For the next hour Victor roamed about, trying any last place he could find to make a sale. He went into the old Baptist church and suggested a metronome might be helpful for the church organist. The minister explained, in a rather offended manner, that Ethel kept perfect time, and he would not waste church funds on any “devil’s contraption”. (Ethel did not keep perfect time, and Pastor Ryan often wasted church funds.) Victor Stopped by the Stork Community Hall where a children’s dance class was in progress. A chalkboard sign on the wall read: Jazz Ballet 5:00-6:00pm. Victor watched the young dancers for a few minutes; he witnessed plenty of running and jumping and screaming, but nothing resembling either jazz or ballet. He spoke to the dance teacher, expounding the many benefits a quality metronome would offer her class, but she was unconvinced. Apparently hers was a class in which there was no “right way” of doing things. She felt that keeping time would set an impossible standard and damage the students’ self esteem. Victor bit his lip and left.
Victor’s heart was not entirely in those late afternoon sales, and had he been paying attention he would have scolded himself for so quickly taking no for an answer. But his thoughts were elsewhere. Ever since leaving the corner store he had been walking back and forth past one spot: the foot of Clayton Street. A curious urge kept leading him back there, and each time he passed he looked up toward the mansion.
Gradually, on the hills east of town, the gum trees assumed a warm, orange blush; in the west the sun descended upon the horizon. Victor looked at his watch and decided to call it a day. He walked back across town toward his motel, and on the way he once again passed Clayton Street. This time when he looked up the hill he saw silhouettes: three figures standing on the road in front of the supposedly cursed mansion. It was too much to resist.
As Victor climbed the hill, the silhouettes were revealed to be children of about twelve years of age. They were playing a game of daring, seeing who would approach closest to the stone fence from which Victor had earlier been warned away. He watched as one boy, the biggest of them, came almost within arm’s reach of the fence, stretched out a solitary finger, and then turned and fled back to the road. Victor heard the boy boasting to his friends.
“I touched it!” he said.
“You did not!” protested the girl.
“Did too. What would you know?”
“You weren’t close enough. Your back foot was still on the footpath.”
“You can’t even see,” said the other boy. “You’re half blind.”
“I’m not blind! My glasses make me see better than both of you!”
The argument continued as Victor neared the top of the hill. A scuffle broke out and the bigger boy wrested the girl’s glasses from her. He ran up close to the stone fence (but not too close) and cocked his arm to throw.
“No!” yelled the girl. “Don’t throw them. Please! They’re my only pair of glasses. They cost a lot of money.”
The boy paused. “Did I touch the fence?” he said.
The girl glared at him; her hands clenched at her sides. After a tense few seconds she huffed and stamped her foot. “You didn’t touch it!”
The boy smirked then launched the glasses over the fence and onto the cursed property. The girl burst into tears; Victor ran toward the children.
“Hey, what are you doing?” he shouted.
The two boys jumped; in the fading light they had not noticed Victor until he spoke. They ran away down the hill. Victor came and put his hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
The girl dropped her head and covered her face with her hands. She stood there in the middle of the road, crying.
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