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.
But after carefully considering the matter, the constable decided to leak the description to the press (if only because his name was “Will Grass”—he could think of no other reason, but nonetheless, that was good enough for him), so he phoned The Perception Daily Chronicle’s star reporter, Ivor Longnose, and gave him the description, which was that of a middle‑aged, blonde woman.
This was printed in the early‑evening edition of that day’s paper. And Primrose, a few moments ago, on reading this description, found herself (as I have said) spraying her venom over the newspaper (—Incompetence, that’s what it is, twenty‑one murders and they’re looking for a woman—ha—simpletons! that’s what they are).
She sat on her sofa, clenching her fists vindictively round the petition and eyeing all those back issues of her favourite weekly magazine.
The doorbell rang and she stood—still clutching the petition—and crossed vindictively to the door. She opened it and found a frail, white‑haired old woman standing there in a white lab coat. The woman was carrying a wire basket—which was laden with test tubes—slung over her arm like a shopping basket and had an alarming look of urgency about her. She came darting in through the door, pushing passed Primrose while chanting, “Cogitation! Cogitation!—where is it?”
Her eyes darted round the flat, then she hurried—rattling all the way—over to the goldfish bowl, fiddled inside it with her implements, put a test tube back into her basket, then rattled back over to the door, when Thomas (whom Primrose noticed was limping) and Francis arrived at the door and stood there in the doorway. The white‑haired woman bustled through them all, chanting, “Cogitation! Cogitation!” and then vanished clean away, like some elusive apparition that was eternally sought after but remained ultimately ungraspable.
Thomas and Francis looked quizzically at Primrose, who shrugged back at them, then the three of them made their way down to Francis’s car (Thomas having left his car parked near to Francis’s house, it being so painful to drive with his wounded foot), and they set off for the MP’s house to deliver their attack on the constabulary.

Fiction

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Fiction Archive

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