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Mr. William Finch stood quietly in the dark and blowing attic all morning and afternoon for three days. For three days in late November, he stood alone, feeling the soft white flakes of Time falling out of the infinite cold steel sky, silently, softly, feathering the roof and powdering the eaves. He stood, eyes shut. The attic, wallowed in seas of wind in the long sunless days, creaked every bone and shook down ancient dusts from its beams and warped timbers and lathings. It was a mass of sighs and torments that ached all about him where he stood sniffing its elegant dry perfumes and feeling of its ancient heritages. Ah. Ah.
Listening, downstairs, his wife Cora could not hear him walk or shift pr twitch. She imagined she could only hear him breathe, slowly out and in, like a dusty bellows, alone up there in the attic, high in the windy house.
"Ridiculous," she muttered.
When he hurried down for lunch the third afternoon, he smiled at the bleak walls, the chipped plates, the scratched silverware, and even at his wife!
"What's all the excitement?" she demanded.
"Good spirits is all. Wonderful spirits!" he laughed. He seemed almost hysterical with joy. He was seething in a great warm ferment which, obviously, he had trouble concealing. His wife frowned.
"What's that smell?"
"Smell, smell, smell?" He jerked his greying head back and forth.
"Sarsaparilla." She sniffed suspiciously. "That's what it is!"
"Oh, it couldn't be!" His hysterical happiness stopped as quickly as if she'd switched him off. He seemed stunned, ill at ease, and suddenly very careful.
"Where did you go this morning?" she asked.
"You know I was cleaning the attic."
"Mooning over a lot of trash. I didn't hear a sound. Thought maybe you weren't in the attic at all. What's that?" She pointed.
"Well, now how did those get there?" he asked the world.
He peered down at the pair of black spring-metal bicycle clips that bound his thin pants to his bony ankles.
"Found them in the attic," he answered himself. "Remember when we got out on the gravel road in the early morning on our tandem bike, Cora, forty years ago, everything fresh and new?"
"If you don't finish that attic today, I'll come up and toss everything out myself."
"Oh, no," he cried. "I have everything the way I want it!"
She looked at him coldly.