He knew one day he would be so happy he would not know what to do.
She said he did not understand the satisfaction in solving a problem.
The devil of course could laugh in his ear sounding exactly as someone
he knew though the laugh was akin to speech.
She wrote him a letter.
The letter she wrote him, he thought, on a little scrap of paper,
something that could blow away—blown as a leaf might be.
I desire nothing of you, she wrote.
He believed for all that she had not put much effort into it. This
writing on scraps was supposed to make him think something about her,
to give an impression of her, but he did not know what the impression
was supposed to be and why not write on a paper bag or an old wrapper
if it came to that.
She said little things on her little paper as she had said little
things at the house when she was at the house. He had once watched her
as she watched TV. Some guy was interviewed. He asked who the
guy was. She said you don't know as though she were amazed.
The guy was a famous arctic adventurer who went to the arctic and took
photographs of the arctic and the arctic life and went on arctic
expeditions and on them did arctic experiments. Somehow the guy was
able to make a lot of money out of all this, but she could not
confidently explain how the guy actually got the money.
He had not known there were still arctic adventurers. In the past,
sure, everyone had heard of that. But he thought the occupation was by
now over. Done. Obsolete.
She looked at him like he was an idiot.
He had attended the school of arts and letters though he would never
bring that up.
I don't want to be unhappy, she'd said.
Really what was there to see in the arctic that was not already
captured on film.
Not like the guy was a scientist or anthropologist. Not a real one.
Don't you want to live in a marketed location, she'd said. Not then.
He was in the car when an old song came on and he shivered. From
emotion or nausea he did not know.
Now, he could not know what difference it made.
The end of difference. Happened eventually or was happening now.
Happened to everyone.
Maybe a ritual could help as in other countries or cultures where
costume or gesture meant something. The meaning of, for example, a
certain hat might be filled with significance. He had nothing like
that. He had her commentary on a scrap. Few lines of ink. He could do
the same. As much. Get a piece of paper and draw her, maybe, a sketch
Shivered at the movie the last time he'd gone, but that had nothing to
do with emotion or the past; it was cold in there was all. The movie
wasn't even about the past; the movie was about the future when almost
everyone was dead and the few survivors struggled adventurously to
survive. A lot of that going around lately.
He knew better.
There would be no great catastrophe—not for everyone. For
some, the ones who had it now or would have it soon, but not for him.
Not in his subdivision. For him, the dull work of the everyday. Ice
might melt and bears might drown and explorers might need new
occupations, but he would be here with the little things—the
scraps—of what his life had been or he had wanted it to be.
Greg Mulcahy is the author of two collections of stories—Out of Work, and Carbine—and a
Read more of his work in the archive.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Thiago Fonseca.
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