There is magic afoot behind these curtains. Helen was sure of it.
“Come on Helen let’s get dressed. We are going to have lunch downtown on the terrace at Miller and Rhoads. Won’t that be fun?” Ginny asked her daughter as the little girl stood peering around the sheer fabric watching her father’s car drive away with her brother Gordy and sister, Sallee on board.
These curtains were one of Helen’s most favorite of all of the scads of things in her parents’ house. As she stood there, she remembered back to last spring when Ethel undid those magic brass barrel-shaped screws on the either side of the small, not more than six inches long brass rods. Two rods a piece for each sidelight and another two for —what did Ethel call that thing? A transit? No, transom that was it.
The transom light had the same brass rods the sidelights had; only there were as long as the door was wide. It amused Helen to think the skinny sidelight curtains were tall and thin while the transom light curtain was very wide and short.
That day Ethel asked Stanley the yardman to come into the house, something that almost never happened. He had to climb on a stepladder so high that it looked from Helen’s perspective a dizzying height and unscrew those same barrel shaped things, eight of them.
After unscrewing the first rod the one on the right side. She could tell it was on the right by holding up her hands. The one that didn’t make an “L” was the right. Sallee said so. He freed the rod from the bounds of the magical barrels. They had to be magic. She had thoroughly inspected each brass rods. There was nothing at the end of the rod to hold it up. The same was true of the brass bracket on the wall. There was nothing else there either except a few screw-like threads-so magic it had to be. When Stanley took off the barrels on the transom, he lifted the rods and fabric off altogether and handed it all to Ethel who was standing below holding the ladder steady.
The curtains themselves were also magic. First there was the fabric opaque, but only just, like she imagined fairy wings. But the thing that really made her sure there was magic involved with these curtains was the lovely precise pleats in which they fell. When Stanley shucked the fabric from the supporting rod, it floated to the floor soft as goose down and as transparent as a bridal veil. Suddenly the front hall was awash in strong glaring sunlight which only moments before had been all soft defused luminescence. The only thing that had changed was the removal of these long thin wafts of fabric. The transom curtain grew alarmingly wide as Ethel removed it from its two rods.
Helen picked up the curtain as Stanley repositioned the ladder to the other side of the door. Two things immediately made her know without a doubt that there was more afoot here than the usual everyday. When she placed the curtain over her head as if a veil she could see clearly, almost as if there was nothing there. How was it possible that a cloth was so clear that you see through it yet could make light disappear? It must be the same magical stuff from which the emperor had his new clothes fashioned. That the fabric had tripled in width by floating to the floor and lost every single pleat only cemented the deal. These curtains were supernatural Helen knew that for sure.
She couldn’t say why Ethel would fuss, “Doan put dem ol’ curtains on yo head. Lord child I jest done finished washin’ yer hair.” The child was sure that nothing possessed with this much magic could possibly be dirty. When Stanley returned several hours later to repeat the process in reverse Helen noticed that soft ivory fabric had not only turned bright white but had re-pleated itself.
“Okay, can we go to that store where they make such good milkshakes instead?” She said and turned to follow her mother upstairs. “Timberlakes?”
“Do they make good milkshakes?” Helen asked and turned to follow her mother upstairs.