"Then there is the electric bulb swaying at the end of the long wire and the man's shadow swaying across the closed door like a slow metronome."
The man walks out of the house, shutting and locking the door behind him. He steps down the three stairs to the sidewalk, first his right foot, then his left foot and then his right foot again. The serpentine of concrete takes him to the wide, gray expanse of the driveway. He is carrying a travel coffee mug, blue with London emblazoned in script on the side, in his left hand, and a truck key in his right hand. He is wearing green chinos with a black ribbed polo shirt. He checks a wristwatch with a blue face. He stops at the end of the drive waiting for a black SUV to pass before advancing, four quick steps, to the door of the company pickup. The man pulls a key from his pocket and inserts it into the lock. He pulls the door open and with a little hop slides his 6’4” frame into the pickup seat. He buckles his seatbelt. He puts the key into the ignition and twists the key igniting the engine. He puts his right foot on the brake. He then reaches up and moves the gear lever to the D position. He rests both hands on the steering wheel at the regulation 2 and 10 o’clock positions. The pickup, with a nudge of his foot on the accelerator, moves forward. He drives to the end of the block.
He moves his head to the left to check for traffic and then to the right and then again to the left. He takes his foot off the brake and enters traffic. He pulls the truck steering wheel to the right and then back to the left. He pulls into the left hand turning lane and stops behind a white Chevrolet car. He uses his left hand to turn on the turning signal. He waits, gives a cursory look over at the young dark haired woman in the sedan next to him. She is wearing smoky sunglasses even though the lighting is still very dim. She looks over at him and her lips part in a partial smile. He smiles back at her. He turns his attention back to the light. The arrow is green. He moves his right foot from the brake to the accelerator. His hands turn the steering wheel to the left and the truck moves into the lane heading East. He drives about 400 yards. The light at Central stays green and he moves through the intersection. He watches a small gray Toyota who is creeping up to turn right. The car stops. He turns his attention back to the road.
He drives till he comes to P Avenue. He removes his left hand from the wheel and moves the turn signal up with his fingers indicating a right hand turn. He places his hand back on the steering wheel and shifts the wheel slightly to the right moving the truck into the turning lane. He takes his foot off the accelerator and pushes down on the brake enough to slow his forward momentum. He turns the steering wheel to the right and then straightens the wheel so the truck is going due South. He takes his foot off the brake and puts it back on the accelerator. He turns his head to the right and looks at the pine trees that have been recently planted around a home next to the road. He turns his attention back to the road. He drives until he comes to the stop sign at Comanche St. He takes his foot off the accelerator and applies pressure to the brake until the truck comes to a complete stop. He turns his head to look at the fire truck stopped to his left. He waits for the fire truck to pass through the intersection. His head follows the red shape as it moves past his line of sight. He takes his foot off the brake and applies it to the accelerator. He moves through the intersection.
He drives another mile. He notices the 35 MPH sign and looks down at his speedometer. He looks back up at the road. When he reaches the entrance to High Plains Journal he moves his foot from the accelerator to the brake. The trees on the front lawn are dark huddled masses. He turns the steering wheel to the left and goes up the driveway. The lower parking lot is empty. He sees the white SUV of the publisher parked up in the upper parking lot. He moves the steering wheel to the left and glides into his designated parking spot. He applies the brake and moves the gear lever to P. He turns the key, which stops the engine and then slides the key from the ignition. He unbuckles his seat belt. He puts his left hand on the lever that opens the door and moves it 45 degrees toward himself. The door opens. He steps down first with his left foot, then slides off the seat planting his right foot on the ground. He reaches back to retrieve the coffee cup. He depresses the lock on the truck door and shuts the door. He walks ten paces to the door. Leaves are blown around his feet. The boom of coupling railroad cars startles him. He looks South in the direction of the sound, pauses for a moment. He turns his attention back to the door. He reaches into his pocket and pulls a set of brass and silver keys from his pocket. He flips them around on his fingers until he finds the one for the door. He slides the key into the lock and twists it to the left until he hears the click of the locking mechanism releasing. He puts the keys back in his pocket and reaches out with that same right hand to pull the door open. He steps through walks two paces to the inner door. He grabs the handle with his right hand and pulls it hard enough to part the magnets holding the door closed. He steps through. The fluorescent lights over the orange and yellow cloth covered cubicles are already on. The lights show everything in stark relief chasing shadows to only the deepest crevices.
He sees the office manager, a position that once was referred to as secretary, sitting in front of her computer. She turns to glance at him removing her brown framed reading glasses from her face with her right hand. She reveals blue eyes. She has short feathered blond hair. She is wearing a blue button down shirt and darker blue corduroy pants. The blue of her outfit is bisected by a brown belt with a silver buckle. A swath of skin reveals just a hint of cleavage and the large dark brown mole on her neck peaks around the edge of the collar.
“I have a missing order from the Iowa State Fair.” She says. He notices, not for the first time, that her teeth have the rust stain of kids that drank well water growing up.
“I’ll call the guys and have them pull their tickets.”
She turns back to her computer, putting her glasses back on her face. He turns to his office door. He pulls the keys from his pocket and sifts through the keys until he finds the antique brass colored one. He slides it into the lock and turns the key. He steps into his office closing the door behind him. He reaches over with his right hand and turns on the four 10’ long tubes of fluorescent lights in his office. He walks around his desk and pulls a black chair from where it has been nestled against the desk. He puts his keys on the desk next to the printer and his coffee next to his keys. The glowing green LCDs of his adding machine sets to the right of the printer. Both machines are gray, but mismatching gray.
He sits in the chair and leans back in the webbing of the back support. He glances at the picture on his desk of his wife and he at a friend’s wedding. He is wearing a tux that had been required to be best man. The frame is made of slate. He looks younger in the picture and has a moustache. He touches the smooth skin over his lip. There is an faded, tan phone with green and red buttons sitting to his left, the phone cord twisted in a Gordian Knot. He presses the on switch to the laptop with his right index finger. While the computer is booting up he looks over at the other picture on his desk of his two kids sitting on a bridge; they are older now. An inbox tray littered with white sheets of paper sets behind the computer. A silver tin of paperclips rests in the shadow of two scowling dragons holding a miniature sword used as a letter opener. A brass tin business card holder sets to the left of the dragons with JDK embossed on the back cover. It holds business cards with the name Jeffrey D. Keeten. Ink pens are scattered on his desk a blue one, a purple one, a white one with a green top and papers with columns of numbers marred by squiggles of handwriting.
The walls of the office are white. He has a picture of Golden Gate Bridge over the window facing into the building. If he shifts to his right and leans over a little bit he can see the helmet of blond hair of the office manager. He can see her jaw line and the edge of her glasses. The rest of her is hidden by the flaring edge of a filing cabinet. Over the door hangs a black and white picture of a young Jack Kennedy. To the right of the interior window is a picture of The Thinker
that he bought at the Musee Rodin in Paris. Directly in front of him is a picture of the original dust cover of The Great Gatsby
. To the left of that is a cartoon picture of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia that he purchased on a trip to Barcelona. To the left of the Gaudi is a watercolor of the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Below them rests two gray speckled office chairs for visitors to sit in.
On the wall to the right of the window overlooking the lawn and Wyatt Earp Blvd is a diploma from the University of Arizona for a Bachelor of Arts. Over the window is a photo of a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. The blinds over the window are brown wicker, folding Roman style when raised or lowered. The window ledge is dusty, the crispy body of a dead fly hangs in the ragged remains of a spider web. To the left of the window is a three foot slender picture of the Eiffel Tower. On the wall behind him is a Van Gogh of the wheat fields. Below that is a portrait that an artist friend sketched of his face. To right of the sketch, half obscured by a pile of books on a long gray file cabinet, is a signed photo of the baseball player George Brett. Two more black filing cabinets butt up against the long gray filing cabinet.
He uses his fingers to tap the keys to enter his security code into the computer. He reaches out with his left hand and grasps the handle of the sword letter opener and plunges it into his throat. The pain is intense more than he could have imagined. He pulls the letter opener from his neck with shaking hands and lays it next to his phone. Blood gushes out on his keyboard and splashes the phone and the silver tin of paperclips. He falls forward. His cheek is on the keyboard and he can feel the heat of the computer circuitry on his skin and the whirl of the fan makes a soft echo in his ear as he...dies.
I had to kill myself. I couldn’t take it anymore.
This is a mind numbing way to write. Very difficult actually to strain out all speculative thoughts by the protagonist, only writing what he can see, and eliminating emotional responses. Recording everything one does and the way we do it was interesting because I hadn't really thought about how many motions are necessary just to get me the six miles from my house to my office. An arm remains half raised, a mouth gapes, a head is tipped back; but tension has replaced movement, the features are contorted, the limbs stiffened, the smile has become a grimace, the impulse has lost its intention and its meaning, There no longer remains, in their place, anything but excess, and strangenness, and death."
The descriptions in this novel of mundane things add to the obscurity of the story. It seems to be a simple plot of a soldier in a city on a mission to deliver a package to a street that he has forgotten the name of, still one would think the inhabitants could set him on a proper course. From a creepy little boy that shadows him, leads him, abandons him to a series of women and soldiers who offer him directions and advice that lead him nowhere. While on his quest he is shot by soldiers on a motorcycle. The soldier finds himself back at the beginning lying on a bed staring at surroundings he has already seen, disoriented by not remembering the exact color of the drapes because he doesn’t normally have faults in his memory. There is certainly a Kafkaesque feel to the novel reinforced by a sense that their are too many obstacles to fulfill this simple obligation.
I actually liked Jealousy
better, so I would suggest reading that story if you want a taste of the style of Alain Robbe-Grillet.