These things always made him nervous, or at least what I interpreted to be nervousness. The eyeless, mouthless, fleshy sack didn’t exactly share regular discourse with me after all. The device keeping him alive whirred gently, much like the low, plaintive buzz of a fish tank aerator. A few times the thing had been unplugged or lost power. He wasn’t exactly top on my checklist of things to care for in such events, so it always amazed me when hours later the house came back to life, resuscitating him. Just how long could something with extremely few bones to prop itself up and no method by which to filter waste or take in food continue to exist when the plug was pulled? Arguably there wasn’t much brain in the tiny skull to receive damage. Having little of value to ruin, I rather idly placed bets with myself about how long he’d last yet could not work up the time or energy to ever test my theories and time the outages.
But enough about him. I was working on a submission to a rather famous international journal, and having lapsed into work mode my wife and son hadn’t seen much of me for the greater part of a week. Wraith-like, I haunted the drafty, abandoned sector of the old colonial home which was my territory, in the final stages of pulling everything together. I shoved my glasses back up against my sinuses as far as they would go, ignoring the fact that they began sliding down again immediately, slow and steady like the pour of thick molasses.
This paper was important. A lot was hinging on its reception, so my work area was a wadded-up battleground. I used to just toss versions I’d abandoned to the floor without crumpling them, but it made retrieval incredibly difficult if the freshest review copy happened to fall among its peers. Before I shared my space with my intravenous friend, my wife used to attempt to reign in some order, at least in the central portion. Her retro sense of “good wife” duty could not withstand the affront of my little monstrous eyesore. It’d been months since she’d stepped foot in the hall, much less the office itself. If she needed to contact me, she texted or emailed a summons.
Ping! Apparently now was just such a time. I attempted to reread the sentence I’d started, but a second ping! ruined my concentration. Heaving a resigned sigh, I tapped the screen with my finger. I skimmed over her request, experiencing the familiar sensation of irritation that washed over me any time I was interrupted. That’s it? I stared at the screen mutely.
--Hi honey, dinner’s in the microwave for you. Darren and I went to the park. He and Scout got muddy. I washed them both, but I may have missed a spot or two in the hall. Be sure to turn on the light when you come down.
--I love you.
I thrust the phone to the side, returning to my work.
She’d hesitated before saying “I love you,” not that I could blame her.