This is the final installment of “The Haunting Of Horace.” Parts 1 and 2 are farther down my blog.
When I whispered I thought I could love her
She just said, “Baby, don’t even bother to try.”
– Seth Justman
“Horace Wimp, this is your life
Go out and find yourself a wife…”
July 10, 1986
He watched the woman beside him sleeping silently, and then Horace rolled over in the bed and retrieved the remote. The TV came on louder than he had anticipated, and he looked over to her as he quickly turned it down. She was unfazed.
Jimmy Durante was singing while the credits rolled on a romantic comedy whose title Horace couldn’t quite remember. “Make someone happy, Make just one someone happy…”
He flipped the channel and a news reporter began explaining, in a far too optimistic way, a crash that had occurred on Route 1 that afternoon.
At least, thought Horace, he had lost his virginity. He wasn’t stuck with that particular badge anymore. If he ever returned to Rhiannon’s attic, he would be at least a bit closer to her category.
He was 23; she was 43. She was a divorced mother who had been far too drunk at the bar. She had sought him out. Horace never, ever asked anyone to dance. He was no good at it; it embarrassed him. He just liked the band. And tonight, they had let him sit in on drums, because everyone was a little drunk, and this particular crowd would have loved them even if they played polka tunes in Ancient Coptic. Horace wouldn’t hurt anything.
When he came off stage, the woman, a complete stranger to him, had run across the dance floor and thrown her arms around him. She hugged him embarrassingly tightly. She had insisted on dancing with him the rest of the night, and he obliged. They couldn’t really talk. The music, particularly on the dance floor, was far too loud.
There was nothing wrong with her. She was probably a very nice woman when she was sober. She wasn’t unattractive. She had just moaned too much about knowing young flesh would be good. Horace had no clue what he was doing. It just felt wrong to him.
“… and in our final story, a scandal involving local celebrity Rhiannon Stark.”
Horace’s attention went immediately to the television. He turned it up a bit.
“That’s right, Danny, she was Miss Kensington County of 1985, and now she may be disqualified because of rumours of her participation in witchcraft. There are accusations of a practice called Astral Projection…”
The woman stirred, and Horace muted the television while he gazed at Rhiannon’s face filling the screen. “So wild,” muttered Horace as he watched her standing there with her hands in her hair. As she walked from the courthouse steps, past the paparazzi, the breeze blew lightly, and it lifted from her shoulders so that it glowed with the late afternoon sun behind her. Rhiannon was a woman who knew how to ignite cold contempt in the hearts of men toward any woman who had the misfortune of not being Rhiannon.
Horace rolled over, as far from the woman as he could, and laid, shivering, in the dark.
— Stevie Nicks
“She rules her life like a bird…”
“All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind”
He was nicely, serenely stoned. Her picture was on the 21.5 inch monitor in front of him. He would have loved to see her in her yearbook pictures from high school, to help him construct The Perfect Rhiannon inside his mind, but these served as a reasonable guide. Her previous beauty had been preserved flatteringly. “Age doth not stale nor custom whither,” he muttered.
Horace smiled unconsciously, and then clicked back over to the essay he was writing. She would like this, he felt sure. It was close as he would ever come to saying he loved her. But it was more than close enough… if she ever read it.
“We’re home!” came Rhonda’s voice.
Horace looked up from the screen and watched the girls come into the library from the kitchen.
“They have me on a whole new set of painkillers,” said Rita. “I’m sorry about last night.”
“We brought you a present,” said Rhonda, handing him a donut.
“Oh, thank you!” Horace was genuinely delighted. He took the donut, and jelly dripped almost immediately onto his t shirt. He collected it onto his index finger, and licked it off. “And it’s fine. It was just a little weird.”
“She doesn’t hallucinate often,” said Rhonda. “In the five years I’ve been with her, it’s only the third time it’s happened.”
“Did you wake up in the middle of the night while you were dreaming or something?”
“No! Your sister sat down on the bed, and she asked me some bizarre question.”
Horace smiled, perhaps somewhat indulgently. “What’d she ask you?”
“I don’t know. I think it was like whether you could make anyone happy without hurting everyone, or something like that. What the fuck does that even mean?”
Horace considered the question a moment. “That would be a hell of an achievement.” He smiled. “And I think you reversed it.”
“It means it was time to change your meds,” Rhonda said to Rita. She turned to Horace. “We’re going to smoke. Join us.”
“Maybe not,” muttered Horace as the girls went outside.
Rita stuck her head back in the door. “What?”
Horace stared into space a few moments. He was thinking of Rhiannon’s candles. There was something he had heard about candles once, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what it was.
Mr. Brown strutted into the library, and looked up at Horace sitting at the desk. There was an essay being written, and Mr. Brown felt obliged to make his contribution. He jumped into Horace’s lap, and Horace reflexively started stroking his fur. He looked once into Horace’s eyes, closed his own for a moment, then opened them again. He hopped up onto the desk, strolled across the keyboard, and the screen glowed with Rhiannon’s picture again. Mr. Brown’s bell tinkled gently.
Rita started to yell at the cat, when her eyes caught the image in front of Horace. “There she is!”
“Who?” He looked from Rhiannon to Rita.
“That’s who came into my room the other night. That’s your sister, isn’t it?”
“No,” said Horace, shaking his head slowly. “It’s not.”
When the cat crossed the desk, and leapt from the mouse to the window above, her status appeared: “Do you suppose you could make everyone happy without hurting anyone?”
Mr. Brown searched the backyard for birds.
Please don’t write about me anymore.