Miss Malteneva got up early this morning. It appeared to have rained all night. It was still pouring outside. It was cold, too.
The unmarried, middle-aged woman put some old newspapers in the fireplace to warm the place up. The radiators weren’t working, so it was a good thing she could use traditional heating. No wonder she couldn’t sleep well at night in this climate. She sighed quietly. She hadn’t really wanted to move to Hellberry Street, but as she had inherited this house it would have seemed petty of her not to move.
She went outside to see if the paper and the milk had been delivered. But no. Of course there were delays in this kind of weather.
It was then that she noticed! In shock she took a step back and gaped at the horrible sight that met her. Something sick, incomprehensible and terrible which radiated its hello out to the rainy day! The 3 which indicated the number of her house had fallen down! Remaining was a seemingly innocent 4, smiling at her. She should have known! What else was to be expected when you live at number 43! Sooner or later, one of the digits was bound to fall down. She picked up the number 3 from the doorstep and brought it inside.
It was probably about 11 o’clock in the morning when somebody rang at her door. She must have fallen asleep on the sofa for a moment, because she jumped as she was woken by this doorbell outside which unfortunately was used so very rarely. Not many people were interested in visiting a single lady like her.
When she opened the door there was nobody there. Not a soul in sight. But on the doorstep there was a parcel. There was no name on it, but it was addressed to no. 4 Hellberry Street! Oh dear, now somebody had mistaken the address because of the hideous number 3 that had fallen down.
Miss Malteneva took the parcel inside. Not because she was curious about the contents, but because she just couldn’t leave a parcel out in the rain. And she wasn’t up to delivering it to the right address right now.
She must have dozed off again, because for the second time she was woken by the doorbell. But she couldn’t have slept for long either, because it was still not past 11.
She went and opened the door. Outside stood a man she had seen before, but whom she couldn’t quite place. He was considerably younger than her, he might have been in his twenties, but his face bore the signs of a young boy who at far too young an age had faced the realities of adult life. Now she remembered! He was a childhood friend of Stigvarf, her nephew. Both Stigvarf and this man whose name she did not know, had been friendly with her neighbour, Bakrero, in number 45.
«May I come in?» he asked coldly.
«Yes, of course. Isn’t Bakrero in?»
«Oh yes. He just can’t let me in at the moment, for natural reasons.»
He hung his wet coat on the coat rack. And just as she thought he would unlace his shoes and take them off, the situation took a new turn: For now an episode followed that she would never let slip off her cornia! The man ran straight into her living room and started rummaging awfully. Appalled she went in after him.
«Goddamn it! Don’t you have yesterday’s paper?!?»