Last Edited: February 18th (Draft #4)
He could hear a bird chirping. The window had been opened as an invitation for a cooling spring breeze, but all Lenny got was a chirping bird. It was acceptable, so while lying on his back he brought his hands together, fingers pulled apart, mindlessly crunched the fingers together, weaved like a zipper, brought them apart again, and repeated.
There was a haunting idea in his mind that escape was impossible. He was trapped; no hasty overnight move or destroyed cell phone could change that.
He turned his attention back to the room. An early morning light was filtered by dusty blinds. Everything was plain: no walls, no colors. An exceptionally dull room with nothing to keep him attached to the past; nothing to flush out his guilt. The bed was comfortable for now, stilled wrapped in a cold plastic, and his head rested without any support of a pillow.
Minutes later, two if Lenny had truly counted, the merry bird and its senseless noise wandered away. He closed the window and was left again in silence. Pure silence. It was remarkable, really, that the room had grown so awfully quiet that his mind began to fabricate its own sound. A fuzzy and surely unreal noise that was picked up by something other than his ears. Not quite a hum, or that strange beep that fades out that usually happens in only one ear, but rather just a sustained noise. It was the sound of pure silence.
Was it the excessive caffeine that was causing his body to tremble now? It could be, but he tried not thinking about it. Heavy minds aren’t good for fresh starts. He returned to examining his room.
The ‘empty’ walls were actually covered with the remains of other people’s lives: small drip marks from poor paint jobs, a small horizontal gash from the door swinging too quickly, rectangular boxes with a brighter white preserved behind all picture frames, artwork, and posters. These would stay blank, as Lenny did not have the expected family pictures. He had no children, and he lacked the adorable framed photograph of husband holding loving wife, both smiling, both infinitely young.
The space was well-lived, as is the nature of the world. It was hard for him to grasp how, in moving to a foreign and relatively ‘new’ country, everything had felt horrifically familiar. There was no clock to indicate the time, but Lenny’s all-night trip here had his mental schedule skewed anyway. His feet caught on to the trend and cried out for freedom. Shoes came off, as did socks, and the barefooted Lenny fell asleep.
A few plain knocks on the front door woke him up. Lenny was grateful that they hadn’t been slams at the door, since it’s all too ordinary for nice naps to be awoken by violent-handed visitors. He wasn’t quite sure who could possibly be knocking, though, since nobody could have known he had already moved in. Then he checked his watch and realized just how long he had actually slept: 9 hours. He pulled himself up from the bed, pounding the plastic cover as he went.
The hallway that led to the door also happened to pass by the rest of the small condo. The kitchen was essentially the Swiss Army knife of the house, containing an older spin-clean washing machine and an unnecessarily large silver drying machine, a utility closet that hid itself in the corner and was quite embarrassed with its own size, a dirty slide-glass door that led out into a minute yard, a small ‘dining’ area consisting of a floating countertop accompanied by 2 tall stools, and of course general kitchen appliances that should be expected of any real kitchen. He caught a glimpse of this all for the first time now, as he dragged himself to the front door, and also passed a crisis-level mess of a bathroom.
Lenny didn’t make any attempt to see who the knocker was before swinging the door open, which wasn’t locked anyway. A tall, chubby man stood before him; chest puffing out in an impressive silver-gray collared shirt that hugged his throat in true turtleneck fashion. His hair was slicked back, and he immediately could tell the man had used far too much of whatever product he had been using. However, it wasn’t the choking collar or the silly hair, which sat under a hat that was probably going to slide off the back of the man’s head at any second, but rather the just-above-the-knee length jean shorts that had Lenny mockingly curious.
“Excuse the outfit sir,” he began to explain, obviously aware that he had just been fully examined. “My real uniform was stolen from that lunatic that jetted out of here in one of our police cars last week.” His voice sounded as if there was a pile of milk sitting in the back of his throat, although he did have an authority-commanding tone.
After a blank stare from a sleepy-eyed Lenny, the man at the door changed into a more conversational tone, “You didn’t hear about the lunatic?” he said quietly. “Oh, you’re missing a great story. Er, but…well...I mean, I’m not supposed to tell it, it’s just that everyone really already knows it. No, no, no. Nevermind. Forget I said anything.”
He received the same blank stare, except that Lenny had now at least repositioned his posture with a hand grasped high on the doorway and a crooked leaned body. “OH! Right. The reason I’m here- I’m part of the police enforcement in this town, call me Mr. Gately, and I have an important order to pass on to you,” He held up a small piece of paper a good 2 feet from his face and squinted. “Mr. Lenard Elliot.”
“Lenny. Nice to meet you Mr. Gately,” the two men shook hands. “An important order?”
“Important enough to send a dignified member of the police and not some random messenger, apparently.”
“Again, excuse the outfit. I promise you, the next time you see me you’ll be quite impressed with how official and professional I usually am.”
“I’ll take your word on that,” he smiled. “Now about this message?”
“It’s an order, actually. I know we are a pretty small providence and still fairly new, but we run a tight ship here. We’re more than fair, we allow you all your freedoms… we just have a few…a few…requirements, so to speak.” Lenny gave a skeptical look, unsure of what he was getting himself into by moving here. “It’s Tuesday today. Two days from now, yes that means this Thursday, you are ordered to appear at 1412 Main Street. At noon. Here, I’ll write the address for you.”
It annoyed Lenny that this Mr. Gately had purposely talked slowly in his explanation, but nonetheless he smiled as Mr. Gately handed him the address. “May I ask what this is about, at least?”
“You’ll be asking for Director Tischbald. That’s all I can really tell you,” Lenny shot another skeptical look. Mr. Gately leaned closer, whispering, “That’s honestly all I know. A lot of people are ordered to see Tischbald when they come here. Not me though, not once. Not even in my four years of duty.”
Lenny nodded, because he really didn’t know how else to act right now and had absolutely nothing to say.
“And Mr. Elliot, or Lenny as you’d like it, you’ll be receiving a proper and more informational welcome in the mail soon enough. Nice meeting you, Lenny!” The man took a step back, grinned wildly, caught his hat right before it slid off his head, and offered his hand. They shook, and the man walked away.
After the strange visit it became apparent to Lenny that it was time to bring everything in order for his new beginning. He would need a job, just something simple since finances weren’t much of an issue, but that could wait until he was fully settled in. It was more urgent that he should start wedging his way into this society. Lenny needed to meet his neighbors and some people around town. However, it was getting dark. He really had slept the day away, and his socializing would have to wait until the morning.
Half an hour went by of Lenny sitting at his make-shift kitchen table contemplating what to do about dinner. He didn’t like the idea of leaving without first socializing. He thought to himself: people make quick judgments on foreigners that could last forever. Shopping and errands before even introducing oneself seemed just downright rude. A grocery store visit would just attract negative attention. Lenny had no idea this half hour had gone by since he could not find a single clock in the entire condo. He decided to skip dinner and instead went back to sleep, still without removing his bed’s plastic covering. He unpacked some sweaters to prop up his head.
There was something about the name Tischbald. It popped into his mind during every mid-night turn of Lenny’s interrupted sleep. He nearly shouted it when awoken by the light of the moon, hitting him with perfect aim under the half closed blinds.
The next morning, Lenny prepared himself with a fresh shower and a change of clothes and escaped outside. He still had an empty stomach, but his first priority was to gain the approving eye of his neighbors. He walked outside in his casual button-up shirt and was greeted by a healthy ray of sunshine. It was a gorgeous day, and surprisingly a gorgeous street. Blue skies hung above wonderfully vibrant white-trimmed rooftops. Every condo building or house was constructed with architectural style: rectangles connected to squares, with garage doors or balconies scattered about. The path leading from his door to the street was lined with magnificently trimmed green bushes, about knee high. These bushes separated his half of his condo building from the other. This ‘other’ would have to be his first destination.
A lady that Lenny presumed to be about 30-35 years old answered the door. “Hello miss,” he greeted her. “I’ve just moved in next door and would like to introduce myself. Lenard Elliot, but please, call me Lenny.” He tried to be as polite and cheerful as he could; suppressing the growl of his hungry stomach.
She returned his cheerfulness in full. She introduced herself as Maryann and invited him inside. After a small quick tour, which suggested that the jumbled living space identical to Lenny’s could be tamed to a suitable home, he sat down on a sofa. They were technically in the kitchen room, but Maryann had done such a fine job arranging furniture and appliances that it felt like a whole new area.
“Would you like some tea or coffee Lenny?” Her offer was delivered in a routine manner. People here were accustomed to neighborly interactions and understood completely how to act politely. He accepted, and a few minutes later she handed him a comforting cup of tea and sat at the chair near the sofa.
Maryann spoke mostly about where to find things around town. She had moved into this country only a few months after it had been established and had immediately fallen in love with it. Everything was easy to find, always ‘right where you’d expect!’ as she would say after directing him to the grocery store, post office, bank, etc. She worked occasionally at a local pub serving food and drinks. Maryann appeared to be the embodiment of perpetual cheerfulness. She always smiled. Lenny thought she was a wonderful woman, offering himself for any handy-man necessities she would have. Altogether his visit to Maryann was uplifting for his spirit. It helped that she had not once asked a personal question.
As it turned out, the next two people were just as impersonal as Maryann. They weren’t all as cheerful, of course. He met a young man, who lived a few houses down across the street, who had a fierce goatee. He only talked about how lonely he was with no young women living on this street. They were around town, of course, but he had ‘shit luck’ in picking a good spot. “I mean, there is Lindsay, but she always pushes us all away. That bitch!” he explained. “She does this thing where she bites her lip when she’s bored of you, so sexy. But again, such a bitch!” Lenny thought it was fit to leave when the man turned on the television which immediately kicked up a surround-sound entertainment system that attacked from at least 8 separate locations.
The next lady was around the same age as Maryann. Even though she also invited him inside, which was a small, cozy two-story house with an overhanging balcony, this woman wasn’t nearly as likeable. Lenny was never offered any refreshments or even introduced, and he had to make his own inferences through picture frames and portraits that she was married woman. Lenny noted how happy they seemed, and how joyous their wedding must have been.
“So, Lenard, I bet you haven’t heard any of the juicy scandals then!” her vicious voice echoed throughout the house. Lenny would never get a chance to speak. Mostly she just spouted useless gossip: Rumors that Frank and Annie over on Pomolov Street were having trouble in their relationship, her ‘strong women’s intuition’ that Mr. Gately was actually ‘one of them homosexuals,’ and some idea that Lenny believed to be awful and almost certainly false that Maryann was a treacherous woman hiding behind a fake image. “Don’t let their fake smiles fool you Lenard. They’re all nasty, scandalous villains!” Then she mentioned something about the incident last week where a man went crazy and took off. She could tell this perked Lenny’s interest since his head tilted slightly and she exploded into narrative:
“This guy, we called him Rourke, I don’t remember his first name, Jim or George or something, just absolutely went crazy! They heard shouting from his apartment, Susie’s saying there was someone there with him but Susie’s a bit of a drunk, and so they called the police. Mr. Gately shows up and the man storms out, throws him on the ground and rips off all his clothes! That poor Gately, being exposed like that. He runs at the police car and Mr. Gately is able to get a shot on him, gets him in the arm. Blood spurted out! But y’know nobody really got a good look at Rourke, so maybe the bullet didn’t really hit him. But Susie swears there was blood, and Aeesha’s son said he heard the shot! Now what was I saying? Oh! So he takes off in the officer’s car and drives straight out of country! Nobody knows where he went.”
She concluded the Rourke story and shiftily peered out the windows. “Lenard I think it’s time you go.” After the lady kicked him out Lenny decided it was time to finally get something to eat.
Lenny walked over to the grocery store. It was easy to find and really was right where he would expect it to be, as Maryann had described. Among his purchases, which was just a general mix of food and household necessities that would last him the next few days, Lenny also bought a clock and 2 full bags of cleaning supplies. He was extremely surprised to find out that there was absolutely no sales tax. It made his walk home just a bit more bearable, though it was still rough with an empty stomach and both arms full of bags.
On the way home, he saw in the distance an aging man approach the door of what seemed to be an unoccupied house. The man stepped to the door and dropped two suitcases he had been holding so that he could bend over to pick something up. When Lenny had gotten closer, he observed that it was a letter, which the man had been reading aloud. Though he hadn’t heard the majority of the man’s stifled reading voice, he honed on a select few words when he was close in his passing by: “If everyone does their part accordingly, we will have quite the glorious show.” Lenny would have stopped to introduce himself, but the weight of his bags and his pressing hunger convinced him to hurry home.
He ate a very large meal: A bowl of heated canned soup (thankfully there was an old pot left behind in one of the cabinets for cooking), a self-prepared fruit salad, a thick ham sandwich, and a piece of store-brand chocolate cake to finish it off. Lenny ate so much that he began to doze off right on his stool. He eventually dragged himself over to his bed and fell asleep.
This time, the knocking that woke Lenny up from his sleep was extremely loud and very violent. There was also a good amount of coarse coughing that penetrated straight through the door. He was hesitant to open the door, first putting his hands on it like children are taught to do in the event of a fire, but eventually did. An old man caught his gaze, or rather the top of his old wrinkled and possibly even moldy head. Lenny took a step back in order to properly see the man’s face, which proved to make the man even older now. More wrinkles surrounded sunken black eyes and trailed down a loose skinned fat nose.
The old man started the conversation with a shrieking laughter which nearly led into another coughing fit. Instead, it just became a coarser and ghastly cackle “Haha! What a fool! Can’t even make yourself PRESENTABLE to answer the door!?” As Lenny obviously wasn’t aware of his appearance, he started trying to flatten his hair, but it only made the man laugh more. This time it did lead into a full coughing fit. Lenny watched with a considerable amount of concern until he regained his composure. The coughing fit had drained the old man’s excitement, “you’ve got chocolate, or something, on your cheek there.”
“Is there something I can help you with, sir?” Lenny asked as he began wiping at the indicated spot of his face.
“No, no. Course not! Just wanted to get a good look at ya. You got that same look as that Rourke fellow.” He shook his head. “Now get your ass back to sleep. Pretend this was a dream.” He mumbled a lot as he turned around and walked off. Lenny curiously watched the old man as he pulled his hunched body down the walkway and onto the sidewalk. He heard the man say to himself, “Haha, as if Tischbald didn’t have enough to deal with!” The man never turned back, so Lenny closed the door.
The sun peeking through the blinds into Lenny’s eyes had him awake again. He had another small panic attack; bolting upright and wondering if that incident with the old man actually had been a dream. After using the bathroom he checked the mirror and did not notice any marks of chocolate or rubbing off of chocolate. It convinced him that it was entirely a dream; a very odd and insignificant dream. He was willing to believe anything over that incident being reality, over the paralysis that would be sure to follow.
He spent the next few hours within the fumes of his cleaning supplies. A fresh start should require a fresh living space. It was impossible to make this home ‘Fresh’ with all of the wear and tear, and he simply did not have anything to put over those rectangle marks from the former frames, but Lenny did his best. He was happy enough with the outcome to gain even more ambition. A list was started in the name of ‘Home makeover necessities.’ The list included new paint, a sofa, a television, and gardening tools and supplies for the tiny backyard. After finishing the list, he set out to find any sort of home improvement store.
As he walked out, he waved to Maryann. She was watering the bushes that separated their walkways. “Where are you headed?” she asked in a friendly manner.
“Furniture store. Think you could give me direct- wait, exactly where I expect it to be, right?” She smiled and they both waved again. Lenny also passed Mr. Gately, who had parked a police car in an unused lot. He was hard at work filling out some sort of paperwork on the dashboard of his car, but when he caught a glimpse of Lenny he shot up and yelled “Afternoon, Mr. Elliot!”
“Afternoon, Mr. Gately!” The officer did look exceptionally professional and well-dressed now with an actual full uniform. It was both surprising and delightful to see him in a hat that actually fit, a shirt that properly sat around his neck, and a pair of matching pants in place of those hilarious jean shorts. The conversation did not continue, as both understood it to be just a courteous pass-and-greet. It was very soon after this exchange that he met Lindsay: A curly haired tall brunette walking alone towards Lenny. When she had realized Lenny’s face wasn’t familiar she immediately smiled large, daintily offered her hand and let out a drone of “Hiiiii” that started at a very high note and steadily dropped.
“Hello Miss,” he took her hand and proceeded to forget the rest of his introduction. They stood still for a full five seconds before Lenny regained his composure. “Lenard—er, Lenny. Just moved here yesterday. And you are?”
She giggled a bit, still keeping her hand outstretched with her shoulder thrust towards her face. “So you’re the new boy I’ve heard so much about,” skipping over her own name.
“Me? That must be a mistake.” Her grin slipped. She bit at her lip with only the right side of her teeth, eyes sliding out into the distance. Lenny made a quick recovery attempt, “Might you be Lindsay?” Her eyes darted back at him with glorious shock. She was obviously delighted that Lenny had heard about her. “Lindsay….nice to meet you, Lindsay.” And here, their eyes locked, and Lenny knew he had successfully charmed her. With their hands still touching, he offered to walk her home.
Lenny was innocent in the ordeal. He was trying to be a gentleman; the best he had known how, because he was still set on make a good impression with everyone he encountered. He hadn’t caught the flirtatious nature, or at least was ignorant to it, of Lindsay, who now took his hand and weaved her fingers into his and began walking him off down the street. “Really, It’s good that I’m showing you the way,” she hinted and gave a small wink.
“…Yes, umm…still not entirely sure where everything is here. It would be great to learn the area,” he replied, innocently. So they walked, and she talked, and the sun began to drop. Minutes ticked away and turned into hours. Lenny dwelled on what a huge mistake he had made. Lindsay must have lived very far away, though he was fairly certain the man with the goatee had mentioned she lived on his own street. When the sun was just barely visible under a purple horizon, she stopped him at the top of a small bridge crossing a creek. With her gaze cast out into the stars beginning to peak out of the darkness, she took his hand, which was now very sweaty, up towards her chin. She grabbed it with both hands, tilted her head down, smiled without showing any teeth, and gazed up at him. Lenny watched in complete confusion, and then began to look around.
“We’ve gone in circles, haven’t we?” he asked, realizing the familiar sidewalks and houses.
Her smiled dropped off her face for a moment, and then a full smile emerged, teeth revealed. “I suppose you’re right,” she conceded, though her mind had interpreted the question much differently than intended. “To my apartment, then?” He nodded, and she led him to a complex that was just at the end of Lenny’s street. When they reached the door, Lenny attempted to say his goodbye, but she ushered him inside, “come in, let’s get to know each other a bit better.” About the time when Lenny had asked her what she did for a living, in as polite a fashion as he possibly could, he looked over and noticed Lindsay softly rubbing the inside of her thighs. He was very uneasy at this point, began to sit up and really say his goodbyes, but was halted by her pouncing body. He picked her up, placed her onto the couch next to her, stood up tall, and walked in the straightest path he could find that would lead him out of the room.
Lenny was bitterly confused. This Lindsay girl was nothing of the girl he pictured at the goateed man’s short description. She had not only wasted his time and prevented the trip for necessary home improvement supplies, but had altogether shaken his fragile mental state. It took all of his will to keep the kinetic energy of memories from boiling out of his skull. A precious, fragile female hand pulled and tore at his nerves. Just a small bit of discomfort was enough to knock out his self-made protective barrier, and his psyche began to crumble. He was now in a panic, racing his way back to his condo and battling that horrific sense of inescapable guilt. He ran his hand through his hair when he thought about the possible psychological underlying that could have produced his strange dream from earlier. Was it the heavy weight of his mind cracking through his unconscious state? Why had his dream been so affected by the unknown Rourke character?
These questions strangled Lenny’s limbs and weakened his bones. On top of all of this, he realized while slamming the front door behind him, he had forgotten all about his mysterious appointment tomorrow with this Director Tischbald. It was all he could do to reach the bed and plop down like a lifeless store manikin.