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August 15, 2022

View From A Cloud

By Lydia Manx

Trina Tidwell looked out the living room window when the screaming started. She was half asleep on the couch in a vicodin haze and everything was fluffy and white. Then it dawned on her she was looking through the sheers. The mini-blinds were wide open but the sheers were still shut so the world wasn't quite real. Okay, so the drugs didn't hurt any if she was perfectly honest. But she didn't really feel like being perfect or honest. White marshmallow filling was pretending to be her brains while her eyes were still attempting to focus. She found the clear acrylic wand dangling from the window blind fixtures and she batted it out of her view while tugging the line to the sheers slowly. The pulley system resisted her attempts at first, then reluctantly moved. The squeaking of the wheel at the top of the blinds irritated her cotton soft silent home.

Outside her window the world slowly began to take shape. She couldn't see where the screaming was coming from but she certainly could hear it. It roared through her mind drowning out the last squeak of the blinds. Another minute, until her eyes unblurred enough for her to focus outside her window. There was a yellow-colored street light flitting on and off just past old man Kindler's place. He'd tried to get the city to remove the light completely, but had to settle for the low sodium yellow light instead. Every now and then it spontaneously broke from Kindler's well-aimed rocks. He had a wickedly accurate aim and never took more than one shot. Trina should know since more than once she had observed Kindler out at three in the morning in his flannel robe putting the light out.

She waited to see if any household lights came on in response to the screams. It didn't surprise her when nobody bothered to even turn a porch light on to see what was happening. Nobody wanted any attention focused on them and she didn't blame them. Ever since Sidney Gaylord had moved out from the neighborhood, the whole street acted like each house was its own private nation. Sid had kept folks in line and feeling safe. Well, that and his being a cop didn't hurt. But when his wife had left him for the cute blonde UPS driver, Cherri Wilson, a year ago, Trina knew Sidney wouldn't make it in a real old fashioned neighborhood. The confirming exit sign was the bright 'Sold' placard hammered up two months ago on a 'For Sale' sign that had appeared just a month prior. Sidney moved out a day after the sign first was hung. He pretty much fell off the face of the earth. She wasn't even surprised. After all, he was no longer part of the whole Stepford family structure that littered the development. Trina wasn't either but unlike Sidney she never had a family so nobody could compare and find her lacking.

Another scream broke into her musings. She looked to the east and saw a light in the window of Sally McCarthy's bedroom. The fuzz filling her brain relaxed enough for her to really focus on the window. Unlike her own house, there was a light on in the room. A figure was backlit by the sixty watt bulb. Trina was burrowed in her blankets on her couch without even a television to glow blue in the room. Nobody could stare back as she watched. Ever since the incident three months ago, that was pretty much her nightly ritual. She'd shut off all the lights and watched the night descend. From her couch cocooned in the comforters she was invisible. The fistful of pills she took throughout the day pushed her pain up and down. It was like she was riding a wave of chemicals. One of the side effects from the various medications was that she was often awake at odd hours riding out the pain. Tonight she had finally begun to drift off when the screaming startled her awake.

Sally's window was still lit up and Trina could see that there was someone framed in the open window, now leaning out, screaming. Another shape came up and pulled at the woman. Light rolled over her face and she could see it was in fact Sally leaning out screaming from the bottom of her lungs. Terror was laced with mind boggling fear. Trina looked down to see her forearm had bumps. It melted into her brain that the woman's scream was bone chilling. And she didn't even know what was going on over there.

She looked back to see that Sally's companion was holding her and pulling her back into the bedroom. Before Trina could figure out who the person was the curtains were yanked back, closing off the scene. Trina waited to see if Sally would reappear in the window or if she was going to scream some more. Sally's house was quiet and then the light was switched off. Trina sat there and waited. The grandfather clock in her bedroom chimed the half hour She still sat frozen waiting to see what was happening and found herself drifting off to sleep.

With a start she woke, hearing the clock chime five times. It wasn't dark outside anymore. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes she murkily came up from the pillows and cushions where she had fallen asleep during the early morning hours. Her couch was washed in sunbeams from the eastern view. The reflecting sunlight bounced off the windows of all the cars parked in front of Sally's home. All the police cars with their red and blue lights spinning around letting everyone know something had happened. Like four cop cars in front of a house wouldn't immediately scream problems?

Walking towards her doorway was a dark uniformed figure. He must have seen her pop up from the couch. She reached over to the coffee table and pulled her bottle of water to her mouth. Quickly she gulped back a mouthful with two of the pills on the plate that was next to the coaster. The hard knock was expected but she still jumped slightly.

"Come in," she hoarsely yelled out in response.

Another knock, even harder, was the answer to her invitation. Then it dawned on her the door was still locked.

Sighing she picked up the control to the front door, pushing a button. The door audibly made clicking noises and she hollered, "I said come in."

"Hello? Ma'am, I am from the police. Do you still wish me to enter?" The male voice said while opening the door slightly.

"That's why I told you to come in, so yes," Trina was not used to talking this much. She sipped more water and watched the man slowly enter while looking to see where she was. Thankfully she saw he didn't have his gun drawn. That would have screwed her up more. Shakily she set the water bottle back and was happy when she didn't knock it over putting it in the coaster. The cop was now halfway in the room and his eyes widened seeing her. She would never get used to that involuntary reaction. Never.

"How can I help you, Officer?" Trina asked from the couch. It wasn't like she would be hopping up to shake his hand.

He tried to focus on her face, but the man couldn't help it when his glance kept dropping down to her legs. Not the way men used to look at them, that was for sure. She waited for him to compose himself. Trina knew the sight of her legs encased from toe to hip in plaster was pretty odd. But then all that spare time, and being an artist, she'd felt compelled to color the body canvas available. She had been heavily medicated and the choice wasn't probably what most expected, like nice pretty flowers and signatures from family and friends. No she'd decided to explore her inner self. Literally. She painted one leg with vividly real muscles and sinew, as if she had the skin ripped off her leg, and the other was a bit deeper exploration with renderings of bones and joints. Gray's Anatomy was helpful and the little demons and angels interspersed in the artwork was more an offshoot of one of the sleeping medications that hadn't quite worked to the doctor's satisfaction. After an appropriate length of time she asked again, "What can I help you with, Officer?"

"Ma'am, there's been some problems down the street. I need to ask you some questions. What is your name?"

"Trina Girardeau Tidwell. And yours?" She waited. He stumbled for a minute with the spelling before saying, "Officer Warren Kowalski." He scribbled and gave another pass at the last name. She didn't help since he didn't ask.

"Ah, well Ms. Girardeau-Tidwell, have you been here all night?" He glanced at his notepad, waiting her answer.

"No, actually I was out dancing, why?" She rolled her eyes as he blushed. She didn't bother informing him that Girardeau was her middle name and not hyphenated.

"Dancing?" Like she had been. Anyone could tell at a glance she hadn't been moving much from the couch. The well-used wheelchair sat folded against the wall and there was scattered trail of broken glass around the room. Whenever she got angry she tended to pick the nearest item up and throw it at the walls. She wasn't going to be walking on anything for a while so she didn't care about the carpet full of shards. Hell, with the insurance money she would be able to replace the carpets with new flooring. She had to anyway -- since the incident she'd had major spills and breaks. The cleaning service came in once a week and quietly removed all signs of her anger. They were due in today so the floor was glittering and sparkling. He tried to figure out how to word a new question without giving her a chance to spar.

Trina bit back a smile since the only entertainment she had voluntarily walked in or she paid well, like the silent cleaning crews. She would take her entertainment where she could. It beat being pitied.

Now a bright red, the cop flipped the page for a different question. "Was there anything unusual in the area that happened between yesterday about six o'clock and this morning?"

She tapped a fingertip to her dry parched lips and said, "Other than the screaming over at Sally McCarthy's house? No. Oh, wait, I was able to wiggle the big toe on my right foot without tossing my cookies."

He paled and tried to figure out what in his notebook would help him. Nothing seemed to work so he ventured, "And the screaming was about when?"

Trina sighed and thought. "Between half past dark something and five a.m. near as I can recall."

That answer totally threw the officer for a loop. He grasped his belt loop frantically and found his radio. Without a word he keyed the button on the side and said, "Captain, Officer Kowalski here. Over."

Static and a response, "Yes, Warren, what now?"

She stifled a chuckle at the lack of respect the young boy got from his boss.

"Captain, I need you at the 716 address. There is a situation."

Trina now burst out laughing. Apparently she was a 'situation' now.

Warren shot her a look that was less than kind and she giggled into her pillow. The man on the other side reluctantly agreed to come by and that was that.

Trina looked at the coffee table and picked up a white capped container of instant happiness. She popped the top off and tossed back a few small slices of medication while Warren stood at the door waiting for help. She was confident the pills would kick in before his boss arrived. Sipping more water she called out, "Anything you need over there by the door?"

The cop pretended not to hear her. Soon another cop was tromping up her walkway. Warren let him in and said, "This is Trina Girardeau Tidwell. She witnessed something last night."

He stepped back let a large man into her house. This man wasn't the type to blush or stammer. His dark hair was laced with white and gray giving him the appearance of someone with authority and the ability to command. Warren all but bowed.

Trina had to admire the fact he didn't even blink at her. That alone gave him some serious brownie points. Warren introduced his boss, "Captain Stewart."

She smiled and waited for some comment on her situation. Then she respected him more for ignoring her attire completely. All he asked was, "So did you see something over at the McCarthy house?"

Looking at the man she said, "Not really. I just heard a scream and saw her pulled inside her room by a man. Nothing more."

Nodding Captain Stewart said, "Thank you for your time." He walked back to the door jerking his head at Warren. With that simple motion he pulled his cop out of her world to the outside. He asked nothing more from her. She was denied any contact.

Frustrated, she went back to watching out her window.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-05-22
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