Chapter 92 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

Jim got home from work at twenty minutes after six. He entered the Asylum, tired and glad to be home.

He started towards the stairs, planning to go straight up to his room, but he heard some strange noises coming from the kitchen and went that way instead, in order to investigate.

What he saw amazed him. A hole had appeared in the ceiling of the kitchen, with plaster and broken bits of wood scattered all over the floor. Two legs protruded from the hole above him. The legs were wearing a pair of patched old jeans, which Jim recognized as belonging to Pauline.

"Pauline?" he said, "Are you OK?"

He heard Pauline's voice shouting in the room above him. "Jim? Oh, thank God! Help me! The floor collapsed under me! I'm stuck!"

Jim felt a rush of adrenaline as he ran up the stairs to rescue his housemate. His mind was crowded with confused thoughts. Are all the floors in this house that weak? If she's really stuck, how can I get her out? How long has she been like this? Where's everyone else?

Pauline's room was located directly over the kitchen, and Jim burst in without knocking. Pauline's upper half was sticking up from a hole in the floor near the back of her room. She was facing away from Jim. On hearing the noise of his entrance, she said "Boy, am I glad you're here, Jim. I've been stuck like this for an hour."

Jim, nearing panic, knelt down at Pauline's side. "What can I do? Are you hurt? Can you move at all?"

Then he looked at Pauline's face, and nearly died of astonishment and embarrassment. It wasn't her at all. It was a mannequin.

Pauline burst out laughing and emerged from her hiding place behind the bed. Peter and Paul also popped out, laughing, from their spots behind piles of bulky clutter.

"We got you!" they howled.

What they had done, of course, was to bolt the lower half of the mannequin to the ceiling in the kitchen, and the upper half to the floor in Pauline's room. Then Pauline had realistically painted the ceiling and floor around the edges of the mannequin, so that both looked like they had gaping holes. Lastly, they'd scattered broken plaster, dust, and dirt onto the floor, and had dressed the two parts of the mannequin in Pauline's clothes.

Jim had fallen right into the trap. Pauline and the twins screamed with laughter.

Later that evening, they repeated the practical joke, with varying degrees of success, on Lynda, Suzanne, and Wanda, and also Torrence and Maria.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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