On those tranquil evening hours during lockdown when the lights were dimmed and the dogs quieted, I would sit at my desk and work for hours on end with no break, not even for water. I would hammer away on a piece, cutting here, adding there, moving things around until they sounded right or looked better. The edges of the piece would flare as my labors intensified and everything came at last to a shape and size that satisfied my initial conception.
One evening as I completed an important cut-and-paste, someone knocked at my front door. This was unusual, as no one had knocked on my door for several months. Indeed, I had not spoken to another human being for two months, when I chatted briefly with my sister. Since then we have maintained communication through various social media platforms, and as I have no smartphone, these exchanges are often in the form of texts or email. The last person to knock on my door was a Pizza Pizza deliveryman who had knocked on the wrong one.
I wiped my drippy nose against my forearm, stood up from my desk, and shuffled to the front door. A shadow darkened the sidelight and, oddly, this made me squint. I opened the door and a blue-masked beefy man with small red eyes stood there holding some kind of hat.
“What do you want?” I said.
He squeezed his hat and said, “What’s happened to you?”
“I beg your pardon, do I know you?”
He laughed and looked down, as though to draw attention to his crusted shoes. When the man raised his head again he trained his eyes beyond me into my flat.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
“I can see your screen from here.”
“Son of a bitch,” I said.
He waved a hand, pressed his eyelids together, and said, “You’d be better off telling a longer, plot-driven story, you know.” He flicked something off his shoulder and stared at his hand. “Just saying.”
“I have tried and failed. I’d rather stick my quirky miniatures, thank you very much.”
“But that’s what they are,” he said, “miniature, small, insignificant.”
I wanted to strike this little man, but I had a feeling if I started on him I wouldn’t stop. “We done?” I said.
“Later tonight,” he said in a dreamy voice, “at an unknown hour, you will wake to the sounds of commotion.”
I closed my eyes. Water flowed under my eyelids. When I opened my eyes I was in bed; I could hear whispers and a clinking of bottles in the kitchen. What the hell was going on? I jumped out of bed.
The carpeting in the bedroom squelched as though it had been rained on. The kitchen light was dark except for a flickering yellow candle. I could only make out one or two grainy figures seated around the table, though I was certain many people were in there.
“You’re still alive,” someone said. “Guys, he’s still alive.” Titters erupted. A cigar someone smoked glowed brightly for a moment, then dimmed. “We’re here for rehearsal,” said a baritone voice that gave me a little shiver.
Had no idea what he was talking about. I hadn’t been sleeping well, and the work was going poorly.
“You want I start?” said the baritone. He was seated at the head of the table.
As my eyes adjusted to the guttering light, his face came into focus. He was wearing a cowboy hat and sported a tremendous mustache. “Hey, you’re Sam what’s-his-name,” I said.
The man tipped his hat and grinned a manly grin that looked conclusive.