A Story About Nothing

The car idled.  “Aren’t you even going to look?” Bobbie Lee asked.

“There ain’t nothing there.” Betty folded her arms over her chest and nodded.

Bobbie Lee let out a puff of air and shook her head.  “I can’t believe you.  Why on earth would you come all this way if you weren’t even going to take one little peek?”

“To get a moment’s peace.”

“What? Now, Betty, how many times do I have to tell you to speak up.”

“Peace, woman.  Just one moment of peace.”

Bobbie Lee’s eyes widened.  Her mouth snapped shut and she sat back.  Her head jittered on her neck like a bobble dolls.  The moonlight snagged on the peaks in her skin, which was as crinkled as forgotten wrapping paper after Christmas.

Betty knew she didn’t look much different.

Bobbie Lee sat there for a long while before she turned the key.  The car sputtered into silence.  The lights dimmed.  She turned those off, too.  Her finger, grey and ghostly, drifted in front of Betty, pointed out the window at that damned doorway.  Then she fumbled around in the dark.  Metal clanged on metal and the door creaked open.

“Are you even supposed to be driving at night? Dr. Ottman passes just about anyone these days.  Really, it’s a godawful thing.”

Bobbie Lee said nothing.  Instead, she pried herself out of the car, and hefted the flashlight with both hands. A narrow band of light emitted from the thing.  Bugs attacked it.

Betty jumped at each muffled thud and hard crack of bodies hitting the glass.  “Crazy old biddy.” She popped out her dentures, floated them in her mouth as she glared at the dashboard.  An owl hooted outside, and she couldn’t not see Bobbie Lee shuffling past the car and into the ditch.

She snapped her dentures into place, and threw her own door open.  The air was tepid, stirred only by the racket the crickets and moths made.  When she was standing by the car, she finally looked up at the field.

The door was the first thing she saw.  Aside from the fact it wasn’t attached to anything, it looked standard for these parts.  A weathered grey thing, with four panels and a bronze knob stained a dull shade of rust.  It looked normal aside from the second fact it was glowing.

Bobbie Lee limped through the field, made her way around the tumbleweeds and razor bush.

“Stubborn old witch.”  Betty dragged her feet through the dirt as she trailed after Bobbie Lee.

***

Bobbie Lee was from these parts.  And she wasn’t, too.  It was the time she spent following her Air Force husband around from New Mexico to Arizona that changed her.  The first time Betty had met her back home, the woman mentioned the doorway.  It started out innocently enough.

“Have you ever been on Route 207?”  Her catalogue-bought blouse and matching skirt fluttered with her movement as she lifted her arms up and, birdlike, settled her feathers.

“Plenty,” Betty said.  “Not that there’s much out there to see for the trouble.”

“There doesn’t have to be much. There just has to be one thing.  One significant thing.” Bobbie Lee stared at her so long, she thought the woman was having a fit.

“You stroking?”

“Have you seen it?”

“Seen what?”

“The door on 207.”

“Bobbie Lee, you’ve lost your mind.  There ain’t hardly a thing out there, except desert and armadillos.  And I don’t pay no mind to run down, old wrecks of buildings.”

“This door is not like anything you’ve ever seen before.” Her voice took on a strange lilt, became full of breath.

“I’ve seen doors before.”

“You’ve seen doors without a house?”

“Easy.  Hardware store, over on First and Main.”

“You’ve seen a door, in the middle of the desert, standing upright without no house around it.  A door, and nothing else.”

That’s when they knew Bobbie Lee was crazy.

***

“Look.  Just once.”

Betty tapped her middle finger against her purse.  “I thought you’d let go of this madness.  We all think so, you know.  Madness.”

“I am not crazy and if you’d take two seconds of your precious time to look out the damned window, you’d know it.”

“Have you seen yourself lately?  When was the last time you ran a brush through your hair, let alone wash it?”  Betty turned to Bobbie Lee, who sat in the driver’s seat of the Buick, and looked the woman over.

Bobbie Lee’s faded straw-colored hair was clumped into mistletoe bunches in some parts, and stood out perpendicular to her skull in others.  Her face was coated with grime, which congregated in her wrinkles like earthworm trails.  Alluvial fans of dirt spread out from her nostrils.

But nevermind her head.  Her feet were an ever-loving mess.  A homeless person couldn’t have looked worse.  Scuff marks gouged her house shoes.  Of course, the fact she was wearing house shoes out in public in the first place was a damned good sign Bobbie Lee had well and truly lost it.

It looked like she was wearing dirt socks.  Then there were the cracks in her heels, as intricate and layered as the Grand Canyon.

“I’m not crazy,” Bobbie Lee said.  She didn’t fuss with her hair.  It was like her body didn’t exist.  It was like the only thing that mattered was the door.

***

The buzzer buzzed for a good five seconds.

“That is just plain rude.”  Betty finished the stitch and set aside her reading glasses.  Another buzz vibrated through the house.  “Oh, for the love of—”

Again.  This time even longer.  Knuckles rapped against the window in the door.

“Coming!” Betty hollered.

Bobbie Lee’s shadow stained the curtain hanging over the window.

Betty twisted the skeleton key.  Click, click, click. “My Lord, Bobbie Lee.  Didn’t the devil deliver you himself.”

Bobbie Lee smiled.  Her teeth glowed, that was how dirty her face was.

“You have to come see it.”

“See what?”  Betty’s skin was already full of fire.

Bobbie Lee looked at her.  “You know what.”

“What in the Sam hell have you been up to?”

“It changed.”

“Bobbie Lee.  It would be nice it you could make some sense.  Just once in your life.”

She drifted through the door, and put her hands on Betty’s shoulders.  “I make as much sense as a person needs to make.  Now are you coming, or not?  It’ll be dark soon.”

Betty pursed her lips.

“I’ll drive.”

Just as much dirt coated the Buick as the woman.

***

Bobbie Lee must have been standing in the same place for days.  Two shallow holes, which didn’t match the surroundings, marred the place where she had come to rest.  She stood a couple of feet away from the wooden surface.

Once Betty arrived at the door, she realized Bobbie Lee looked at it without blinking.  Her right hand opened and closed, and every once in a while, her arm would twitch.

“You thinking about opening it?” Betty asked

“How can you not?”

She shook her head.  After all these years, here she was, standing in front of the door in the middle of the desert.  The woman hadn’t been lying.  It glowed around the edges, but no light came through the keyhole.  The doorknob was normal, only reflected the soft blue light whispering from the edge.

Betty shuffled around the door, stood behind where it should have been.  Instead of the door, all she could see was a rectangular swath of desert.  No road cut through that part.  No car waited in the dark.  There was no Bobbie Lee, either.

She reached out into the perfect scene.  Aside from the subtle change—so subtle she wondered if it was real—in the temperature, there was no difference between it and the real desert.  She walked through it, even, wandered a good ways into the scene.

Standing in silence, she breathed deep and waited.

Nothing.

Not a damned thing.

She shuffled back through to the desert she knew, shuffled back around to where there was a door, a woman and a strange blue glow.

“Did you try it?” Betty asked.

Bobbie Lee shook her head.

“Have you ever tried to open it?”

She shook her head again.

Betty nudged her.  “Do it now.”

Bobbie Lee stretched her fingers, lifted her hand.  When her fingers met the brass, they jerked away.

“What? What happened?”

“It—Nothing. It feels normal.”

“Go on then.”

Bobbie Lee gripped the knob.  She closed her eyes, breathed and turned it.  She twisted it in the other direction.  “No.  Nothing.”

“Let me.”  Betty grabbed the knob, but the door was locked. “Well, ain’t that a bitch.”  She turned to Bobbie Lee. “After all those years—”

Bobbie Lee wasn’t standing anymore.  She sat in front of the door, rocked herself and whispered something.  A blankness had come over her face.

Betty looked away, at the car, at the sky.

***

Betty pushed through the screen door, and nodded to the women in the room.

“Don’t you look lovely,” one of them said.  “Is that new?”

“Yes.”  She glanced at Bobbie Lee.  “Went all the way to the city, and a fancy store to find it.”  She moved toward the card table, and the woman of the desert, but the others shook their heads.  Stern expressions crept over their faces.  “Oh.  Well, then.  Just thought I’d stop by and say hello.  I suppose I’ll be off now.”

“We’ll see you next time.”

Betty managed a tight smile, and drifted back outside.  Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Bobbie Lee deflating with a sigh.  “Poor old witch,” she said as she ambled to her car.  It couldn’t be helped now.  What was done was done, and there were other things to worry about.

The car roared to life, and together they made their way to Route 207.  Dusk had settled in, but she found the door with ease.  After all, she’d been out here nearly every day since she and Bobbie Lee had tested the knob.

She pulled off on the shoulder.  Hands on the steering wheel, she breathed deep, but her heart still fluttered.  A giggle bubbled inside her, and escaped.

The door had changed just last week.  It no longer glowed.  It was probably back to the state Bobbie Lee had witnessed for decades.

“Come on, little darling.” Betty called herself after a nickname her grandmother had given her an age ago.  She got out of the car and, with her purse hanging from the crook of her arm, she walked into the desert.

As soon as she reached the door, she grabbed the knob and twisted it.  This time, it opened.

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