“A Special Needs Case” by Nathan Leslie
--page 3

         The man lives in Meadow Haven, and he says he and his wife will be out of town for quite some time. Sunday jumps on the opportunity. He meets the man and his stunning wife--leggy, busty, intense eyes, dark hair. The man shakes his hand limply. An air of sorrow hovers over him. His wife’s face is edgy, wary--they don’t offer their names. They offer him butter pecan cookies instead. On the basis of his nut allergies, Sunday declines.
         The man shrugs, gives Sunday the keys, shows him how to work the alarm system. The man explains that a cleaning woman comes by every Saturday, even when they are not there. The man gives Sunday the tour of the house and instructs him to make sure to check the drain outside the basement, which clogs with leaves and sticks. Otherwise it is simple. No pets or complicated instructions. No plants. Sunday gives the man his name and mailing address so the man can pay Sunday for his troubles.
         For the first two and a half months, Sunday sleeps like he has never slept before. Sunday wonders if it is just his imagination, but he doubts this is the case. The house is clean and sparsely decorated, almost as if the couple doesn’t really live there. he pool is covered. The closets are just about bare. The built-in bookshelves are devoid of books or magazines, with the exception of a few romance novels in Russian. Sunday thinks all of this is odd: it’s as if they don’t actually live in their own home. It’s clean though. He can’t complain about the dust.
         Sunday spends the vast majority of his time in the Meadow Haven home, though he drives to his old townhouse several times a week just to pick up his mail. At the end of each week, a check for one hundred and forty dollars arrives from a Mr. Albert. This is the only way in which Sunday knows the man’s name. As his time winds down, Sunday knows he should make up another flyer to set up another house-sitting gig. Sunday has copies of Mr. Albert’s keys made. He can’t go back home to sleep. He won’t.
         After three months the man returns, this time alone. From the front room Sunday watches the black car pull up. It is late September, rainy and clammy and dark. The man unlocks the door, nods at Sunday. Dark circles ring his eyes and Sunday can tell his life has descended in some way. The man thanks Sunday for his time, hands him his last check. The man doesn’t bother to walk around the house, which Sunday thinks is odd. Sunday asks the man if he wants to see if any damage has been done.
         “No. I trust you,” the man says. “By the way, I’m putting this house on the market, if you know anyone who would be interested. I’ve decided I’m leaving the area for good. Things change.”
         Sunday eventually manages to sleep at his old townhouse, though he sneezes and coughs and feels as if he can’t breathe. When he calls Mr. Albert Sunday doesn’t receive an answer. Sunday tells himself he will wait another day and call again several times, just to make sure. By the end of that weekend, Sunday guesses that Mr. Albert has left.
         On Monday he drives back over to the house, parks in front of the curb two houses down, unlocks the front door and turns off the alarm. Home sweet home, Sunday thinks. They’ll have to drag me out. That’s the only way I’m leaving, he thinks. Even if it means Sunday has to hide in the closet, in the shed, in the basement crawlspace. In a house of this size Sunday doubts they would even notice him. He’ll live as a squatter, as vermin. For Sunday it’s a step up. Sunday will do whatever it takes--real estate agents or no real estate agents. New owners or no new owners. Mother or no mother.
         In the late mornings, after the neighbors have left for work, Sunday steps out onto the deck. He watches the clouds. He breathes. He doesn’t give them a passing thought.

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