All the Cobwebs Stay
Oscar stared at the woman sitting on his couch, in his living room, and wondered who she was and how she got there. “I think there’s been some kind of mistake.”
“Maybe,” she said. “But it’s not my fault. You can’t blame me.”
“I’m not blaming you.”
“Good. Then you don’t mind showing me around.”
“Showing you around what?”
“The apartment. That’s why I’m here, to see the place.”
Oscar considered calling the landlord to help straighten things out, but he couldn’t spend all day dealing with this. A bomb went off a few streets away, shaking the ground. His breakfast was getting cold. Maybe the best thing was just to show her the place and get it over with. “How long you think you’ll be?”
“On you. How long you take to give the tour.”
Oscar showed her his kitchen, his bedroom, his bathroom. She opened his faucet and flushed his toilet checking his water temperature, his water pressure. He showed her his balcony overlooking his view of his bombed city. His homeless people sitting on his sidewalks. Another one of his fire trucks rushing to put out another one of his fires.
“Tell me. What’s yours and what belongs to the apartment?”
“What do you mean?”
“This cobweb, for example.” The woman pointed to a cobweb in the corner of the ceiling. “Does the cobweb belong to you, or does it come with the apartment? When you first moved in, was the cobweb already here? Or let’s put it another way, when you move out, will you be taking the cobweb with you?”
“All the cobwebs stay.”
The woman nodded, happy the place came with cobwebs. “I like it. I can see myself living here. But I’d open it up. Rearrange the furniture to maximize the space. I’ll show you. Grab the end of the couch. Help me out.”
Another bomb exploded, setting off sirens.
“Go on. Grab it. I can’t do everything myself.”
She struggled lifting one end of the couch. Oscar finally lifted the other. Together they turned the couch around, moving it a few feet.
“That’s better. See what a difference it makes?”
“I think I prefer it the other way.”
“That’s because you don’t know any better. Not that it matters. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about those who are coming to see the place, that’s who’s running the show. People like me. The people who will be living here tomorrow, we’re the ones you have to think about. It’s too late to think about the ones who are here right now. There’s nothing you can do for them.”
“You don’t understand. The place isn’t for rent. I’m not leaving.”
“I’m not asking you to leave. We’ll live here together.”
“I really think there’s been some kind of mistake.”
“Maybe. But it’s not my fault. You can’t blame me.”
“I’m not blaming you.”
“Good. Then you don’t mind picking up our little one from school for his doctor’s appointment.”
“Our little one?”
“Our little one,” she said, leaning closer, kissing his cheek, and again Oscar considered calling the landlord. But he didn’t want to spend all day dealing with this, his breakfast growing colder by the minute. Another bomb exploded, shaking the same old ground, setting off the same old sirens. Maybe the best thing was just to pick up his little one from school for his doctor’s appointment and get it over with.
The Way Everything Is Now
Listen, there’s a big difference between the way everything is now and the way everything used to be, especially when it comes to dogs delivering mail. That’s all I’m saying.
Things are the way they are, so what do you expect me to do about it? You expect me to change the way a thing is? You expect me to change a thing from the way it is to some way it isn’t?
The dogs deliver my mail to my house and the dogs deliver your mail to your house. It’s that simple. All I’m saying is you can’t blame dogs for doing what dogs are trained to do. They have to eat, like anyone.
I have no problem with that.
The problem I have is when they leave a bone in my mailbox and it’s not my bone and I put a little note on the bone explaining they delivered it by mistake and that they should return it to the sender but they leave the bone where it is without even bothering to read my note.
That’s the problem I have.
What am I supposed to do with someone else’s bone?
I called the post office to complain. But the phone rang and rang and rang. The dogs didn’t answer so I showed the bone to my mother. She wasn’t my real mother. I lost my real mother in the war. “It looks like a human bone,” my new mother said.
“It’s not mine. The dogs should take it back.”
“They won’t take it back. They don’t care. And you can’t leave it in your mailbox forever Junior.” She always called me Junior because she couldn’t remember my name. “Might have been a new dog, first day on the job. The smart thing to do would be to take the bone into the backyard and just bury it and forget you ever saw it in the first place.”
Smart thing to do or not, I didn’t like the thought of acting like an animal and burying the bone in the backyard. But I was just a kid, wasn’t I? I didn’t know my Yoo hoo from my Howdy-do.
All I knew was that I had a bone that didn’t belong to me. What did you expect me to do with it? You expected me to find the person it belonged to and deliver it to them myself? You expected me to do a dog’s job?
I remember looking at the bone. It was an arm bone. I remember there were teeth marks where the dog had chewed. I wondered if someone was waiting for it. I remember wondering if someone was checking the mailbox everyday for the bone to arrive.
I’ve said it again and I’ll say it before, there’ll be a big difference between the way everything is now and the way it’s going to be soon, and you can’t blame me for doing what I was told to do. I had to eat, same as anyone.
I guess if you have a problem with that it’s a problem you have.
But I was just a kid back then and I had someone else’s bone and my new mother told me to bury it in the backyard and forget I ever saw it in the first place so that’s what I did because it was easier to act like an animal than do a dog’s job.
The New Menu
Usually when I go the coffee shop and wait in line and order a large dark roast with two milks that’s what I get. I say the words to a cashier and the cashier presses buttons on the register and then another staff member makes the thing I said. There’s probably a little more to it than that but generally that’s what happens. I say the words to get the thing.
But today I didn’t get the thing I said.
Today I ordered a large dark roast with two milks and ended up getting an elderly man afflicted with Tangier disease. I went back to the counter and told the cashier and she apologized and explained the coffee shop had started a new menu and some of the employees weren’t familiar with it. She gave me my dark roast with two milks and said there was no charge for the elderly man with Tangier disease, as it was their mistake.
I said, “But I don’t want an elderly man with Tangier disease.”
The cashier said, “We have a no return policy so I’m afraid you’ll have to come back tomorrow to speak to the manager,” and went back to taking customer’s orders. I returned to my table, where the elderly man with Tangier disease sat. He looked at his watch but didn’t say anything. I sipped the dark roast. I read the paper. Homes evacuated, cars submerged as bad flooding continues. Also, Britney Spears has totally embraced getting older. Plus a Baltimore woman said a drug-sniffing dog detected her cancer.
“I have an appointment in the afternoon,” the elderly man said.
“At the Hotel Dieu for 2 pm. We should probably leave around 1:30 to find parking. Parking is terrible downtown.”
“Are you asking for a lift?”
“It’s not that far, is it? It’ll just take a second. Drop me off on your way to wherever it is you’re going, and then pick me up at 3.”
“I don’t have a car. Who normally takes you to these appointments?”
“No one. This is my first time going.”
“How long have you had your disease?”
“Since yesterday. I came in for a toasted bagel with herb and garlic cream cheese and I got this Tangier disease thing instead. Now I’m stuck with it. They have a no return policy.”
“You should come back tomorrow and speak to the manager.”
“It’s no one’s fault. It’s the new menu.” He looked at his watch. “We should probably catch a cab.”
I thought about getting a refill of coffee to go but I was afraid they’d make another mistake and give me a second elderly man suffering from Tangier disease, which I didn’t need. One was enough.
As we got ready to leave a woman rushed over to our table and gripped my arm and said, “I ordered a blueberry muffin but they messed up and now we’re getting married in an hour. I told them they made a mistake, and they gave me the muffin for free, but we still have to get married, and the manager won’t be back until tomorrow.”
“We’re getting married?”
“In an hour at St. Andrew’s. A limousine is parked outside waiting.”
“Congratulations,” the elderly man said.
“St. Andrew’s is near the hospital. I’ll ride with you in the limo. You can drop me off for my appointment and then pick me up after the ceremony.”
We got into the limo, dropped the elderly man off at Hotel Dieu, then went to St. Andrew’s, got married, and picked up the elderly man again. Next day we went back to the coffee shop and spoke with a manager and everything was resolved. I no longer had to worry about being responsible for an elderly man with Tangier disease, and the elderly man was cured. My wife and I got a divorce. And now the new menu isn’t new anymore. You get the thing again if you say the word.
Jason Heroux is the author of three poetry collections, Memoirs of an Alias, Emergency Hallelujah, and Natural Capital. He is also the author of two novellas, Good Evening, Central Laundromat, and We Wish You a Happy Killday. His most recent book is the poetry collection Hard Work Cheering Up Sad Machines (Mansfield Press, 2016).