Mr. Marly

This is a little over-done in some places, but I do like it. I need to point out to my
dear readers that nothing I've ever written has interested anyone but me.
You might call it fiction "by Harry and for Harry". Mr. Marly

"Mr. Marly, Mr. Marly. Hello? Mr. Marly, I'm sorry, am I bothering you, Mr. Marly?" Nancy tried to peek inside the window from Marly's front porch, but the curtains were drawn. She knocked again, still, no one answered.

Mr. Marly lived alone. Nancy supposed that if he didn't come to the door, he was passed out inside or down at some bar telling stories ? or at least out causing trouble.

Mr. Marly never locked his door. Nancy turned the knob and let herself in.

It was warm and dark. The blinds were all pulled completely down and blocked out most of the fading light from outside ? inside it smelled of cigars. Nancy thought how strange it was that her neighbor never opened any windows to air the little place out.

Nancy reached against the wall. A single antique lamp stood in one corner, and when she turned the switch, a dim bulb revealed the sickly-green paint on the wall, and some of the room. Nancy shut the door behind her and peered about. She'd been through his place several times, and each time she found something new. All around the strange room she looked and wondered what of the man's life could be found in the small place this time.

There were not as many things as she had always expected to find in a man's home. No television or radio, no magazines. The antique lamp was the only light she could find. There was very little furniture except for a narrow couch pushed up against one wall, and in front of it was a glass coffee-table. Nancy sat down on the couch. It smelled. It smelled like burned cigars.

She sat for a while and began imagining the things that Mr. Marly must be involved with.

Though the inside of his house was empty and bleak, the outside was beautiful. This allowed Nancy to suspect Marly was hiding something. His yard was kept up by a crew of gardeners who came each week to pluck, plant and mow. There were four of them, come and gone in about thirty minutes. The lawn was always ripe and always freshly mowed. Nancy loved the green smell of the grass when it was cut each week and would open her windows after the gardeners left.

Marly didn't seem to have a job, and Nancy had never seen any visitors over at his place (she had been careful to watch). Neither had he been over to introduce himself ? not even to thank her for the basket of oatmeal cookies she had left for him the day after she moved in.

He remained to himself.

Very strange that the man would pay so much attention to his yard and never come over to say hello. Mr. Marly was a very suspicious neighbor.

Mr. Marly left the house several times a day to go for a walk, always with a trail of cigar smoke behind him. Nancy had followed him once. He walked very slowly and looked around at everything, noticing every little motion and object. He stopped often and took full puffs on the cigar and squinted his eyes as the smoke drifted upward from his lips. Nancy envied the obvious pleasure Mr. Marly got from the horrible smelling cigars.

Marly seemed to avoid leaving his house at times of day when people were likely to be out. Though when he did run into anybody he would always say hello and smile. Soon his cigar would drive them back into their homes. Marly continued on. Mid-afternoon was his usual time, though late at night Nancy sometimes heard his door creak open, and he would leave for as many as several hours.

She wondered if he was a fugitive, a criminal, using this place to escape the law. She had thought about calling the police, but wondered what she might tell them?about the crazy young man who lived next door and refused to talk to her and wouldn't thank her for the oatmeal cookies and smoked stinky cigars and didn't lock his front door...

He may have been a real savage, going out and calling on girls in the middle of the night, doing all sorts of things. Or he maybe he was one of those perverts who stood outside of people's homes and stared in on them while they ate or slept. Nancy could imagine Mr. Marly hung up in some tree spying in on young boys. Yes, Mr. Marly was certainly such a person, the type of person that is always up to no good.

Her anger and hatred returned to curiosity. Nancy got up and walked around the room. She had already been through the closet near the doorway. It was mostly empty and very stuffy. A couple of coats hung there. A pair of clean work boots and a dusty real-estate sign were also in there.

Nancy had only ever been in the dull front room. On impulse she walked towards the back of the house, through a doorway and into a dark second room. This area was set off by a shadow cast by the antique lamp whose light couldn't reach around the doorway. Nancy, again, felt along the wall for a light. Her leg hit the edge of a table, and she leaned towards it still looking for a switch or a dial or anything. Her chin caught the edge of something strange?a lampshade. She found the small cord and pulled.

A gentle light revealed an even smaller but much different room than the one she had just been in. On the table next to the lamp was a dark cedarwood box. Nancy opened it and found rows of thick brown cigars each wrapped in a red band. The rich smell arose and filled her.

Next to the cedarwood box was a vase filled with golden chrysanthemums. Nancy recognized them from Marly's front yard. She pulled one from the bunch and rolled its stem between her fingers. Though there was no water in the vase, the flower was moist, fresh. The yellow fragrance made it through the air in spite of the smell of old cigars. The smell gave life to the space, filled Nancy with a hope for the house, and Mr. Marly.

Next to the table was a chair and a footstool. Nancy sat down and continued rolling the chrysanthemum in her fingers. She watched the petals of the single chrysanthemum catch the air and lift up as she spun it around, wilt, catch the air once again as she spun it the other way. She looked up and noticed how soft the room looked in this gentle, very soft light.

These walls were painted a much more pleasant color, and the room had a spirit unlike the gloomy main room. In here she relaxed. Even the hard wooden chair felt good beneath her. She relented to the chair and looked around the room.

On the other side of the chair upon a long-legged stand was another wooden box that looked similar to the one in which she had found the cigars. She set the flower next to the vase and placed the second box in her lap.

Inside she found a few pieces of costume jewelry and an old silver pocket watch whose hands had frozen in time. There were different crushed souvenir pennies. She also found two nearly identical wedding bands.

At the bottom of the collection she found a photograph. Dust was fallen heavily upon it. She brushed it off. It showed a younger Marly, two children on either side, and a short woman with her arms coming around from behind Marly. The picture was pale but not faded. Nancy brushed off the picture with her sleeve.

Nancy noticed Marly's warm flannel shirt. It must have been a chilly day, she thought. His hair was parted on the left. His eyes were bright, alive. She held this picture in her hand and looked into the face of the man whom she had never met and two children. Nancy continued to wipe from the picture any smudges with her sleeve. Nancy then leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes, holding the photo in front of her.

She watched Marly swing the younger child through the air as the other laughed and ran around the two. Marly swung the girl faster, and each time she came around, Nancy saw her face grow brighter.

The family walked together through the carnival and went on each ride. They stopped briefly for lunch, and after eating, the four continued through the rest of the park until it was dark.

Nancy opened her eyes and suddenly realized where she was. The photograph had not changed. She set it back in the box and replaced the other objects. Nancy set the box back on the stand and put the chrysanthemum back in with the others. She closed the cedarwood cigar box and stood up.

It was dark outside except for the humming street-lamps. Nancy shut Marly's front door behind her. She studied the garden outside as she walked to the sidewalk. The flowers looked dead in the synthetic orange light coming from the lights above. It made Nancy dizzy, seeing the anxious light.