Three Somewhat Defective People
1.14.2003 by , every Tuesday.
In honour of Ash's triumphant return, here are three stories about somewhat defective people.
We missed you, man. Although you won't see me saying so in print.
If you like ducks, you should read the last story.
Elebius isn’t a bad sort of fellow. And it’s not his fault, of course. The Problem. But I do wish he’d just let it be once in a while.
As usual I met him before work at a coffee-shop on Kant street. After a brief greeting I settled into the chair across the little round table and dabbed my cruller in my coffee. Elebius was sitting in a typically discomforted, unhappy position. He sighed now and again.
“So, Elebius,” I said, through a honeyed mouthful of cruller, “how was your weekend?”
Elebius shuffled a bit, and poked mournfully at his cranberry muffin. Sunlight slanting through the window danced and glittered on the faucet. “Not awful, Titus. I went golfing on the new green.”
“Why, how exciting!” I said, perhaps a little too enthusiastically. “I’ve been meaning to set aside a few hours for a good game.”
Elebius sighed. His depressive posture made me feel, in comparison, positively radiant and proud. This thought brought a little guilt; I assuaged it with more cruller. “What else is exciting and new?”
Elebius sighed again. “Oh, nothing much. Besides the obvious, of course,” he muttered away softly into his muffin.
I rolled my eyes, then fixed him with a stare. “Elebius,” I said sternly. “You know, you really have to put away your Problem now and again. I and the fellows have become quite tired of it.”
Elebius recoiled as if he had received an electric shock. “I’m sorry,” he said, absently snaking a hand upward to stroke the faucet. “I don’t want to be boring, really I don’t. It’s just so difficult . . .”
I braced myself for the familiar refrain and gulped some coffee.
“. . . It’s just so difficult going through life with this trouble. The faucet is heavy, and the ladies turn their eyes away or titter in mockery.”
I turned my eyes away and covertly read the headlines on the newspaper of the man to my left.
“Anyhow, surely, Titus, you can’t know what it’s like. But I digress. I don’t want to cause trouble . . . I’m so sorry.”
I turned back, nodding absently. Outside the window three beautiful girls, dressed in fresh spring pastels, glowed in the sun. As they walked past one turned and fixed her eyes on Elebius. Perhaps it was their delightful curves, but I could easily forgive them for staring and laughing. After all, a man with a faucet in his head is bound to be a constant novelty.
Elebius moaned softly and leaned towards me in an attempt to duck from view. Unconcerned, I downed the bitter dregs of my coffee and spread out my newspaper.
“I’m sorry,” Elebius repeated.
“There there, my friend,” I said gently. “Lean back now, you’re dripping on my newspaper.”
Eric disliked mice. Whenever Mickey Mouse or his Mighty cousin would grace the glowing screen he would holler obscenities almost until drooling. Once a small mouse entered my cabin in the summer; Eric would have squashed it with his big Docs if he hadn't been so uncoordinated in his fear-rage-state, smashing and tromping about. One day, while dining at Eric's house, I entered his bedroom to take my asthma inhaler from my coat pocket (his wife's cat made me wheeze). I'd reckoned the room was empty - but there he was, in front of the mirror, clad in grey with big floppy ears; a costume, it seemed, meant to emulate a mouse. "Eric," I murmured painfully, because the most horrible thing was not the mouse costume, but that it was the most torn, ragged, haphazard mouse costume. Grease spots shone on what seemed to be old rags only grey because of excessive use. The ears were badly cut from felt and hung on to a wide girl's headband with yellowing dobs of tape.
"Eric," I said. He turned around slowly, utterly broken. I couldn't think of a single word to say; I was disgusted and awed beyond belief by the entire situation. I was even further disgusted when I felt myself shrugging my shoulders largely; and, very slowly, shaking my head now, quirking my mouth into a sick grimace of a smile, I heard myself whisper, "Squeak, squeak."
On June seventh of last year I woke to hear the quacking of ducks drift through my open window. I left the house early for school and was amused when a line of mallard ducks, a proud mother and eight scruffy youngsters, strode from the pond beside my lawn and paraded across my path. When they were all gone into the bushes I counted myself blessed and continued on my way. Incredibly, a second line of ducks, passing between garden ponds, disrupted my travels one block further east. I felt a ghost of a smile quirk up as a third line stopped me in my tracks three blocks further. By the eighth line I was half an hour late for school and the scruffy troopers were no longer amusing. The ninth and tenth lines boxed me in at the corner of Charles and Main: one strolled before me and one behind, quacking across the distance between them as they moved like twin carnival shooting games. One block from the school I rubbed my forehead in angst as four lines of ducks, weaving faultlessly through each other, trapped me for a full five minutes. The quacking was driving me mad! Because I couldn't bring myself to risk stepping on the ducklings, I stood frozen, wracking my brain for a solution. Finally there was a break in the crowd and I made my move. Uttering a half-strangled, half-triumphant bellow, I ran madly in a random direction. Unfortunately, I had chosen to make a beeline towards the large pond at the centre of the Central Park, where ducks tend to gather in astonishing numbers. I was soon surrounded by endless lines of birds closing in on all sides, weaving and quacking and bobbing, down feathers drifting in the air all around.
I've been squatting on this square of pavement in the middle of Central Park for about five months now. Once, in an attempt to communicate, someone threw me a marker and a piece of cardboard. I made a sign that I hold up so that people might throw me food over the endless lines of ducks. They do, sometimes a bagel crust or a half-eaten sandwich, and I'm grateful, but, curiously, my self-loathing increases with every hour. I'm proud of my sign though. It's simple and clear; a study in verbal economy. The letters say, "Too Nice. (Spare Something?)"