The last time I saw Janey was at a birthday party she threw for her nephew one Saturday in late fall.
Here’s what happened that day and how it figures into the tragedy.
Picture yourself walking across that wide front porch to the front door. The door opens so, you cross the threshold and step inside.
Immediately to the left, stairs rise up to a landing then right, ten or so steps to the second floor hall.
At the end of the hall downstairs, the kitchen looks like an modern, abstract rectangular picture with yellow walls, a red melmac table with curved chrome legs, a black and white wall clock of a cat, its tail slowly moving side to side and the shadows and sounds of moving mothers.
Halfway to the kitchen on the right would originally have been called the parlor or in today’s parlance we call the living room, where June threw the best birthday party I ever attended; one continuous strand of low level activity moving forward, always moving forward, never boring, exactly like their summer yard parties except instead of drinking booze and playing poker we were eating cake, drinking Coke while playing kids games like pin the tail on the donkey or dropping clothes pins into a milk bottle,
Janey wandered about engendering herself to every boy making the games fun by teasing us, laughing at our mistakes, encouraging us when we did something well then drawing everyone’s attention to the lucky boy receiving a prize.
By the end of the day I think every boy had fallen in love with Janey.
With candles blazing at just the right moment, Janey brought the birthday cake into our midst. We gathered around staring down at the cake, our mouths watering, the room quiet for the first time all day.
Holding the knife over the cake Janey whetted our appetites, teasing each of us one by one about the hungry looks on our faces even accusing some of us of drooling.
Skilled tease that she was, she knew how to increase our appetites poking and prodding until I could hardly wait for my first piece. I knew I could go back as many times as I wanted.
Within seconds, I was back asking for more and more and more until I was completely satisfied.
After cake, we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. We could stay inside and play games or go outside and run around getting grass stains on our pants.
I stayed inside to explore the house starting in the kitchen with its yellow walls the square green asbestos tiles on the floor, the old fashioned faucets, above a deep galvanized sink, a window above the sink that looked down on the grassy area where they had their parties and the back door to the right where steps leading down to and up from the grassy area carried either food and drink or full bladders.
Just outside the kitchen in the hallway to the right, a short door opened into a space beneath the stairs. I opened the door and peered inside, a creepy dark place, the air stale, hard to breathe, so dark even with the door open, it seemed the entire space was devoid of light. I couldn’t even see the wall opposite the open door.
That place gave me the creeps. I quickly shut the door afraid to look inside any longer.
I had to pee so I asked Janey if I could use the bathroom. The one downstairs was busy so she told me to use the bathroom upstairs. continued ….