FLASH FICTION: Dr. Greenman Smythe

The grandfather clock in the vestibule is over a century old. It is an object of great beauty, though unreliable as a timepiece. I must often open its glass door and swing back the pendulum to reanimate it. It will then run for minutes, hours or even days, depending on its humor.

As I closed the glass door one morning, I observed the reflected front door of the manor opening—and the image of an unknown man. An intruder. I turned to arrest him.

“It’s alright,” said my Mistress, from the top of the staircase. “He knows Barbara Jameson.” Barbara Jameson is an American actress best known for portraying the tragic Helen Mirrowan in the popular television series Mossgrave Mansion.

The unknown man ascended the stairs. He followed my Mistress around the corner.

“What’s going on?” said my Master, entering the vestibule.

“I’m having a nervous breakdown,” said his wife, reappearing.

“You are?” said my Master.

“Yes,” said my Mistress, disappearing.

A door closed.

My Master rubbed his forehead. He climbed the stairs. He descended the stairs. He climbed again as far as the landing, and again descended. He walked through the vestibule and rapidly down the hall.

A door closed.

*

At 3:00, I served tea in the Green Parlor. Neither my Master nor Mistress was present to receive it.

At 3:45, I wheeled the tea cart back into the Kitchen.

            *

In the course of my dusting, I discovered my Master in the White Parlour. He was re-reading the previous day’s newspaper.

“Dr. Greenman Smythe,” he said, turning a page.

“Sir?”

“Our visitor. A therapist—a kind of.”

My Master folded the Business section and set it on his lap. He touched his forehead.

“Are you unwell?” I asked him, dusting the lamp.

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut.

“I could synthesize a headache tablet?”

“It’ll pass,” he said.

“It would be no trouble.”

My Master closed his eyes.

“I’m fine,” he said.

*

A door opened. Two bolts of laughter preceded my Mistress and the doctor downstairs.

I hurried to the vestibule in time to see the front door close behind the visitor.

My Mistress remained at the foot of the staircase, gazing at the door.

“Do you believe in hypnotism?” she said.

“My Mistress: it is an established science. I am incapable of disbelieving what is true.”

“Neither do I,” she said, still observing the door.

My Master entered the Vestibule.

“How are you feeling?” he said.

My Mistress blinked. She turned her head.

“Not much better,” she said. “A little better.”

My Master took her hand.

“I worry about you,” he whispered.

My Mistress laughed.

“I do.”

He caressed her hand.

“Can I get you something? Some coffee, or something?”

My Mistress blinked.

“Alright,” she said.

Though I would gladly have fetched the coffee—it is my duty—my Master derives pleasure from performing small tasks for his wife. I would not deprive him of that pleasure.

My Mistress entered the Green Parlor. I accompanied her. She stood before the picture window. The visitor’s car vanished down the drive.

She reclined on the green sofa. She observed the ceiling.

“He knows Barbara Jameson.”

“He knows a lot of actresses.”

“In the capacity of a therapist?” I inquired.

She shook her head.

“He used to be a plastic surgeon.”

She did not speak for several minutes.

“You know something?”

“What is that, my Mistress?”

“It’s easier to tell the truth, or to lie, when your eyes are closed.”

My Master returned. He set the coffee on the table and sat on the floor before his wife. He took her hand.

“Are you alright?” he asked her.

She didn’t answer.

“Darling—are you alright?” He caressed her hand.

My Mistress closed her eyes.

“I’m fine,” she said.

“I’m glad,” said my Master.

He kissed her hand.

“I’m so glad.”

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