Mature Content Warning: The following contains language that may be offensive to some readers. You’ve been advised.
Feldon felt like crawling into the eye of God and setting the world on fire as he climbed the stairs to his apartment. When he reached his floor, the hall was empty. He could hear a television blaring and some people arguing behind a few of the closed doors. There was always too much noise, he complained inside his own mind. Too much noise. Too much rattling around.
He put the key inside his lock and turned it, pushed the door open, and clicked on a light. Carl was still asleep on the couch, but his eyes were wide and there was that ever-present grin —like a crooked car salesman. He went into the bedroom and turned on a lamp there. Eve was still sitting in the chair beside his bed. He went over to her and kissed her gently on the cheek.
“Hello dear,” he said. “How are you? You and Carl haven’t been up to any nastiness, have you?”
He glanced at his rumpled bed, and it looked the same as when he left, yet he still wondered.
“I suppose you haven’t made any dinner, have you?” Feldon asked her. “No, I didn’t think so. Don’t you realize I’m hungry?”
It was then that the phone in the other room began to ring, and it startled him.
“Who on earth could be calling me?” he wondered, and then he went to answer.
“Hello. May I speak with Feldon Fairtz please?”
“This is Feldon.”
“Hi Feldon. It’s Shirley, Shirley Humpsley from the Fifth Avenue Doll Salon.”
Feldon grew excited. “Oh yes. Hello! How are you?”
“I’m well, thank you. I was just calling as a courtesy to let you know that we have gone ahead and hired another candidate for the position here.”
“What?” Feldon said, suddenly deflated.
“We’ve hired someone else for the position, Feldon. Like I said, as a courtesy, we reach out to our other candidates to let them know. We feel it’s the right thing to do so you can carry on with your job search without wondering if you’ll ever hear from us. It’s standard practice.”
“So, I didn’t get the job?”
“No. I’m sorry.”
“But, why? What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing, Feldon. We just feel the person we hired had the strongest set of skills that matched our needs. Please don’t take it personally.”
Feldon grew angry over the phone. “But I have a very specific set of skills, Mrs. Humpsley! And strong skills they are! I am very talented, and I think this is absolute bullshit that you have decided not to hire me. It’s because I’m a man, isn’t it?”
“Please Mr. Fairtz, there’s no need to get nasty with me and use foul language. And our decision in no way reflects on your gender… Or anyone else’s.”
“Of course not, of course not, of course not!” Feldon repeated in anger. “It’s all straight talk and legit, isn’t it Shirley. It’s all politically so damn correct and sterilized corporate wise and all nauseating too. Well, I’m not buying it. This is a crock of crap, and I demand to speak to your supervisor!”
“Look here, Mr. Fartz!”
“I don’t care what it is!” Mrs. Humpsley snapped back in snappy black girl style. “I will not be talked to in this way, and if you ask me, Fartz fits you perfectly because you’re one hell of an asshole! Our decision is final, and I have nothing else to say to you. Goodnight, sir!”
She hung up.
Feldon held the cordless receiver away from his face and glared at it.
“I’ll get my lawyer you fucking bitch!” he screamed. “You violated my rights as a person! You assaulted me with words! Cruel words!”
He was breathing hard. His heart was racing. The phone was empty, and he suddenly flung it across the room, and it struck a picture of his dead parents that was hanging on the wall and it fell and broke. He turned to look at Carl. He was grinning chiseled mad, mocking him in mime.
“What the fuck are you looking at!?” Feldon screamed. “I just had a bit of trouble with a prospective employer. Nothing serious, Carl. Just look away. Please. Just look away from me!”
Feldon shuffled to the kitchen, reached into a cabinet for a glass and filled it with water at the sink. His hand shook violently as he brought the glass to his mouth and drank. It slipped from his hand, fell to the floor, and shattered.
“God damn it!” Feldon screamed. “Everything I touch turns into a disaster!”
He shuffled to the couch and collapsed into it. He leaned forward and put his face in his hands and started crying.
His face was wet with tears and his nose was stuffed when he reached for the box of facial tissues, yanked a couple out, and blew.
“God damn it,” he mumbled. “God damn it all to hell. It’s falling apart, Carl.” He turned to the mannequin, still half reclined on the couch beside him. “Do you hear me? I’m falling apart you son of a bitch. Don’t you care?”
There was no answer of course, just a wide, plastic grin and factory fresh eyes millions of miles away.
Feldon stood up quickly.
“Fine! Be that way, you prick! You may not give a damn about me and my life, but I’m sure Eve does. Oh, I know she does. See, she loves me. That’s right, Carl. We’re in love. And you better stop trying to fuck her or I swear I’ll kill you!”
Feldon stormed off to his bedroom and slammed the door.
He clicked on a lamp near his bed and the room was illuminated in a stormy, dreary kind of way. He knelt on the floor before Eve in her chair, touched her smooth, plastic hand and then looked up to her painted eyes of crystalline green.
“Eve, my darling. Gosh I’ve had a rough night. I was hoping that, just maybe, you’d be willing to lie in my bed with me tonight.”
He paused to study her reaction, holding the fabric of her dress to his face to smell it and wipe his damp skin.
“No, no, no,” Feldon reassured her as he patted her hand. “Nothing sexual. I just want to be close to you in my darkest time of need.”
He used his fingertips to move his hair back and craned his ear toward her.
“Of course I won’t be naked,” Feldon shyly answered. “I’ll wear my favorite pajamas. You know, the ones with the monkeys riding the trains. They must be circus monkeys, yes, circus monkeys, don’t you think?”
Then he giggled oddly.
“But of course, if you want to be naked, I won’t complain — not one bit.”
Feldon grinned, stood up and took Eve by the waist. He lifted her and took her to the bed, laid her down, and covered her with a sheet and blanket. Feldon stared down at her. Eve’s eyes were staring straight up at him.
“You look lovely,” he said to her.
Feldon quickly went to the other side of the room, stripped down and changed into the pajamas. He went into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and swished mouthwash. He clicked off the bathroom light. Then he clicked off the little lamp by his bed and crawled in beneath the covers beside her. His heart was slightly pounding. He turned his head and tried to see her in the darkness, hoping his eyes would quickly adjust.
“Eve?” he whispered.
He reached to grasp her hand.
“I love you,” he softly said. “Eve? Did you hear me? I love you.”
It was silent except for the sound of a slow drip in the bathroom sink and the humming of traffic outside the windows. He propped himself up on his elbow at her side and reached out in the darkness. He held his hand just slightly above her nose and mouth. He felt nothing and then suddenly felt very alone and empty.
“Are you holding your breath?” he whispered to her. “Eve?”
He moved his face close to hers and gently rubbed his cheek against hers. “Oh Eve, why are you so cold to me? Is it Carl? Do you love Carl?”
He closed his eyes and fumbled in the darkness to find her mouth with his own. He awkwardly pressed his lips against hers and there was no reciprocation. He pulled back, ashamed and hurt.
He threw the covers off himself in frustration and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. He pawed at his face and ran his fingers through his mussed hair of pale cherry. Then there was a light tapping at the bedroom door and he snapped his neck in that direction. His heart began to pound uncontrollably. The light tapping came again.
“Who’s there?” Feldon called out through the darkness. “Carl? Is that you? Can’t you just leave us alone? Ever!”
The tapping turned to a harder knock, then a pounding. The door began to rattle in its frame. Feldon hurled himself out of the bed and yanked the door open. Carl was standing there with his high eyes and wide grin and his fist held up in the air, fixed to pound. He was illuminated from behind by the glow of the television from the other room. There was loud talking and then gunfire rattling from the speakers.
Feldon squinted. “Damn it all, Carl! I told you to leave us alone! And turn the television down!”
The mannequin’s fist suddenly shot forward and clubbed Feldon right in the face. He stumbled backward and clumsily fell to the floor. He suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous and then everything went dark and silent.
TO BE CONTINUED