Sunday, March 21, 2010

84 The varnish of denial

In dedication to Miguel Da Conceicao, who conceived the title.

Frank kicked the empty bottle in the hallway and went looking for Mickey. The bottle spun and bounced back from the wall and clattered sharply on the hallway tiles. Frank gritted his teeth at the sound and kicked the bottle so hard it exploded in a shower of glass. Frank closed his eyes and looked away. One more hassle but he had felt good doing it. He checked everywhere, even under the couch. All he found was a single dirty sock. Mickey wasn't there. Just his mess. Frank couldn't put it off any longer, he called a locksmith and changed the locks.

Frank paid $200 to have a locksmith come that night. When it was done he paid up in cash and enjoyed the click of the new bolt sliding home. Only then did he start cleaning up. Working steadily. This was not his usual damage control but a real sanitation operation. From the grout-stained hallway tiles to the dust on the kitchen overhead lamp. When he slept, it was dreamless.


Mickey had scratched the heart out of the lock, but he hadn't so much as knocked, let alone tried the buzzer. Frank noticed the damage as he left for work at today's client. In his retirement years Frank had become a professional focus group participant. He hadn't gone looking, one day some consumer information company had called him up to tell him that he was a statistical normal. The caller told him statistical normals were exceedingly rare. Frank was about to object when he was offered $500 to join a focus group for the day.
Frank took the job. He worked an average of 4 days a month, it sufficed.

Mickey couldn't climb in from the balcony like at the last place because this time Frank was living on the fourth floor of a four floor walk up. Frank realised his mind had drifted, he had stopped cleaning, his mind preoccupied with Mickey and how to keep him out.

Frank got back to work.

When Frank was done he scrutinized his handiwork. Every surface was clean, there were no piles of papers, no empty bottles on the floor, no dirty socks under the couch, there was no evidence Mickey had ever been there.

It even smelled good. Good and empty. Frank fixed himself a supper of one and ate the leftovers for three days straight.

Each evening, when he came back to the apartment, everything was exactly where he'd left it that morning.

Frank started leaving his door unlocked.

In the end he was robbed and Mickey never came back.

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