I know how this sounds; it sounds like I’m losing it. But I promise you, it’s all real. I can’t make you believe it’s (blank), but you can if you want. You should. It might happen again. I probably won’t be there next time.

It was some time ago, in the heat of late summer. Maybe six or seven (blank)s ago. I was (blank)ing out of my (blank) at the time, you know, the usual stuff. It was tough going. I wasn’t making much, and there was this whole new vibe against people like me. Back in the (blank), people used to trust each other more. Kids went out and played in the cul de sac, now it’s all, “if you see something, say something.” When I come around, people immediately shut their doors and make like no one’s home.

Anyways, I digress.

I was assigned a new route to follow and was going along my way when I heard (blank) from one of the (blank)s. It sounded like a scream. I know it wasn’t my place, but I decided I had better make sure it was just a (blank)wife who had nicked her thumb on a knife, and not something worse.

The (blank) was set on a hill, a long granite tongue of a sidewalk leading up to the front door. It was a Cape style (blank), with those windows shaped like little (blank)s sticking out from the roof. I went up the steps, framed by tall hedges. In the space between them, you could catch glances of the garden, with its carefully selected colors. Those flashes of (blank)s — (blank), (blank), (blank) — they stuck in my head. I see them when I close my eyes.

The door was (blank). I pulled open the screen and stuck my head indoors. Somehow I knew that if I actually stepped (blank), I wouldn’t be allowed to return to my route. The interior was warmly and tastefully decorated, reflecting a sense of balance against comfort. No inch was misused, nor were the walls crowded in (blank)s. I remember that too.

There were no (blank)s that came from the house, and even the road behind me seemed to quiet, (blank)ing in over my shoulder. I could hear the (blank) in my ears and the electricity in the walls, but no suggestion of the animal (blank) I had heard earlier. The open living room fed into a dining (blank) at the back of the (blank), with the kitchen on my left wrapping around to the back. I could just see the diamond (blank) and (blank) tiling of the floor in the corner of my eye. All the lights were on, as if some dinner party had just been in attendance, and the host was struck with a sudden impulse to bring all his guests into the back (blank) and wait in hushed silence for some surprise.

I called out “(blank)!” No one (blank)ed me. A car rolled up the street, and I checked to confirm it wasn’t a (blank) cruiser. My own (blank) was up the block where I had left it, watching dumbly as I entered the stranger’s (blank).

There was no one in the (blank). All the appliances were left on, waiting. The (blank) (blank) table was set for four, though it looked more like a bachelor’s (blank), or a young married couple. There was no evidence of (blank) anywhere, the way they leave their mark on everything.

I called out “(blank)” again, to be sure, and tip toed across the floor, my palms sweaty. It was as if the (blank) had been prepared for the first one to enter and accept their role as (blank).

Then a (blank) from the ceiling, something landing (blank)ly on the floor. There was a scurrying, a (blank) of struggle. I went up the stairs, stepping on the outside of the (blank)s where they make the least noise. These old (blank)s are ornery, and free with giving up the secret tread of an (blank). I tucked the (blank) from the (blank) behind my back, as was their real purpose.

There were three (blank)s, and the one at the back of the (blank)way was (blank), inviting. The first time one commits a (blank), they are a (blank), the second time, they are thorough. I couldn’t see the point of ignoring the second (blank) now that I had already entered this (blank)‘s (blank).

A wardrobe had been shifted inside the study, revealing the trick of the (blank)‘s design. You could take a tour of each (blank), and never sense the space cleverly disguised by the furniture. How many years had it hidden something?

(blank) were on the floor, the two of them. (blank) was on (blank), and the other was on the (blank). From where I stood, I couldn’t tell what (blank) the (blank) was. I only knew that the (blank) entered easily, and by the time he understood (blank) else was there, that it was (blank) in the truest and most complete sense of the word, the (blank) had been withdrawn and replaced (blank) times.

Then came my Nagasaki. I made no choice, but a decision. Did you know that (blank) means to (blank)? Decide, suicide, fratricide, deicide. Choice-(blank)ing, self-(blank)ing, brother-(blank)ing, god-(blank)ing. I (blank)ed each in one moment of (blank). The (blank) was quick, easy, trained to (blank) heavier (blank)s for preparation of the (blank).

I know the (blank) would (blank) me.

The phone was (blank)ery in my fingers, but I managed to dial the (blank) and tell them the (blank). My (blank)s would not uncurl from the (blank), so I stopped trying. Downstairs, I looked at the (blank) of (blank) and (blank) with a sudden understanding of the (blank). You found me (blank)ing there, if you recall. I hope it was clear that I meant no (blank).

Please, (blank) have to (blank). What (blank) did was (blank) wrong. If (blank) had allowed either to (blank), there would be (blank) one to accept (blank). It is such that sometimes an (blank) must (blank), to (blank) the world (blank) (blank). Why else did we eat the (blank) in the (Blank)?

(blank) me or (blank) me, mine was the only true (blank) because it was the (blank) that will last. Had I (blank)ed either, there would have been no (blank) (blank) from that moment. The man would never be (blank)ed enough, except to be forever (blank)ed his (blank) (blank)es. The (blank) would never be (blank) of that torment, and (blank) would (blank) be a (blank) of (blank). I made (blank) neither (blank) could happen.

If you are (blank)ing or (blank)ing this, do not (blank); I am (Blank) re(blank), the (blank) himself. I (blank) now that (blank) was the (blank)est (blank). The (blank)ness to become the (blank), to become the (blank)ed (blank). (blank) me. (blank) (blank), (blank) will also be (blank).