MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Mountains by William Gibbons

Fiction
The Piper in my Den

Cyndie Goins Hoelscher

A clipped version of Stairway to Heaven catches my attention. Sighing, I put down my pen and glance at the number brazenly displayed on my pink razor phone. This is the fourth time. The caller has an area code from Wichita Falls, Texas. I don’t know anyone in Wichita Falls. I ignore the ringtone once more.

Stairway to Heaven seemed so cool and mellow when I activated it as ´my song´. The soft melody encourages me to keep one foot in the late 70´s -- a happy, innocent time when I wore flowing, brightly printed dresses and had long hair. The caller was abusing my memory, breaking my bridge of patience and my attempt to live in the moment. He did not belong here in my moment. He didn´t belong anywhere in my life. It was just another wrong number, for the fourth time in a row.

The tune dies. Sighing in relief, I reach for my pen, so I can finish my letter to JoAnne. My nerves are fried as I try to describe the needle biopsy and the waiting for orders in a casual type of way. I try to avoid words which may hint at the worry invading my heart from three abnormal test results. My life has taken a twisted turn somewhere and would never be the same as it was yesterday. With another breath, I focus on the task at hand -- convincing myself I have been confronted with challenges and I´ve managed to beat the odds before. Now is no different.

The strains of Stairway to Heaven filter through the air again. I loathe this man. I have already told him four times he has the wrong phone number. Why does he keep calling? I pick up the phone sharply, pity for his ignorance now replaced by hostility because of his persistent invasion.

"I SAID you have the wrong number!"

"I just want to know who you are?" he replies from a place I’ve never visited.

"It´s none of your business who I am," I yell into the phone. "You should check your notes because you are dialing the wrong number and I don´t want to speak to you again!"

"You called me!" he yells from Wichita Falls. "I want to know who you are!"

"I did not call you," I say, seething. Why was I even trying to communicate with him? He obviously doesn´t get it. I shouldn´t be wasting my breath.

"I will keep calling you until you tell me who you are," he threatened.

The threat brought it closer to home. I am intimate with threats. HE threatened he would cut me if I cried out during the sexual assault and brutal attack so many years ago. I bit back my tears. He cut me anyway, slicing an uneven wound into my left breast, despite the fact I hadn´t screamed once during the hours I was tied and dragged out onto the beach. He threatened he would come back and kill my family if I ever told anyone. I told no one. The threat evolved into decades of nightmares and loss of sleep whenever I had flashbacks from that night. The threat pounded in my ears each time the Gulf drowned out my pleas, “Why are you doing this? What have I done?”

For 28 years, I busied myself during the days, trying to forget it all happened, but the nights threaten to take any chance of peace and content away. And now, the abnormal cells growing near the place he stabbed me cut as deeply and painfully as the first wound. The familiar bruised and damaged feelings hover dangerously close.

"Don´t threaten me," I reply firmly to the voice from Wichita Falls. " I know you are not HIM. I remember every nuance of his voice. I remember the phrases and words he repeated throughout the night. If you were HIM, I would have called the police after Hello."

"Whoa! Lady, wait a minute. Isn´t this the health aide store?"

"For the final time, you have the wrong number," I answer evenly and click off my phone.

I need something. My blood is boiling again -- the way it does when events beyond my control are unfolding. In the kitchen, I seize an ice-cube and feel it melt magically against my breast. It is only a temporary remedy, but the shock of frozen water on flushed skin interrupts my thoughts. The coolness and clarity points me in a different direction. The meaningless exchange of energy and words between strangers diffuses as I gaze at brilliant daylight flooding through the windows. And there in my living room, the piper is calling as the full version of Stairway to Heaven drifts, dancing lightly around me.

"This road is so much better," he beckons, working the melody with his fingers; his eyes closed lightly. The piper does not understand nightmares. I could follow him to a tree by the brook and maybe there I could catch a dreamless nap.

There´s a lady who´s sure all that glitters is gold
And she´s buying the stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh, ooh, and she´s buying the stairway to heaven
There´s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
´Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook, there´s a songbird who sings.
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
(Stairway to Heaven -- Led Zeppelin)

With pen in hand, I think fondly of my childhood friend, JoAnne. The days of dancing with snowflakes and beholding every seashell as rare treasure are miraculous memories. The piper is still playing his tune somewhere in the background. I crumple up the first letter detailing the sterile room with needles and masked people going in and out, explaining I won´t get any results for a week or so. I can´t bring myself to tell her about that. The night on the beach almost three decades ago begs to be told as well, but I can´t commit the words to the paper.

Instead, I begin a new page: "Things are really great down here. The sun is out and the sidewalks scorch my feet when I go out to the mailbox, but I guess I wouldn´t have it any other way."

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