Outside Looking In

By Cat Weaver

Aida Boswell, sitting in an Uber, thumbing her phone, tweeted out a brief update. “This sunny fall day takes me to Savannah, GA, where I will visit the home of Maeve Tubbs, a morbidly obese housebound woman who ‘feels numbers.'”

Max had warned her that these irreverent little tweets struck a negative note, but Aida assured him that her following was aware that she loved her oddball peeps: the finger painters and wire twisters, lint-savers and spell casters: all of them, very much.

“Still,” Max Poe, who knew a lot about negative press, had countered, “not every follower is a follower.”

He’d hired her for her following. She was, he’d told her, the fresh young face of Max Poe’s newest venture, the UpSoFloating gallery, featuring strictly fresh totally unschooled artists.

Staring now, at a photo of Maeve, huge on her couch in her huge house covered in fantastic scrolling numbers, Aida wondered that anyone could possibly think that anyone would fail to see the woman as anything short of miraculous.

Maeve is housebound, so obese that every normal activity is a struggle. Still, she has managed to cover nearly every inch of her kitchen, huge panels in her living room, the canvas covered couch, chairs and the lampshades with intricate markings, most of them recognizable as numbers.

Scrolling through, Aida stares at the outside, front view of the house, top to bottom covered. These markings, along with those that form mosaic designs covering the steps and the path leading to the front door, were made by Maeve when she was newly married, 40 years ago now, a healthier (though always hefty) size. Roy, her husband who used to take care of her, had passed about five years ago now. Aida scrolls to a wedding photo: the two of them, looking through the photographer and straight at Aida. She, blond haired, huge red arms and florid face beaming. He, dark, defiant, glowering – shining black hair of an astounding height. Gorgeous, thinks Aida. Just too too.

“I been scratchin’ these numbers since I’s three, four. Didn’ know my numbers, but I’d be scratchin’em anyways. Onna sideboards, the floor. Onna bedposts. An rocks. Stuff.”

Every bit as astounding in person as in the photos, Maeve motions toward a kettle near her hand. On it, an elaborate number seven is scraped into the copper along with a few rudimentary symbols and a spiraling nine: “Did that’n when I was four.”

The entire kitchen space is etched with these numbers, mostly 7s. There are filler-markings too, recognizable as perhaps as numbers but not necessarily. Maeve calls these “omens” and has some tattooed up her right arm: claims they direct her gestures when she makes her drawings.

Aida takes Maeve’s hand, and holds the arm outward, taking a picture with her phone.
“Maeve, they are so beautiful. Who inked them for you?”

“Me,” she sniffs, looks over her shoulder, turns back to Aida.“Me an’ Roy,” she adds, then looks over her shoulder again, nods, and clarifies, “I drew’em. HE inked ‘em.” Aida stares over Maeve’s shoulder. There’s no one there, no object or animal either.

Maeve suddenly throws a rumpled sketch pad toward a small boy crouching near the doorway.

“Morris, You git offa that cat! “

The missile flutters wide of its mark. Young Morris was playing with a cat when I entered. It seems now that he’s hog tied the poor animal and is prying it’s eyes open.

“Bart! Bart you git down here an look after your brother.”

As the cat struggles, A stunningly beautiful boy appears on the stairwell.

“What about Morris?” He asks, peering down between the rails.

The cat escapes.

“Nothin’. Just. You look after your brother, goddammit. He’s a psycho torturin that cat again.”

Bart silently returns upstairs.

Looking again at Maeve, Aida notes now, the same beauty in her face. The broad cheekbones, huge window-wide eyes. Her hair blond in youth is now brilliant white. This family. They look unworldly.

“He been at that cat for a week now, tryn ya see into iz eyes.”

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