This lovely 30 page story is just a prequel to Dean Koontz’ much anticipated novel: The City. The year is 1967 and the trio that would unravel the mysteries in the second book are just twelve. Amalia and her brother Malcolm Pomerantz are living with their parents next to an abandoned house. Their lives are simple, filled with Jazz and not talking to their parents.
Amalia said that something profound must have happened between our parents long ago, that they had hurt each other, that they’d said all they had to say about it, and that they couldn’t bring themselves to forgive each other, and that, therefore, they found it painful to talk to each other about anything . Amalia didn’t like to think the worst about anyone until they had proved themselves irredeemably vile.
Their town is quiet but there is something happening next door, in the empty house where a school teacher used to live.
Midtown bustle, the city is never silent, and long before you’re twelve years old, you learn to tune out its most familiar rattles, clashes, and percussions to get a good night’s rest.
The two siblings are really funny to hear and their dialogue, while quite mature for their age, is at the same time filled with love and understanding.
She threw a ribbon of potato skin at me, and it stuck to my face, and I said, “Sibling abuse,” and she said, “You ain’t seen yet.”
It is a tender story – more about the dynamics in a family rather than what’s happening next door.
Focused intently on the potato that she was skinning, Amalia said, “Something happened only if one or both of us insists it did. If both of us decide nothing happened, then nothing happened. You know what they say—if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to see it, then it didn’t fall. Okay, all right, I know that’s not how it goes. If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one to hear it, maybe it didn’t make a sound. But my version is a logical corollary. Entirely logical. No tree fell in the Clockenwall house, so there was nothing to hear or see. You’re twelve, so maybe that doesn’t make sense to you, but when you’ve had a few more years of math and a course in logic, you’ll understand. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Someone is turning on lights at night in the old house, and Malcolm and his sister Amalia decide to pay the new neighbours a visit. Except there are no new neighbours, only sad revelations, and great danger. To reveal more would ruin this touching and enthralling short story I truly loved.
Koontz’s optimistic attitude in regard to the human spirit, and the spiritual in general, and his sometimes common-sense conservative tone, sets him apart for this reader — and is most certainly the reason some don’t like his work, if comments from readers about his books in general are to be believed.
I won’t spoil it too much but I can definitely say it’s a ghost story and it does involve some creepy-ass old man leery ghost. Not just leery – but a former pedo who was never caught and had kidnapped and tortured a young girl in his basement for years before he killed her. And then he died before he retired at 62.
Moral of the story – In a quiet town, you never really know who your neighbours REALLY are.