“and that electric tug, that thrill / pulling your mind into deep water / is how I feel about you every, / single day.” – John Straley, “every single day”
Cassie found the twilight stairs the night she was dressed in black with a white scarf and her black hat. It was her lucky black hat, the one with the square crown and wide black ribbon just above the brim. Her father had given it to her just before he died almost two years before.
At odd times she would think she heard her father’s voice, in the kitchen when she was making coffee, or out on the back porch when she was calling the dog inside. She would think she heard him say her name, or tell her that he loved her, or sometimes, even, ask her a question.
They were just there, at the end of a blind alley behind the used bookstore just off main street in her small Georgia town, an alley she’d been in a dozen times before. Shadowy stair steps that were never there before. Transparent like plexiglass in one of those upscale apartments, and they glimmered as if lit, even though the alley was almost pitch-black. She blinked, blinked again, but there they were.
it was a humid evening in late September. She felt a light breeze drifting down the stairs to where she stood, cooling her, even as she stood there. She felt the flutter of the breeze against the brim of her hat. Her lucky hat.
She was wearing that hat the day she took her SATs and got a nearly perfect score. She wore the hat when she auditioned for the role of Laura in the junior college production of The Glass Menagerie and got the part. She wore the hat every day she needed a little extra luck, and so far it was working out fine. Except for the night her father died.
He never said anything about being ill. It was true, he had gotten paler and more gaunt over the several months before he died, but he shrugged it off whenever she asked. “Just no appetite,” he’d said. Or, “A little tired tonight,” when he started shuffling around, not being able to walk properly.
She hated that he hadn’t told her. She hated that he hadn’t let her know he was dying. It was like this: one day he went into the hospital and in a week he was dead.
And so now, when the twilight stairs appeared, when Cassie felt the breeze tugging at the brim of her lucky black hat, it was almost like her father’s voice calling to her. It was almost like when she imagined she heard his voice at home, in the kitchen or on the back porch.
She hesitated. This was crazy. Stairs floating in the air at the end of a dark alley. It made no sense.
But then, what did?
It wasn’t nearly as steep a climb as she expected. Somehow she knew what was waiting at the top.