The Tourists Attraction
“Get the hell out of here, you damn tourists, and leave me alone.”
I’m sick of it. Every day there’s a group of tourists, standing by my fence watching us, pointing, and whispering. I don’t know what started it, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna put up with it much longer. We’ve become some kind of tourists attraction or somethin’. They park the bus over at the Walmarts and then walk to my house to stare at us.
I refuse to let them tourists force me to stay inside, dammit! I’m gonna’ sit out here on the porch in my rocker jest like I been doin’ for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t always like this; we used to have two boys. I can still see them boys playin’ in the front yard, chasin’ each other around. Me and the wife would sit here and watch them for hours, rockin’ and talkin’ ‘bout how much energy them boys had. They was always doin’ somethin’; if they weren’t movin’ then they were asleep. Hell, sometimes when I looked in on ‘em at night, lying there in their beds, they’d be kickin’ their legs in their sleep, runnin’ in their dreams I s’pose. I surely do miss them boys, how longs have we been livin’ here? I don’t remember.
Paula’d remember. She could recall things from the past that a normal person wouldn’t even have noticed, much less remember. She could tell you the time, day, and year that we planted that tree in the front yard. Sometimes it was kinda spooky. I could always count on her to tell me anything I wondered about the past. “Paula, what was the name of that fella that told us ‘bout this house being for sale when we was jest married?”
She got that funny look on her face and I knew she was ‘bout to spout out everythin’ that happened on that day, pert near thirty year ago. The look in her eyes kinda reminded me of one of them robots that we’d seen at the state fair, over there in Des Moines.
“It was Harlan Monroe,” she said, “on January thirteenth, at five thirty-six, right before dinner. You were just getting home from work, and had put your lunchbox on the counter. You was telling me how old Mr. Hayworth was gonna give you a raise, now that you’re married, and the adoption was final; there was a knock on the door. You said, ‘I wonder who’s comin’ round near supper time,’ and went and let Harlan in. ‘Wilbur,’ he said, ‘there’s a house for sale out on the edge of town that you should go look at.’ You told him, ‘we can’t afford no house now, what with a couple a kids on the way,’ and he said, ‘you can’t afford to miss out on this house, it’d be perfect to raise a family.’ Do you want me to tell you what happened next?” Paula asked with her look that told me she could keep on going forever, telling me everything that happened right up to this moment.
“No, Paula, that’s fine. Dagnabbit, there’s another busload of them tourists. Look at ‘em, walkin’ up to the fence like they had every right in the world to stand there and stare at us. It’s like we don’t have any reason to complain ‘bout being stared at. Damn tourists!”
I knew that if I asked Paula, she’d tell me how long these tourists have been coming, but somethin’ told me that I didn’t want to remember what started it. I surely do miss them boys; we didn’t have to worry ‘bout these damn tourists while they were around. Paula didn’t seem to mind being stared at, she never said anything at all ‘bout the tourists parading up to the fence every hour on the hour.
“Paula,” I said, knowin’ that I would regret it, but couldn’t help myself, “when did we become part of this damn tour from hell?”
“What do you mean, Wilbur?” she asked, in that innocent way she had ‘bout her.
“All these damn tourists marching up to our house to stare at us, when did it start?”
“Wilbur, you know I’m not supposed to talk about that. You made me promise not to remind you what happened that day, and why it happened. You don’t want me to break my promise do you?”
Deep in the back of my mind, buried in layers of pain and heartache, I remember a gory scene. There was blood everywhere; small body parts scattered all over the yard. A truck is sittin’ out front with a sign on the side that says, ‘Roy’s Robot Repair.’ I look at Paula sitting next to me with that look she gets on her face, and I knew she had every grisly detail of it in her head, ready to spit it out, like the machine she was. “No,” I say, “I wouldn’t want you to break your promise.”