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Feed Us to the Swans

By Claire Hopple From Issue No. 8

Because now they are being interrogated, five hours after breaking and entering, six hours after deciding to break-and-enter, and one day after receiving an eviction notice, all she wants to do is tell the truth.

She trespasses. She does so whenever she can.

It doesn’t take long for a froth of confession to cultivate in her throat, lashing her organs and xylophoning her ribs.

The thing that concerns her the most: how willing she is to talk. How unfazed she can be. And just how navigable the situation appears.

“This car was creeping down the road, going 29 right in front of me. I wanted to tail him but then I saw all the memorial decals along the back windshield dedicated to some relative. I thought, maybe I shouldn’t; maybe he’s in mourning. And then I thought, well, he had time to get those decals made, how fresh could it be? And then I thought, when isn’t he in mourning though? And then I thought, when aren’t we all in mourning? So I applied pressure to the gas pedal.”

Her accomplice is stalling. The officers are blinking at him.

“Look, we have plenty more tangents where that came from,” she adds.

Rampant notions are their specialty.

“And while I’m on the subject––” he attempts to cut back in.

“––It was simple. We broke in,” she says. “At the rate we were going, we’d cover our debts in, I don’t know, two or three lifetimes.”

He was supposed to preside over the porch when they arrived but he became less of a guard and more of a Walmart greeter when neighbors started walking their dogs up and down the street.

Meanwhile, she was concocting a path to imagined treasure troves deposited throughout the house. But on her way through, the old lady announced herself.

“I’ve been expecting you,” Mrs. Anderson said.

“What do you mean? How did you know?” she asked.

“That’s what the others asked me too,” Mrs. Anderson said.

She didn’t want to assume but Mrs. Anderson didn’t elaborate so she did anyway. It’s probably because Mrs. Anderson owns this town. Like, she literally bought it. If she were Mrs. Anderson, she’d reasonably surmise that you don’t leave a property like this and expect it to be there when you get back. In fact, Mrs. Anderson hadn’t even left and here they were establishing themselves where they didn’t belong.

“This place is basically a museum now,” Mrs. Anderson sighed. “Still, these Milano cookies were half price this morning, and that’s something. Can you believe it?”

She feigned a customary facial expression in response.

Back at the station, her partner says, “After we had given up, right when we thought she’d feed us to her swans, she offered us the pact.”

“Mrs. Anderson looks right at him and admits that she is his secret admirer,” she says.

He’s been receiving unspeakable letters, crafts, shrines, artfully positioned roadkill––the works––on his front stoop for years.

“But Mrs. Anderson doesn’t stop there,” she says. “Then, she tells us that ‘according to vague calculations’ she is a fortune teller, but only while she sleeps. I asked her if she ever tried to detect these abilities when fully awake and she said it was against her principles.”

“Are you getting this down?” he asks one of the officers, who shifts in his seat.

“So I bet you’re wondering about the pact. What it was and how it transpired. Basically, she agreed to tell our fortunes if we obliged her by tucking her in bed with some tea and a record full of plucked harp strings. And, of course, not pilfering any of her valuables. To seal the deal, she embroiders the scene of our pact—albeit a rather primitive rendering—of the three of us hovering around her coffee table. Mrs. Anderson’s pretty quick with a needle and thread,” she continues.

That had really put a cap on the day. Mrs. Anderson had neglected to tell them that she snores her way through fortune telling, making crucial testaments a challenge to decipher. But they were able to get the gist.

Mrs. Anderson told the woman that one day she’d be sitting on a bench that was dedicated to herself, with a little plaque and everything. She told the man that he would die soon, but that “a funeral is the highest form of marketing.”

Now he says to the cops, “None of that matters to me.”

“And I guess somewhere along the way, nobody’d stopped her from picking up the phone and calling you guys, though I don’t really see how we missed that,” she says to the tirelessly tired officers in front of her.

At least the very last thing Mrs. Anderson ever told her, she keeps to herself. She said to the woman, “How much of knowing your future changes what you’re doing?” And then, “Oh, your escorts have arrived.”

About Claire Hopple More From Issue No. 8