Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Curtain

It hadn’t been that long since Earl had been without a woman, but it had been long enough. He couldn’t sleep that night, so he lay in bed and watched the curtains billow from the wind of the fan. It was nearly November and the nights were cold, but Earl kept his fans running all year long as a way to block out noise from the neighbors and the street. This process had all started simply because Earl was working nights. When he tried to sleep during the day he couldn’t because of neighbors moving around above and below him, because of their music and televisions playing, and because of one neighborhood dog that barked from the street into his bedroom window nearly all afternoon.

Earl hated that dog, a German Shepherd mix of some kind. And he got a strange satisfaction that President’s Day weekend as he stood enveloped in the curtain, drinking a Schlitz, watching as the neighbor’s Pit Bull clamped on to the dog’s neck and shook the very life out of it. Earl watched the carnage and drank with absolutely no emotion. He felt like it wasn’t really happening, at first.

“I guess you’re happy now,” was all that Beth said at the time, when he saw her in passing. She worked days as a secretary in a law firm in the city.

But all Earl could remember was the blood. Blood was everywhere. It was on the Pit Bull. It was on the street. It was on the clothes of the German Shepherd’s owner, as he tried to beat the Pit Bull away with his cain. For two weeks when Earl left for work or to get his mail, he could see the dried spot of blood as it waited to be washed away by snow and cold rain. Earl felt bad, but he couldn’t help thinking that with the dog gone he’d finally get to sleep without the use of the fans. Funny thing was Earl had become addicted to the droning noise the fans made, and he couldn’t get rid of them no matter what. They were stuck together.

He kept watching the curtain billow, imagining it a shapely woman doing a dance just for him, like one of those belly dancers. Earl remembered that he was once in a restaurant in Atlantic City where they had fleets of belly dancers go around to tables and dance for people as they ate and drank. Then Earl turned over to his nightstand and grabbed his pack of cigarettes. He lit one, and took a final slug on the glass of scotch that was sitting next to his night-light. The ice had melted in the drink so it tasted watered down. For some reason this made Earl’s throat clamp tighter than if he’d made a strong one. He wanted a strong one.

So Earl got out of bed with his cigarette casting a dim light. He looked at the curtain as it continued to dance, but he felt no real sensuality for it. He needed a woman. Still, he went over to it. He pulled at the thick blue fabric for a second, held it, and then pushed it away to look outside. The street was dead. One car passed. Earl looked across the street toward where the German Shepherd mix had died, and then he closed the curtain and went and got his drink.

No comments: