Cracks In the Sidewalk Become Gaping Holes---Part One

                      Dear Neil

I realise that we haven't been in contact for a very long time and I want to apologise for that. It's just that my life has become, well, let's say complicated. The last time we were together, I was having some trouble staying on the rails, so to speak. I broke up with my boyfriend, because I was sick and tired of having him calling me a "fat cow" "a stupid, useless waste of space" and his favourite, "You're so fat that when you run, you leave holes in the sidewalks." Great guy. I hear he has another girlfriend already. I hope he's not abusive to her, but the old adage, "A tiger never changes its stripes."

Anyway, after that nightmare, I moved in with my parents again. Can you believe it?? You know that you might as well declare yourself an utter failure when that happens. I mean, I'm twenty-five years old with no job, no money and I have now set myself up for constant and unrelenting humiliation. Pathetic or what? That was three years ago and nothing has changed. Or so it would seem.

Oh, I forgot, I recently got discharged from that horrid mental hospital--you know, it's called the Gravenhurst Institute just outside the city. Note the "Grave" at the beginning of it's name. Ha. Anyway, it was a living hell, with some of the most sadistic, abusive and violent staff you can imagine--they were like Nazis. Even worse.


I'm sure I'm boring you to death, Neil. You've been so kind to me.

Love, your friend, Stacey.

Neil finished reading Stacey's letter and got an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. This complicated and tragic young woman had never been "grounded" as the expression goes. Everything was great when they were kids--she was full of energy back then and always working on something. She laughed often, made friends easily and was pretty in an off-beat way. She had long, thick black braids, like Wednesday Adams from that American comedy series, The Adams Family. Her frocks were all the same colour---black. Stacey. From head to toe. She wore bright red lipstick and rouge (usually too much) on her somewhat chubby cheeks. She had always told me that most people were shallow and there was no such thing as altruism. But then her expression would change and she'd laugh uproariously and say. "Fooled you. I'm only kidding." But was she? Really? Neil didn't think so. It seemed that Stacey's years of mental illness had seeds in her childhood. She was just very adept at hiding her pain.

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That evening, Neil sat down with a cup of tea and tried distracting himself from his friend's melancholy. But surely Stacey hadn't put any cryptic messages into the words of her letter. She'd given him her phone number (unlisted) and address. Should he ring her up? Would she likely be home at all? There had been no date accompanying the letter. For all Neil knew, it could have been written several years ago. Stacey was always playing those bizarre games just to confuse anyone privy to them. Neil picked up the phone and dialed the number.  He let it ring several times and then got the answering machine.




A weak, mumbling voice rattled off a long and laconic message.  From what he could figure out, Stacey was either drunk, stoned or both: "You have reached my own castle in the sky. I doubt if anyone will listen to a long and incoherent piece of pure drivel. I decided to move across town. It's a rundown three storey walk up with blankets used as curtains. Enter at your own risk. Bye now." was either drunk, stoned or both: "You have reached my own castle in the sky. I doubt if anyone will listen to a long and incoherent piece of pure drivel. I decided to move across town. It's a rundown three storey walk up with blankets used as curtains. Enter at your own risk. Bye now."



When the long and spooky message finally ended, Neil was uneasy about asking Stacey out to a restaurant. "You choose the one you want to go to. He then left his phone number, wondering if it was a good idea to meet up with an obviously troubled woman who would talk the way she did. But she was an old friend, so Neil, fairly certain she didn't have very many dates. What with her strange, but compelling letter, he already sensed the desperation and neediness.

End Of Part One.

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