The Halfway House

part 1 of 2



ZERO

Morning

I have arrived only recently. My name is Carl; in life I was a shoe salesman. I would kneel and take a look at your feet, to see which shoe might fit. I was run over by a train. Someone pushed me.

It’s long but it’s important, this part of our “day”, the waiting at the door. I’m a patient man, in death as in life. I wait real good.

This room is white and so are my clothes. Every “day” the “man” comes to my “bed” . . . but I am being disingenuous. I have begun as though this were an ordinary story.

I fear that I am in hell. Tell me: do you know how to get out?

They have told me I must continue. Perhaps this narrative is part of my punishment, my torture.

This is the door I stand in front of. It is white. A sort of milky white. There are patterns in the white, little imperfections. They whorl about, in front of my face.

This girl is Lucy, and she stands beside me. I love her, for she is human like me, I know she is, though she has been known to say some awful things, like:

“I’ll grease your horn so fast you’ll think it’s jumping into your mouth!” is what she says now, in her pinafore, and I smile to show that I have heard her witticism and appreciated it. I no longer reply to these improprieties; I find it encourages her.

We wait, workers for their shift. Minions for our lord.

“Is the door OPEN yet?” Lucy asks, baring her teeth.

“Not yet sweetheart.”

We work in an office without windows. Our lords observe us. Our minds, if we still have them, and I believe we do, though sometimes I am not sure, are bent to the will of our lords, so as to improve the efficiency of hell, or wherever this place is.

To serve is to collaborate. I know I contribute to the pain of my fellow sufferers. That is my function. Lucy, at least, has a better sense of humor about it.

“I’m gonna kill some motherfuckers dead today,” she says.

“We’re already dead, Lucy,” I remind her, and she cackles like a little blonde witch, and the door opens.

Mr. Graisely stands there like Frankenstein, face without emotion, an automaton with some humming machine inside his head that listens for the subtler pains he must inflict, and does inflict, a thousand petty humiliations.

He lays his cold hand upon my shoulder.

“Morning, Carl,” he says, squeezing my shoulder with his cold fingers.

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About Robin Wyatt Dunn


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Robin Wyatt Dunn writes and teaches in Los Angeles. He's online at robindunn.com
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