Friday, August 26, 2016

games, part 11

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

jenny opened the window.

she looked down, into the shadows beneath the pine tree beside the boarding house.

as she suspected, it was rosie who had tossed the pebbles against the window. and did she have someone with her?

jenny didn’t want to shout and attract anybody’s attention in the house, so she just waved to rosie and gave her a thumbs up, to signal that she would come down.

did she really want to see rosie tonight? and talk to - and listen - to her? she wasn’t really in the mood for her, even though she had not been able to sleep and had not been able to concentrate on her book.

as jenny went down the flights of back stairs to the first floor, it occurred to her that it was not surprising that rosie had shown up - she probably wanted jenny to let her in to the cellar, because of the “big storm”.

jenny was looking forward to the “big storm” and hoped it would not turn out to be a false alarm.

jenny had met rosie in the little park by the bainville city hall where she sometimes hung out after school when she was in no hurry to get home.

rosie was one of a rotating crew of derelicts who panhandled in the park and were somewhat tolerated by the local police as long as they did not get too close to the city hall and the respectable citizens did not actually complain about them.

they all had “colorful” names and they all had stories to tell.

“roadster rosie” had the most elaborate stories of all. about half of them were about roosevelt and other famous people who ruled the world - even if they were dead - and were out to get her, rosie.

but the others were descriptions of the life rosie had led when she was younger and rich - really, really rich to hear her tell it - before “they” had it in for her and forced her into a life on the road.

sometime jenny almost believed these stories. almost.

and on a couple of occasions - big snowstorms - jenny had been kindhearted enough to let rosie take shelter in the cellar of the boarding house.

unknown to brenda, of course, who would have had conniptions like captain bligh if she had even suspected.

jenny reached the bottom of the stairs. she was behind the pantry, which was behind the kitchen. a door to the left of the stairs led down to the cellar, and a door directly in front of her opened to the yard on the side of the house. she carefully opened it.

rosie immediately started talking, but in a low voice. “gee thanks, kid, i knew you wouldn’t let me down, not on a night like this.”

“i haven’t said i would, rosie,” jenny answered.

“aww, i was counting on you! you heard about the big storm, right?”

“yes, but it’s not here yet. and keep your voice down.”

“but everybody says it’s coming.” rosie noticed jenny looking at susquehanna sal. “you worried about this bum? hey, i didn’t invite her, she tagged along herself. i told her i couldn’t promise her anything.”

sal looked at jenny with the saddest doggy expression she had ever seen on a human being. and she had seen some sad doggy expressions, on the bums in the park and on the tenants in the boarding house.

jenny decided to let them in, it was better than having brenda hearing her talking to them. she opened the door wider behind her. “all right , come on in, both of you. but keep it down! i think brenda is in the kitchen and she might have someone with her.”

jenny opened the cellar door. there was a naked bulb right above her and she pulled it on. it gave just enough light that they could get down the stairs without breaking their necks.

they reached the bottom of the stairs. rosie and sal looked around.

“there’s no other lights,” jenny told them. “you will have to let your eyes get accustomed to the dark. there are some rugs over there in the corner behind the furnace, so make yourselves at home. “

“yeah, yeah, i remember the setup, kid. hey this is great, real cozy. reminds me of when i was the guest of the czar and czarina in moscow.”

sal laughed.

“what are you laughing at?” rosie asked her, but still keeping her voice down. “that’s gratitude for you, i save your miserable life and you laugh at me. what, you don’t think i was a guest at the kremlin in moscow?”

“moscow idaho maybe. you were in jail in moscow idaho.” sal looked over at jenny. “i haven’t properly introduced myself. my name is susquehanna sal and i am really grateful, honey, you have a heart of gold, you are the five wise virgins in the bible come back to life all at once, i really mean it.”

“say, kid,” rosie asked jenny, “ you wouldn’t happen to have a smoke on you, would you?

“no, rosie, i do not. and i am glad to hear you do not have one yourself. the last thing i want is for you to be burning the place down.”

“oh well, no harm in asking.” rosie had gone over to the pile of rugs behind the furnace and was sorting through them. she tossed a couple over at sal’s feet.

“sorry i can’t offer you anything,” jenny said. “but like i said, i think brenda is still in the kitchen. she’d call the national guard if she knew you were down here.”

“we’re all set here,” rosie assured her.

“then i will leave you to it,” jenny said. she listened, but did not hear anything upstairs.

“aw, stick around, “said rosie. “palaver a little bit. it’s been a while.”

“all right. but just for a little while.”

“what was that?’” asked sal.

they listened.

“raindrops,” said jenny. “the storm must just be starting.”

outside, hal had returned from his walk around the block, and had seen jenny let rosie and sal in.

what was that all about? he wondered.

but he had other things on his mind, and quickly forgot about it.

part 12

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