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Has it been 23 years already? Still haven’t gone out, no interest; just sitting by the fire, in Lily’s chair. Where are you? Don’t you want your spot?
She’s dead, they say. Hah! And yet she leaves a messy bed behind every morning.
Cats say a family’s moving in across the street in a few days.
October 3, 1991. Still have it marked. We’ll go one day darling, we’ll stand right under the falls, and old Niagara will wash all this death off of you. What’s taking her so long? I hear noises, and voices. Lily? Are you there? Damn cats never stop gossiping.
Paycheck day tomorrow. Why don’t they deliver these things and spare me the anxiety? Going to pick up new furniture for Miles’ tank. Goldfish are high maintenance. Lily used to pamper him, but I don’t feed him much. If you keep feeding him he’ll explode! He seems happier here, too. Who needs a whole ocean? Here, at least, I’ll never be eaten.
Eventful day today. Bought a painting. Found a homeless girl across the street selling flowers. She knew all about Lily. Called her “the living”. Flowers for the living! Probably heard from the cats. She had irises. Oh, Iris! Goddess of the rainbow! Link between earthly me and my heavenly love! Says she’ll bring me lilies tomorrow. Her name is Delilah. She came with me to the office, waited in the car; taught me so many things. Spoke to my boss and coworkers for the first time. Her eyes are dark, like Lily’s. Is that you? Are you in disguise? She always had a chameleon soul. She lives with us now.
Eventful day again. October is a cursed month. Judy Reynard from government came over. Miles thinks she’s pretty and smells like donuts. Wanted to meet Delilah but she refused and hid in the closet as usual. Mrs. Reynard thinks Delilah should go to an asylum. Says she’ll get lonely if I leave. I’d never leave. I’m waiting for someone. She offered me a job at New World Newspaper, but I’ll have to move to New World. Did you hear that? She should be home any minute now.
Told Delilah. She flipped out and disappeared. Says they’ve tricked me, that I’m the one going to the asylum. Why? You think I’m crazy? Don’t think I’m good enough for this job? If only she’d come with me. Delilah? Are you there?
Delilah, where are you? She was right all along. They’ve trapped me here. 34 days, according to the cats. Delilah, I’m sorry. I wake up with a new scar every day. Miles thinks it’s the guard. He’s the only one with a key. And he eyes the scars. What if Lily comes home? She knows you’re here, she’ll come. Are you sure? Yes, yes. Maybe she’s the one scratching me, maybe it’s a sign. Lily? Delilah? Are you there? Help me out of this labyrinth!
Life with Joey Blue
Delilah had always been fond of cats, especially the gossipy, small-town neighborhood kind. One afternoon, while strolling through Lou-Folkery Grove, she noticed a bunch whispering behind a trash-bin.
“You think he’s gunna lose it today?”
“I think he already has.”
“Who’s gunna lose it?” Delilah asked, unable to help overhearing.
“You humans are so nosy,” the oldest cat responded. “Joey Blue. House 13? Dead wife? Little nuts-o in the head?”
“Oh … I don’t know, I’m not from here,” Delilah said, shyly. The cat rolled his eyes. “We know,” he replied, “but like I said, humans are just nosy.” He turned back to his comrades and motioned towards the street. “Let’s go,” he said, and took off, the rest of the crew jumping after him.
Now curious about Joey Blue, Delilah started off towards house 13, picking irises out of gardens along her way, chanting “Flowers for the living!”. What she meant, of course, was the living dead, and if this Joey Blue was truly “nuts-o in the head” then he’d understand, so she kept chanting until he finally came out.
“I’d like a flower,” he said.
“For Lily?” She was unsure how she knew this, but his eyes widened at the name.
“Yes … how did you know?”
“I heard she lives here – and that she died here. But I came to see you.”
“Oh, alright. To give me a lily?”
“Oh … you want lilies. I only have irises, but I can bring lilies tomorrow.”
Joey noticed Delilah’s dirty finger nails and ripped shoes, but he lingered on her large, dark eyes. They glistened with such vehemence; they contradicted her entire tattered appearance.
“Would you like to come with me to the office?”
“Sure. But I’ll stay in the car. I don’t like people.”
On the way, Joey told Delilah about how he dreaded the office because his boss always asked him very personal questions like “How are you?” or “Where’ve you been?”, and Delilah explained how all people asked these questions – it was their way of entertainment. They didn’t really care, they just used each other. They called it small talk.
From then on, Delilah decided to live with Joey, as long as when other people came around, she could hide in the closet.
A few days later, a woman came to see Joey. From the closet, Delilah overheard her talking about a job at “New World”. Once she was gone, Delilah warned Joey that the woman was trying to trick him, but he was infuriated and accused Delilah of calling him a lunatic. In a rage, she chucked an old Nokia dumb phone at him, and slammed the closet door, swearing to stay there forever. Just missing his face, the phone hit the back wall and fell to the floor.
In the sad atmosphere of a broken phone and heart, Joey wrote the address of New World on a paper, slid it under the closet door, and left.
A few hours later, Delilah cracked open the closet door.
“Joey? Miles? Are you there?”
The Curious Case of Joey Blue
Joey Blue was never very fond of people, and his wife’s death only made him more inaccessible. Since then, he only ever left the house on the fifth of every month for his paycheck. He’d refused to have it delivered because he believed that the mailman would steal it.
Joey used to live on number 13, Lou-Folkery Grove, where he spent most of his time rearranging furniture, writing for a magazine, and watching football, among more unusual habits.
Joey is a segmented sleeper, sleeping from 8 p.m. till 12 a.m., then again from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. Between the hours of 12 and 3, he’d crumple the sheets on Lily’s bed, then at 7, he’d go to her room, find the bed a mess, shake his head and fix it.
More peculiarly, he was always talking to himself, or to things, like the neighborhood cats. Whether he was eating or driving or feeding his goldfish, he was always talking. And that would have been only mildly absurd if it hadn’t been for October 5th. While a new family was moving their furniture in across the street, Joey caught sight of Picasso’s Woman with a Flower leaning against the fence. He stood for a while, speaking to it, until, when no one was in sight, he grabbed the painting by its thick, black frame, dashed back across the street, put it in the car and drove away.
The painting only drove him madder than he’d already been. Leaving it in the car, he went up to the office and gave a speech about how truly melancholic the human condition was, with its intrusiveness and dishonesty. He took it home and sat it beside him at the table, on the couch, in bed, carrying it from room to room and talking to it all the while.
Having noticed his peculiar behavior, his neighbor Judy, a social worker at the county asylum, called his office. His boss explained how Joey only ever wrote from home, but on the days he did come in, he was always very edgy and refused to answer questions. Judy decided to go over and examine Joey’s condition, and convince him to move to a place called “New World”.
At first, Joey was reluctant, but after shouting at his painting and breaking his wife’s old cell phone, he decided it was time for change.
Joey now lives in the asylum with his goldfish, but his condition doesn’t seem to have improved. According to the guards, he’s been collecting cans of beef ravioli. Every day after lunch, he empties one in the trash, washes it out, peels the lid and adds the can to the collection. A little after midnight, he gets up, cuts himself and speaks to the wound.
“Lily? Delilah? Are you there? I’m just around the corner. Don’t cry, darling. Why are you crying? I know the labyrinth is troublesome, but the human condition was made for suffering…”