Alex D M’s story “Snowdrops” appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet no. 22, and “Two Coins” is in Electric Velocipede 15/16.
Mason wanted to get the kids’ room finished, so, determined that the best thing to do was get some cute furniture, he carried me off to IKEA, hoping that that chair with the leaf hanging over it would be there, as well as a free table at the cafeteria so we could have meatballs and lingonberry juice.
We didn’t bring the kids, because we knew that then we would go way over budget on pillows shaped like hedgehogs, tiny lamps that changed colors, etc.—not because we can’t say no to our children, or because they might throw tantrums, because they don’t much—really!—but because Teresa, in particular, has a way of sitting down on a pillow shaped like a hedgehog that makes it impossible not to want to repeat such an experience of total adorabilosity in our own home.
It’s horrible, I know, but it could be so much worse.
Instead, I sat down on the pillow shaped like a hedgehog, Mason laughed (I love having a husband who laughs when I mean to be funny), and everything went dark.
I woke up in the manager’s office with Mason trying to revive me with lingonberry juice, the lights in his spiky hair flickering into focus. I said, “I’ve always thought that haircut was too metrosexual,” and almost went out again. He squeezed my hand.
“Thank goodness you’re all right,” said the manager. “We could give you the pillow,” she added to Mason. “I’m sorry. It’s just that it would be so bad for business if you came back.”
“Well excuse me, aren’t adults allowed to sit on hedgehog pillows?” I said, trying to sit up.
Mason squeezed my hand tighter and said, “Of course they are, monkey. The trouble is that they don’t usually start rolling their head and prophesying when they do it.”
“You don’t remember anything?”
“I must have arrived while you were in full swing,” said the manager kindly.
“Yes,” Mason told me, “you pretty much gave a full synopsis of the next decade.”
“It was the bit about our stocks that got to me, I admit,” said the manager. “Although it was nice to know who’s going to win the election.”
They gave us the pillow. I’m looking at it right now, trying to decide what to do next (we’ve already agreed not to let Teresa sit on it).
Sandra texted me just as I left the Time Warner Building. “Doz eggs, cig lightr. Dont frget oracl.”
I had forgotten. Mazy Maxie under 96th Street Station was the most convenient, so I got off there and turned down the stairwell everyone pretends not to know about. Down and down, into the dark that smelled of old subways and new biodiesel trains and recent piss. It got cold then warm. When I couldn’t see my way any more I heard her voice.
“What’d ya bring, supplicant?”
“A carton of cigarettes and a bottle of crème de menthe.”
“Oh, it’s you, Dave. Finally somebody who knows what I like. It’s been rare unguents all day, fachrisayks. Hand ‘em over.”
I held them out in the dark and felt them lifted out of my hands. She flicked on an old clerk’s lamp and eyeballed me. She isn’t blind, though her milky eyes look like a blind person’s; just sees further than most.
“Question?” she growled.
“Oh yeah. Sandra wants to know if we should try to look for a new apartment.”
She glared into our future for a minute, then lit a cigarette and took a long drag.
“Beware of men wearing camels,” she snapped. “Have a good evening.”
Some newbies might ask, “What the hell does that mean?” but I know better: first, you get what you pay for in this town, and second, usually you find out what she means sooner than you want.
“Thanks, Maxie,” I said. “Have a good evening yourself.”
“Whatever,” she shrugged, and turned out the light.
Sandra got home ahead of me. I told her about the oracle while I cracked eggs for an omelet.
“I’m thinking next time you should try the one in Astor Place,” she said.
We didn’t find out what Maxie meant until my brother-in-law came over for dinner. Luke’s OK for someone so annoyingly hip, and his weird DJ projects make more money than we ever will. When we asked if he knew a good realtor, I couldn’t read his face, which was new. When he got up to go to the bathroom, Sandra grabbed my arm. Unlikely as it was for a guy so into his appearance—and after all, our apartment isn’t that dirty—he had an empty Camels package stuck to the seat of his pants.
FYI, the guy he recommended got arrested a week later.