Just got back from the doctor. I, uh… stood in line to check out behind a woman who—an old woman—ol… I’m old… She was much older. She… really ranted for a lengthy amount of time about socialism. Uh… made several scurrilous accusations about George Soros, uhhhhhh, whose, uh, who, I believe explosive materials were found in his mailbox today. I don’t know if that was the reason behind her… her… uh, lecture she was giving the receptionist on socialism…? But… maybe that sparked it? I… I don’t know.
And, uh, ooomh…
Before that I saw Serge at his office. I was walking around the square, and… Serge asked… I had made a big to-do about… you know, packing an ascot [short laugh] for my trip, and… Serge asked me if it was a fancy ascot, and I… said, “Aren’t they all fancy?” I mean, is there, uhr, ehhrrurrhhh, a kind of ascot that’s not fancy? And Serge replied, “There’s probably a burlap ascot.”
And I thought that was a good title for something: The Burlap Ascot. It sounded hardboiled.
Serge was once again—he always tells me about a breakfast place that Anastasia and I should really… try. It’s across from the old hospital, and… [distant dog barking] he and Veronica go there all the time, and they went there this morning, and, uh, the way [short laugh] he described it today… was… “They have everything you could want! Pancakes… juice…”
And that was the end of his sentence. [Laughter.] I’m sure he would have kept going, but, ahhh, something probably distracted us. But it was just a funny thing to say: “They have everything you could want. Pancakes. Juice.”
[Dog barking outside.]
And, you know, a long silence.
[Pause. Swallowing. Lip smack.]
I’m, you know… it takes me days and days to get ready to go out of town. I’m like a sloth. I move… uhh… [dog barking] much like the… deadly sin… of sloth itself, for which I assume the animal was named. I need to look that up on Wikipedia.
I need to call in some pre—prescriptions.
Most of this stuff—ooh! I gotta pay the rent… just looking at my… ooh!
“Enough socks?” Question mark.
I’m not sure I have enough pairs of socks.
I, I, I, I… anyway. Keep your blood pressure low. The doctor seemed a lot graver than… necessary. I hope [stifled laugh] everything’s all right. I mean, he asked me normal questions, but something about the gravity of his expression and tone was… deeper, and… more solemn… than usual, I thought. Or maybe that’s just the way it is when you get older. Maybe… maybe… the answers to these… common questions… grow… exponentially… more troubling… potentially.
Well, I need to put the dishes up. I have another meeting. In… an hour and a half.
Put.up the dishes. Call in these prescriptions. I suppose I could also count my socks, but that has the… feel… the texture of something that I will put off until the last moment.
Never mind who I just saw on my screensaver.
It was Frances Cleveland, the… lovely young wife of Grover Cleveland. [Laughter.]
I believe she was in show business! Am I making that up too? Just as I’ve given you… data about sloths that… don’t—don’t take it to the bank! Don’t… rely on me.
Hey, so there’s a stranger walking around in the neighbor’s… well, there are no neighbors. What’s he doin’? He’s got some—he’s sawing! He’s got a saw! [Laughter.] He’s sawing—I can’t tell what he’s sawing. There’s some greenery interceding. But he was building some [unintelligible], something like a little shrine, a little pile. Wait a minute, those little cats hang around over there. He better not be botherin’ ‘em! Anyway, there are no neighbors, because the house, uh, has been abandoned, everyone kicked out, much as we are soon to be. Sent scurrying on our own way, Anastasia and I.
Uh, anyway, there’s—nobody lives over there. He’s got the shed open. He’s working on some sort of—what I would [short laugh] call a pyre. A… small pyre.
Uh, in the backyard of the abandoned murder house. Yes, a murder was committed there, if I haven’t mentioned that before.
Anyway, I looked up Frances Cleveland. And…
She wasn’t an—in show business, but she did, uh, when she was in college she participated in many theatrical events, both on the stage and behind the scenes. So there was an inkling of, uh, something in my mind.
Yeah, that’s right, I’m looking at you.
He can’t see me, or if he could, he wouldn’t be paying attention to me. He’s boppin’ around like a little woodland creature, who… you know, obviously a beaver, because those are the ones who like wood so much. He sure is busy…
I know he’s not consulting a tome!
What’s goin’ on over there?
He’s kneeling, but not from reverence, I think, but because he needs to be near his pyre.
There used to be a guy who lived over there who… just chopped wood. Like, in the summer! Choppin’ wood in the summer. He kinda wore a bandana around his head and chopped… wood…
What’s he got now, like a long stick?
Oh, he’s tryin’ to break a stick in half! He had to break it o—oh, he’s trying to break it over his knee. It’s not working. That stick is too… uh… oh. He’s gettin’ mad at the stick. What is he gonna do with the stick?
I wonder why my meeting hasn’t started. I’m sorry to repeat myself. But I’m going to email my f—friends, and say, “Hey, are we still meeting today?”
[Throat clearing. Very long pause with computer keys clacking rapidly and brutally and constantly. Pause grows silent. Then more clacking.]
All right. I sent an email.
I, you know, writing an email made me miss some of the action. He certainly has the look of a… of a person who knows what he’s doing. He’s got a… real… there’s a competence… no matter that he couldn’t break his stick.
Into the darkness of the shed.
Now he’s… strolling about in elliptical patterns. Kind of… you know, as if [stifled laugh] hypnotically linked to his pyre.
I sure hope… the cats don’t try to come across the yard that way, and run into… not that he’s sinister, but… you know, it’s almost Halloween, and… sinister times are afoot in the land.
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.