In the Attic

by Murray Dunlap Read author interview July 25, 2010

The thing you should understand first is that the man from Tucson doesn’t love me and I don’t love him. So when he showed up on my Alabama doorstep with a suitcase and a bottle of wine, Husband thought everything was just fine. They shook hands and grabbed each other by the shoulder. You see, the man from Tucson -who became the man in our attic on a folding cot- was friends with Husband before everything happened. They met four times a week at the local gym and worked out. They spotted each other. That was before the night that I kissed him and before the night he invited me into his bed. They were friends and we were friends and I was married, but it all sorted out just fine. Now, however, while Husband cooks lasagna, the man in our attic seems to think we’ll have another go, right here in our home.

The first night goes something like this: Husband makes lasagna with three kinds of cheese and the man in our attic, let’s call him Tucson, has his hand on my knee under the table and it’s headed north. All very predictable, all very clichd. Until Tucson says to Husband, “What do you say we leave this pretty lady for a spell and you and I go out for a man’s drink? A glass of single malt, neat, and a good cigar?”

And Husband says, “You’re on.”

So I’m home alone and not a clue what Tucson is up to. You should remember that I don’t love him and he doesn’t love me so it doesn’t matter, but when the phone rings I jump a mile.

“Hello,” I say.

“On the cot in the attic, there’s a picture of you coming out of the shower with the biggest grin.”

“You kept it.”

“I like to see you that way.”

“Grinning or naked?”

“Wet.”

I say nothing.

“I also have a pistol. A simple six shooter. Anyone could learn how to use it.”

“We don’t keep guns in the house.”

“That’s smart,” he says.

Then Tucson hangs up. I was never sure if Husband wanted to go out or if he was just being polite or if he already knew everything and had other plans altogether. Between the two of them, Husband could always lift heavier weight.

Both men show up safely at midnight. Drunk, but otherwise unharmed. Husband won’t tell me what they talked about but keeps making pistols with his hands and saying draw! followed by the imitated sounds of gunfire.

That was the first night.

On the second night, after sleeping late and after a painfully silent lunch, Tucson suggests we smoke a little grass, and Husband -of all people- agrees. Now I don’t know much about pot or getting high, but I went to college and learned a few things, so I know right off that what we’re smoking isn’t plain old marijuana.

Within an hour I fall into a blinding fog and can’t be sure whose hands are under my shirt. It seems like Husband, and I sort of recognize his voice. Then I feel a third hand, and a fourth hand, so I fight for the wherewithal to push people away. But those hands keep grabbing and my skirt won’t stay down, so I kick somebody hard in the balls. That’s enough to get some distance and climb the stairs into the attic. I pull the string for the light and there it is, perfectly exposed on the cot next to my dripping wet breasts and stupid grin. I pick it up. I didn’t expect it to be so heavy, so dangerous. I guess I don’t know what I expected, but it frightens me and I put it down. The breath on the back of my neck stops me from turning around.

“Do you love me?” the voice asks.

“Who are you?”

“Does it matter?”

And in that moment I guess it doesn’t, because we climb into the cot and make the rafters shake. In the morning, I wake up alone in the attic. Husband can’t remember anything, but noisily complains that his balls ache. As for Tucson, he and his pistol vanish. No note, no naked picture. Nothing.

So when you come to visit us, we’ll put you up in the little study off the kitchen and it’ll be just fine. I upgraded to a trundle bed and threw the cot away.

We no longer use the attic.

About the Author:

Murray Dunlap's work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, Night Train, Silent Voices, The Bark, and many others. His stories have been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, as well as to Best New American Voices, and his first book, "Bastard Blue," was a finalist for the Maurice Prize in Fiction. The brilliant Pam Houston taught him the craft of writing. He would like to thank his trainers Garrett and Joe at Personal Edge Fitness, and the writers Richard Bausch, Michael Knight, and George Singleton for helping him get his body and brain back together, somehow without making him feel stupid.

About the Artist:

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.