Excerpt from "At the Carousel Stop"
Available in Like a Chill Down Your Spine on Amazon
Despite the plush chair’s comfort, Mrs. Sanchez sat at its edge, her fingers half in her purse, prepared to grab at something any minute. Working mom, Patrick thought. Always ready to move to the next thing that needed doing.
“No kids?” he asked. She’d insisted on a two-bedroom, but claimed her kids were grown and out of the house. He asked again because when she’d entered his office, she’d been looking behind her as if someone were following—or like she wanted to be sure they stay put.
Besides that he’d smelled cannabis when they’d spoken outdoors—though he had to admit he didn’t now that they sat together in the office. He’d had a moment’s doubt; maybe she was sneaking in a boyfriend, a dealer. But she was clean, neat, and pleasant, if a little nervous. She would be working and coming home to sleep. An easy tenant.
Pushing the apartment key across the desk, he smiled. He’d rather welcome her than be suspicious. “Welcome, Mrs. Sanchez. I hope you like it here.”
As she reached for the key, she shot a quick glance over her shoulder, then looked back apologetically. “I thought—”
“It’s the glass case,” he said. “You probably saw my reflection.” Decorative cherry wood trimmed the curio cabinet, and chopped his reflection in half, but he saw himself sitting tall, his complexion warmly Irish. He’d gotten his hair trimmed close and neat. He felt presentable. It had been a rough week, but wasn’t it always?
She stood. He almost wished she’d had a kid or two, a college guy maybe who’d laze around the small pool—glistening sleekness soaking sun, legs spread casually either side of the lounge chair. Patrick pushed the thought away and extended his hand.
“You have a lovely smile,” she said. “It’s in your eyes.” With that she left. Had he been smiling? In the curio cabinet he saw only a carousel of unicorns. And that reminded him that the collection needed dusting. He was the one who had said, “Don’t throw them away,” and now he stared at them every day, pointed reminders.