12/24/2019 – I get ready for sleep, undressing and slipping between my worn flannel sheets. The apartment still smells of baking cheese from the gratin and I cannot hear my neighbors. It’s an old apartment, built in 1906, the year of the Great Earthquake. The walls are thick, but haunted.
There was at least one murder in the building and sometimes late at night I think it. The killing happened at 10:10 am on March 24, 1927. I don’t know which apartment number, so I wonder if they were killed in my cozy apartment. All accounts are somewhat nebulous. Mrs. Klatt and her pal Mrs. Vera Olsen, were both murdered first thing in the morning by Roy, a handsome pugilist and a petty gangster, after Mrs. Klatt demanded that Roy stop chasing her 15-year-old daughter, Genevieve. Genevieve was upstairs visiting neighbors at the time. The mother was shot as she opened the apartment door to the killer, and Vera was shot while in her bed. Roy was arrested for the double murder by San Francisco police Officer O’Brien two days later. Roy’s ex-wife, Lettie, denounced him as a “beast and a brute” in the courts and he’d been arrested for beating another 15-year-old girl a few years earlier. Roy was a bad egg, that’s for sure. I lie in bed, covered by quilts and think about murder. I wonder about Mrs. Klatt’s first name. None of the news articles give it, only her husband’s first name. Somehow I don’t think her name was “Fred.”
Thinking about murder makes me nod off, but then I wake up early in the morning, the way that old folks do, that restless slipping out of sleep, discarding all dreams as frivolous. Waking at 3:30 am, I hear the clip-clop of ghostly horse hooves rounding the corner in front of my apartment and want to rush outside to join them. Is it Roy?
“I don’t know
Why some say that the horse is a noble animal, the pigeon is beautiful
And why no vulture dwells in any person’s cage
I wonder why the clover is interior to alfalfa
One must wash eyes, look differently to things words must be washed
The word must be wind itself, the word must be the rain itself”
From “The Water’s Footsteps” by Sohrab Sepehri