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Afternoon Tappings and the Dilemma of Cutlery
Beverley had a certain penchant for collecting spoons. She felt that this was a sophisticated step up from clichéd stamp aficionados, and there was something particularly drawing about the spoon, which distinguished it from other utensils. The spoon curved like the undulating midsection of an exotic belly dancer, and it was the most personable of kitchen supplies. The spoon took reality and distorted it into a different version of the truth, bent natural light into something so unnatural that it was almost routine. Consequently, Beverley had a strong respect for the spoon and filled her house with spoon like relics and tributes. There was even a section of her hallway dedicated to cousins of the noble spoon, including evidence of the brief spork phrase she had undergone in college. This was quite embarrassing to Beverley, to be associated with the spork, but she could not bear to part with any piece of her collection, and so simply hurried her guests past that section when giving them a tour of her home.
She was staring at that same sporky tribute, empty garbage bag in hand, when something tapped on her window. Beverley did not know whether to be annoyed or relieved, and decided to focus on the former. Therefore, she strode over to her hallway mirror and grimaced angrily at her reflection. You were about to take a monumental step to scoop the unnecessary from your life, to at last slough off the dead skin collecting in the eardrums of your existence and finally rejoin the sanity of the spork-free world! Her inner monologue coached furiously. Beverley glared at herself in the mirror, morphing her reflection into the faceless window tapper who had interrupted her on this, the most crucial and developmental spork removing day of her life. She screwed her face into the fiercest picture of annoyance she could muster and strode back to the site where the terrible incident had first occurred. At this point, Beverley’s mind had transformed the innocent tapping on the window into a dreadfully dire event to be recalled for All Eternity, and had dutifully categorized it under the proper section in the library of her head.
Beverley stalked fearsomely down the hall toward the window, her mind continuing its deluge of curses. When she at last reached the window, she thrust it open with enraged gusto, only to find her neighbor Chester stooped by her rose bed with an incriminating pile of rocks, just the right size for throwing at windows and disturbing people from important, spork removing business. Beverley was fond of her neighbor, even though he seemed a bit odd to her, a bit off in the head. He loved sporks, had told her so the first time he had visited her house for casual utensil-related conversation and unemotional sex. Despite the rather unsatisfying sex and despite his disturbing soft spot for sporks, Beverley liked him, and so found it very difficult to maintain a dignified yet enraged expression. But maintain it she did.
“Chester,” she demanded imperiously, “Why are you throwing rocks at my window?”
“I wasn’t throwing rocks, Bevy.” Chester had an odd penchant for personalizing everyone’s names to help them feel appreciated. It was as much a part of him as Beverley’s penchant for collecting spoons was a part of her. Beverley chose to ignore this portion of Chester’s personality, as she really was quite fond of the rest of him.
“Well, if you weren’t throwing rocks, what are those?” She pointed accusingly to Chester’s pile of pebbles, her finger waggling scoldingly at poor, bumbling Chester. Chester was quite flustered, and so looked down at his shoe laces and dragged his toe destructively through Beverley’s flower bed, scattering impertinent irises and splendiferous sunflowers left and right.
“Well Bevy,” he stammered, wringing his hands with distress. “I wasn’t doing anything with them. They were just lying on your walkway, so tantalizingly smooth, so, so very pebbly in their nature!” His eyes drooped imploringly, begging Beverley to understand the desperately pebbly nature of the stones, and his consequent inability to actually do anything except admire them for their inherent pebbly-ness. Beverley was unsympathetic and simply held up the incriminating pebble that had lodged on her windowsill. Chester was so flustered by the appearance of the evidential stone that he dropped his armful entirely, and the newly freed pebbles skittered across Beverley’s driveway, rejoicing at their recent liberation. Chester’s eyes darted distressingly to his fallen collection. But he was reigned in by Beverley’s accusing gaze and so did not dare to move to collect them. Chester felt himself being mentally beaten down by Beverley’s eyes, and his physical body stooped lower with each figurative blow she laid across his back. Beverley’s executing eyes suddenly lit up with inspiration and she dove back into her house and yanked the distasteful collection of sporks off the wall and thrust them out the window into the arms of a bewildered Chester. Chester’s face lit up. Obviously, Beverley had experienced some sort of epiphany in the 2.72 seconds since she had stormed off down the hall and returned, as she had given him her wonderful spork collection. Chester nearly fell over his shoelaces in his excitement as he rushed to the window, his thanks tumbling over each other in a jumbled confusion of articulation. Beverley sighed an exasperated puff of air. Obviously, the giving of the spork collection had not had the affect it intended. At leas she was rid of it now, she thought.
Suddenly, a round faced, middle-aged man tumbled out of the bushes, his similarly circular glasses hanging crookedly off his ears. Beverley could not help but notice the beautiful scoop of the rim of his glasses, the spoon-like poetry they sang to her eyes.
“Pardon me,” said the man, pushing his glasses up his face and squashing together the skin on his nose in the process. “My name is Albert. I have been collecting reactions, and you have the most exquisitely complex and unexpected reaction I have ever seen!” Beverley quite liked being described as exquisitely complex and unexpected, so much so that she did not even mind that her window had been tapped upon merely to collect and analyze her reaction. In fact, complex and unexpected had suddenly become two of her favorite adjectives, and Albert, by extension, one of her favorite people. She glowed with the joy of being recognized.
“Oh my!” exclaimed Albert, shocking Beverley out of her reverie as he turned toward the still flustered Chester. “These are positively the most fascinating sporks I have ever seen!” Chester practically danced with glee, while Beverley turned an alarming shade of puce at an alarmingly fast rate. They had been, after all, her sporks just a few moments ago, and besides that, she was exquisitely complex and unexpected. She picked up the pebble lodged in her windowsill and took aim at the unsuspecting Chester, whose arms were wrapped joyfully around the sporks. The pebble sailed through the air and, much to Beverley’s chagrin, clonked Albert soundly on the forehead.
“Oh dear,” he said, rubbing the red spot on his adorably bespectacled head. “That certainly is a different reaction. I must record it.” He promptly turned to leave, once again by way of the bushes, when Beverley’s voice clutched him by the shoulder, forcing him to turn around.
“Do you like spoons?” it said.
“Why, yes I do,” replied Albert. “I am even more fond of spoons than I am of sporks.”
“Well,” replied Beverley, gaining confidence and taking control of her voice. “It is tea time. I just happen to have some spoon bread and a modest little collection if you’d like to see…” Albert nodded his vigorous assent, and Beverley gestured him toward the front door.
“Um…Bevy?” came Chester’s timid voice. “It’s been an awful long while since I’ve had any decent spoon bread.” He looked at her hopefully. Beverley sighed. “Alright Chester. I suppose you can come in. But leave that outside. She gestured disdainfully to the sporks, which Chester hurriedly dropped in the flowerbed where he was still standing. Beverley felt her heart twinge a bit as she saw her formerly beloved collection merge with the common soil of her garden. It was all she could do to keep herself from leaping out the window and collecting her abandoned babies back to her chest. Instead, she ushered her guests inside, and past the now empty section of the hallway, toward the kitchen. It was then that there came about an extraordinary afternoon of spoon bread, reactions, and eccentricities. And Beverley’s mind could not help but let out a knowing sigh as her heart pulled, just a bit, to the sporks just outside the door.
* * *
She saw him the next day while gardening. He was thinking about Life, she decided. She could just imagine the wonderful poetry of his thoughts as they raced about. She had seen him from her yard before, seen the gorgeous symphony his back composed as it bent artfully over his writing desk. It was a beautiful desk: mahogany, well oiled, and quite proud looking. With a desk like that, one could compose the world. Beverley could just imagine how it would feel to lay a fresh sheet of paper upon such a desk, grasp his same plumed and faithful servant with the same impassioned grip, and fill that desk with reams of life and histories of spoons. She watched him from her flower garden, wrapped in such wonderfully creative thoughts as these, and therefore did not notice as her drowning subjects cried out for their queen to save them from the endless torrent bearing down upon them. As the last of the water trickled out of her neglected can, Beverley’s blooms wilted, beaten at last by the water as it seeped into the refuge of the floral kingdom, chortling with cruelty.
Beverley dropped the can and stood in wonder. He had crumpled a paper. Ordinary as this sounds, the way in which he had crumpled that paper astounded her. You see, in that crumpled paper which now lay forlornly amid the dust, Beverley saw herself: her dreams, her passions, her aspirations. All crumpled in that paper on the floor. And she knew. She raced out of her apartment, her neglected gardening roaring in dismay and anger as she rushed away. Out into the street, up the stairs, to the door. What a poetic door it was, it must be his. She knocked; it opened. There he was.
“Tell me,” she said breathlessly. “Were you thinking about Life?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “I was contemplating Eternity.”
* * *
Arthur had, in fact, been contemplating Eternity. He often contemplated things that were vast in their mere vastness, and Eternity was the vastest thing he had contemplated as of late. As he sat, considering Eternity in all its vastness, there had been a Squeak. Innocent as it was, the Squeak wormed its way into a hole in the fabric of Eternity, and therefore, Arthur was forced to contemplate it. And then it squeaked again. The addition of a Second Squeak was so dismaying that Arthur did not quite know what to do with it. It was days like these, when a Second Squeak interrupted one’s most contemplative contemplation, that caused Arthur to almost lose sight of the goal of the contemplation in the first place: the Story. The Story was, at present, folded somewhere in a spare cupboard in Arthur’s head, frightened away by the terrifying Squeak. The Story cowered, folding upon itself in fear and annoyance until indignant ideas complained of overcrowding, forcing the Story to venture timidly out of its hiding spot. But as soon as it reached the precipice of fruition, and both Arthur and the pen poised above the paper held their breath, there came again a Squeak.
Arthur and the pen sighed as they both slid down, the pen out of Arthur’s hand and Arthur himself out of the chair. Both came to rest side by side underneath the Writing Desk. The Writing Desk was itself quite put out, as it worked hard to inspire its relatively uninspirable occupant day in and day out. In a last ditch effort, it had recently taken pains to curve itself into a resemblance of the beady-eyed raven that was of such literary fame. The reader can be assured that this was not at all a comfortable position, and in fact hurt the Writing Desk very much. Therefore, on days like these, days when writer, pen, and desk were simultaneously defeated, the day seemed far from frabjous, and in fact more contrary than a minorly famous Mary.
Literary references were not so easy to upkeep, particularly in the presence of such a fearsome Squeak. Often they were better hidden than Sir Doyle’s speckled band, which encircles the forehead of the would-be author and bites, the tarnished fangs stained by the amateur alliterations that flow out of the gaping wound in creativity’s temple. All too often, the scar proves itself unhealable, and the cavernous pale entity that is the page proves the victor. The anguish of the defeated God who wished to populate and classify it with clever biblical allusions serves as the laurel upon its head, and the vanquished pen its scepter and prize.
However, the white shield, though miraculously devoid of verbal battle scars, had barely the time to summon the binding in celebration before it was collapsed, jagged edges interlocking as the page shrunk. Arthur’s hand, just moments ago seized by the passions of inspiration, was again rigid, though this time with the enraged fervor of defeated genius. The imperious page was pummeled into apology by palms recently dripping with the dew of genius. The paper now moistened with the tears of anger, frustration, and fear. At last, the final of the writer’s arsenal had fallen, the ultimate at his own hand in misplaced blame. Unfortunately, this last martyr failed to reach its final resting place, but instead scuttled to an abandoned corner of Arthur’s study to commiserate with the dust.
Arthur’s impromptu waste basket shook off its latest failure and turned its attention to its most loyal tenant, who was, at the moment, bringing her own feminine wisps to her new home. Arthur had noticed that the wastebasket was only the latest of her homemaking efforts, but he had not the heart to dispel the one touch of life his apartment contained. In fact, he took extra care that an errant hand not brush away the silver curtains she had so industriously spun across various nooks and crannies. To be honest, it was more than Arthur’s neglectful housekeeping that kept Lucia’s handiwork on display. Arthur quite liked the poetry of it all: a struggling author, writing scraps of novelty in his dark abode, wisps of webbing clinging to his shoulder as he worked fervently into the night by the naked light of a single bulb. It was pure Dickens. Arthur clung to the fiction of his life, the story that somewhat replaced his need to create a new one. Somewhat.
There were days when even Lucia was not enough. These were the days where Arthur did things like bringing a new character into the lackluster plot of his life. He often felt as though he was not at all the narrator of his own story, and as though some greater being was watching him through the window of his apartment, categorizing his every move. And so he found characters to introduce to this unknown observer. It gave him a sort of power, naming them, giving them stories. That was why he wrote. And on days when he could not write, he did things like naming a spider Lucia.
As Arthur thought on about Lucia, his companion—dare he say it? his friend—the last threads of contemplated hope released his besieged mind. Eternity, and all that came with it, would have to wait until the thing that was so desperate to be heard that it interrupted Arthur’s vast contemplation was itself considered. Thinking on it now, the importance of the interruption seemed to grow. Nothing in his apartment had ever before dared to disturb Arthur’s contemplations, particularly one so vast as Eternity. Perhaps, Arthur thought, the beauty of the Squeak was that it was so unexpected, so tiny, and so beautifully inopportune.
Ordinarily, when his focus was displaced, Arthur deliberately ignored the source of the displacement in favor of his favored topic: Heaven. Prior to Eternity, Heaven had been Arthur’s most ambitious contemplation. In fact, he had been so proud of his success, of his ability to conquer the Gods, classify the stars, and once and for all collect the airy and forgetful clouds, that Arthur had thought of nothing but his victory over Heaven for months on end. And even when he moved past it to greater and more eternal things, Arthur could not help but indulge in a splash of divinity, chilled with the ice of human reason. But now, Arthur’s apartment found that the Gods lay abandoned (and a bit put out, one must note) in favor of the miniscule which the rooms themselves harbored.
Yes, thought Arthur. The Squeak had made itself heard for a reason. The small and ordinarily unobtrusive aspects of life were demanding to be heard. Arthur’s pen plumed joyfully as it found itself once more in the clutch of inspiration, shivering delightedly as it once again felt the long estranged dew of genius rush down its side and lovingly blot the paper. The Story quivered in anticipation. Arthur’s tongue lapped at the air like a dog at the promise of food or praise, whichever was more expedient. His army of instruments was assembled, and the desk found itself tearing with pride.
And that was when Beverley knocked.