Two! No More Than Two! (Part 1)

I’m making my way up the five flights of stairs (panting and wheezing which makes it difficult to be furtive) and then I get to the DOOR. I give the secret knock. It is answered by a secret knock within. I knock again. This goes on indefinitely.

I am getting tired of this. What was the use sneaking all the way up if I’m gonna be playing knock knock with some gully dwarf who says (secret knock, two knocks – and I say, but that was two knocks – and she says, I count five knocks – and I say, two, no more than two). It would help if the gully dwarfs could count past two.

Finally, as I start pounding the door and threatening to break it down (a threat I could not carry out any more than if I was a fly, the door being solid meranti, and me being only vapours and blood), she opens the door a crack and peers out. I smile winningly. At least, I think it’s winning. At the sight of my gleaming teeth, she screeches and tries to shut the door. I insert my foot. She shrugs and sighs and gives in to the inevitable.

Really! The things I have to go through to pay a visit.

Anyway, once I’m in, I try not to wrinkle my nose. The scent of unwashed gully dwarf assails my nostrils with all the strength of an FF (a former colleague who used to give the rest of us headaches and sinus attacks if he sat anywhere close by, he was that pungent).

“So, is she here?”

“Who?” asks Merowene, in a sullen tone. I interrupted her Solitaire and she is not happy about it.

“You know who. I mean, like, how many people live here anyway?”

She takes me literally and puts up four fingers: “Two, no more than two.”

“Is that you Lullabelle?” a thin, tired voice calls from the other room. The bedroom.

“No, no miss, it’s just Merowene talking to herself. Go back to sleep.”

“Lullabelle?”

“Yes auntie, it’s me. Merowene let me in,” I turn back to the gully dwarf regarding me with suspicious eyes. Can’t blame her, I guess. After all I hardly come to visit and I should. I really should. Poor Aunt Sissy (short for Sisyphus). “Go back to your Freecell. I can show myself in.”

But Merowene, being the contrary creature that she is, decides to dog my footsteps. She is not letting me anywhere near her mistress without supervision. I sigh and follow.

I enter the room and recoil at the air which is as thick as Merowene’s matted hair. I move to open one of the windows and they both cry out. No, no, don’t let the nasty air in.

I sigh again. The stench of Merowene is hard enough to take with open windows. And here, there is another smell subtly interwoven with angry gully dwarf – that of a frail, lonely, neglected human. I seat myself gingerly at the edge of the bed and smile into my Aunt’s face.

She smiles back. “So you’re here. How long has it been?”

I cringe. “Too long Aunt. I’m sorry. I’ve been busy.”

“No matter,” she says generously. “It’s always nice to see you.”

Merowene squats down and Aunt cries out in alarm. “No Mero, no! The bathroom, do that in the bathroom.” I recoil in horror. Oh God! What is it to be an invalid? Maybe we should get rid of the gully dwarf and I should move in. Or move her to my place. Palliative care. A full time nurse. That sort of thing.

Merowene stalks off in high dudgeon.

“Aunt, why don’t you come back with me? My apartment isn’t big, but it’s comfy and I would take care of you. And we could get rid of that gully dwarf.”

Aunt shakes her head with a smile. “No, I couldn’t do that. Besides, I’ve grown fond of the creature. She isn’t very clean, but she’s affectionate. And she does take care of me.”

I listen to the sound of Merowene going potty loudly in the bathroom. Surely Aunt deserves better than this.

We talk for a while and as I am about to get up and leave, Merowene brings in two cups of tea. I look to see tea leaves and other brown unidentified stuff swimming around in the murky liquid. No, I cannot bring myself to take the cup. But Aunt is nodding in a pleased fashion (Merowene is coming along nicely, don’t you think? Just look at that), so I am forced to take it. Aunt takes the other.

The gully dwarf steps back and watches me with a strange look. What’s with the sly furtive grin?

The tea smells, to be delicate about it, like puke. I cannot bring myself to raise the cup to my lips. So I purposely joggle my own elbow and spill it all over my lap. Boiling hot. Ouch!

I see the disappointment in her eyes and smile kindly at her. Yum, I say. Yum yum. Rubbing my belly. That was good.

Aunt Sissy is looking at me strangely too. “Lullabele?”

“Yes?”

“I think it would be a good idea if you don’t come around here anymore. You upset Merowene and she sulks for days.”

“But Aunt Sissy…”

“Stop calling me that! You know I’m not your aunt.”

“OK then, but you told me not to call you Mom.”

She flinches and falls back on the bed clutching her heart. Merowene screams and pushes me aside. She buries her face in Aunt’s lap and they both screech until I leave.

It was getting a little crowded anyway. The apartment was not meant for more than two.

No more than two.

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