The Tambinder Engine (part ten)
The Tambinder Engine
A McAlley Story
If it needed driving into town, this new tedium, Deenie felt willing to spy, to troll the apartment house Railsback said was Mick’s. A tan brick two-story. Outside stairs. She pulled to a light, shifted her mirror, a move no one could spot without zoom-lensing her. The scene was dead. Two plastic cups waltzed in the wind across the asphalt.
Her next pass carried her to a suburban road, to Matthew’s house. His yellow house with the purpose-rusted roof, the barns, the fences inside fences. She was a visitor on business, entitled to ring the bell. She parked and got out, loud in all the ways she could be. She tucked the mailer under an arm.
A dog lay on the porch. It lolled and mouthed at a plastic ball.
“I can’t, sweetie. All that slobber… Well, aren’t you good!”
The dog wanted a wrestling, not a tossing game. The camera would catch this breach of austerity, and Deenie’s hands wiped on a shirttail.
“Is that Mrs. Carmadge?”
Tinny voice-correction, hesitance. Female. Unless the program changed the pitch… Mick, is that you?
“Are you Lynn? Matthew’s daughter? I’m sure you barely remember me, I was his office help once.”
“Matthew isn’t at home,” said the odd voice.
“I don’t need Matthew per se. I need anyone, whoever, decided to charge me rent and wants me to sign these papers.”
“Put the papers inside the slot.”
“I haven’t signed them and I won’t.”
“You do understand…”
The voice fell into pause; and Deenie believed she had a human on the line, after all.
“You do understand you will be evicted, if you don’t pay the sum given, by the 30th of this month.”
“What’s gone wrong with Matthew?”
“He is not at home today. He can’t see you.”
“I don’t mean is he ill, Lynn, I mean how can he behave this way? He was never a cruel man. He helped… You know it yourself, how he volunteed at the racetrack, how it broke his heart, the horses dying. How he helped me when my son left, and I lost my job. I loved your father because he cared, he took time, he listened to me when I had no friend to do that.”
“Pay or don’t stay.”
The voice said this, and after its fashion, clicked off. A low static sounded, then the noise died.
“Lynn,” Deenie said. To a hidden microphone, (no doubt) untended. “I will get a counsellor, and I will learn my rights. But I know enough today to know I can’t be coerced and I can’t be put on the street. And your father, at his best, would never have threatened such a thing.”
The Tambinder Engine
(2023, Stephanie Foster)