ahead of me. Instantly disoriented, I moved forward and felt for the doorway to the living room, but all I encountered was space. I tried to find a wall, but no matter how far I wandered, the only solid objects in the room were the floor and my feet. I heard the hard click of the heavy front door and moved towards it, but several minutes later, I had still not arrived. “Grandfather?” I called. The silence answered me firmly.

I was lost, exhausted, full, satisfied, alone.

When all you have is everything, the only desire left is for every bit of it to be taken away.