June 14, 2016

Mattie, June and the Other Room



Hey.

KITTEH

chillin' like a villain.

I've spent a good deal of time writing drafts for this stupid story. One always has such trouble getting the words out just so.

The humans triumph (?) this time.



Mattie, June and the Other Room

Even though June had driven almost two hours from Tenby to Cardiff Airport for a 7 a.m. flight to Toronto with a three-hour layover in Amsterdam, she and Mattie were awake well past midnight discussing the finer points of cross-stitching.

June was not paying attention to Mattie's meandering monologue about her latest monstrosity, or "piece," as she optimistically called it. There was something far more interesting over Mattie's shoulder.

"Say," June said, pointing it out, "I don't think you've shown me that room yet."

"What, you mean the kitchen?"

June did not mean the kitchen; she was perfectly aware of its location. "Other side, behind that window. Strange place for a room, now that I think about it."

"June, there's nothing behind that window. It's just the backyard."

"Mat, I think I'd know a room if I saw one. That is a room."

The hairs on the back of Mattie's neck stood on end as if someone was watching her, and suddenly, she was very awake. A cold wave of panic crashed into her, settling in the pit of her stomach. She shook herself, mentally berated herself for being utterly ridiculous and, with a steadying breath, turned to look.

For a single, heart-stopping moment, she saw it: an entire Other Room she had never, in the two years she had lived in that house, seen before.

It did, however, seem oddly familiar.

Warm relief rushed through her as she recognised it. "That," she said, "is just a reflection. Of, y'know, this room. Since it's dark out there and the light's in here and physics..."

June felt rather foolish. "Sorry, I should've known."

Mattie hastened to assure her that no, she wasn't stupid; that it was all perfectly understandable, this being a strange new place for her; and besides, the living room was so terribly dim, anyone could have made the same mistake.

They shared a good chuckle over their mutual silliness, agreed that they were both too tired, and then, they turned in for the night.

#

The following morning was bright, beautiful. The smell and sizzle of back bacon and eggs wafted through the house, punctuated by Mattie swearing as oil sputtered and popped out of the frying pan and onto her arm. Cooking was a dangerous pastime, reserved for only the bravest of souls.

June stopped at the kitchen threshold, arms crossed tight, feet shifting uncomfortably.

"Morning Sunshine," Mattie said. "How does this measure up to your English breakfa—" she caught June's head shake—"sorry, sorry, I meant 'Welsh'."

"You're missing a few things. Also, it's still there."

Mattie was only half listening. "Maybe I should heat up some beans. Or hash browns, not that we have any..." Then, June's words sank in. "What's still there?"

"The room in the window."

All thoughts of breakfast food, burning oil, and the Welsh flew from Mattie's mind. "You're kidding."

"I know you said it was a reflection last night, but it's broad daylight now and—"

"It was! I'm absolutely, one-hundred percent sure there's just my backyard and nothing else. It's on the back wall of the house! There's no room for a room!"

June looked again. She was quite certain of what she was seeing.

"Impossible," Mattie said as she stepped into the living room. "It's physically impossible."

Gingerly, June poked the window. "Well, it's definitely a normal, solid glass pane. Nothing weird about that."

On the other side, the Room was bathed in golden, mid-morning light. Peeling peach paint covered the otherwise bare walls. A spindly wooden table and four chairs stood in the centre, and a gas stove with a shiny kettle sitting on a burner was against the right wall. It was the very picture of innocence.

On Mattie and June's side, a crackling sound came from the stove and a faint burning smell emanated from the kitchen and the smoke detector began to wail and there was really no doubt about it: The house had another room.

#

Eleanor McLeod was having a distinctly unpleasant week. On Monday, she discovered she had run out of potatoes. On Tuesday, she chipped her good china teapot. On Wednesday, she had to drag the new sack of potatoes to the root cellar. On Thursday, the potatoes talked back to her, and they were particularly rude. Today, Friday, Eleanor put in a request for a root vegetable whisperer specialising in tubers. She was told that they would arrive within the next five business days. Root vegetable whisperers specialising in tubers were in high demand this season.

"Goodness knows I have thick skin," she said. "One does not live to my age without developing some callouses. Such unnecessary rudeness though—and I must add, as a rule, vegetables should be seen and not heard—anyway, such unnecessary rudeness really deals a blow to one's self-esteem."

"I'm sorry to hear that, ma'am," said the agent on the other end of the line.

"What I'm trying to ask is: How can I possibly get through waiting for five business days? That's—" she counted on her fingers—"seven actual days from today. A whole week!"

"If I were you," the agent said, "I wouldn't eat potatoes."

#

Mattie scraped the charred remnants of their breakfast into the bin.

"Throw the whole thing out," said June. "The pan's ruined."

"I am bringing it with me," Mattie said, "when I explore the Other Room. This way, I won't feel bad about wrecking another pan when I use it to bash someone's head in."

"Come on Mat, there isn't going to be any head bashing."

Mattie stopped her furious scraping and pointed the frying pan at June. "Don't say that, you'll jinx it." Black flecks fell from the pan as she used it to emphasise her words. June gently removed it from her hand, placed it in the sink, and put on the kettle. Tea always made things better.

"Here we are," June said, handing Mattie a cup. "Well sugared, as my Nain would say. The best remedy for shocks and difficult situations."

Mattie took a sip. It was equal parts sweet and calming. It even gave her enough courage to look in the Room again. "No one's home, I think. It's kinda cute, in a quaint, antique way. I'd probably have a similar one if I weren't so young."

They decided to explore it. Unfortunately, the window hadn't been opened in years, at least as long as Mattie had lived there. It remained quite stuck.

"A bit hopeless, yeah?" said June. "Don't suppose you have a crowbar casually lying around, do you?"

"No," Mattie said, "but I have an idea..."

#

Eleanor McLeod was waiting for the water to boil when she noticed two young women trying to enter her kitchen by using what appeared to be a frying pan. She shuffled to the window and slid it open for them, smooth as silk.

"Do come in, girls. It's been—oh! ages since I last had visitors! Would you like some tea?"

"Actually," Mattie said, "we just had—"

June smacked her arm. "Yes, thank you," she told Eleanor. She turned to Mattie. "Never refuse tea."

"Very sensible," said their hostess, who placed her good china tea set on the table and seated herself. "By the by, have you two ever noticed that T. S. Eliot spelt backwards is 'toilets'?"

Mattie and June blinked. Eleanor tittered. "Well, almost."

"It spells... 'toilest'," Mattie said. "The superlative of toil, I guess."

"Very clever dear, but 'superlative of toil' doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?"

Mattie had to admit that no, it did not.

"I'm so glad you girls are here," Eleanor said. "You seem much brighter than my last visitor. And it's been awfully quiet and lonely ever since my husband exploded."

June choked on her tea. "Pardon me, explo—"

"Such a beautiful young man too—my last visitor, not my husband—but looks hardly count for anything when one has the IQ of a banana."

"Wait, can we go back to your husband for a moment?" Mattie asked.

Eleanor did not hear her. "Night's falling, girls. I don't suppose you're ready to see to the potatoes?"

"Sorry," June said, "I must've misheard you. Potatoes?"

"Why, aren't you the root vegetable whisperers specialising in tubers?"

"Probably not," Mattie said. "In fact, almost certainly not."

"Oh dear," Eleanor said as muffled voices emitted from outside. "Perhaps I should have asked a little sooner."

#

"Are you sure we should just go in there?"

"They're potatoes, June. How bad can it be?"

"As my husband, bless his soul, would say," Eleanor remarked thoughtfully, "those are often referred to as 'famous last words'."

The root cellar was much further from the house than Mattie expected. The potatoes had powerful voices.

Eleanor unlocked the heavy cellar door. "Thank goodness they can't move. It's the silver linings, girls, that make life so rewarding."

Mattie gripped her pan tighter as, with a long-suffering creak, the door opened. The first clear thing they heard was the potatoes jeering. "Hey, the old hag's back. She brought her lapdogs this time!"

"Hey!" June tried to say. Instead, it came out more like "He-ARF!"

"Oh my God what is happening?" Mattie asked. Her nose was elongating, darkening. Her legs and arms were shrinking, and her fingers were regressing into her palms. She felt a very distinct tingling at the base of her spine.

"It seems to me," said Eleanor, "like you're becoming lapdogs. Quite unfortunate."

"For the love of God Eleanor, do something!" June yelped.

Peals of laughter rose from the potato sack. "That desiccated cow can't help you! She's too weak!"

"Oh dear, I can't think under pressure," Eleanor said. "I tend to dither, and that is enormously unhelpful under such problematic circumstances."

As they continued transforming, the potatoes mocked and taunted them. Mattie was nearly half a dog when a sudden bolt of inspiration struck her. "Make like a potato and shut the hell up!" she barked. "Or better yet, go back to school and get a real job!"

"What are you doing?" June whispered.

"Giving them a dose of their own medicine, that's what."

"An admirable idea, dear," said Eleanor. "I never tried replying before."

The potatoes shouted, "That's because you're too stupid to think of it!"

"Hey, what is your childhood trauma?" Mattie said to them. She trotted to the sack and ripped it open. Ignoring Eleanor's little noise of dismay, she dropped her pan, dumped the potatoes out, and began rooting through them.

June sighed and kneeled beside her. "I'll help. What are we looking for?"

"Every group of bullies has a ringleader," Mattie replied. "If we can find it, we can end this."

The potatoes had fallen curiously silent. Mattie rose her voice. "And if you don't give up your leader right now, I will personally peel and dice each and every single one of you."

"Don't say that, you'll scare them."

"June, they'll end up eaten no matter what." Mattie grabbed an exceptionally large spud and yelled "Are you the leader?" at it.

Eleanor cleared her throat. "Might I suggest an alternative?"

#

It was morning again, and the sun was slowly rising in a glorious burst of colour. Amidst the mechanical whirring and thumping filling Eleanor McLeod's tiny kitchen, Mattie leaned back in her chair and stretched. "So, El, tell us about your husband."

Calmly, Eleanor sipped her tea. "Who knew an automatic potato slicer could be so useful?"

"Doesn't this seem a bit... cruel?" asked June. After they started cutting the potatoes, both she and Mattie had reverted to their human selves. "It's almost like we're saying inferiority complexes are punishable by death."

"Who are you calling inferior, you little punk bitch?" screamed one of the remaining potatoes.

Mattie, June, and Eleanor stared at it.

"I find myself suddenly craving a hearty English breakfast," said Eleanor. She glanced at June. "Or Welsh."

"Sounds cracking," June said quickly.

Mattie nodded. "With extra hash browns."

The End.