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.
He snatched back at the letter but she held onto it. He pulled, then she pulled back, then they both pulled and separated, each holding one tattered half of the letter. The front doorbell rang—as if to mark a brief pause in their contest, allowing them to return to their corners and remuster their weapons. He went to snatch her half back but she pulled her hand away, screwed up the fragment, threw it to the floor and shouted, “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing.”
In response he merely looked at her crumpled half on the floor.
She shook her most emphatic finger at him and shouted, “Don’t think I don’t—that’s all.”
He continued pretending to have not heard her.
Her head started trembling like the lid of a kettle coming to the boil and she shouted, “Just you see what you get for this—just you see.”
She turned away but then changed her mind, turned back and—just to make it clear she had got the better of him—she said, “Huh.” But just in case there should be any doubt about the meaning of this “huh,” she made sure to say it in a tone that would emphasize the fact that she had got the better of him; and what was more, she was also careful to say it in a tone that made it absolutely clear that she knew that he knew this.
She was about to turn away again when she noticed he was now pretending to have not heard her “huh.” So, to make it clear to him that she knew he had heard it, she repeated, “Huh,” but so as not to leave any doubt in his mind, she was also careful to say this second “huh” in a tone that summed up every one of her opinions of him. And now being satisfied he knew exactly what she thought of him, she contentedly put her most emphatic finger back into her tracksuit pocket and went to answer the front door.
Peter looked at the remaining half of the letter in his hand. He placed it on the table and smoothed it out—as if half a letter were no less decipherable than a whole one, so what difference did it make anyway. He put this half to one side, picked up Lily’s letter again and resumed his struggle to decipher it.

Open Door

This page lists some ways that you can keep in touch with the ever expanding content on CuriousPages, and also leave your feedback, for me and for others to read.

If you have enjoyed the site, you could also forward to your friends links to this site.

Leave feedback on my works

Any comments about my writing are very much appreciated.

To leave your comments, simply send me an email. Do please remember to mention the work you are commenting on.

I will then publish your comments on this website—unless you request that I do not. Please type your name at the end of your comment in the manner that you would like it to appear. For example: John Smith, Bristol, UK.

Author’s contact details

It is best to contact me by email.

Approaches from publishers, literary agents, or editors of periodicals should also be made by email.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

email: fletcher@CuriousPages.com

RSS feeds

RSS feeds provide a way for you to be kept informed about all the new entries made on this website.

To subscribe, simply look for the following icon at the top of your browser and click the icon:

Rss feeds

If this icon is not displayed, this may mean that your browser does not handle RSS feeds.

Once you have subscribed, your web browser (or other application) will automatically check CuriousPages and download the new content so that you can see what is new since you last visited the CuriousPages feed in your browser (or other application).