Monday, December 24. 2012
Vernon peered over the mirror. The docks were dead; the rain had driven them away. It trickled down the window randomly. His living room smelled of glue.
“So tell me about your mother,”
“No. I don’t want to talk about her,” his patient said from the couch.
He could see her glare in the mirror. Selme had so many glares. It was hard to tell them apart. He didn’t pay attention till it was too late. Wood snapped. The mast had broken in his fingers. He set down his half-built model and picked up tiny pliers. “Your father then?”
“He deserved to be taken,” his patient growled.
Carefully Vernon teased the broken mast from the little ship. He set it apart on a clear space and gauged the extent of the damage. The side had cracked slightly. “So, who’s your favourite author?”
“Do you know Gorgias?”
The question caught him off guard. In the mirror Selme was laid out on the couch. Her knee-length dress was all old-fashioned frills. She was looking at the crack in his ceiling.
“Who’s Gorgias?” he asked.
“A philosopher of course! He posited the theory of solipsistic creation,”
Vernon took the bait “And what was that?”
“That everything we create, literature, children, model ships, are reflections of ourselves. They are created solely that we might bask in their creation,”
“A rather bleak view,”
“What else could they be?”
“Well…” Vernon paused for thought, eyes fixed on the pieces he glued. “Children could be the result of biological impulse. An inbuilt behaviour that we rationalise after the fact,”
“And you called me bleak!”
“I’m sorry Selme,”
Rain spattered against the window indignantly.
“Why did you ask about authors?” Her question was tinged with suspicion.
“I was looking for formative influences. I want to try and build a picture of the world you perceive.”
“So you want to prejudge me based on my preferences,” She sounded exasperated.
It had sounded better in his head “I’m sorry. I did say I’m not a psychologist.”
Selme swung off the couch, righting her dress as her feet touched the ground. “We’re none of us meant for what we have to do. Can I have the medicines now?”
Vernon pulled open the second drawer from the top. “I think it might be good for you to visit a real doctor sometimes, just to be safe,”
The rustle of cloth signified her approach “And let them put their sick hands inside my head? At least wood is honest.”
Vernon drew a small bottle from the depths and counted out two pills. They were finish roughly. He'd only made them this morning. She held cash in her hand. Vernon turned away, leaving the pills on the counter.
“If you don’t mind-,”
“Yes, yes, could I show myself out and leave the money by the door,” She made an animal noise of frustration, then snatched up the pills.
“Why are the unemployed always so busy? Is it such hard work doing nothing?”
Vernon said nothing. He picked up his model and held it against the window. The waters were calm outside and he could imagine it riding the waves. Only when the door slammed did he sigh.
The newsstand sat at the corner of the square. Vernon watched it from the corner of his eye. There was no passing trade today. The old man was busy reading a paper. Vernon left him to it. He had one mission outside today. From afar the docks looked so peaceful. Carefully he picked his way along the edge. The closer you got to something the worse it looked. Water splashed the sides, slopping and slurping. You couldn’t see into its murky depths. Oblivious gulls bobbed on the waves, riding the death spasms of the ocean. If you were a bird could you be free? They might fly out down the coast or inland to the city, but only in search of food. Would they ever go to another country? Only if they had to. The birds had nothing. He marched right into a flock. They launched skyward, shrieking their contempt. Most wheeled about him for a while before turning out to sea.
Idyll’s had a customer. It wasn’t unusual. It was just unusual to wear a business suit on a Saturday. Maybe he was stuck here for the weekend. He was stuck in front of the deli counter now. The girl behind the till was perched, waiting for him to decide. Vernon busied himself down the back. He only needed the staples. Bread, butter, some more glue. White batch was bad for you but he picked it up anyway. It was when he went to the till the trouble started.
“Hey, hey buddy,”
Vernon turned. There was the business man. Close up there were three things wrong with him. A purple shirt, a white hat but worst of all was his false smile. It was better to look glum than to lie about it.
“Say, you look like a local, how's the cheese baguette?”
“Uh, I’ve never ordered from the deli counter here, sorry.” Strange really, the hat looked like a mask.
“Damn. You won’t believe this but I’ve been here half an hour trying to pick lunch.” The business man slouched back, like he was settling down for a long conversation.
Vernon exchanged a glance with the girl behind the till. “Really,”
“Yeah. I’m up in the new Telsin Block for the weekend helping with their projections,”
The girl frantically shook her head.
“Oh yeah. We got plans for this place. It’s going to be the new analytics centre of the Western hemisphere. The numbers we’ll put through the statisticians here would make your head spin.”
Vernon stared out the window and thought about ships.
“You look like you have a thing for numbers yourself. You a mathematician maybe?”
Vernon stirred slightly. “No.”
“Shame. Damn shame. They’re hiring you know. What line of work you in?”
Vernon stared at his feet. “I’ve got to get going,”
The girl rang up his items. He could never remember her name. Vernon looked back on his way out. The business man was still there, pulling the mask down over his face.
It wasn’t the biggest building along the docks. The banks were bigger, sprawling across campuses, growing like cancers. It was certainly a block though. From this side of the docks it squatted, daring someone to move it. The windows were all dark. The stone was dark. The stylish metal encasing half of it was dark. It put Vernon in mind of a beetle facing the sun. He wasn’t sure about analytics but he knew a differential from an integral. For a moment he fantasised about marching back into the newsagents, shaking the business man by the hand and asking for a contact number. It passed like all his fantasies. Unemployment couldn’t kill anyone. Vernon let his gaze fall. There was a dark fence around the block, behind it were dark bushes. Perhaps unemployment could kill the unemployed.
He manned his newsstand with the faithfulness of a soldier. Vernon crept up but it stealth did him no good. The sentry was always on duty. A toothy grin looked up from under its peaked cap, the old man put down his paper.
“Afternoon Mr. Vernon.”
“Afternoon Henry. How’s business.”
“Oh you know. Same old, same new,” Henry chuckled hoarsely. There were two bumps in his cap. They stuck out from his skull like war wounds.
“And how’s the wife?” Conversation with Henry was always relaxing.
“Still dead, Mr. Vernon.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,”
“I ain’t,” Henry gave another chuckle.
Vernon stamped his feet. Henry went back to paper. They had a script Henry and Vernon and it was short and sweet. With a red pen he circled a word on one page, and then drew an arrow linking it to another.
“Seen anyone from the Telsin Block?”
Henry was surprised to see Vernon still standing there. “The what?”
Vernon pointed. Henry looked from the building to Vernon. Slowly he lifted the pen and tapped his nose.
“Keep your head down, Mr Vernon. That's what I always say,”
Vernon nodded slowly. “Thank you Henry. Good luck with the business,”
Henry lifted his cap to wave Vernon off. Funny, how it looked like he had horns.
Vernon stood in his room. The bread and milk were put away. The glue was set on the desk. Everything was ready. The dark approached slowly. The day’s gloom slowly gave way. Rain blew against the window. Vernon didn’t pay attention. He stared into the mirror. Solipsism had been Narcissus' problem; he’d created an image and fallen in love. Vernon had the opposite problem. The discarded wrappers, the broken glass, the textured wood, he took it all in. In until he could bear it no longer. He tilted the mirror so he could see the room instead. It was better that way. He watched a while longer, until the sky grew dark, Then he set to work.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)