Glenn took another slug from his beer and wet his lips with a pale tongue, priming them for the punch line. “And when she lifted the lid it all came gushing out, like Old Faithful.”
Their corner of the living room erupted in laughter. Heads turned from the bar, the television where an epic game of football flew across the screen in bright pixels, and the opened doorway leading to the patio where the grill competed with the cluster of smokers.
Randy perched on the couch’s armrest, awaiting his turn at the controls. “Gross, Glenn.”
A round of agreeing murmurs rippled.
Glenn shrugged. “But funny.”
“Only if you’re not Christine.”
“And I’m not.”
The laughter resurged until a slam, clatter, thud, and shatter shook the whole house. Glasses clinked at the bar and the television wobbled on its wall mounting. The room hushed, the speakers too somehow muted. A shout preceded argumentative tones, the words lost to the interceding corridors.
Glenn rocked out of his lounge chair, laying one hand on the wall to steady the room’s sudden spin. The plaster trembled under his fingertips when a door down the hallway flung open and footsteps approached like a lead-footed caterpillar.
Jake rounded the corner and pulled up short before stumbling into the packed living room. “I’m so sorry man.”
Glenn squinted at him and stared until the three Jakes coalesced into one. “What happened?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“I’m sure it’s fine.” Glenn walked along the wall, those in between scooting and tilting out of his path. Reaching Jake, he planted a hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “Just tell me.”
Jake’s eyes went wide. Sweat dotted his forehead and the dent beneath his nose. “They’re broken….”
“All of them I think.”
Glenn’s hand tightened when he sensed Randy’s presence against his back.
Glenn squeezed, silencing Jake. “Nothing.”
“That thump wasn’t nothing, Glenn and Jake looks like he’s going to hurl.”
Glenn spun and thrust a stiff finger into Randy’s chest. “And you look even worse so lay off.”
“Lay off? I was just make sure everything was okay.”
Scowling, Glenn wobbled around and motioned Jake down the hallway. “Show me.”
“Maybe we should wait until tomorrow.” Jake held up two hands halting Glenn’s staggering progress. “There’s a lot of sharp edges and glass.”
“Glass?” Randy chuckled. “Sharp edges? What’d you break Jake the fine china?”
Seizing Jake’s shoulder again, Glenn wheeled the shorter man around and dragged him along the hallway. The walls warped with their passage, the shadows and dim light playing havoc with physics. He bowed his head and covered his eyes from the sight.
Jake’s whole body bounced with his nod. “Sure, sure.”
The forged on, the corridor somehow longer than Glenn remembered. They finally stopped and Glenn opened one eye, then the other.
The bulb of the fringed lamp glowed within the second bedroom, illuminating the gaping doorway and silhouetting Amanda, standing in the threshold.
“I’m so sorry, Glenn.”
Scowling, he waved her aside. She retreated like a startled rabbit, her sneakers popping and crunching against the clutter on the carpet.
Seizing the doorframe, Glenn tipped forward. His other hand found the knob when his knees buckled, softening his fall to the floor. He tore his gaze from the massacre and stared at the keyhole.
“I thought I locked this.”
Jake inched inside. “You did.”
“But you didn’t lock the window.”
Glenn swiveled to Amanda now on the paisley couch, her arms wrapped around her bared legs.
“We were just looking for a place to be alone.” Jake tiptoed through the carnage, and shared a dopey grin with Amanda when he sat by her side.
Glenn scanned across the debris smashed by Jake’s pigeon toed feet. “That doesn’t explain this.” He swept hand over the span of shattered porcelain.
“We were here, on the couch…ah.” Jake coughed and raked a hand through his hair while Amanda blushed. “Your cat kind of startled us.”
Glenn scowled. “I don’t have a cat.”
Amanda waggled a hand at the open window with its billow of lace curtains. “Maybe it came through the window too.”
“Are you sure it was a cat?”
Jake shrugged and looked to Amanda. “I guess it could have been a raccoon.”
“Or a squirrel.”
“Maybe a rat?”
“I wonder where it is now?”
“Jake.” Glenn snapped his head up, silencing their cloying debate.
“Oh right. I, um, was startled and kind of leapt up. Your— the cat was mewling and hissing and we slammed into the cabinet, trying to get away, and everything just toppled.”
Amanda scrunched deeper into the cushions. “Sorry, Glenn.”
Sighing, Glenn let his gaze fall to the dotted carpet.
“Woah! What’s all this?”
Glenn cringed as Randy pushed against the door, opening it wider. The frame clipped a chunk of glass and caused a head to roll toward the middle of the room.
“Nothing.” Glenn heaved to his feet and wheeled.
Beyond Randy’s smirk, other arrivals murmured and whispered, while the more inebriated shouted questions from where they stuffed the corridor.
“What do you want?”
Randy’s smile spread. “Do you live with your Grandmother or something?”
“How can I shut up? Look at this! It’s like some pastel rainbow exploded in Munchkinland.”
“Don’t be such a jerk, Randy.”
“I’m not.” He snickered in the face of Jake’s reprimand and Amanda’s pleading expression, and pushed inside. Glenn turned with him, and watched as Randy stooped and plucked a peach-faced head from the carpet.
“I’m just realizing the truth.” Jake held up the decapitated head for those in the hallway to see. “Who knew Glenn played with dolls?”
“They’re not dolls.” Glenn ripped the kerchiefed head from Randy’s hand. “They’re Hummels.”
“Oh, Hummels sorry.”
“I think it’s sweet.” Bending down, Amanda cradled a pair seated beneath an umbrella, their bottom halves shattered.
“I think it’s stupid.” With his toe, Randy nudged a boy with lederhosen standing with a goat. “You’re a grown man, Glenn. What are you doing with stuff like this?”
“They were my great-grandmothers, asshole.” Dropping to a knee, Glenn started sifting through the remains. “She collected them, so did my grandmother, then my mom.” He scooped up a scarf-wearing vagabond who seemed to have survived the fall. The walking cane had a crack but otherwise, Glenn found the figurine intact.
“Oh God, Glenn.” Amanda cradled the pair she held in both hands.
Rising off the couch, Jake approached with caution and placed a tentative but sympathetic hand on his back. “Can I get you a drink?”
“A drink?” Randy scoffed. “What he needs is a crate of super glue.”
Glenn stared into the vagabond’s sightless eyes. “Super glue would work.”
“A drink first.” Jake slapped a parting pat. “Then the glue.”