Matt, whom I call Milt, taps my shoulder. I cannot be five.
I am standing in a kitchen. As I look away from the window a thick screen occludes the view outside, funny I didn't notice that before. I must be at least seven or eight, perhaps more since Matt is here.
He tells me he's leaving for Atlanta, he'll be cycling with his friends. He'll get there as fast as he can, which won't be as fast as his best friend because he's not a cycling fiend like him. He'll do the best that he can, yes, a postcard from D. C. I don't gather that he will pass through North Carolina. He'll call me if he gets stuck or has any problems or needs me to come and pick him up, but he's not going to leave yet.
Per comes into the kitchen and greets us hurredly. 'Have you seen my lunch?'
I consider that I probably do not live here. Maybe Matt does and I am visiting him here. Perhaps I live further up the hill in the North Building, or perhaps I live somewhere else. However, I find Per's lunch. He left it in the breadbox, a baloney sandwich with a banana and a green-skinned fruit with regular hemispheres covering its surface. Per tightens his belt buckle another two notches and thanks me. Matt has wandered to the other side of the kitchen which I perceive tangentially as though it disappears into a sunny mist, certainly the 6 AM sunny mists that covered the beaches near Savannah. . in Georgia . .it matches Matt's hair . . if I went through . . For an instant I freeze on a forming thought, but it passes and I shut off the dematerialising end of the kitchen, displacing Matt into the dining room. A cabinet appears in the once translucent wall.
I open the bottom cupboard to retrieve a package.
I must be no more than nine, I seem so close to the floor.
'I sent in the coupons into the Nitrogen Society. They sent me this package. It's from Minnesota.'
'The Nitrogen Society. . Here. Look at the label. . See? It says, ''N2-Society,'' in bold black letters.'
He has wandered in from the dining room. He adjusts small knobs on the sides of his glasses so he can see.
'Do they fix nitrogen?'
'Yes.' I don't really know off the top of my head whether they do or not, but being the Nitrogen Society, they must certainly fix nitrogen.
I remove the box from it's shelf in the cabinet. It is a flat rectangular box made of a thin grey cardboard. A large label on the front states, 'N2 Society.' I wonder what lies inside; how kind of them to send me a package. My stomach turns with an odd sensation of anticipation. I look to Matt, and temporarily forget about the package. He seems very dejected. I start to ask him what's wrong but my words cease to make any sense. Everything I say ends in a whispery silence. It saddens me to be unable to ask him why he seems so unhappy. He lifts his gaze into my face as though he'll say something but then drops his head and walks out of the kitchen. I follow him but find no sign of him in the dining room. His disappearance troubles me.
I open the box. The first layer is all potatoes, potatoes with layered skins like onions. Some the layers have a dark grime between them . .oog, dirt and pollution. They have sent me potatos filled with dirt, grown in pollution. A distant visage of my mother tells me they will be bad for me, to throw them out, they're rotten. But why would the nitrogen society send me rotten potatoes? Certainly they have a reputation. They have to keep up the reputation of nitrogen . . and we all need nitrogen. I sniff one potato. It doesn't smell rotten. The black grime must be part of the skin or the tuber or . . just part of it. Hey! I can eat this. They sent me something I can eat. These potatoes will last at least a week..
I put the potatoes aside. Some green wrappers cover the next layer, one filled with odd yellow and orange objects. They seem to be made of plastic. I don't know what they do. . . I come across more labels with the bold black insignia of the 'N2 Society.' Would this be an organization that sends out coffee mugs? To my relief I don't find one though I discover numerous small metallic cubes with 'N2' engraved on the sides in the bottom of the box. I shake the box and hear rattling but cannot find anything else. . What a wonderful package! I wonder if I can send them another coupon..
I walk into the dining room. The backs of the chairs around the glass table rise at least 7 feet into the air. Three wispy pieces of wood arch gracefully to a rounded point at the top. Per must have bought these in Sweden.
The stairway to the 2nd floor consists of nothing more than carpeted platforms at right angles to the walls. The carpet is ugly, an off-chartrucey-green. It has collected grime from lach of cleaning. Closer to the top I hear noises, rustling noises and distant, hollow sighs and wails.
The top platform opens into a large room, covered by the same carpet. I notice the carpet first, then a man energetically convulsing on top of a woman on the bed. Both writhe uncontrollably amid a torment of sheets. Wrinkles of flesh hammer brazenly along the mattress. It is not a pleasing sight. This must be Matt's room; no wonder he looked so dejected. I don't recognize the man or the woman. I could probably stand there and yell and they wouldn't take notice. I wonder if they really live here. . .
At the bottom of the stairway I sense that someone passes me, as though I walked through a cloud. A woman stands in the dining room. I would guess her age to be around 45. She has black hair with prominent streaks of gray. She wears grey checkered clothes with checkers so fine and close together that her shirt appears to have streaks of red in it. She has no eyes, only plastic-lined eye-sockets made of a white translucent plastic. I look at them closely. She blinks in response to the question I would have asked.
'Yes. They do lids in these new-proplaxes.' She blinks her fleshy eyelids again. I see the lower edge of the underlying plastic support as the lids shut over the empty plastic chamber. The lids have no eyelashes.
'Really, but . .'
Anticipating again, she answers, 'I lost them in a boiling accident. I used to be a cook.'
'Oh . .'
'Still am .. can even put eyes in, you know, it's just they don't work . .I says gives 'em a few more years, they'll come up with something that works.' She smiles proudly. I wonder if her mouth is plastic-lined as well, but it is not.
'Do you . .?'
'Oh, yeah, them twos upstairs, they goes ats it reg'lar times a day, here, there. As long as no one but me's in the house isalrite, else summon's like to take offense.' She smiles.
Hmm . . poor Matt . . . and a blind woman to clean up the mess.