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Adyna and her Notebooks
By Kathryn Magendie
Adyna did not like people, dogs, cats, the sun, moon, and she especially did not like surprises. Adyna just did not like. She kept her condominium clean, organized, and free of imagination. She distrusted self-reflection, so there were no mirrors in her six rooms, the counters were never shined, and fixtures were scrubbed to a matte finish. For good measure, she did not stare into pots and pans. However, in the outside world, if she happened to pass herself, her dark eyes searched what others saw. The brown hair pulled into a thick ponytail, the small hands and feet, the compact body, the jerky movements. Sometimes after imposed reflection, she conjured up poetry she would later write on napkins, or in her notebooks. And regrettably, life being life, one dreadful Wednesday allowed Aydna to be surprised.
Adyna knew about people and life, which is why she knew about being alone. She referred to her neighbors as numbers: number one, number three, number seven, and so on. She meticulously penciled in her days in brown, bound notebooks, adding in her poems as whim permitted. She wrote the poetry in iambic pentameter and hated adjectives, but would vary from this if she felt daring, or if it was a Thursday.
She had many volumes of these notebooks filed by date, rows upon rows of her life lining the walls of the study. When her bookshelves became full, Adyna stored the overflow in closets, and when those became full, she rented a storage cubicle at the corner of Fifth and Main for a fee of $29.95 each month. She had no interest in reading her notes or her poetry to gain insight into her life, and the books at times wore on her nerves, there were so many. But Adyna could not discard her books; someone might retrieve them and read, knowing what she did all day. Know her people. Know her.
Her mother reposes in the cemetery, her epitaph read, “Here lies Mother Normalene, who lived too long and died not soon enough.” It was her mother’s desire for this to be chiseled on her tombstone, and Adyna did not refuse that last wish written upon a napkin and left under her teacup. Adyna wrote of her mother often. She tried never to write directly of her father, until he called her monthly, weeping, from the communal pay phone. Then and only then would she scribble dark red ink, pressing the pen so hard, the imaged showed on the other side of the journal page.
“Adyna, help me! I ain’t got any cigarettes and momma’s gone and dead.” Her father's voice gravelled and shook.
“Why do you make me answer the phone, Father?”
“I’m old and sick and lonely. You’re my only kin. Ever one of t’others dead or runned off.”
“You make me sick with your whining, Father. Mother couldn’t wait to die. You know that, don't you?”
“Don’t talk to your poor daddy like that, Addie. I’m all alone. Sister ain’t come t'see me neither.”
“Sister Beth? I don’t want to hear about Sister Beth. Stop talking about Sister Beth. I’m hanging up. You’re keeping me from my schedule.” Adyna poked her finger in her ear, the discomfort helped her focus. "I'm hanging up now, Father."
“Just come visit for a bit. I won’t touch you, I promise.”
“Despicable man.” Adyna hung up, then went into the kitchen for the Lysol, sprayed three sprays over the earpiece where her father’s voice had emerged, and then wiped it exactly five times with two different cloths. After each wipe she folded the towel to a clean spot.
On a usual day that was not the unpleasant Wednesday soon to be related, Adyna went about her schedule, or stared off into space listening to Moonlight Sonata. She lived quite easily on her grandmother’s inheritance, the condo part of that settlement. She first had it cleaned five times and fumigated with Lysol three times, the bathrooms once more. She bought a new mattress and all new dishes, forks, and spoons. It was the only way to be sure, she told herself. She must not ingest the old ways, the old things, the old germy pasts.
She purchased her notebooks monthly, five at a time, at the stationery store on Fifth Street. She liked them unlined because those were not distracting. She kept the most current one with her at all times, and in the mornings it sat on her bedside table, with her No. 2 pencil, her horn-rimmed glasses and her brown mug of water, no ice. Here is what she wrote on the morning leading to the Wednesday of her accident:
“Awoke at 4:55. Up in bed writing entries. Next I will: Get out of bed. Shower. Make coffee. Drink 1 cup coffee. Prepare 1 egg, 2 toast. Eat food and drink 1 more coffee.”
Her entries must be as accurately true as possible and written at the exact scheduled time. First entry at 5:00 a.m., second at 10:00 a.m., third at 3:00 p.m., fourth at 8:00 p.m., then rest. Unless it was Tuesday. On Tuesday she did the routine reversed, beginning at 8:00 a.m. and working backward. If Adyna missed her entry schedule, her head ached and she became depressed for at least an hour. And, in this gloomy condition, her poems contained blackness, old blood, and ominous dark things. If anyone caused her to miss writing an entry, she was forced to retaliate, and her revenge plans were noted in fine point black pen.
So, the discordant Wednesday began as a missed entry, noted hence:
“Number nine’s dog bit my leg at 9:37; forcing me to walk to the drug store (with all those bright lights and dim people) to buy tincture of iodine and cotton bandages. Missed 10:00 entry, vengeance is mine.”
She sprayed the phone, and then dialed. The ringing hurt her ears, and when the voice answered, she said most efficiently, crisply even, “Is this number nine?”
“Adyna Creel, number five. I’ve been bitten by your dog.”
“Beetie bit you? I can’t believe this. Are you all right?”
“I assure you it was unprovoked.”
“I’m so sorry. I’ll pay for your doctor’s visit, of course.”
“No doctor. I bought tincture of iodine and cotton bandages which came to $4.35, with tax. Please put that amount into my mailbox today at 3:10.”
“Today at 3:10?”
“Yes, I require that you put the $4.35 in my mailbox not before or not after but promptly at 3:10.” Adyna kept her feet together, perfectly even with the third tile. "Promptly at 3:10," she repeated.
“Okay, done. By the way, my name is John and—“
“—Good day.” Adyna got the Lysol, distracted with things she did not want to think about. She wiped the phone only once, using one spray and one cloth, while dark birds’ wings fluttered with images of violence, silent-mouthed screams, and driven nails. She later wrote a poem about Tartarus, deep and dark as her thoughts.
Adyna checked her mailbox promptly at 3:10 and saw that nothing was placed there. Her head began to pound and her loafers felt too tight. She waited on her doorstep for number nine’s dog, as she knew it came out twice a day. Hell to pay, Adyna thought. Nine’s dog slipped happily out of his doggy door and relieved himself in Adyna’s yard. She did not kick him away as she had done before. Instead, using tongs, she held out a piece of smelly cheese.
“Come here number nine’s dog. I have a treat for you, little shit of a dog. Time for your nap.” Making sure the tranquilizer took full effect and the dog lay limp at her feet, she adjusted her thick gloves and apron, then hummed monotonously as she shaved exactly half of the golden fur from his body. She placed the shorn fur on number nine’s doorstep and marched home.
Adyna wondered why her neighbors did not behave. There had been other incidents she'd avenged during the impulse of her depression and anger state. For the third time, number seven allowed his cat to dig up her Bloodroot, so Adyna had emptied banana peels in his yard, stomping the mess down with hip boots. After number one accosted her with a religious track warning her to repent or die, she mixed marshmallows, milk, and honey in his mailbox. Number eleven received raw eggs on his new car for splashing her with dirty curb water as she walked to the grocery. Each event delayed an entry, and each event was carefully entered in her notebook with a grim firm hand and a grimmer firmer mouth. Since she was never caught, Adyna thought she became invincible by virtue of her right-ness.
Satisfied with nine’s comeuppance, Adyna took two showers with antibacterial soap, using one washcloth for her upper body, and another one for her lower body. After she dried, careful to leave no wetness on any part of her body, she put on her white morning outfit, and her white cotton robe. She ate a snack of five saltines with a full glass of water, standing in the middle of her kitchen with both feet planted together. She then dressed in brown pants and tan shirt (her Wednesday grocery outfit) and exited her front door holding tight to her handbag. Her grocery trips were every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m., and she wrote her list each Tuesday at 2:00.
That day’s list read: “bananas-4(!), block cheese (ha!), coffee, canned tuna, eggs (!!!), Lysol, marshmallows (!!), milk, oatmeal, pencils -1, sardines, saltines, string beans in the can, white bread, zucchini.”
That eventful Wednesday at last ended with Adyna at first ignoring number nine striding quickly towards her as she descended her front steps, being careful to always lead with her left foot. Then, hitching her bag more securely over her left shoulder, she turned east instead of west. Her thoughts were especially preoccupied with the phone call received that morning. The ringing interrupted as she wrote a poem about little girls in dirty yards. She had thought to unplug the device, but that meant touching wire. Adyna had an intense dislike of wire ever since her childhood pet rabbit chewed himself into a smoking heap of burnt bunny. Thinking about herself as a child caused an itchiness in her hands and feet and she reached in her bag to feel the texture of the notebook to calm her. The phone call went thus:
“Am I speaking to Adyna Creel?”
“Yes. Well, it’s your father. I’m sorry to tell you that he passed away this morning.”
“Lord, yes. He fell down in the exercise yard and broke his neck —dead— right on impact. Didn’t suffer they said, no, sure didn’t.”
“I hate to be the one telling you like this. But, arrangements must be made.”
“You make the arrangements.”
“What? Listen, I’m Stella? Your father’s neighbor? Your father had me listed as the person to call in emergencies? But I don’t know what to do?”
“I’m not interested.” Adyna hummed the theme to Jeopardy.
“Look hon, I know you had it hard with your mother taking her own life God rest her soul, and your poor sister, went missing for these here twenty years!”
“Stop it! I told you not to talk about Sister Beth. Why do you keep bringing her up? Dirty things!”
“Do what you will with him. I won’t become involved in my father’s affairs. I’m not supposed to be talking on the phone and you people won’t stop calling.”
“Miss Adyna! This is your father we’re speaking of.”
“Good day.” Down went the receiver. Into the kitchen Adyna went to fetch the Lysol and cloths, giving the ear piece an extra scrubbing to make sure the voice was all gone. She did not note the death of her father, and that made her feel dizzy, unbalanced.
Adyna bit her tongue to distract her thoughts from the call and back to the grocery items she must purchase. She heard her name loudly shouted and hastened her step to quickly get away, turning around to the west, looking over her shoulder with an impatient glare. This is why she tripped over nine’s shaven Pomeranian still snoring on the pavement. Down Adyna went, plunging face first, her mouth in its first soft expression of surprise since she was a child of five. Her last thought at that very moment, when the concrete could no longer be ignored, was that this definitely was not in her schedule and now she’d miss her evening entry.
Adyna awakened from her coma four weeks later and blinked. Four weeks without her notebooks. Four weeks of distant dreams of color and light and mysterious ghostly shapes. Her father appeared looking like Humphrey Bogart and sounding like the French Ambassador. Her mother was beside him looking the same, but without the eczema, hairpiece, and apron. And Beth appeared. She wasn’t under the porch any longer, her vagina torn and bloody. Beth was smiling, beautiful, glowing white, and holding Adyna’s rabbit, whose name she suddenly recalled was Boopsie Piddles.
Adyna blinked again, turning her head towards the sound of a clearing throat.
“Ah, you’re awake. I brought you this; it fell out of your bag. Remember me? John? Number nine?”
Adyna stared at her notebook he held. He knew. He knew all about her. “How do you feel about Lysol?” she asked, and then fell asleep. When she awoke, he was gone, but the notebook was left on the nightstand. She smiled, picked up the notebook and scribbled furiously “Number nine knows me. Perhaps he’ll get rid of that dog.”
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