Whenever I see Elias it rains.
The first few times we joked about it, but after a year of watery visits it’s gone beyond coincidence—but he has no explanation and neither do I so we leave it there, hanging like the Turner painting on his wall of a shipwreck in a storm.
Now, why would a psychiatrist hang a dismal picture on his wall? The Good Doctor thinks it’s serendipity and I suppose that’s as good an explanation as any—‘the previous tenant had it on his wall and who am I to disturb the universe?’ The Prufrockian and Freudian implications all lead to an overwhelming question, and, of course, we don’t ask what it is.
Obviously, I find it hard to take Elias seriously, which is a liability since he is my shrink, but we have delightful conversations and he is a good listener and besides, it’s a necessary requirement of my parole.
I was very nearly killed in an auto accident—drinking far too much and popping pills—and since that got quite out of hand, here I am.
“So where are we?” Elias asks amiably, smiling over his half-moon reading glasses. He has the dossier before him and knows exactly where we are, but likes to invite me in.
“Maya and I broke up.”
“Again?” His eyebrows arch and fingers tap out Braille messages to the thunder gods, the overlords of our rainy season.
“We have a tempestuous relationship,” I concede.
He sighs and scribbles a quick note.
I’m back to staring at the painting. I’m the hapless seaman, Maya’s the storm and Elias is the lighthouse—of course, he’s not in the picture—he’s watching from a safe distance, on shore.
“What have you been up to this week?” he asks with a faint smile, knowing very well I’m prone to be impetuous. But then, aren’t most writers?
“I bought a house.”
“Really? That was rather sudden—how did that come about?”
“Ari, a realtor friend of mine, heard it was going to be placed on the market. It was owned by the actress, Jessica Skye.”
A look of recognition crosses his face. “Wasn’t she that Thirties actress?”
“Surely, she didn’t just die—she’d be over a hundred by now.”
“She died in 1980, and her daughter inherited it. And she just passed away.”
He seems outwardly unmoved, but I see his eyes—he’s intrigued. “What made you want to buy it?”
“An Art Deco mansion seemingly perfectly preserved in time? Who wouldn’t be interested—and besides, it came with two keys that don’t seem to fit any lock in the house.”
“Oh well, that explains everything.”
Elias doesn’t do sarcasm well.
The conversation moves on to other topics and the matter of the house is dropped until just before the session ends.
“You know the two keys that don’t fit are you and Maya.”
He says it flatly, in a matter of fact voice, half-expecting me to object—but I don’t.
I stretch and yawn. “I hear you, Elias—I’ve been thinking that myself.”
“You need someone less tempestuous, Leon. You need some calm in your life.”
“Well, who knows what tomorrow may bring?” I say facetiously, but know he’s right. I really need to find that eye in the center of the hurricane—that still-point in my crazily spinning life.
Three weeks later I’m moved in and paying contractors to reno the basement. I leave the main floor and grounds untouched, but the dark paneled basement has to go—it depresses me to look at it.
It’s near the end of the day, and most of the panels have been removed, when Sam Eastman, the contractor, calls me aside. Alarm bells are going off in my head—this type of colloquy from laborers almost always means money.
“We found an alcove concealed behind one of the walls,” he says.
He shows me a steel door behind the studding. “It must be an unused cold cellar, but it’s gonna be a helluva job breaking it open.”
We both stare at the door—Sam’s mentally calculating how much he can charge in terms of labor—and as for me, I’m smiling cynically that my instincts about laborers are proven right once again.
“I just don’t get why someone would put in such a heavy-duty door in the first place.” He’s taken off his Yankee’s ball cap and is scratching his head in wonderment. “You don’t happen to have a key, do ya?”
Of course, he’s pretty sure I don’t, and is also probably figuring, bonus for him.
So he’s understandably disappointed when I reach into my pocket and fish out a set of keys. I try the first one and it doesn’t work, but the second is a perfect fit and the door swings open.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he says, shining his flashlight, and peering in, “You’ve got yourself a Thirties speak-easy in there.”
He’s right—immediately before me, the walls are lined with shelves filled with liquor bottles and then, there’s a long stone-walled corridor resembling the catacombs, lined with tall, pigeon-holed wooden shelves with dark wine bottles nestled inside them.
“We should scope this out, Mr. Perkins.” Sam’s already being nosy, snooping around the liquor racks.
I suddenly feel defensive, as if my privacy’s being invaded. “No, I think that’s all for today, Sam.”
I gently usher him out. “I want to close this up and give some thought to what I’m going to do with the cellar—maybe call in an expert and get an informed opinion.”
Sam’s miffed, but complies. “You’re the boss—it’s your call.”
I shut and lock the door and wait until the crew gather up their tools and leave before turning out the light.
I sit by the fire with a glass of Shiraz and figure out a plan.
I’ll text Sam and tell him to take a few days off and then I’ll thoroughly explore the room the following day.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.