CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
When I got home, I placed it on the coffee table in my living room, sat down and looked at it. “If it was going to explode,” I thought, “it would have done it by now, so at least I’m spared that ordeal.” I felt relieved to still have all my limbs intact. I made a cup of tea. And strangely, while I was making it, it did not occur to me that I would at least have something new to tell Paul. It did not occur to me to start thinking up the sentences I would use to describe to him the boy, the box, and this great burden of duty that had been presented to me. It did not occur to me I would be telling Paul about this, because, I suppose, I knew full well that Paul, being imaginary, only existed here inside my own head and would therefore already know about this box. He existed in my own mind, so, he would already know my every thought. This, of course, did not prevent me from discussing my day with him, from planning the trips we would take together, from recalling how we had nudged each other in the street and shared a joke about some girl whose clothes could hardly contain her—from recalling how this had happened, or would happen; it was much the same, really.
I sat down with my tea, watched the box for a few minutes, then picked up a car maintenance manual to read. I bought it a few weeks before and was methodically working my way through it. I did not have a car, and never have had one. The book was cheap. I bought it in a charity shop. What impressed me was that on one page, there were four oily finger prints. This somehow brought the book to life. I could imagine the car, its bonnet yawning, its owner bent into the abyss, clutching some oily, metallic part, scratching his head and turning the pages.
It was now ten-forty-five and Paul had still not phoned. I closed the book and put it aside. “He will not phone now,” I told myself; “he has forgotten.” I felt a lump in my throat. I was now all alone with that box. The box, it seemed, was all I had in life. And it seemed like an inadequate distraction. You should have a greater distraction, to distract you from “this”, the emptiness that was left when all you had to do was to count the minutes and hours of each day. I looked at my watch. It was now ten minutes past eleven. Soon, I would go to bed. I still had the distraction of sleep. Sleep was perhaps my only comfort in life. But I would not be able to leave that box there on my coffee table. If it was left unattended, it might do anything; anything could happen. I would never be able to sleep. I would lie there, thinking about the box and what it might be doing. I might imagine its lid lifting and some tentacled creature emerging from it, or some swarm of insects expanding from within it and displacing the lid as they spilled out into my living room in the manner of a curious gas picking and poking at every surface and object, testing them, acknowledging them.
I leant forward and began slowly lifting the lid. Again, I was sweating, and my hand seemed to be trembling. I expected some terrible thing to be released, some calamity to befall the whole street, the whole town; I was opening the box and I was not supposed to. This, for the moment, perhaps, was my distraction. I moved the lid aside, placed it down on the table, peered into the box and found it was empty.

In the goldfish bowl, Bruce and Sheila Softly were hovering side by side. For the past ten minutes there was nothing but silence, and—to Bruce, anyway—the silence seemed to deepen with each minute.
For one further time, Sheila looked accusingly at Bruce; and Bruce could not stand this any longer. He turned to swim off, when Sheila said, “Where do you think you’re going, Bruce?”
Bruce opened his mouth to speak but there did not seem anything to say, so he just watched Sheila with his mouth hanging open.
Sheila demanded, “Well?”
Bruce said, in an experimental tone, “For a swim—?”
Sheila snapped, “Get back here—I want a word with you.”
Bruce turned back and sighed.
Sheila said, “And just why can’t you see me as a bus driver?”
“That! you’re asking me about that?”
“Come on, why?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes you do, Bruce.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You do!”
“I don’t!”
“Do!”
“Don’t!”
“Do!”
After a pause, Bruce said, “It was only an example—that’s all.”
“But why pick that?”
“No reason, Sheila; it was just the first thing I thought of.”
Sheila scowled at him and said, “You think that’s all I’m good for, don’t you?—driving busses.”
“Of course not.”
“Why then?”
“It— er— it just didn’t seem like your style, that’s all, Sheila, not your style.”
“Not my style?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“I just pictured you doing something better.”
“Something better?”
“Of course, Sheila.”
“Like what?”
“Like whatever you wanted to.”
“Anything?”
“Anything.”
“And what if I wanted to be bus driver!”
Bruce shouted, “Be a bus driver, if that’s what you want!”
“But you said it wasn’t my style, Bruce.”
Bruce glared at Sheila for several seconds—his glare steadily intensifying—then he turned and darted away.
Sheila called, “You said you couldn’t really see me as a bus driver, Bruce.”
Bruce circled the bowl, going quicker and quicker, trying to block out the sound of Sheila’s taunts.
Sheila kept shouting, “—Saying that’s all I’m good for—that’s what you were doing. I can see exactly what you’re thinking, so don’t think you’ve fooled me. No, you’re just pretending it’s not what you were thinking, Bruce. That’s it—I can see everything you’re thinking—I can see it in your face!”
Bruce was now so enraged he was in danger of deliberately leaping from the bowl to escape Sheila’s taunts.
But Sheila then seemed to have finally emptied his whole head of words, so he turned, peered silently through the glass of the bowl and continued watching the view in the living room—but this time smirking smugly.

 

Fiction and nonfiction by Fletcher Kovich and also classic writers.

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