The Empty Cupboard

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Ruthann awakes and cannot get her bearings. Something seems very much amiss.

Submitted: July 29, 2011

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Submitted: July 29, 2011



Ruthann awoke to the soft pad, pad padding of snowflakes falling en masse, gauzily observable, outside her curtainless bedroom window. Otherwise one to start each day feet hitting the warm wooden floor running, today the sprightly lady was uncharacteristically slow, groggy from a seeming excess of sleep ... sleep ... sleep....
Miss Delaney's feet finally did hit the floor, but neither were they running nor receptive to what were freezing wooden planks of a floor without the aesthetic and functional warmth of area rugs. A bone-crunching chill occupied the sleeping chamber as the usually well-fed fire in the potbelly stove had long been extinguished.
When one awakes, it is to a new world awaiting discovery.

Descending a staircase whose treads and risers were adorned in needlepoint, waterfall-style carpet, Ruthann's barefooted steps picked up tactilely on the threadbare nature of the handmade stair covering.
She grasped the handrail firmly as she felt so singularly unsteady on her feet today - such a peculiar feeling, she mused. Coffee - more than her requisite one cup per day - would surely bring her back into the land of the living. It always did. But today, so strangely and inexplicably disoriented as she lingered on into the slowly passing moments of a weirdly off but not really so untypical morning, Dr. Delaney's youngest daughter and the apple of his eye, knew that an extra cup or two of the inky swill would be the ticket to an eventual but sure liftoff of her stymied mind and body.

Ruthann Delaney was a real lady, genteel like Billie Jean Green of Liberty Hill. Hat and gloves and hose, de rigueur even on the hottest of summer days, were a part of Miss Delaney's everyday wardrobe. But unlike the other women of town, who loved their tea, this unique one of the fairer sex preferred coffee. This morning in particular she wanted her coffee to be like friendship: rich, warm, strong. Very strong.
Having made her way safely down the staircase, she shuffled through some newspapers and made a turn toward the kitchen. The light coming in from the east shone through the kitchen windows, making its bold declaration that day had unequivocally begun. This robust light show brought Ruthann to the cusp of wakefulness as she headed toward the sink and reached for the tap. Fingers of her right hand in a grasp upon the cold water faucet handle, Ruthann pulled on it. Gasp of air. Silence. No water.
Well, she would call Mr. Chauncey, the plumber, later. The granite percolator will have to be filled in the laundry room sink. After a cursory look out the dirty window above the sink (she knew for a fact that she had already washed it), Ruthann turned away from the sink and went to the range. The coffee pot was not there. It was always there. Not this morning, that much was certain. My, the chrome on the O'Keefe and Merritt has lost its luster. And so soon already! Make a note to polish it later. She opened the cupboard door above the stove to see if she might have stuck the pot there. A creature of habit who believed like a creed "a place for everything and everything in its place," this was hardly likely. Nevertheless, not only was it not there but neither was anything else. She had only recently emptied all the cupboards, scoured them, relined and restocked them.
So she thought ...

The imposing three-story Victorian mansion, though one of many on Oceanside Boulevard, was certainly the loveliest, a gem among a handful of jewels that likewise gleamed but scarcely as brilliantly. Dr. Delaney was born and raised in this gingerbread house of fawn and cream with burgundy accents and sufficient ornamentation - corbels adorning nearly every perpendicular - to give even the byzantine some serious competition.
So, too, was Dr. Delaney's only child, Ruthann, born in this dominating grand old dame of architectural wonders. Her birth, as all births are, was a moment of great joy.
Yet one of unbearable sadness.

My current habitation is not my home, yet its many doors have been locked against my departure.
No longer within four wooden walls of plain aspect and diminutive size, I am lost in an infinite
architectural spread that reaches toward earth's four points, an edifice possessing three levels
of magnificent scale that demand I should walk, climb, explore every one of thousands of
hidden nooks and crannies.
I am compelled to do this but find no joy in discovery.
I want to go back, go back to the simplicity of my earlier life.
I cannot.
It is becoming dark out of doors, a slinking, watery sun having limped its pathetic course
through the closing chapter of a gloomy and damp spring day. Its brief, craven appearance
has created more shadow than illumination, and this has tended toward my unease, prompting
me to turn on each light of every room on all floors. I am alone - sometimes it is all right to be alone -
but not at this time.
This dwelling space of loss and loneliness holds me captive and I want only to walk out the door and go home.
I am stopped as hand furtively touches handle.
Held captive; no escape.

Andrew J. Vincent

She felt invisible.
Coming in and going out the same door and yet never occupying any space. She was no better or worse off than the missing coffee pot. Or the curtains. Or the rugs. The house was empty. So was she, inside her shell of a self. Ruthann, finally awake to yet another new day and the reality of a vacuous existence, didn't require a bracing mug of joe to snap to her personal reality.
Everything had become a habit, a long-ingrained habit, a morbid and useless practice of repetitive actions that required  little more than involuntary reflexes to get through a task, an emotion, the dead and dying day. Was it like this for everyone? Who's to know? Surely, someone has the answer but shows himself invisible when begged for an explanation.
Is the day of death better than the day of one's birth? Poor Dr. and Mrs. Delaney. Their joy, their sorrow. All in the passage of a day's dawn and dusk ...

Little Betty loved playing with her dolls.
Each of her dollies had extraordinary lives, certainly with stories to tell, tales infused with her own vivid imagination. There was no end to the drama - fueled by scenes Betty absorbed from movies, books, life in her town. One loosey goosey doll was rather old looking, another a young girl with golden braids. A particularly lovely and shapely figurine was impeccably attired in hat and gloves. Due to her rigid form, however, the beautiful ceramic doll could not go up and down the doll house stairs so easily. She, therefore, would promenade on the tree-lined boulevard. The old, double-jointed raggedy doll flopped up and down the staircase with Betty's assistance.
It was time to refit the empty doll house and clean it up. The fussy little home owner put on her pink apron and went to the closet to fetch a box of toy furniture and any and all accessory that would gussy up the slightly tattered interior of the toy mansion that Betty's grandfather had so lovingly built for her.
Suppertime was coming up on her heels, so Betty, with some dispatch, filled the cabinets in the kitchen with tiny boxes of this-and-that and then put a miniature coffee pot on the little toy stove. This happy home of fawn and cream with burgundy trim was soon to be filled with guests as there was a new arrival.
Betty smiled in anticipation of the joy beaming on all her dolls' faces when baby Ruthann would be placed once again in her crib.




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