Van der Plank House
Room replica: various furnishings
May stops at the entrance to an old bedroom and looks in at a four-poster bed covered by a patterned white quilt. Next to the bed is a false window with a view of a painted forest and undulating hills. A small chandelier gleams in the center of the ceiling. She can still hear the sounds of the party in the distance: bad jazz, the tipsy small talk of a few hundred bankers. She leans against the Plexiglas barrier and looks out at the painted hills. I’m not going back to the party, she tells herself. I’m not leaving, either. It would be nicer, she decides, to stay here, to take a seat on the bed and look out at the painted hills. Later she could lie down. She remembers reading a book when she was young about children hiding out in a museum and sleeping in the beds. She imagines pulling the frail white quilt up around her.
She tosses her shoes and her purse over the rail and watches them settle on the carpet. The room’s no longer still: it's as if she's thrown a stone into a pond. She hikes up her dress, throws a thigh over the railing, and tries to hoist herself over with a scissor kick. Her left foot catches on the rail, and she tumbles clumsily to the floor, giving a little yelp as her breath gets knocked out of her. She lies there, head reeling, looking up at the icy underside of the chandelier, which the thud of her fall has set swaying.
She gets up and goes to sit on the bed. A musty smell overtakes her. The quilt’s full of dust. The bedside table has a light layer of dust on it also. She smudges it with her finger. There's a whorled glass bottle on the table she'd like to pick up and examine, but it's bolted to the table. She pulls back the quilt. There are no sheets underneath or any mattress, just hard planks and a cloth tarp. The pillow-shapes underneath aren't real pillows: just dummies made of cardboard. She remakes the bed and stands and dusts off her dress, then stops suddenly when she hears a rustling noise. Something is moving and scratching in the shadows between the bed and the floor. May leans over and looks down. She screams. A rat. It's enormous, the size of a small cat. It sniffs at the air and peers up at her, approaching her calmly, as if it’s been expecting her. She screams again, picks up her shoes and throws them at it. The rat scurries back under the bed. May turns, hoists herself back over the barrier and runs.