I woke to the sound of a phone ringing, a nasty little chirp made of ice picks and cold water. I closed my eyes tighter. Not my phone, not my problem. Out in the hall, just outside the door to my room, it rang and didn’t stop ringing, it’s shrill voice insistent. It almost won; I was about to give up and answer it when it finally fell silent once more. I took a chance and opened one bleary eye.
Apparently, it was daytime.
It was daytime when I went to sleep as well, I thought I remembered. Or was that the time before? Christ, what day was it anyway? I tried to do the math, to count the number of times it had been night since the others had gone away.
It was morning when they left, early morning, I was sure of that. I had been up late the night before, listening to the clock chime the hours away, small numbers gradually increasing. After the others pulled away I turned out all the lights and stood in the morning gloom, feeling the fatigue that seemed to rise from my gut, my eyes gritty and heavy.
I plodded back to my room and had a nice blink, maybe fifteen minutes or so, but then I pulled myself erect. No time for sleep.
How long ago had that been? I had slept once — twice, maybe? — since then, dreamless interludes of indeterminate length, waking up not refreshed but sustained, the hours demanded by my frail body grudgingly allowed.
It was gray in my room. I rolled over and looked out the curtainless window. Snow. Big, fat flakes driving in mad circles, while the wind moaned and howled. Had it been snowing when I went to bed? Vaguely I recalled watching the brightening rectangle of my window, watching dawn arrive on weary legs, ready for another go of it. I thought I remembered flurries.
Snow! There was nothing in the room to tell me what time it was, and the leaden sky outside gave no hints either. It was day, but which day? I looked at the snow. Hell, what month is it?
With a groan I sat up. My head hurt, triggering another memory of the previous waking period. What I was feeling now was just the echo of the cranial carpet-bombing I had endured previously; it was that pain that had finally driven me from my task and into bed.
What had I been drinking?
I turned to the nightstand and there was a glass, the culprit, an inch of liquid still remaining. Water. The substance of life, they call it, but there’s not a single molecule of caffeine in there. I had been going for stretches of more than twenty-four waking hours (probably) without the help of that most beloved of alkaloids, too intent even to pause and make tea. Something had to give, and it was the crippling headache of caffeine withdrawl that put an end to my marathon. Today was the day to restore a normal life.
I began to think of the things I should have been doing over the last few days. People had been trying to reach me, I assumed. When I could stand to look at my computer again I’d check. That may be a while yet. I climbed out of bed and surveyed the wreckage that was me. Hygene had obviously not been a priority for the last few days. The need to be clean was suddenly more powerful than the need to make a big ol’ cup of tea.
The stream of hot water was perfect, and I stood in a shower coma, letting the hot water pull me back into the real world. It was Friday, I guessed. Friday the 13th. I hoped so, anyway. If it was the 14th it was going to be a bad day.
Out of the shower, clean and dry, I felt my allergies kick up, an itching in my ears. Oh, man, a Q-tip would feel good just now. But I had no Q-tip. I searched the bathroom; along with the usual hodge-podge of cleaning supplies and spare toilet paper there was a blow dryer, a curling iron, two cup dispensers (one still with cups) stashed behind the toilet paper, a comb, a plunger, toothpaste from a byegone era, and I don’t remember what else but there were NO Q-Tips. The longer I searched the more my ears yearned for that intrusive cottony goodness. In the end I did my best with my little finger, but it just wasn’t the same.
Out of the shower, clean and dry, teeth scrubbed and ears un-Q-Tipped, I faced the next difficulty in the aftermath of the previous days: no clean clothes to put next to my now-clean skin. I chose the least bad and gathered all the rest to wash. What industry! What a go-getter attitude!
I dumped my clothes into the machine and recalled the special instructions she had given me before she left. It was necessary, I recalled, to put a weight on the lid or the machine would not operate. I dumped in my clothes, closed the lid and surveyed my options. Cotton/sturdy was the obvious choice (any clothes I might have had that weren’t sturdy are long gone). Fourteen minutes for whites, ten for colors. I split the difference and pulled the knob. Rather than a rush of water I was met by a low hum. Right, right, gotta push down on the lid. I pushed, I pulled, I fiddled with the knob, and did all those things that almost never work but we do anyway. Nothing but that same low hum. I raised the lid and observed only a tiny flow of water going in, barely a trickle. I applied my super-deductive skills (and remembered what I had been told) and with a few twists established that the hot water was almost completely blocked. I had meant to run on warm anyway, but the switch had originally been set to ‘hot’ and than meant ‘none’.
Next to the washer is a utility sink. In the sink was a large bucket. I knew what I had to do. While the washer availed itself of the cold water, I added a couple of bucketfulls of hot. Splash-click-rumble, the machine set to turning my dirty clothes into clean ones, no weights required. It was with a sense of smug saticfaction that I left the laundry room, suddenly quite sure that three days (probably) in a house is plenty long enough. It was time to hit the town! I went to fetch my shoes and… all my socks were in the wash.
I considered going sockless, but not for very long. I considered sock substitutes, wondering what I could possibly use. Nothing came to mind. The thought of being trapped for the duration of the wash cycle and the longer delay for the dryer made me really, really want to get out of there. I had nowhere to go, but that didn’t matter.
“Maybe,” I thought, “there’s a cache of unused socks somewhere in the house.”
But where? The closet for my room held a surprisingly large supply of party goods, but nothing resembling a sock. There was even less hope across the hall, where the computers live. Just up the hall toward the living room there was one more bedroom, called the guest room, although now it has been overrun by a rampaging stamp collection. Still, a guy can hope.
In the corner of the room is a handcrafted double-dulcimer (on second thought, I imagine they’re all handcrafted) resting against a spinning wheel. Next to those is a large chest of drawers, crafted of rich wood, grandly massive, the side panels starting to split due to the dry climate here. On top was arrayed a row of bottles on either side of a small pitcher with a Czech flag in it. There was 151 Bacardi, an Australian wine called the Little Penguin, and a custom-labled wine from Believe In Me with the lable made to look like a call sheet, and fuego’s name right there on it. There was a couple of other wines and some little hexagonal bottles of czech booze. There was no dust on any of them.
The bottles, flag, and a large candle were arranged in an arc, as if paying homage to the flat box resting at the focus of their attention. The box was empty, but I recognized it as the box for one of those big silver belt buckles, another gift to fuego for working on a movie here in the land of enchantment.
I opened the first large drawer… and found a cache of unused socks.
Socked and satisfied, I scraped the snow off the glass surfaces of the car and hit the road. The radio was playing a classic from the Nose Rock era, called, I believe, “Sing Through Your Nose”. The coda goes like this:
- Sing through your nose,
- Sing through your nose, now
Lead Singer (about an octave higher, through nose)
- Sing through your nose,
- Ohhhh, sing through your nose
This goes on for a a while, then
Lead Singer (now positively wailing through his nose)
- Sing through your nose,
- Woah, oh, oh, oh Sweet child of mine,
- Sing thgough your n-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-se!
I think the band is Twisted Sister*. The song is oddly named “Sweet Child of Mine” or something like that. (Then again, if they called that one “Sing Through Your Nose”, they’d have to name all their songs that, and it would get confusing.) I may have gotten a couple of lyrics wrong; it’s hard to concentrate with other music playing in here right now.
‘Here’ is Pizza Hut, the last pizza place standing in this town — although ‘standing’ is a bit of an exaggeration when you look at the condition of the building and the fixtures. There are buckets everywhere; ‘roof’ is apparently a euphamism here. There is a cieling tile sagging with all the water it is holding. That’s not going to be pretty when it gives way. The green chile on the pizza is surprisingly good, though, and in the end, isn’t that what really matters?
Happy Friday the 13th, everyone, and Happy Birthday, Mom!
* Writer’s correction: The band above has been identified by a faithful reader as Guns ‘n’ Noses.