Intonation of a Scream

by Isaac J. Coleman

When I hitched a ride for Vancouver, WA, I took a garbage bag of clothing, two typewriters, and 450 dollars. With the same amount due to me from selling my pickup back in Colorado, I managed to finagle a one bedroom apartment at The Senior Estates II, formerly a retirement community now open to the general public. As if the name of the complex and the fact that it was located in the overcast clime of Washington wasn’t depressing enough, the building was painted a pitiful, drab color, blue to the point of gray. But bright green indoor/outdoor carpet lined the stairs and balcony floor.

My next door neighbor was a heroin addict. I never saw her shoot up or anything affiliated with such endeavors, but I could just tell. Besides the fact that she wore the same smooth, brown, cotton shirt and brown pants every day, not to mention her wilting complexion, she just carried the aura of a person on that perceived, lustrous, floating away, next best high to death, fanfare of a trip. I mean, I ate my fare share of L.S.D. and mushrooms. I smoked enough pot to blot out the sky of a small town. I’ve studied the art of drinking fifth’s of whiskey, although, never quite mastering it. This woman had the vibe of being on something harder still, somewhere further away.

It was crazy the way our paths always seemed to cross when we were entering or exiting our homes, which made it weirder. Once I looked into her apartment unintentionally. I felt dirty for looking, though it was inadvertent. I saw a stuffed coffee bean sack leaning against the middle of the wall. That was it. I couldn’t tell if it was really beans or just ornamental.

My apartment didn’t contain much more. A cardboard box for a kitchen table with an orange towel for a table cloth, a plastic chair, inflatable mattress, and a 3X15 ft. roll of cloudy blue carpet I snagged from a warehouse dumpster made up the sum of my furnishings.

I didn’t mean to look into her apartment, but when I saw how empty it was, I began thinking worse of her. After all, she was older. And she never said hello back. How weird is that? She just gave a big smile and continued on like the Cheshire Cat without the disappearing act. She didn’t look like a Russian immigrant. She looked like she almost wanted to respond, but was too dejected.

One night, a buddy and I were walking back to my place, soaring and rip roaring on L.S.D. Somehow, the neighbor lady, walking towards us on the sidewalk, turned into The Senior Estates II just before us, but before she turned, I said hello, smiling wide, eyes grabbing at moon beams. She, as usual, did not respond. So my buddy began singing the Mister Roger’s Neighborhood theme song. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, oh won’t you be mine? Oh, won’t you be mine?Sometimes at night I wondered if she was all right. Maybe I had been too quick to pass judgment on her. I would lie on my inflated mattress. Lonely, I would think about her one brown shirt, the way it stretched over her breasts. It was naughty and seductive to think about her as an older woman, one who might be interested in a young man a thousand miles from home with a card board box for a table.

There really is no way to explain it. The higher I got, the more substances I consumed, the crazier she would look. I mean, how can I explain that? She never changed clothes, or expressions, except for the smile. Maybe I was messed up to think about the only guest she ever had as her pimp or dealer or some desperate dude who could deal with her slovenly squalor. The big black man wearing a white terrycloth jumpsuit and gold chain could just have easily been her case worker.

It was weird the way her aura became wilder with my increased drug intake. Every time I would come or go, there she was. I would lie on the air mattress and think about her and how nasty her lingerie must be from wearing the same thing each day. Sultry smells of lust pulled from my room, plunging into the walls. I thought about how nice it would be to have someone to hold and massage and have massage me. The devious, grotesque, licentiousness of it all, and all the acts in-between drove me to a quick climax.

The next day I went to the front window and flicked down the metal mini blinds to look outside for no reason at all. There was no forethought of volition. I simply flicked down on the blind, making that metallic crinkle sound and looked out. And outside, there she was, walking toward the parking lot when she stopped. She stopped and didn’t move for a moment. My pulse jumped in my throat as though she sensed me. When she clasped her hands to her head I expected an explosion. But there wasn’t an explosion. She just started screaming. And screaming until I got bored with watching the production. Other residents came out, but were wary of really getting near. Their actions and words didn’t register with her. She just kept screaming. I smoked cigarettes for a while, flicking ash on a dinner plate resting on the empty living room floor, playing solitaire. When the intonation of the screaming varied, I stood up and looked out the window to see her placidly being placed in the back of a cop car, expressionless, still, screaming.

Isaac J. Coleman is currently stranded in Longmont, CO drinking bloody beers with his new wife. His work has appeared in The Red Pill, the Plaindealer, and the Mesa State College Literary Review. His hobbies include collecting rejection letters from little known literary journals and going up to strangers in supermarkets while they are inspecting a jar of pickles and jabbing them in the side and screaming "Deeee" in a high pitched voice. He has traded smoking marijuana for Marlboro, the latter making a high pitched voice difficult to achieve.