Troubleshooting Appliances at Home
I am endeavoring, ma'am,
to construct a mnemonic memory circuit
using stone knives and bear skins.
~Mr. Spock ("City on the Edge of Forever")
Now and again, Neve feels compelled. Traces her circuits back: twenty, twenty-five, thirty years. Finds scraps of evidence. Hints of humanity frozen onto a page. But her aged words are peppered with idiocy, gummed with layers of maple syrup. Schlock.
It's a live-wired shock. Not how Neve remembers the past at all.
Weren't those pancake-waitress days just.... Braided with simpler answers? And hadn't she flowed with energy? Didn't she function at that age on bare potentials and giddy angst?
One day, the sheet stretched too real. Too blank. The chamber filled and Neve became un-engaged. No more syrup to pour. Just a suspension bridge, swaying gently. Splattered with brain.
What an impossibility. She and Dean had struggled arm-in-arm, their silence rich beyond measure. Days breathy with subtext, gleaming with appropriate melodrama. Forbidden liquor. The big promise. Just twenty-something lies?
Yes and no. Dean had cornered himself with delusions and rage--then married a handful of packed heat with too little trigger care. When they say boys will be boys, it means: the girl gets the promise of the fading away.
Neve's parents responded quickly to their daughter's survivor's stare. They zapped that boy's awkward death to overflowing. In one shot, Neve got a microwave, TV, vacuum, VCR, blender, and Dust Buster Junior (attachments not included).
Stapled to each of the manuals: a sales receipt. Proof of cautious concern. A caring functionality super-powered by solid sense.
Yes. Gauge the pesky unknowns with a dependable map, that's what her parents knew to do. Never mind the dead boy; their girl would stay clean, become new. No more dander or contemplation--here was an easy fix. Fast and quick processing. Well-canned laughter.
How she'd thrill to preparedness! Their Neve would vanquish all the mealtimes, all the maybes, all the mites.
Strangled with a Cocoon tape, the VCR recently lost its life.
The TV is slowly, slyly, turning Uhura's skin gray. The blender clings to its dust in a dark, remote cupboard. The Dust Buster suffers the obligatory bear hug of a landfill tomb.
Now and again, Neve struggles with her desires: Is it really worth the time, to duct-tape the cracked neck of that old vacuum?
Never mind. The microwave and she soldier on.
Two black boxes, they exchange sixty-second stares at dawn. Every few hours again. Out of convenience. Out of some irksome reflex. Some basic need.
Out of fondness? Yes and no.
Today the wheel has forgotten to revolve--although Neve cleans and scolds and thwacks.
Now and again, she focuses on the future, still perfect. Still abstract.
They'll concentrate their energies, that's what they'll do. Double the efforts. Defrost the usual subjects and objects anew....
No. It doesn't sink in. The words stay hard. There's no give.
It's as though they've been programmed, the two of them.
As though they were trained to shoot bolts of energy into tepid potentials. An overkill of cold prose. A conditioned dependence on measurably magical beams.
As though they'd each learned, eons ago, that glowing answers could transfer evenly through the flesh of lifeless questions by bombarding one fixed spot with carefully-engineered warmth.
C. B. Auder's recent work can be found in Cleaver, Random Sample Review, 3Elements Review, Queen Mob's Teahouse, and Jersey Devil Press. Follow Aud on Twitter at @cb_auder.