“Are you outside?”
“Yes,” Toni whispers into the phone.
There is no Lou. The street reminds her of those old West movies where the gunslinger goes out into the street expecting a fight, only to find it deserted. She hears the “wahh wah wahhh…” music in her head. Looking back at the house, she see Rufus standing at the screen door staring out at her. He whines.
“Now what?” Lou asks.
She has no idea. She has no clue what is going on and she doesn’t know how to fix it. This morning she had been determined to run away and now… Lou is missing. Or is she the missing one?
Toni clutches her chest with her free hand, her lungs burning, struggling for air. Is this a panic attack? She closes her eyes and takes in a deep breath, letting it out slowly through pursed lips.
“Lou,” she begins, eyes still closed, “You better not be screwing with me. So help me God, I will kill you. This is not funny.”
“Toni, I’m standing out on our street looking at Mrs. Wiggins house. I swear to you on my life… What the hell is going on?”
Mrs. Wiggins. Why does Toni have a sneaking suspicion that the batty old lady somehow knows something about this? Shaking her head, she tries to think rationally. She shuts her eyes very tight for a second and then reopens them. Toni turns around on the sidewalk. Still, no Lou.
But this can’t be happening. How could they both be standing in the same spot, at the same time, but not see each other. Hell… they should be standing on top of one another.
“This is crazy,” she says.
A breeze starts to pick up. She glances skyward and notices clouds rolling in. Thunder ripples in the distance.
“I think it’s going to rain,” she tells Lou.
“What are you talking about? It’s gorgeous out here,” he replies.
“You don’t see the clouds. Hear the thunder?”
“Uh, no. Jesus. Where are you?” he asks.
Again, she has no idea. She glances up the block and back down.
No one in sight.
Houses look deserted and she realizes there are no cars parked on the street. Was that a tumbleweed?
“How many cars are parked on the street?” she asks.
“What? I don’t know… let me see…”
She hears Lou counting under his breath. It doesn’t matter. One is too many. They are not on the same street.
“Forget it,” she interrupts his counting, “I have none.”
“None? There are at least ten on these two blocks.”
A shiver runs up her spine as the first fat raindrops start to fall on her head. She turns and sprints back to the front door, leaping inside just as the deluge of rain fills the empty street.
“Raining,” she says to Lou, knowing with certainty he is not experiencing the same thing.
“Huh, nothing here. Weird.”
It is more than weird. Wiping her hand over her face, she glances at the dog. Rufus whines again at her feet and returns to stare at the couch.
“Rufus knows something.”
“What do you mean?” Lou asks.
“He keeps staring at the couch and whining.”
“I just came back in and sat down on the couch,” Lou replies.
This cannot be happening, she thinks again. Can the dog see Lou and she cannot? How would that be possible? Her eyes dart over the cushions, trying to see what he sees. She sees no indent, no sign of any body. Nothing. If only she could talk to Rufus to find out what he knew. Stupid dogs and their sixth sense anyway.
As she thinks about the possibilities and what to do next, she meanders to the couch and sits down.
Rufus’s bark startles her back into a standing position.
“I think I just sat on you,” she tells Lou.
“Is that what he is barking about? Although I wish you were here right now. I’m getting a little freaked out myself.”
“Me too. But he knows something. It’s freaking me out the way he’s staring at the couch.”
“I always loved that dog more than you,” Lou jokes.
“Not the time for funnies,” Toni replies.
“Sorry. Babe, it’ll be okay.”
“Just don’t hang up until we fix this. What if we disconnect and never see each other again?”
She wraps her arms tightly around herself warding off the chill that now seems to be engulfing her. Out on the street, the rain continues to assault the asphalt and sidewalk. She has never seen such an outpouring before. She jumps as thunder cracks overhead.
“I guess you didn’t hear that then?”
There is no response. She pulls the phone away from her ear and stares at it. The screen is blank.
Lou is gone.