She had a monkey on her back unlike any that had ever been
carried before...by anyone...
"The Girl on the Terrace"
by William Spain
Vol. 1 No. 6 July, 1959
It was a hot humid afternoon
in July when I first saw her; she walked out onto her terrace and stood
there lost in thought, her hands resting lightly on the railing. She was
a shockingly beautiful girl, tall and slim with short-cropped shiny black
hair. Her body was covered by a white silken robe sashed loosely at the
waist. From my terrace I could look directly over and down into hers.
She was engrossed in the activity across the street;
they were in the beginning stages of tearing down a fifteen story apartment
building. The wrecking had progressed to the point that the top four stories
were now open and the skeleton of steel girders made a strange and unreal
picture outlined against the sky. Workmen clambered over the superstructure
like agile bugs, sparks flew from acetylene torches and a giant crane monotonously
swung back and forth, gently lowering severed beams to the street.
I had been attempting to live with this clamorous
demolition for several weeks. Writers aren't generally known as fussy people
but one thing they do demand is peace and quiet. Every day amid a symphony
of crashing walls, pounding sledges and roaring diesels I set up my battered
card table on the terrace and at tempted to work. Nothing much had been
accomplished thus far but I was too stubborn to move. I was accustomed
to my terrace with its ninth floor view and refused to be driven away.
But now a new distraction had presented itself. Her apartment was in the
same building as mine but several floors lower and to the east.
As if aware of being watched she suddenly turned
and glanced up in my direction. I immediately looked away and tried to
appear busy at my typewriter. A few moments later I shyly ventured another
look, only to find I was the one now being watched. I met her eyes and
with an effort of will prolonged the contest.
It was she who broke the engagement; she turned
away and moved across her terrace to a lounge chair. Casually, almost haughtily,
with her back still to me she began to slip out of her robe. The silken
material slid over tan rounded shoulders, down the straight column of her
back, over the curved smoothness of her posterior and then to the floor.
My mouth must have hung open.
She was nude!
She turned, giving me a full view, then gracefully
settled herself on the lounge chair, arranging her legs to take full advantage
of the hot sun. Her body was long and lean and fully tanned. With a careless
gesture she rested her head against a soft pillow and closed her eyes.
From the distance I could swear that the faint suggestion of a smile had
formed on her lips.
My typewriter, my work, every thing was forgotten.
I leaned forward and stared down at her. She was the most startling creature
I had ever seen.
I sat there for some time in the stillness of the
hot afternoon sun and watched her. And then it struck me. Stillness! I
quickly turned and there they were, at least forty of them, all workmen,
hanging from girders and cross beams completely engrossed in the terrace
below mine. I should have laughed but I couldn't. Their foreman appeared
and they grudgingly returned to their work; they moved along the catwalk
of steel girders, their heads half turned to keep in view the still form
of the girl below. Whenever they could, their eyes darted in her direction.
She was a magnet and they the filings of iron.
I know very little about wrecking but I'm sure that
any efficiency expert would have been appalled at the amount of work completed
that afternoon. The workmen moved as if in a trance; they were men obsessed
with a vision. Obsessed the same as I.
The girl opened her eyes several hours later. For
a moment she lay there staring up into the clear sky, then with the sensuous
grace of an animal she stretched, every muscle in her body quivering. She
seemed completely unaware of her surroundings. As she stood and pulled
on her robe you would have thought she was standing on a desolate beach
with miles of barren sand stretching out on either side. When she departed
it was minutes before I could break the spell and pull away my eyes. All
thoughts of continuing work were forgotten.
The next day as the sun moved to its zenith I found
myself in a state of nervous anxiety wondering, hoping, even praying she
would re-appear. The workmen across the way seemed in a similar state.
Their eyes constantly turned in the direction of her terrace. And then
at the stroke of one she appeared. Her movements were identical with the
first day. She dropped her robe and assumed her position on the lounge
It was on this second day that the first accident
occurred. My eyes were fixed in her direction when I heard the scream.
Across the street one of the workmen was pitifully clinging to the ridging
of a steel girder; his acetylene torch, still showering sparks, fell in
a gentle arc and struck the solid part of the building several floors below.
The bitter smell of scorched flesh reached me from even that distance.
As his fellow workmen helped him down I could see the gaping hole in his
pants leg and I could imagine the charred flesh that must be underneath.
I looked in the direction of the girl but she was
still asleep. The noise had not disturbed her. The fullness of her breasts
rose and fell in an even, fascinating rhythm.
In the days that followed she seldom broke her routine.
My whole reason for existence seemed to revolve around her daily appearances.
But despite this I gradually became aware that my interest was being divided
between her and the building across the way. A strange contest was taking
place. Within a week there had been two more accidents. One of the men
in a careless moment had badly crushed his foot with a sledge hammer; another
had slipped and fallen three stories. Except for a temporary wooden flooring
below he would have been killed.
For the first time the workmen seemed to realize
what this girl was doing to them. That glimmering nude body on the terrace
below was distracting their attention...and working fifteen stories above
the ground, the vague shadow of death eagerly awaits the foolhardy.
It became a game, a dangerous game, and the fascination
of it caught even me. No longer did their eyes furtively seek her out.
They were making a conscious effort not to look at her. With a singleness
of purpose they all stared fixedly at the job in front of them. Behind
those rigidly held heads a tremendous battle was taking place. But it was
a game they could not help but lose. They were fighting the strongest foe
of all...their own instincts.
There was one workman in particular that caught
my attention. He was a powerful young man and he moved through the maze
of girders like an aerialist, always sure, always steady. Of them all he
had the most control. Never once did I see his eyes wander in her direction.
He seemed to know that danger lurked on that sunny terrace below. During
her two hour presence every day he worked with a stiffness of concentration,
his head always averted.
I was a spectator with a box seat when it happened
an unwilling spectator. It was a sunny afternoon of the second week. The
young work man was moving along an open interior girder when he came to
a cutaway gap of about five feet before the outer beam which skirted the
edge of the building. Head down in concentration he was preparing to leap
to the final beam when the girl shifted her position on the lounge chair
below. I caught the movement from the corner of my eye. So did the young
workman. As he jumped, his gaze for a split second flickered in her direction.
It was enough to throw him off. In the moment that he moved over the gap
I knew he had overshot his mark; he knew it too. With the agility of a
cat he tried to twist his body in mid-air but it was too late. His right
arm shot out to grasp an upright girder but he was inches short; the heel
of his left foot grazed the outer side of the horizontal beam and he tottered,
then plunged over the side.
Several stories down, a wooden frame slanting up
and outward from the side of the building had been built to catch falling
debris. His body struck the edge of this with a shuddering jolt, held for
a moment, then slowly pinwheeled over the side and down into the yawning
canyon of the street below.
Thirteen stories down!
For a moment I thought I was going to be sick. I
had never seen a man die like that. I gazed down into the girl's terrace.
She had turned on her side, the fatal move that caused the distraction.
Her eyes were closed in sleep and there was a relaxed softness to her face;
between her teeth the pink tip of her tongue protruded slightly.
It was past noon the next day when I found myself
standing in front of her door. I had been up half the night trying to decide
what to do. The picture of that falling workman was indelibly printed on
my mind. She had to know what she was doing. In answer to my hesitant
knock the door opened and she stood there before me.
She was even more lovely up close. She wore the
same silken robe and its folds lay gracefully along the lines of her figure.
She was tall and the erectness of her posture made her seem even taller.
Her eyes were the color of smoke.
"Miss Shurman ?" I had gotten her name from the
"Could I speak with you for a moment? We're neighbors.
I have the terrace above yours."
Her expression remained unchanged. "Yes, I know."
She regarded me thoughtfully, then turned and walked away from the door
leaving it open. I followed her in, watching the soft silk of her gown
as it moved across her hips.
She moved to a low marble coffee table and, bending
over, opened a small teak cigarette box. For a moment the white robe fell
loosely open at the top; she then straightened up and lit the cigarette.
There was no immodesty in the movement. It was the careless action of a
self sufficient person. As far as she was concerned I could have been a
million miles away.
She watched me over the glowing end of her cigarette.
"Mr. Scott, isn't it? Apartment 9E ?"
"Yes," I said, rather surprised.
"You see, I've inquired about you. Is there anything
I can do for you, Mr. Scott ?"
I had a speech prepared. I'd rehearsed it in my
mind all morning, but now standing in front of her it seemed inadequate,
out of place. "About your sun bathing," I said weakly.
"What about my sun bathing ?"
I tried to smile. "You're being watched."
"I'm aware of that," she said.
"You don't mind ?"
A slight trace of humor crept into her eyes, the
humor of a cat watching a mouse. "No, Mr. Scott, I don't mind. Do you ?"
"Well, no," I said. I felt rather foolish. "But
there are men working across the way. When you're out on your terrace they
can see you."
"I can't help that."
"But they're working fifteen stories above the ground!"
She frowned. "Mr. Scott, if those men want to watch
me that's their business. If I want to sun myself on my own terrace that's
my business." It was obvious she was getting bored with the whole
"But you don't understand," I insisted. "What you're
doing is dangerous. Those men up there can't concentrate...
Her eyes sought out a golden sunburst clock across
the room. "Mr. Scott, I appreciate your intentions, whatever they are,
but as you can see it's getting late. It's almost one and I have to be
out on my terrace. Now if you hurry back to your apartment like a good
boy I'm sure you'll be able to play the peeping tom all afternoon without
It was like a slap in the face. The insult startled
me, then anger surged in to fill the void. I told her everything right
from the beginning.
I told her of the workmen across the way and how
they always tried to watch her. I told her of the man who burned himself
and the one with the smashed foot and the other who fell three stories
and was carried away unconscious with the blood still running from his
mouth. And then I told her about the last man, the young workman who tried
not to look at her but couldn't help himself. How he made the fatal misstep
when he glanced in her direction and plunged to his death. I told her it
wasn't an accident. None of them were accidents. Her presence had been
the cause; her beautiful naked presence had caused it all.
When I stopped a heavy stillness invaded the room;
the air seemed damp and compressing. Her face was like brittle parchment
and through her tan a dull heavy flush of red slowly spread to each cheek.
We must have looked like two mannequins standing across from one another,
the sullen air of tension hanging between us. I knew I had said too much.
It was her movement that broke the spell. She turned
away and walked across the room. Her back was to me and a slight tremor
seemed to run through her body. At that moment I detested myself. I could
picture the horror that must be running through her mind. I moved up behind
her and the sweet fragrance of her perfume drifted back to me. There was
something terribly sensual about her, a pulsating warmth and life that
seemed to radiate from her body. I placed my hands on her shoulders and
the flesh felt firm and solid under the robe. I wanted to console her but
the tanned column of her neck was there before me and without thinking
I bent forward and gently kissed the back of it. I must have been out of
It was like unleashing a hungry tiger among a pack
of rabbits. With startling swiftness she twisted out from under my hands
and, turning, struck me full in the mouth with her clenched fist. The violence
of the blow made me stumble backwards.
Her face was twisted now, the most savage fury I
had ever seen. "Keep your filthy rotten hands off me!" she screamed. "Do
you hear? You think you can paw me? I don't want you! I don't want anyone
The suddenness and fury of the attack left me stunned.
Her eyes had a look of death to them. I slowly backed away and she followed
me like a stalking cat.
"You make me sick! You all make me sick! What do
you want from me? I can't stand to have you touch me." A dangerous smile
curled at the corners of her mouth. "You want to look? You want to really
see some thing?" With this she paused then, in a frenzy of motion, tore
the silken robe from her body and threw it. The wadded ball of silk struck
me full in the chest. She stood there proudly looking down at her nakedness.
"All right, go ahead...look !" Her voice was high pitched and shrill.
Somehow I let myself out of her apartment. Standing
outside her door I suddenly felt tired, very tired and a little frightened...frightened
of something I couldn't quite understand. My upper lip was already swelling
where she had struck me. The elevator operator looked at me strangely as
I rode up to my floor.
My own apartment was cool and comforting, a place
of refuge. I looked at my hands and they were trembling; the humiliation
of the whole scene was still vivid in my mind. I stumbled into my bathroom
and spent several minutes splashing cold water over my face. From there
I slowly walked out onto the terrace.
The hot penetrating rays of the sun felt good. Already
I could feel the knotted muscles of my body loosen. Across the way the
skeleton structure of the building loomed be fore me. Among the maze of
girders the workmen moved to their appointed tasks. Inadvertently my eyes
shifted to the terrace below.
The caressing warmth of the afternoon suddenly chilled.
A terrifying awareness flooded my consciousness. Why hadn't I guessed?
Even now she was beautiful. The cold frightening
beauty of a spider waiting for its prey. Her eyes were closed and for a
moment the soft breath of a breeze ruffled her hair.
From the distance I could swear that the faint suggestion
of a smile had formed on her lips.