By Nathaniel Johnson
Raymond Eliot Beasley – his wife Ellen always summoned the full name – was up in the attic playing worn records in his dust-webbed playroom. Shelves groaned with hundreds of heavy, black platters – all sorted and alphabetically annotated in brown leather albums. Worse, he also collected those hefty old players with brass horns –Victrolas – and they too had gathered the ashes of time.
“Can’t buy new needles anymore, Beasley,” Ellen said. “Next spring, off to the dump – the lot.”
“They’re priceless!” cried the horrified Mr. Beasley.
“Come spring, out they go!”
“Out you’ll go!” cried Mr. Beasley, bug-eyed and balding, clutching Paul Whiteman to his bosom. “All my friends are here.”
“All your friends died decades ago, Beasley,” coughed Ellen, shaking a Swiffer in his face. “Dust to dust, you know.”
“These are my Time Machines,” protested the anguished Mr. Beasley.
“It’s time these machines disappeared,” said Ellen.
Each night following dinner, Mr. Beasley rose to his heavenly eaves. Ellen heard the spring ringing of the loft-ladder, mutters, and dull foot-thumping overhead, then the Victrola’s creaky hand-crank, followed by scratchy music. In warm weather, Mr. Beasley opened the skylight to his spangled inky-way, while the platters played The Old Oaken Bucket, and everyone sang to the dreams of his childhood.
When You’ve Come to the End of a Perfect Day, always concluded the evening’s musicale.
“Close that skylight when you come down,” shouted Ellen, “And remember, next week we’re cleaning house!”
“You’ll go as well!” growled the unregenerate Mr. Beasley, putting on another platter. “I’ve a good mind to get up and fly out that skylight – tonight!”
“Take those blasted platters with you,” Ellen cawed from the bottom of the ladder. After whacking the ceiling with her broom handle, she went scolding downstairs for a cup of tea. A moment later, After You’ve Gone descended from the rafters; it was Mr. Beasley’s dedication, and signature song.
Ellen awoke in her reading chair and stared at the clock on the mantelpiece – stood up, stretched, and listened: the house was still and chilled. Is it really two in the morning? Beasley was not in bed – probably asleep in the attic, leaving the skylight open, again.
“Beasley?” Silence. “Raymond Eliot Beasley, come down to bed – immediately!” The loft-ladder was still in place. Better go up and find him.
The next morning, when the Beasley’s son Alan and his wife Kathy arrived for breakfast, they found the house unlocked, and Ellen asleep in the vacant attic.
“Mum, it’s freezing up here,” cried Alan, helping his mother towards the ladder. “Why did you leave the skylight open?”
“Come down, now,” said Kathy. “We want to talk to you about Ferncroft.”
“It’s really great, Mum, “said Alan.
“And they’ll have a lovely room ready in February,” added Kathy.
“How about the attic?” said Ellen. “And Beasley’s stuff – what’ll I do about all that junk?”
“It’s empty now,” said Alan.
“Left, didn’t he?” Ellen paused. “Went right through that skylight, the old mule!” She smiled. “Told me so.”
The author lives in Rockport, Massachusetts, and is active in local writers groups and online at Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope Virtual Studio. His most recent works have appeared in AlienSkin and Boston Literary Magazine, Writer’s Stories, SNM Horror Magazine, Bewildering Stories’ First Quarterly Review 2010, The Foundling Review, Every Day Fiction, and Absent Willow Review.