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“Help,” she cried. “Help.”
She called out for five minutes and then rested. She had enough sense to preserve her voice.
It grew colder and then dark. She had no idea how much time had passed. Night came much earlier in the canyon. It could still be hot and bright up above. It could be cocktail hour. Maybe Carl and Jim were mixing camp margaritas. Lloyd loved tequila. Liza loved Lloyd. The only reason he wasn’t on this trip was because some bigwig was being audited. The other guys would be opening their Nalgenes of scotch. She licked her lips, pretending she was sucking the salt from the rim of a margarita glass. She was so thirsty. Her whole body was sore, her left calf was cramping. She flexed her toes as much as was possible in her boots. Would it get cold enough that hypothermia was a risk? The instant she thought about trying to stay awake, her eyes were closing.
The things that kept happening, inexplicable and also mundane. A cocktail shaker appeared. (She and Lloyd found that a mason jar and a fine sieve were adequate.) A six-pack of beer vanished. The silverware drawer seemed more organized. The toilet looked cleaner. When a new packet of wheat biscuits went missing, she went to Whole Foods the next day, clutching her receipt for the wrong date and accused them of sloppy bagging. When she couldn’t find something, she wasn’t sure whether to blame herself or the ghost. Then something would show up that she hadn’t seen for years: a photograph of her grandmother in a halter top; a small bowl carved from black walnut; her mother’s engagement ring. She’d suffered intensely when she’d lost that ring. She was wearing it, and then she wasn’t. She was impulsive. Unappreciative. Crap at taking care of things. Lloyd took apart the kitchen sink plumbing just in case it had slipped down the drain, but all they recovered was a slimy wishbone. And now some seven years later, it turned up in her top dresser drawer inside the case meant for her mouthguard, except she had lost that on a backpacking trip years ago.
“Are you sure someone’s not sneaking into your house?” Jan asked several weeks later over tacos and horchata at the one taqueria that was authentic, but not too authentic for white people. Liza had never seen the point of eating cactus. “Isn’t the side door always unlocked?” “Why would anyone sneak into my house?”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Jan said.
“I would never sneak into my house.”
Jan said nothing.
“What?” Liza said.
Jan sighed dramatically, “Never mind.”
When she woke up, and she didn’t remember where she was, and she tried to move, and she couldn’t, and she tried and she couldn’t, and she tried and she couldn’t, she really lost her shit. She was stuck in a canyon somewhere in southern Utah. She screamed, and because she could not move she dug her fingernails into her palms until the skin broke. It was pitch dark, and she couldn’t move, and no one had come for her, and maybe no one ever would. She struggled to stay awake, but sleep pulled her back into oblivion again and again.
Finally, conscious as light sifted down into the canyon, she heard the hopeful crackle of twigs and pine needles catching fire and then tumbling rocks that gradually morphed into the sound of footsteps. “Hey,” she cried. “Hey, here I am. I’m here.” The sound seemed to come from in front of her. Though her neck was stiff, she lifted her head and in the distances saw a pair of boots and red-socked ankles coming towards her. “Thank God,” she said. “I’ve been here all night. I’m stuck.” She rested her head for a second and when she lifted it again, the boots were gone. “Where did you go?” she screamed. “I’m here. I’m right here. I’m stuck. Please help. Somebody, please help me!”
Before she realized what was happening, someone had grabbed her ankles and was pulling her out. “Take it easy,” she cried again as her body scraped against the rocks. “Thank you, but take it easy. There’s no rush, right?” And then she was freed, except that it was like she was still stuck because her body wasn’t working. She lay there for who knows how long, trying to move her limbs. Her breath suddenly sounded very loud, and she realized she was panting. “Carl?” she said, but no one answered. Turning over to her left side, curled like a shrimp, she tentatively bent one leg, then the other. When she got back to civilization, she was going to have a chocolate milkshake. And a large order of fries covered in ketchup and mayo. She heard someone talking about sweet potato fries. Onion rings. “My god, I’m happy you came along,” she said. “Dinner’s on me.” When she finally managed to sit up, she was alone, the smooth canyon walls rising on both sides, the pale blue sky slashed above her. Someone had dragged her from her rocky tomb. She didn’t think about everything she would do differently. She wept, and while she was weeping, she popped a stone into her mouth, a trick she’d learned for making more saliva, and started the long limp back, still crying until her body stopped producing tears.
Here she is in the Arizona Room, lying on a red couch that belonged to her mother and used to be nice until the cat scratched it up good. The room seems less cluttered in some way that Liza can’t quite put her finger on. Are the screens cleaner? Are there fewer cobwebs hammocking the corners? Where has all the dust gone? She thinks back to Leprechaun Canyon. Maybe if she stayed, the ghost wouldn’t be here. Does the yard look different? Is the air cleaner? Someone bangs on the side door and then it is opening. The windows chatter in response.
“Scram!” she yells. “Amscray!”
Grabbing a brass candlestick that she’s been using for a doorstop and a broom that is collecting dust, she steps into the house to confront her intruder, to fell him, to tell him to leave her the hell alone. Stop your meddling. She likes her house just the way it is, thank you very much. She winds up to swing the candlestick, but the man, dressed in a plaid shirt and khakis, is busy pulling a carton of half and half from a plastic bag. Plastic bag! She hates plastic! Why didn’t he bring his own bag, or at least get paper! And how does he know her half and half went sour that morning so that she has been drinking her coffee bitter and black all day.
“Shit, are you trying to kill me?” The man takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. “Shit. Shit. Shit.”
“Lloyd?” Of course it’s Lloyd.
“I told you I was coming,” Lloyd says.
“You did?” she asks.
“I think I should move in.” He reaches and pulls her into a big Lloyd hug. “It’s about time.”
“You want to move here,” she says, “into this haunted shithole. You think it’s going to improve, but it’s not. It’s all going to fall apart.”
“Funny,” he says, except that it’s not funny, not for now at least. The house is changing so much, she barely recognizes herself.