Writer in Residence · 01/24/2011

The Banshee

in response to “The Beard” by Kevin Spaide

I put it off for another couple of weeks. But when I looked the woman was still on the roof. I slowly lifted the window, careful to make no noise. Her body covered in a white shawl that wrapped up and around her head, wisps of white hair escaping, enough to shroud her face. As soon as the window was up, her head swiveled back to me, and she started with a low moan. The moan jumped guttural like a wounded bear and from there to an angry dog until I slammed the window. “She’s still there.”

“Really?” my wife said.

“How do you feel?”

“I feel fine. How do you feel?”

“Don’t you start in on me again.”

“Well she’s still out there.” My wife went behind me and shut the curtains as if that would make the woman disappear. “Maybe she’s here about the neighbors.”

“She’s on our roof.”

“Right,” my wife said, “but maybe that’s a good spot to see the neighbors.”

“Are you pregnant?”

“I think I might know.”

“Could be an early miscarriage.”

“You’re horrible.”

“Any worse than you wishing it on me?”

“I’m not wishing it. It just seems most likely. You don’t take care of yourself.”

I walked out, her still talking exercise and sodium. Though I looked in three closets, the mop was in the kitchen where the mop normally lived. I got the handle out the window. It was inches from the woman, or the thing in the shape of a woman. It touched her, or at least I thought it did, because the instant before it did or right as it did, the hag turned and the sound out of her mouth was more force than any noise. I was on the floor.

“What were you going to do anyway?”

“Push her off the roof,” I said.

My wife crossed herself though she was Baptist. “She’s not causing it. She’s just here to announce it or something. Killing the messenger doesn’t change the message.”

“Then why all the dead messengers? And what’s the message?”

She went to the bathroom. It was an argument tactic. The first one to the bathroom could call a truce and think about the next assault.

“What am I supposed to do?” I broke the rules saying this from outside the bathroom. No response. But then the doorbell rang. The banshee let out a moan in response as if it startled her as much as me. We used to have a dog that would do that. I hated that dog.

When I opened the door, no one was there, but their coming was clear. All the neighbors were looking, peeking out of their damn peaceful windows under their wailing-woman-free roofs.

I backed away and kicked the door shut.

“What’s out there?” She was behind me, lured from the bathroom.

“Bundles of baked goods, next to stacks of covered dishes that take up the whole porch.”

“Shit,” she said.

As I hugged my wife, the banshee cried a cry that took hold of the house and throttled it. All the china never used but displayed in its cabinet, as if fresh from some happy day holiday, shattered.

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posted by First Footing