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Hummels R o b e r t L u n d ay At the corner store was an ad that read “House Sitter Needed.” I have the house my Mom left me, along with her collection of Hummels. But I took one of the phone-number tags anyway. It’s a good home, my Mom’s, but it still feels like hers. The Hummels remind me of her. Really, they remind me of me, staring at them for hours, knowing I couldn’t touch. The Hummels used to whisper to me in German. I called the number and an old guy answered. He asked me about myself. I made up some stuff about just moving back to town and staying with my sister’s family and needing a little time alone. He gave me his address. “Come by this afternoon and we can talk business,” he told me. It was a big old house, with a long porch and a sad-looking rocker by the door. I rang the bell, waited, and was about to leave when he opened the door. The old guy had wisps of yellow-gray hair. He invited me in, we talked, and I found myself telling more lies. Then he shook my hand and we had a deal. He gave me a key and said, “Come over on Sunday; I’ll be gone.” Next Sunday I drove over with one sack of clothes. I went in like I had always belonged in that house; like I already knew what was in every room. The old guy had left a list of things to take care of. I took note of the house plants, the garbage that needed to be put out on Tuesday, and the box by the door for piling mail. Everything in the house seemed to be watching me. The hawk-nosed faces in the engravings, the scrolled knobs on the sideboard, the statuette of the rearing stallion on the coffee table—it was all watching me. The old guy had one Hummel, a chimney sweep that my Mom also had. That was the only thing in the house that wasn’t watching me. I knew it wasn’t watching me because it was me. I went upstairs and tried some doors. All the upstairs doors were locked except one. On the one unlocked door the old guy had left a note: “Sleep Here.” I went inside. It was a nice room, but the dresser drawers and closet were empty. There was a sailboat painting above the bed, a mirror on the opposite wall, and a window from which I could see the walnut tree in the front yard. And wallpaper: this was a house with a lot of wallpaper. That made the house seem like it was crowded and noisy, because there were hundreds of random faces everywhere,

watching me. As I lay down on the bed I thought that I wanted to get out, but I had shaken the old guy’s hand. Should I try to pick the locks on the closed cabinets and doors? I thought, after I woke up a couple hours later. I put that notion aside and went downstairs. I remembered that I hadn’t tried any doors on the first floor. One door, the door to the basement I guessed, was locked. Another was open to a closet with antique odds and ends: an old slide projector, a baseball bat and a glove like a mummy’s face, and some National Geographic magazines stacked high as a child. I went out for Indian food, then back to the old guy’s house, where I fell asleep again. I was tired, as if the house were sucking the life out of me. I slept another couple hours, in my clothes, on the made-up bed. Later, in the kitchen, I looked through drawers. In one were some keys— lots of keys, including old ones. Let the snooping begin, I thought. First, I tried the basement door: it was one of the old keys, of which there were only a few. I felt for a light switch, but couldn’t find it. Slowly and carefully I went down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs my face touched the string to a ceiling light. I flicked it on. Then, to my amazement and embarrassment, I saw the old guy himself, sitting in an arm chair in a corner of the basement, in a little area set up like a small apartment. I stood there, not moving, and not saying a word, but just staring, afraid of what was wrong with this. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but it was his house. I wasn’t supposed to be in the basement. The old guy sat still, but he was glowering at me, like I had violated his trust, although he had never said anything about the locked doors. But I knew that a locked door said what it had to say. After a while he stopped looking at me, as if I wasn’t there. I backed up toward the stairs, flicked off the light, and climbed the stairs slowly. Then I locked the basement door, and put the keys back in the kitchen drawer. I got my stuff and on the way out snatched the Hummel. It seemed right to rescue the little guy. I went home— to Mom’s home, my home, and placed the little guy next to his twin in the cabinet. Then I sat down in my Mom’s favorite armchair— my chair, now. It was getting dark, but I didn’t get up to turn on the lights. I just sat there. It was good to be home. It was good to sit there in the dark, in a chair I had known all my life.

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Profile for Apeiron Review

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...