There is rustling in the rose bush below Mrs Spencer's living room window. Edward Rosenburg is crouching in the bush. He gazes at Mrs. Spencer's ample cleavage as she leans over and wipes the glass table not just the once it needs, but three times. Wipe,wipe,wipe. The long and bony fingers of his left hand tremble on the window ledge. His long skinny legs shake. His eyes follow her thick thighs as she takes three leaps to a side table. She dusts the ornaments. Dust, dust, dust. The fat under her arms wobbles.
The telephone rings, She dusts an ornament a fourth time. Dust. She grimaces and hisses at herself before dusting it another two times. Dust, dust. On the third ring, she answers the phone. She yells at whoever is on the other end but Edward cannot hear what she screams for all the rustling. She hangs up. She thuds over to the stack of cleaning materials by the door. Thud, thud, thud. Her spare tyre vibrates. She picks up the broom, holding it tightly in her chubby little hands. Each board of the floor is given three firm shakes of the broom. Shake, shake, shake.
She sits down. She plumps the pillows. Plump, plump, plump. She runs her hand back and forth over them, back and forth, back and forth. She picks up the magazine before her. She looks at the cover on which there is the face of a smiling woman sitting on a white sofa cradling a puppy. She throws it down. She picks it up and throws it down. She picks it up and throws it down. Then she picks up her china mug with the engraving of a Chinese woman scrubbing clothes on a rock, and takes a sip. She puts it back. Pick up, put back, pick up, put back. She bites her nails, bite, bite, bite; scratches at her forehead, scratch, scratch, scratch; pulls at her hair, pull, pull, pull.
She thuds to the fireplace where she dusts a spotless photo of herself. She looks at the photo taken when she was younger, thinner, less lined. She moves along to the mirror. She pauses before it. There she is: older, fatter, wrinkled. She fixes her blonde locks in the mirror. She still has those. She combs each handful. Comb, comb, comb. She blinks. Blink, blink, blink.. She looks into those blue eyes. They used to shine. Now they are dull, dying, dead.
She crashes down into the sofa. She holds her head in her hands. She shakes. Sobs. She wipes each eye three times. She rubs the huge, fresh and purple bruise on the back of her leg. Edward looks down. Go! But he cannot leave. He just cannot leave. He stays. He has to stay and watch her. He looks up. She bites her nails, scratches at her forehead and pulls at her hair. She gets up, sits down, gets up, sits down. As she gets up the third time she stops abruptly. She cocks her head like a hound that has heard a snake in a bush. The rustling! She looks to the window. Her eyes fall on Edward's large watery brown eyes just above the window ledge. Edward crashes down into the bush.
It is the Rosenburg boy! The one with the cleft lip! Watching her! She shivers. Cold shivers. Then warm shivers rush though her. Regardless of his deformity, his face belongs to a noble prince, locked in a tower, denied the privileges of princely life but noble none the less. She goes to the window. The rustling stops. She can hear him breathing . Deep, heavy breaths. She pokes her head out. She looks down. There is a moist brown eye peering up at her through the leaves. The long lashes flutter wildly.
She dashes to the couch and crashes. She sits down and stands up, sits down and stands up, sits down and stands up. She leaves the room, in and out, in and out, in and out. She reappears carrying a mop that quivers in her hands. Excitement rides on top of the fear. She is like a surfer taking on a massive crest, one with sharks riding through. She resumes her cleaning; Edward, as relieved as a surfer who has just survived such shark-infested waves, resumes his watching. He grins. There she is! She is now wearing a yellow crop top. She is braless. Her stomach hangs brazenly over her curvaceous waist. Edward wipes the froth from the side of his mouth. As she mops the floor, she listens to the breathing, now deep and hurried. She listens to the furious rustling of the leaves, rustles that get louder as the cleaning quickens, as the strokes across the floor, the surfaces and the ornaments become firmer and more furious, growing even firmer and more furious as the clock hands move closer to reading Six O'Clock.
When the hands fall on the twelve and six and Mr Spencer's car can be heard tearing up the road and into the driveway, the cleaning and the rustling comes to a sudden climax. Then the rustling, the cleaning and the car grind to a halt. Both the rustler and the cleaner are as still as statues as they wait for the long process of Mr. Spencer to get out of the car, and lug himself up the driveway. When the door crashes shut and Mr Spencer bellows to his wife, Edward wipes the froth from the sides of his mouth and darts from his hiding place, over the fence and to his home. There, beneath his rustling sheets, he reflects on what he has seen that day and looks forward to the next one. And the next. For he believes the cleaning will never end, and neither will the watching and the rustling.
But the watching does come to an end. While watching Mrs. Spencer as she dusts each spotless ornament on the mantelpiece, dust, dust, dust, Edward feels a hand grip his arm. He is pulled out from the bushes. What the hell are you doing? His mother whispers at him, the beginning of a torrent of abuse pertaining to his perversity. Crimson-faced, she drags him out of the garden and to their home, checking around her to see if anyone has seen them.. He is grounded! Grounded until God knows when. What do you mean you couldn't help it? No it's not the same as my checking the cooker. I need to do that! What if I left it on? What then? You don't need to be spying on that woman like the pervert you are! That's not going to save anyone's life. Neither is your checking of the cooker. Excuse me? How dare you talk to me like that! Get to your room! He hurries to his room where his heart sinks as he sinks into his bed and stares up at the white ceiling, the white ceiling he had stared at for so many afternoons until he had come across the rose bush.
The next morning, Mrs. Spencer is mopping the floor. She feels that something is amiss. Someone is missing. She goes to the window. After checking, check, check, check, and finding him missing, she races to his home. She rings the bell. Ring, Ring, Ring. Mrs Rosenburg opens the door. Mrs Spencer! What can I do...? Ah you would like to borrow some pepper. Yes I heard you the first time. Yes, as I said, I heard you the first time. Some pepper. Yes, yes, yes, you can have some pepper. Aaaaah. Thank God it was not about the boy. Of course, you can come in. Mrs Spencer enters She wipes her feet. Wipe, wipe, wipe. How is Edward? Her face tightens up. Oh he is...
I am here. H.Hello Mrs Shp..Shp...Shpensher. Hello Edward. How are the holidays? N..N..Not sho g..good. I 'm g..g..grounded. Oh!She looks at Mrs Rosenburg. Don't ask. It's a disgrace. It c..c..couldn't be helped m..mm.other. No m..m..matter how m..m..much I tt..tried. Shome things you just c..c..can't help d.d.doing. D..d..do you know what I m.,m..mean Mrs. Shpensher? Yes, I know what you mean. I know what you mean. I know what you mean. Mrs Spencer takes the pepper. She taps it, tap, tap, tap, and flees in three long strides.
That afternoon Edward is lying on the bed, beneath the rustling sheets, staring up at the ceiling, thinking of Mrs Spencer cleaning. He hears whistling. Whistling in bursts of three. He looks out his window. There she is! He sees Mrs. Spencer in the garden staring up at his bedroom window, her eyes wide and shining. Edward grins. She is wearing short shorts, that yellow top and her hair is tied up revealing her leathery brown neck. She sweats profusely, wiping the sweat from her brow, the back of her neck, the top of her breasts. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Seeing Edward is by his window, Mrs Spencer begins gardening. She picks up the sheers and there is a rustling in the rose bush.