The Guest

David Rutschman

They’re her friends, more or less. Her former boss and his wife. She’s been a guest in their immaculate home on more occasions than she can count. And last night when she saw the piece of dog shit on the floor — right there by the piano — she didn’t pick it up.

What is there to say about that house? It’s enormous, high ceilings, a view of the bay. Paintings on the walls, shelves filled with books. The turd lay in a fat curve on the shining hardwood floor, and she could’ve picked it up in a paper towel, thrown it out. She could’ve told the housekeeper.

They have a housekeeper.

When she was a kid, she took a card to elementary school every day so she could get a free lunch. It was no big deal. A lot of kids at her school had one.

Does that explain it? Is that enough?

Should she say more? That in the small apartments of her childhood there were no books, no paintings on the walls? None of that is the fault of her friends. And she was happy as a kid, that’s important. It was a happy childhood.

She likes to think that we don’t carry our heavy history always across our shoulders, that the past will just stay back there where it belongs. But when she saw the shit on their floor, it thrilled her more than music. More than wild birds!

What if she squished it with her foot? Just smeared it on that floor? She took a quick step, another.

“There you are!” her friends called from the balcony, waving.

She was nearly breathless. She had to clear her throat before the words could come.

“Here I am,” she agreed.

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