s q u u b d o t c o m
This Mr. Stevens leaves bubbles in my head, secretly.
You'd think I'd be over there with you, Alice, and the typewriter. I'm not like that, though, I do not die inside out. When you heard it before didn't it sound like the tape was coming out of the rollers?
I'm watching the one in the corner, he's got his bigeyes in and he's obviously out to get someone. Could be me, or you. He thinks he's got it all in the palm of his hand, and all I see there are the little objects that don't make sense. I saw them somewhere before, in a shop I was in that didn't have any doors to get out. Somehow, though...
Mr. Stevens is talking. You look like you're asleep. "..like you're asleep, boy," he's saying.
"I'm not, my brother. I'm not. Check your clerk, there," I tell him, pointing to you. Sorry to give you up, give out, but I've found that if I don't watch my baubles I end up getting fucked in the ass by seven guys whose faces I never see. Not a pleasant thing. For me, anyway.
"I'll mind the store, boy. Now, was there something you were interested in seeing?"
I'm still staring at the guy in the corner. He's pale, in those bigeyes, and he's still fidgeting with those little shapes. "Pay the man, he's got a knife bigger than your head," he says. I look up but I don't see his mouth moving. Was he not talking, or did I look up too late?
I turn back to Mr. Stevens. "I couldn't find the sun outside. I was hoping you'd have one to sell me. I've got to hang it before the little guys come out of the corners." I think I was trying to distract him when I said that. My eyes keep darting around. Mr. Stevens starts to look nervous. His papery hands are twitching, ever so slightly. In his eyes I can remember that fountain, with the dirty water. There were children swimming in there. Captain Ron said the water wasn't dirty, just stained with sap from trees.
"I'd like you to leave, son," Mr. Stevens says. I turn to the guy in the corner but he's gone. The little objects are there, instead, on a stool. Was he in that stool?
Sleep had eluded me once again. My bed clothes were far too binding. Sometimes, when the sleep wouldn't come, I'd try to write the melodies down. This was somewhat difficult because I had never learned to read or write music. I knew of the notes, whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, and so on. I'd been living my life in 7/8 time signature. The time signature changes. Onward and upward.
It was a Thursday, crisp and shallow. Alice and I were the only ones left in the bank. Usually I was the first to leave, but I had decided to catch up on some paper work. She was there, as always, writing on her lavender paper, the slight scratching of her pencil drawing me ever deeper into a world not at all like this one. I didn't notice the snow. It was half past 10 when I got up to leave. The doors, which opened outwards, could not be budged. A million tunes came to me. "Looks like we're stuck." It was as if I was speaking for the first time, my words were strained, my voice crackled and popped. I was filled with a new light. She said nothing. The light faded, the room went grey again. I made my way up the steps to the boss' office. The door was locked of course, but I knew where he kept the key. Behind the plant. Laughter, make mine a torch! I made my way into his office and sat behind the large cherrywood desk. In the lefthand drawer there was a bottle of fine irish whiskey. I helped myself.
"I can't believe you haven't read the book yet. It's quite good you know." Mr. Stevens was always on my case about finishing the books he'd left for me. I'd go out into the fields, where the grains of wheat were as tall as me. I'd lay down and let the bugs crawl. I wanted them to know every part of my being. Sometimes I'd get ticks. This is becoming a chore. It made me feel good when I had ticks. I thrived on being a host for another living creature.
"I've become accostumed to the taste," said Mr. Stevens, speaking of course to the new soup on his shelves.
"Why do you speak to the soup and not the bobbles and knacks?"
"Well, you see, those things lie to me, they often let me down gentely to save my feelings, the soup...well the soup is as stong as one of them."
On my desk there was an envelope. No writing. His letter opener was rusty, but it was capable at the least. Above the tacle where the mail lay was a sign that read "Service With A Smile. Support Your LOCAL Hand." It was odd I thought for him to have such a thing.
I opened letter after letter. Well that's a relief, I thought. Gallons of destitute men poured over the documents trying to find the holes. We'd been tricky in out technique. Mr. Stevens fell from the trolly again. I'd ran into Lucy at the Barrow. She'd taken to some young fellow whose name escapes me to this day. Panic attack. I'd had them before. The time signature changed again. 3/4.
"It's been a smashing fall, hasn't it Griggins?" Griggins looked at me with his round face, making no effort to reply. The Greats had been handing out flyers. My name wasn't on any of the lists.
The bellows filled the room with stale air. I'd been here many a time to collect bobbles for Mr. Stevens. I'd forgotten to eat. This had become my routine. I was bleeding. A man walks into the chemical plant; his face rusted from the sun. "Where's my life?" He said. "Taken,"said the man at the door, "taken like all the rest." I can't find the sun.
The margins on her paper. The margin for error. Extinction is a force of nature. The rollers keep taping. Taped to the floor. The story is inside out. I keep trying to bring the outside in.
On the way home I ran into Mr. Stevens. He had several new films in the back of his cart. My vision was dimmed by the white noise. The Greats kept it playing in an attempt to drown out the melodies in my head.
"Would you like a film?"
"This one is great, it's a documentary about the ocean floor."
"No thanks Mr. Stevens, I need to get home."
It's all the same, a mythological creature. My hands shook as blood seeped into the carpeting. "This is no place for you," said the spector. Arms flail. I've felt them before. Iíve been trying to think my way out of this. This is bright and new.
I looked in the case. 12 rubber balls, a fact the can't be disputed. So when do you stop?
Alice was gone. She hadn't been at the bank in three days. Around noon a young lady sat at her desk, and began writing on a blue pad of paper. I missed her terribly. My eyes had worn out. I couldn't find the day. The pencils all tasted like fish. I'd have to remind myself to stop putting them in my mouth. Funny, I thought, I used to like fish. I'd been spelling the word wrong. Nobody had the heart to tell me, especially Mr. Stevens. I've gone off again. I stamped APPROVE on the paper and moved towards the corner. The motorcade slows down as they pass by. Just for me, this is all just for me.
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