Wednesday May 2nd, 2012

The exercise:

Write a little something about: the man upstairs.

Enjoyed my writing group this morning, even though only one other person showed up. We had a good chat, wrote a little bit, and then ended early - which was definitely fine, as I've got plenty of farm work to do.

This afternoon Kat and I finally got around to seeding some beets in the garden, then transplanted some cabbage and cauliflower. Temperatures were in the low twenties, so it was quite comfortable.

I also got a few color copies of our poster done at the local printing shop before putting them up around town to advertise our box program. Hopefully that will help us fill out the rest of our slots pretty quick.


I never met with Mr. Fisher face to face, not even the day I signed the rental agreement. I filled out my copy, which I received from his lawyer, and then slid it under the door of his second floor apartment the next afternoon. I knocked but there was no answer, though I was certain I heard movement within.

After moving in, it took me about a week to realize that my apartment was directly beneath his. I'd called several times with questions about the building, mostly about the finicky laundry equipment, but had to leave a message on his answering machine each time. Answers would arrive in my mailbox, or under my door, on unlined paper in precise handwriting.

It was during the fifth or sixth call that I pieced it together. The distant ringing of a phone, the shuffling of feet above me, the faint beep of the machine. He was home, just refusing to talk to me. It was difficult not to take it personally.

My friends joked about it, claiming he was freakishly ugly, or a recovering mime, or not a he at all. I shrugged it off, but couldn't stop myself from wondering what his deal was. None of the other tenants in my building seemed to know anything, or so the few that would actually discuss it claimed.

I've never been a big fan of the unknown. I like my facts, I savor knowledge. Curiosity becomes fascination becomes obsession. By the end of my first month Mr. Fisher occupied my every spare thought.

So late one night I began to bore a hole in my ceiling.


Greg said...

A writing group with two people sounds like it could be quite intense! How many people typically turn up?
I misread beets as beers the first time round, that was quite amusing for a few moments!
That's a great start to a story, I do hope you continue it! It has all the right elements for a psychological horror story – the seemingly perfectly normal situation with one slight oddity, and the steady erosion of sanity as the protagonist digs deeper into the ever-worsening mystery :)

The man upstairs
The soft shadows of the entrance hall
Are smeared like charcoal on the walls,
And summer's sultry, inflaming breath
Is tempered by the weathered stone.
Stairs ascend, spiralling round
A central column carved with lovers' names,
The air in here in still and old
Yet smells of something bright and cold.
Each footfall, muted, lightly taken,
Runs the risk it will awaken
The one for whom this mausoleum cares,
The one they call –
the man upstairs.
Clouds pass by outside, and obscure the sun,
And the shadows seem to writhe, alive
With menace now, a warning given
That man should not ascend to heaven.

Cathryn Leigh said...

The Manup Stairs

It wasn't hard to convince little Liegh to vacate her suite upstairs. You would think any child would want to hold on to that glorious aparemtne under the eves; one side a perfect bedroom, the other a playroom. But in reality, the little girl just wanted to be closer to her mother, now that her father had moved away. So the smaller bedroom on the first floor became hers and it's stuff and her playroom things were sorted. Whatever was kept ending up truning half the basment into a veritable craft and play room. it worked form them. the mom and child.

It wasn't much long after, since the mother was just stepping into the working world for the first time in years, that it was determined a boarder was necessary. A young gentleman was found and though there was but one kitchen and one bathroom he was hardly seen. In fact the mother and daughter barely gave a thought to the man upstairs. He was quiet, kept to himself and paid rent on time. A perfect companion to the life they were building anew.

Then it happened.

They came home one afternoon from some mundane task to find an ambulance parked in their driveway. Soon the EMTs emerged from the house, the young man on a stretcher. He had been sick to the point of dehydration and had to be hospitalized. And just like that he was gone from their lives, but barely missed.

Actually I should ask my mother about that... I wonder if everything turned out right for him. The tenant after that was, essentially, a crazy cat lady, but I have to admit Elrond and Mihitabelle were two awesome cats. :}

Iron Bess said...

It took Justin almost six months to figure out who, The Man Upstairs, was when he started at Bruce J. Michaels elementary school. Mr. O’Brian, his grade one teacher, was always referring to him. “It’s important to be good or you will have to answer to, The Man Upstairs.” Or, “The Man Upstairs is always watching, and will always know if you’ve done something wrong.”

Justin would watch the second floor windows of the school waiting for, The Man Upstairs, any time something went down in the school yard that wasn’t quite on the up and up until Patrick asked him what he was looking at. “Man you sure are stupid,” was Patrick’s comment after Justin told him why he was watching the windows. Patrick gave him a push then went charging after Bethany Engels. It wasn’t until school finished and they were walking home when Justin had a chance to bring it up with Patrick again.

“So if Bruce J. Michaels isn’t, The Man Upstairs, who is?” he asked.

“Well who’s always watching you to be good?” Patrick asked in his most annoying patronizing voice.

Justin thought hard, he sure didn’t want to appear any stupider than he already had, then finally had to admit defeat. “Don-no,” he admitted with a small shake of his head.

Patrick stopped and placed a hand on his hip then cocked his head. “It’s Santa, dummy.”

Justin looked at him, his eyes and mouth wide. “Boy who’s the stupid one now? There ain’t no such thing as Santa,” he said. “My dad says that’s just a gimmick that advertiser use to sucker people to buy stuff at Christmas.”

Patrick gave him a sharp jab in the shoulder. “Santa is too for real. He’s really, real, I seen him flying and everything. Besides, who do you think brings the presents at Christmas?”

“My mom and dad,” Justin said. “They tole me,” he said while rubbing his shoulder.


“Dad?” Justin asked that night at dinner. “Do you know if I’m good or not?”

His father looked at him over his glasses and raised an eyebrow. “Of course,” he said then went back to reading his papers.

Justin smiled. Now it made sense. He should have seen it before. Obviously his dad was, The Man Upstairs.

Anonymous said...

Marc- Great story! I would be interested in reading more as well.

Mine sucks, but I am too tired tonight and too busy tomorrow to do anything about it.

I pulled the note off the door as I walked into the house. Stumbling, I dropped the two bags of groceries in an effort to catch myself. I could see the bright yellow yolks of the eggs on the floor and felt a dull throb in my thumb where it had bent back further than was customary. “Sarah!” I yelled as I salvaged the radishes and lettuce from under the chair. “Sarah! Come get your damn dog.” The darling little terror of a puppy was pulling playfully at the belt on my jacket. I reached under the couch and picked up the can of tomato paste. “Sar…”, My yell was interrupted by an unexpected tongue traveling across my lips and cheek.

Off my knees, I walked to the sliding glass door and let the puppy outside. I tried to remember why I agreed to her getting a puppy. Ahh! That’s right; it was a bad break-up with the guy she was dating once again. “Sarah?” I called again. The puppy yipped at the door. I turned around and grabbed the roll of paper towels off of the counter. The eggs still needed to be cleaned up.

Fifteen minutes later, the eggs were cleaned up, the bags were hanging on the hook, and the puppy was now jumping on the glass. I walked over to let the dog in and remembered the note. I found it under the same chair the radishes had been under.

“Please watch Manny for me. I’m out with Eric! Don’t let him go downstairs! He’ll roll in the clean clothes and we’ll have to do them all over.”

I looked around and didn’t see Manny. I had a feeling Sarah hadn’t shut the door before she left and clothes were strewn all over the floor and probably stained. “Man, upstairs,” I called. “Come on Manny! Come upstairs."

It was going to be another long night.

Krystin Scott said...

I have no story for today. I'm not certain if the catalyst was the man upstairs or a member of my writing group but either way the message I received was clear. Krystin, you need a web presence.

I've been putting it off because I'm just learning the "rules" to writing professionally and I didn't want to look foolish. Having taken a few course in web design I know it takes 4-6 months minimum to get in the ranks of major search engines, if you don't want to pay big money to a submission company but I still pushed it off.

One of my fellow writers was just published and now she's struggling to start a blog and build a site. If the man upstairs see's fit to give me that opportunity I want to be ready. So I started building my site this afternoon.

Marc said...

Greg - typically, four or five. And if we could make beer grow out of the garden... we'd be set for life, I think.

Thanks, I'm rather tempted to continue it myself. We'll see.

Brilliant poem. My favorite part begins with 'Each footfall' and ends with 'the man upstairs'.

Cathryn - yes, I too am curious about his fate. Either way, there's a world of fictional potential with someone like that!

Iron Bess - haha, wonderfully authentic child's perspective on this one. Particularly enjoyed the back and forth with his friend.

Heanonyther - thank you!

That doesn't suck at all; I think it's a clever twist on the prompt. You had me expecting the off again, on again boyfriend would be the man upstairs :)

Krystin - congrats, that's very exciting! Have fun with it and make it your own :)