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The Maid´s Bell by Mark Tuller


In the house where I grew up there was a small room in the attic, with a dormer window and faded flowery wallpaper, where my father kept potted geraniums during the winter. The rest of the attic was uninsulated and roughly planked. Downstairs in the dining room screwed on the wall was a press-button, evidently to activate a buzzer or bell but not at present working. It was a beautiful, discreet mechanism, from the age before plastic, a round, black ivory button not larger than a pea, surrounded by a stained and shellacked wooden casing with milled ridges and swirls, like decorative carving. I would unscrew the casing and peer at the old wiring and metal contacts. I would press the ivory button again and again. I searched the house for the other end of this mechanism. But I think it ended upstairs in the maid’s room among the geraniums, some little bell or buzzer or chime, perhaps covered by insulation and faded wallpaper, or perhaps just gone, making a silent spectral summons each time I pushed.

“I want you. Come here. Attend to me.”

Mark Tuller lives in Encinitas, California.  Before retiring, he was a lawyer for Verizon Wireless in New Jersey. Tuller moved to California with his wife to try something totally different, and took up poetry.

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