Kat left that afternoon to find her brother Paul, she hadn’t seen him for more than twenty-four hours, he owed her money, and she thought maybe he was at her aunt Milly’s new house on Washington Street in Haverhill helping her with the house. The drive to Haverhill from Merrimac was uneventful in her 1982 white Subaru Wagon, except for the occasional pothole and the faint sound of the flapping of the silver duct tape, which held the rusted door panels down and away from catching on Kat’s clothes every time she got in the car. Now Kat was a very simple-minded person, and good things happened for her at unexpected moments. Finding a treasure was an enjoyable experience that didn’t often happen to just anyone; it did occur to Kat now and then. She had a knack for finding valuable trinkets, usually when she wasn’t even looking. Trinkets like a gold rose stick pin she discovered in the crack of a New York City sidewalk after getting off at the wrong train station, or like the twenty-five-cent piece someone once gave her for change, a coin dating back to the year 1915. And that day, the day she drove to Aunt Milly’s looking for her brother Paul was one of those days for Kat.
While driving along Kat thought about a better way to draw the jacket sketch, she was working on for a class at The Art Institute of Boston. She thought about drawing at the Army Navy store while she worked on Sunday, but it was too busy there, so maybe she could borrow one of the mannequins. It was late afternoon, and she wasn’t sure exactly which house was Aunt Milly’s, so she drove up and down Washington Street looking for Aunt Milly’s car, or Paul’s old truck. Aunt Milly’s car was an old maroon rambler that smelt of stale cigarettes and pine air freshener, and Paul’s was a beat-up Chevy truck he had put together from parts found at the junkyard down on Brandy Brow Road. He managed to get it running, and it had a blue flatbed and red cab. If he were there, that truck would stand out. She could hardly see because the sun was in her eyes. She had to drive to the end of the street to read the sign. And that’s when she spotted a mannequin on the side of the road.
“Wow!” she whispered to herself, her eyes widening as she felt her heartbeat pulsating in her ear. Her foot released the gas pedal and moved to the brake.
“What was that on the side of the road? It must be a hallucination, or maybe I ate too many wild mushrooms with Eric. I knew those mushrooms behind his mother’s house were too orange, but maybe it was a real mannequin, maybe someone died, and the house was being cleaned out, and none of the family wanted it.” she thought to herself and shook her head.
She turned her car around and pulled over to the curb. She jumped out, opened the hatchback and stuffed the mannequin inside. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw an old woman in an apron watching her from behind a rose bush across the street.
“Oh, hello,” Kat said to the old woman.
The old woman stopped pruning the roses smiled and said, “Good afternoon, I see you’re taking the mannequin, and I would not do that if I were you.”
Looking puzzled Kat said, “Yes it’s just what I need, and it’s in such great shape, who would throw away such a lovely mannequin?”
“Who indeed.” said the old woman, “If only it could talk it would have a lifetime of stories to tell.” And the old woman began pruning the roses again.
“Really, like what?” Kat asked. “It seems like an entirely innocent mannequin to me and just what I need to dress up and sketch different outfits.”
Kat walked across the street to get closer to the old woman, and a man waved his fist in the air as his car’s tires screech to a stop, and nearly miss hitting Kat.
“Watch it! Kat yelled at the driver.
“The sun was in my eyes lady!” The driver yelled back and drove off.
“See, it’s started already.” Said the old woman.
“What?” Kat replied.
“You’ll see. What’s your name anyway?” the old woman asked.
“Kat. What’s yours?”
“Abby Rose.” The old woman said and wiped her hands on her apron then extended her hand to Kat.
“Nice to meet you, Abby Rose,” Kat said as they shook hands. “Have you lived here long?” Kat asked.
“Forty-seven years and I’ve seen a lot, and that mannequin could be dangerous, I would put it back on the curb where you found it if I were you.”
“Really? It looks so innocent, and I need one, so it’s in my car now.” Kat replied, as she waved and walked back to her car.
Kat slowly drove up the street and continued her search for Paul. Abby Rose made the sign of the cross and muttered three Hail Mary’s as she continued pruning her roses. The sun was behind the hill now, and she spotted Paul’s red and blue truck. She pulled up alongside the curb behind Paul’s truck and watched Paul mowing the lawn for a moment, and then got out of the car and lifted the hatchback to look at the mannequin. I can’t believe it’s real she thought. Then just as Paul came around close to the curb on the rider lawn mower, Kat closed the hatchback and began to walk toward the front door. At the same time, the paperboy delivering the evening news on his bike started to toss a paper at Aunt Milly’s driveway, and a rock flew from under the lawn mower and hit his elbow knocking him off his bike. Aunt Milly was watching out the window and opened the door for Kat. “Is he, all right?” Aunt Milly said as she rushed past Kat toward the paperboy.
“Is who all right?” Kat replied unaware of the paperboy behind her.
Kat turned around to find Aunt Milly helping the paperboy up off the ground. “Oh, no. What happened?!” Kat shouted.
Aunt Milly helped him up, and he continued his paper route on foot and pushed his bike with his good arm. “While we’re out here look at the mannequin I found on the side of the road up the street,” Kat said to Aunt Milly.
Kat lifted the hatchback, and Aunt Milly peered inside at the mannequin.
“Oh, look at that 1930 is printed on the chest. That’s the year I was born.” Aunt Milly said.
“What are you talking about it says 1965. The year I was born.” Kat said.
“Whatever you say, but it looks like 1930 to me.” Aunt Milly said.
Kat closed the hatchback, and they walk toward the front door.
“Come in, and take a load off.” Aunt Milly said.
Okay but, I’m here because Paul owes me $50 and he promised he would pay me yesterday. Kat and Aunt Milly disappear behind the front door into the parlor. Just then Paul begins to holler, but no one can hear him over the sound of the mower. The lawnmower loses control, and he has hurled down a hill over a wall and is catapulted his headfirst into the Merrimac River below.
Kat and Aunt Milly are sipping Tea in the kitchen at the table and a half hour passes. “Well I have to get back home soon, and where is Paul,” Kat said.
“I don’t know, and now that you mention it I don’t hear the mower.” Aunt Milly said, and she got up and looked out the window toward the river. Then Paul hobbled up the hill and into the back door off the kitchen. Kat and Aunt Milly were startled, and Paul had weeds in his hair and was dripping water all over the kitchen floor.
“You better tie down that mannequin.” Paul sputtered.
“What, happened to you?” Kat said, and Aunt Milly ran into the hall closet and came back with a towel. “You better tie down that mannequin.” Paul sputtered again. “Why? It’s in the back of my wagon.” Kat said with a worried look on her face. “No, the goddam thing just appeared in front of the mower and caused me to lose control of the mower down the hill and the mower crashed into the wall and hurled me into the river,” Paul said as Aunt Milly handed him a towel.
“What do you mean, do you see things? Oh, my God, Aunt Milly told me it had 1930 written on its chest, but when I looked I saw 1965, so something is up with that mannequin. The old Woman warned me about it, and I thought she was joking.” Kat said, and she ran to the car and opened the hatchback to find the mannequin innocently lying in the back. Kat grabbed the Mannequin and walked it a block up the street to a big white church, and there she left the mannequin on the curb and ran back to Aunt Milly’s, hopped in the Subaru, and laid her head on the steering wheel. Oh, my god, she thought then waved to Paul and Aunt Milly who was watching from the driveway. She drove away back to Merrimac without the mannequin, or the $50. I’m just going to have to draw curtains again she thought with a deep sigh.