When Michael Schlimazl left the law office on W 79th Street, he couldn’t hide his surprise. His mouth and eyes wide open, the eyebrows arched, his erratic way of walking… everything revealed (apart from his idiotic nature) that he had just been the beneficiary of an unexpected inheritance. Who could be that Tom Corner who, on his deathbed, had left him a house in Brooklyn? He knew only one Tom Corner and that one was discarded because Michael was his worst enemy since, a few weeks ago, he had thrown him out the window. Of course, it had been an accident. The two were operators of a plumbing company and, after completing the installation in an apartment on the Upper East Side, they were enjoying the magnificent views of Manhattan from the open window when Michael noticed that his partner had untied a shoelace. He raised Tom’s foot to tie it and the law of gravity, which is always on the lookout, did the rest. When Michael went to visit him at the hospital, Tom would not accept his apology and declared eternal enmity. So, on the way to the underground station, Michael racked his brains wondering who could be that mysterious benefactor who coincidentally had the same name as his worst enemy.
Even before seeing the house of which he was now the new owner, Michael rescinded the rental contract for the tiny room in which he had been living for the past three years. It was on the occasion of this paperwork when he discovered that it was not really a room but a built-in wardrobe. “Damn it! (he told himself) I must have suspected it every time someone opened the door to take out or return a piece of clothing.” With a bundle on his back where he carried his few belongings, he headed for Park Row station. There he took the elevated train to Brooklyn.
In Sands Street station he got off the train and began to ask for the address that the lawyer had given him: “Moon Street, number 1. ” Curiously enough, almost everyone he asked was surprised at the question and, after indicating the direction to take, they crossed themselves, and even some woman who came from the market rubbed a garlic on his face. From Sands Street Station to the address in question it turned out to be a huge distance. So great was the distance that he was forced to stop at Prospect Park to spend the night there. While he was lying on a small grassy slope watching the lights on the other side of the East River, he heard slow footsteps approaching him. He jumped up and saw a very old woman leaning on a cane. The woman stopped and beckoned him with the cane to come near. He obeyed and, after ascertaining that he was the one who had been asking for the way to “Moon Street”, the old woman offered him what she called a talisman but he thought it was just a knitting needle. “Take it,” she said, “you’ll need it.” And then he made the clumsiness of asking what was the functioning of the talisman. And after receiving in response the deserved prick in the butt, Michael said goodbye to the old woman hopping and screaming in pain.
Michael didn’t even have time to thank her for the gift. And lying down again on the grass, he tried to sleep. But he couldn’t. The full moon was just above him, and it was a large, luminous moon, so that its unreal whiteness had a hypnotic effect on him. When he finally managed to fall asleep, he dreamed that they were celebrating a wedding in the starry sky and the bride, all dressed in white, was the moon herself, and he, Michael Schlimazl, was the lucky bridegroom. The glittering stars were invited to the ceremony. (On the part of the groom was only his longtime friend Jacob Schlemihl, who was uncomfortable among so many stars and complained that they did not serve canapés.) Everything was okay… until the wedding night. Michael didn’t have a clear memory of what had happened, but the fact is that for some reason the marriage was not consummated, and Michael woke up suddenly in cold sweats. It was already dawning, so he took his bundle and resumed the march.
As he got closer to his goal, the houses became more dispersed. Also the people he bumped into were increasingly scarce and, when asked about “Moon Street number 1”, crossed themselves a greater number of times and rubbed tender garlic on Michael’s face with increasing vehemence. Finally, both the houses and the people disappeared almost completely. However, in the middle of that wasteland there was a street, and at the beginning of that street, a lonely house in whose corner a sign read: “Moon Street” and on the front door the number 1. Michael stopped dumbfounded. Despite its notorious antiquity, it was the most beautiful house he had ever seen, although perhaps he was influenced by the fact that he had been living in a wardrobe during the last three years as a result of which any house with windows was for him like the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. However, it truly was a nice house: a two-story brownstone townhouse, the oldest style of homes in New York. It could be said that they had torn the house from a row of similar houses on an old street in New York and transplanted it into that wasteland, isolated from any population centre. Michael hurried up the staircase leading to the front door. He opened with the key that the lawyer had given him, and entered the house with a throbbing heart.
“Oh, what a gigantic hall!” murmured Michael, who until then had considered a shoebox to be his hall. “In such a spacious house, now I will be able to dedicate myself full time to my authentic vocation”. His authentic vocation consisted of collecting letters addressed to his neighbors that he stole from their mailboxes to then blackmail them depending on the content of the letters. He was imagining mountains of letters and postcards scattered around the rooms when suddenly remembered that there were no neighbors there. The nearest neighbors were at a distance of ten miles or more. And yet he had the unsettling feeling of not being alone, even of being overly accompanied. The truth is that he felt the same sensation that one feels on a railway car at rush hour. However, he quickly suppressed this thought as irrational and tried to make his way to the bottom of the stairs. “No pushing, no pushing!”, “Watch it, man!”…, were the kind of interjections that he heard in his hard going path. “When Jacob learns of this, he’ll swallow his tongue with envy”, thought Michael, since not everyone has the ability to hear voices and even less to receive invisible blows like the one he had just received. Maybe that would allow him to participate in their favorite radio program entitled “Mysterious Universe ” based on interviews with mediums and people with supernatural skills. His friend Jacob had presented as a candidate to be interviewed in that program, but was rejected alleging that reaching to put his nose in his mouth (an ability for which the previous year he had won the “New York’s Ugliest Man” contest) could not be considered as a supernatural skill. When Michael finally managed to reach the stairs, he let out a curse because the doorbell had just rang. Again he had to make his way back through the invisible crowd while receiving all kinds of imprecations and punches. But who could be the visitor? He didn’t expect anyone and it was not likely that any of his remote neighbors had traveled ten miles to welcome him. When, half groggy because of the punches received, he managed to push his way till the entrance by kicking around, he opened the door and… big surprise! There was his friend Jacob with his inseparable hood of a town idiot well stuffed in his head.
– Jacob, what a joy to see you! I was just thinking about you. You’ll not believe what has happened to me.
-It can’t be good because your face seems to have received more blows than the sparring of Joe Louis.
– I’ll show you. Come in. But watch your step, we are celebrating a party here inside and my guests are a bit fussy with the stomping
They both entered the house. To Michael’s astonishment, the invisible agglomeration had disappeared.
-Well, it doesn’t seem like a right lively party
-I don’t understand. A moment ago you wouldn’t have been able to take a step
-Maybe you were rehearsing for tonight’s party?
-Party? What party?
-I hope that after the wedding there will be a party
-Wedding? What wedding?
Jacob shows Michael a wedding invitation extracted from under his hood.
-You didn’t tell me you were engaged.
While Jacob walks through the house, Michael gawks at the card. He had never been a supporter of arranged marriages, let alone arranged marriages where no one bothers to notify the groom
-There must be an error. There is no wedding planned for tonight.
-Have you postponed it?
– (Indicating the invitation) I don’t even know this Miss Moon
-So what are you doing at her home?
-This is my home.
-It’s not what the ferryman has told me
-Have you come by ferry through this wasteland?
-Don’t be silly. Behind the house there is a path that leads to the dock. You can’t see it from here because the house is on a hillside.
-That explains why you came here almost at the same time as me.
-And Miss Moon? Aren’t you going to introduce me to your fiancée?
-I tell you there’s no Miss Moon!
-That’s not what the ferryman told me. He also told me that your future wife… I’m afraid she doesn’t have very good reputation around here. It seems that she is … what is the word that the ferryman used? Well, a kind of witch. But you’re not a charming prince either, are you? Ha, ha, ha! Hey man, this house is fabulous. I like this room. Do you mind if I lie in bed until the celebration begins? I need to take a nap at least if I have to stay up all night. You wouldn’t like me to sleep at your wedding, right?
Michael let him sleep it off (because he attributed the joke about the wedding to an excess of alcohol) and decided to finish seeing the house. What pleased him most was to enjoy a private toilet. He would no longer have to share the corridor toilet with fifteen other people. He still couldn’t believe that he had been living in a wardrobe without realizing. That clarified many things: all those clothes hanging on the ceiling, the lack of light, the having his shoes stolen and the finding them in its place when he got home from work. When he thought about the humiliation of having to go barefoot to work… Anyway, that was ancient history. Now he had his own house.
He had already walked the two floors. He lacked only the attic which was accessed by a small door at the end of a wooden ladder. When he entered, the darkness was total, so he lit his Zippo lighter, in whose dim light he saw a pile of old furniture. He was about to return when a strange piece of furniture in a corner drew his attention. He approached and discovered with a start that it wasn’t a piece of furniture but a coffin. As he recoiled in horror towards the door, he fell down the wooden ladder, but not much damage was done: he just twisted his nose. He straightened it in front of the mirror without being able to suppress a cry of pain. Then he saw that his face was full of bruises. The punching he had received in the hall had not been the product of his imagination. Maybe there was still hope to participate in “Mysterious Universe”.
Suddenly, through the mirror, he saw behind his back a grotesque female face that made the most frightful grimaces. Michael could not suppress a scream, but when he turned around he saw no one. However, looking back at the mirror, the horrible face grimaced again, and another scream escaped Michael’s throat. And again when turning around he didn’t see anyone. Michael repeated this operation ten or more times, unable to contain the scream every time he turned to look in the mirror. This idiotic vicious cycle could have been prolonged indefinitely if Jacob did not come running. “What’s the matter with you?” he exclaimed. And since in response Michael just pointed to the mirror, Jacob looked at it and, seeing the cause of his friend’s terror, hurried to put into practice the grimace that had won him the first prize in the “New York’s Ugliest Man” contest: he raised the lower jaw so much that he covered his nose with it. Before this horrifying vision, the creature in the mirror shrieked so sharply that the mirror broke into pieces, disappearing along with it the strange creature.
-Don’t be offended but the ferryman was right: your future wife is not the most graceful woman in the world
-That was not my future wife
-Oh no? Who the hell was then? Your future mother-in-law?
– (In confidential tone) “Mysterious Universe”
-What? Do you imply that they let her participate and they rejected me? My grimace is much better than hers. You’ve already seen how she ran away
-She didn’t run away, Jacob. (Confidentially) She disappeared
-You mean she has vanished?
-I affirm it
-Wow, then of course they let her participate in “Mysterious Universe”. I don’t know how to vanish. I tried it once and I almost died…
-Very rare things happen in this house, Jacob. Things for which they would even pay you on «Mysterious Universe» for you to tell them.
-Seriously? Hey, by the way, what time is it?
Michael pulls out a pocket watch.
– Almost five
-The time of the program! Where is the radio?
– I’ve seen one next to the fireplace
Jacob grabs Michael and drags him to the small room on the second floor. A radio rests on a chest of drawers. Jacob rushes to tune in while Michael puts a couple of logs in the fireplace and lights the fire. Suddenly the metallic voice of the radio broadcaster announces his first guest. Michael and Jacob take a seat on the sofa in front of the fireplace.
The two listen attentively to a woman who claims to witness strange phenomena and begins to tell them in great detail. “What weird things happen to people”, Jacob proclaims with envy. At that very moment, the two logs that burn in the fireplace take flight and begin to fly over the room. Michael and Jacob follow them with their eyes until the logs return to the fireplace. Meanwhile, the metallic voice on the radio speaks of strange presences that the guest feels sometimes in her house. “Listen to her, Michael (Jacob says with envy): strange presences.” Meanwhile, strange little beings like goblins with long noses begin to swarm around them. The two friends watch them stunned.
-Michael, also in this house strange things happen
-This time no one will dare deny us participation in “Mysterious Universe”, I guarantee you.
A whistle is heard and an arrow passes between them and sticks into the wall paneling. “Michael, also dangerous things happen in this house”. Both turn around but there is no archer in sight. The two run out of the room, but they stop when they see the majestic way down the stairs that lead to the attic of a woman in a white wedding dress with long tail. «The bride!» Jacob exclaims stupefied «If all witches were that beautiful they would have better fame, I assure you». Michael runs to one of the rooms while grabbing Jacob’s arm for him to follow.
-Come on, hurry, we have to hide
-Since when does a bridegroom hide from his bride?
-Since the bride is a vampire!
-Vampire! That’s the word the ferryman said!
The woman in white reaches the foot of the stairs and opens her mouth showing huge incisors, as if they were the jaws of a lion.
-Wow, your bride has a good set of teeth! «Mysterious universe», get ready for a whole series of interviews! (Approaching the woman in white) Excuse me, madame. Would you be interested in joining us at WNYC Studios to participate in a radio program called..?
He is interrupted by the bell on the front door. Michael rushes to open and a Reverend burst in holding a kerosene lantern. He remains ecstatic in the presence of the majestic woman in white: “Oh, there’s the bride! What a magnificent view!” “Reverend, you are as gallant as ever” “You told me to come after dark, Miss Moon, so here I am. Where is the bridegroom? Who is the lucky one?” “That handsome young man” says the woman in white. The Reverend looks around for a handsome young man, but he finds none. Suddenly another arrow whistles past Michael. The woman in white sees it and becomes disgruntled. “It seems that Cupid hasn’t done his job yet. We’ll have to delay the ceremony a bit. Meanwhile, Reverend, consider yourself my guest”. “Oh, it’s an honor, Miss Moon. By the way, where are the other guests?”. “I had to lock them in the basement. They crowded the house”. Another arrow whistles between the two friends. “Damn it! There’s a crazy guy here with a bow” Jacob says to Michael, and then turning to the woman in white: “Excuse me again, madame. Since the wedding is going to be delayed, do you allow me to go in search of the “Mysterious Universe” program team? Wouldn’t you like your wedding to be broadcast live to the whole nation?”. Michael burst a blood vessel: “What do you say?! You’ve gone mad?!” Another arrow brushes Michael’s cheek just when the two start to fight. “Let’s go. The fucking Cupid is acquiring aim”. They both run to the front door that has been left open. “He escapes! (the woman in white exclaims) Don’t let him escape!”
Michael and Jacob run through the wasteland like a bat out of hell. “Follow me (Jacob yells) The dock is over here”. Meanwhile, a rain of arrows whistles around them. At the end of a crazy race, the two friends arrive at the lonely dock where the ferry is moored next to a pole where a kerosene lamp shines. “Captain!” (Jacob shouts) Captain, start the ferry! We have to return to the other side of the river immediately!” The captain goes out on deck and tells them that the ferry has made its last trip today and invites them to come back tomorrow. But then an arrow snatches his cap. “The fuck! Everyone on board! Hurry!”. Moments later, the ferry separates from the dock letting hear its whistle.
Michael and Jacob look from the deck at the twinkling lights of Manhattan that are approaching slowly. Jacob is the first to speak:
-This time they will not dare to reject me when I tell them this story.
– You mean the radio show? I bet they won’t believe you. We have no proof.
-Damn it, you may be right. I wonder how there can be people who still doubt that this world is full of mysterious phenomena.
-People have too much common sense.
-How right you are. As the song goes: “Common Sense Gets In Their Eyes”!