(collaboration with Robert Scotellaro)
Warren admires himself in the mirror.
Bare-chested, puffing a corona, sipping a daiquiri, stroking his beard, he's thinking about that other life, his past life, life as a typewriter. Yes, a typewriter, but not just any typewriter, a novelist's trusty typewriter, a war correspondent's battered typewriter, Ernest Hemingway's typewriter, a 1929 Underwood. No royal blood in his past, no, not even a Royal typewriter, unless you consider Papa Hemingway's Underwood royalty, which he does, as a matter of fact, proudly, yes he does.
Why, you should have seen the way those keys smashed against the ribbon, the letters punching black bruises onto the page, words running across the paper with the force of inevitability, like the bulls at Pamplona. You should have seen it.
Ask not for whom the carriage returns, Warren admonishes his reflection.
As I left my building for a walk the other morning I saw a bunch of people standing around in a circle, looking down at the pavement. I figured whatever it was, there were enough people to take care of it, no need for another gawker, but still I was curious.
"What happened?" I asked a woman as I went to join the circle.
"I don't know. He was just lying there."
I wondered who it was. Perhaps one of my neighbors? It was, after all, right in front of my building. I couldn't get a good look at the guy until I moved further into the circle. Then I saw who it was. It was me!
What was the meaning of this? How was I lying unconscious in front of my building and looking at myself from above at the same time? I was wearing the same clothes, the unconscious me and the conscious me. The standing, conscious me had no memory of anything happening to myself that could have caused me to be lying on the pavement.
"Does anybody know his name?" someone called out.
"Yes," I said, "it's me! Peter Cherches!"
"Peter Cherches? That's a strange name for a dog," someone else said.
Dog? I thought. Then I took another look. It was a big, mangy stray dog passed out on the pavement, not me at all.
Embarrassed, I slunk away from the circle and then ran as fast and as far as my four legs would take me.
The Wrong Side of the Bed
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, which was a problem, since it was the side that abuts the wall separating my apartment from the one next door. I rubbed my eyes and saw that I was standing in my neighbor's living room in my PJs.
I don't have much to do with my neighbor. We had a contretemps years ago about the volume of my music, and it's been a cold, uncomfortable non-relationship ever since. When we run into each other we give each other a perfunctory nod.
"What the hell are you doing here?" my neighbor asked. He was wearing a red velvet bathrobe, which somehow didn't surprise me.
"It wasn't my intention to be here," I said. "I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed."
I looked and saw no opening in the wall that I might have come through.
"That's a ridiculous excuse," he said. "Now I'm going to have to change my locks."
"But I didn't come through the door," I protested.
"Then I'll need to put gates on my windows."
"But I didn't come through a window."
"Well, I'm certainly not moving," he said, huffy.
"Who's asking you to move?"
"Well, what am I supposed to do?"
I figured I'd just leave by the door and go back to my apartment, but I quickly realized that I didn't have my keys, my wallet, or my phone.
"Let me try to find my way back to my bed," I said.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Well," I said, "if I got here by waking up on the wrong side of the bed, I need to get back to the wrong side before I can get to the right side."
"How do you intend to do that?"
"I need to find the place in the wall I must have come through."
"But there's no hole in the wall!"
"It must be some kind of virtual hole," I suggested. "What other explanation can there be?"
"I think you're full of shit," he said, "but go ahead and see if you can find this hole of yours."
I went to the wall and started feeling around. Stood with my back to the wall and moved side to side, up and down. Nothing was happening, all solid wall. But I wasn't ready to give up, so I kept moving around the wall, sometimes with my back flat against it, sometimes facing it with my hands out, sometimes leaning in with my shoulder, and after about five or so minutes something just gave all of a sudden and I was back in bed. Back in bed, but not alone. Asleep on top of the bedding was my upstairs neighbor in his pajamas, blue with little black anchors.
I hardly know my upstairs neighbor. He's an older man, pushing 80, and from my brief encounters with him in the elevator or the hallway he seems like a pleasant guy. How my upstairs neighbor landed on top of my bed I don't know; there was certainly no hole in my ceiling. Anyway, my upstairs neighbor was snoring loudly with a beatific smile on his face. Not wanting to disturb his slumber, I got dressed and went to the coffee place down the block, where I wrote this on my tablet.
Peter Cherches' most recent book of short prose is Autobiography Without Words. All three of above pieces will appear in his next collection, Whistler’s Mother’s Son, due out from Pelekinesis in 2020. His "Excerpts from Mr. Deadman" appeared in Issue 28 of The Cafe Irreal and in The Irreal Reader: Fiction & Essays from The Cafe Irreal; and "The Return of Amelia Earheart" appeared in Issue 48.
Robert Scotellaro is the author of three full-length story collections and seven poetry chapbooks. His new story collection, Nothing Is Ever One Thing, is due out this year from Blue Light Press.