Mrs. Norbert’s Last Day

Mrs. Norbert was terribly, horribly, awfully lonely. This did not quell her consternation that, after sixty years of indentured servitude to her employer, the old geezer refused to croak. Despite her subtle and desperate urgings to malevolent and fallen angels (these she knew by name), and the constant deluge of below the breath incantations and attempts on his life both real and imagined, the moustachioed unicyclist would not give up the ghost.

Yes, of course, she had gone the unoriginal route of poison in his five o’clock bourbon. His constitution was boarish. She had brilliantly staged her own violent tripping over the base of a ladder he had called upon her to hold while he replaced a broken shingle on the roof, sending the ladder into a side to side rocking like a small boat on a pond, but he had somehow righted himself, mid-air. His balance was exemplary. Up in the sky he merely muttered, derisively, “Cow.” Mrs. Norbert stubbed her toe to bleeding, probably fractured. And though her rage was high, she knew she’d have to wait to try to kill him again, or her intentions would be suspect and future plans would have to be aborted. Mr. Altuscher thought her most clumsy.

At the six month mark after the ladder debacle came the height of an internally stoked rage that fanned the fire of her hatred for an additional two months till it peaked in an attempt to off Mr. A once and for all, this time for good. It was preceded by one of those periodic silences which occurred between them once every three or four months for a period of ten to thirty days. The account follows thusly:

At the stroke of midnight on the 29th day of  the second month of her apparent invisibility, her passion stole away with her level head. After his evening cognac, after he retired for the night, after no outward provocation whatsoever but the melodic chiming of the clock bell, Mrs. Norbert ran into the overgrown back pasture, -which she refused to mow despite his daily harassing, – grabbed the rusty ax from its home in the rotten stump, and hastily slipped into the boudoir where Mr. Altuscher slept soundly. The hallway chimes sang a dainty song of murder within their clock case as she stepped to the bedside and raised the axe over her head in an exaggerated Lizzie Bordenesque pose. “Mrs. Norbert raised her axe, gave her master forty wacks,” she muttered madly. The seering flame of her hatred speedily spread from the inner chambers of her red hot heart into her burning fingertips, making her clutch the shuddering axe end tighter. Mrs. Norbert opened her mouth in the silent cinematic shape of a grotesque scream. For a second, she was frozen there. The chimes ended and silence stopped Time. Mrs. Norbert stared at the victim-to-be one last time.

However, at the height of this axe wielding moment, an untimely and precious little pig snort erupted from under Mr. Altuscher’s bicycle moustache, popping up over his little goatee, stopping her in her tracks. Something about the pathetic eruption struck Mrs. Norbert as indelibly funny. In his sleep, the little bowtie of fur stood straight up from beneath his full and quivering lower lip, which was half covered by his upper teeth – all elephant tusk ivory imported from Africa, – while at the same time Mr. Altuscher’s right brow seemed to spasmodically calculate a particularly difficult algoryhthm by going up as his left eyebrow convulsed dispeptically down. It was all she could do to keep from dropping the axe on the bed and heaving herself onto him in comradely hysterics.

Damn it to hell, her nocturnal designs were no good. Despite his irrascibility during the day, he was irresistably adorable while he slept. Little puppy snorts and lip shivers and pretend kisses played upon the pretty purple concertina of his surprisingly girlie lips. By moonlight, an illusory shadow of dreamy innocence overrode his daily obnoxious disinclination toward every living thing. By night as she gazed upon him in his bed, she forgot his diurnal troddings on her prize begonias. She should have known better than to attempt a night time coup. He recalled nothing of these visits, for his soul abandoned its body completely as he ventured forth in Dream Land. Sometimes he’d peddle his unicycle with fervor under the quilt, muttering at the teenaged hoodlums who followed in his one wheeled wake.

In the midst of this internal reverie, with her axe quivering on high, Mr. Altuscher then issued forth a teeny weeny eructation that instantly offset the enormity of his grotesquely humungous belly, and Mrs. Norbert’s rage fizzled and grew into the beginnings of a laugh which overtook her. The axe dropped onto the bed, bounced once, flipped over and proclaimed itself dead in Mr. A’s stead. Quickly, she snatched it up and tucked it under her arm and over her apron, chuckling madly with her wrist shoved up her nose and her index finger extended to stop her hysteria from sneezing him awake. She waddled and sprinted into the hallway from the orange moon light in the half lit bedroom, ducking and biting the crease between her hand and forearm. All that lovely rage built up over eight long months fizzled in the moonlight.

It was no use. Everytime her hatred reached its utmost crescendo, something would crack and she would find him tolerable, even amusing. Once a couple years back, as she dimly recounted her accomplishment of talking the green grocer down from two dollars on a huge sack of potatoes (they had too many eyes, she’d said, all of them watching her), Mr. A. had slapped her on the back so hard in a fit of chummy pride that she choked on her tea-time biscuit and his panic forced him to administer a hasty Heimlich manuevoer with a bit too much upward heave. Mrs. Norbert’s right breast popped out of its hassock. They shared a look of horrible shock. Mr. A’s right eyebrow convulsed. The left pressed down. His lower lip fur curled up. He turned boiled beet red. Mrs. Norbert came to, turned away, shoved her breast back into her blouse and had an unusual thought, a first. Perhaps he was trying to kill her.

At dinner that night he did not eat the potatoes au gratin she had prepared with cream, but left the perfectly browned square untouched upon his plate – his way of saying he was completely disinterested in her breasts.

She waited, fuming, and countered his slight the following week (she waited nine days to be exact) by rigging a large trunk to tumble down on him from the top of the attic steps when he pulled on the rope to the secret door in the ceiling, but at the fateful moment of the predetermined day when he pulled on the rope and the steps unfurled, nothing happened. The trunk’s metal corners got caught on the rotting wood of the attic floor and the heavy trunk did not plunge down on him as planned. He walked up the folding steps, pushed the trunk back and muttered about Mrs. Norbert’s forgetfulness. God had blessed him with the unique talent of being hard to kill.

She was bloodied but undaunted. Time went by.

***

It was a Friday. This would be her last day. She’d quit. She’d quit for good, rather than kill him. She was out on the porch, sipping her morning’s tea and contemplating the timing of her second cigarette out of view of the master. She thought of their morning’s breakfast chat.


“My teacup handle smells of tabak,” he’d said.
“Stick it up your rump, sir,” she’d retorted in a whisper as she poured the Earl of Grey. Dash of cream.
“One if you please.”

Sugar, one,  level. I know sir, it’s been sixty two years, sir. I caught on at month two, when I was twelve, when my mum died and you pulled me from school to keep as your servant. This she said silently to herself.

“ Hmm?” he mused over his paper. “Stick what?”
“Stick of butter on your crumpet, sir?”
“Not a whit. You know how I feel about fat.” He said this absentmindedly, gazing at her waist.
“ It’s my last day, sir, my last day.”
“Your last day for the thousandth time.”
Forget the trunk, I’ll throw him down the stairs, she thought, roller skates at the top. Down he’d go, thumpidy, thumpidy, thump.

***

Now in the morning sun she sat on the stoop away from him but with him as the three daily dreaded boys appeared over the hill that led to the front of the house. A new one – a blond – was with them today, wonder who? The heat shimmered off the pavement and the three paused at the top of the hill, adolescent sheriffs at high noon. The red headed one – Pfeiffer, was it? was getting tall. How old were they? She had forgotten how to determine age. Maybe nine, or fourteen. Children these days were hard to figure. Their attention spans jerky and zippy. Talk fast to keep them interested, do strange things to give them something to talk about later, or else you’re detestable, or worse, invisible. She had a moment to herself before they landed in front of her on their usual passage through.


Today was Thursday. Tuesday next would be the day. Do it on Tuesday. Give me the weekend to plan a never before plan. Monday to settle it, Tuesday to do it, Wednesday to make the arrangements, weeping to Mr. Petersen at Weschler’s, Thursday to do the laundry or it’d get backed up, and Friday the funeral could be, or Saturday, just in time for her day off, Sunday. She’d inherit the house. Black dress with the lavender flounce. Stockings.


“Nor butt, nor breasts!” the black haired one blurted as they sauntered down the hill, stopping at the intersection where the stone and grass path joined the sidewalk, bounded by the white picket fence in front of 337 Elmhurst, coffin of elm in a hearse, the house would soon be hers.
“Nor butt, nor boobs!” Blackie exclaimed again, nervous that his taunt had fallen flat.

This was half true, but not all true. She had breasts, but no butt.


“Yeah. Where’s your butt, Norbutt? ” This was Pfeiffer, the red headed one. He’ll be the death of me, she thought as he lifted the latch of the white picket fence and carefully stepped in.
Mrs. Norbert, this being a squeezing point for her, was caught off guard. Whenever she was caught between a truth and the need for its defense, she was rendered impossibly dumb, or managed to say something that made no sense whatsoever. The truth was she was top-heavy, a sail boat with all sail and no boat. Her legs were skinny strands of string and her bottom was doll-size. She was shaped like a balloon about to burst. Truth pithed her brain like a laboratory frog.

Once, when Mr. Altuscher asked her why there was a blood stain on his sheet, she said “I’ll have to ask my father,” then hurried out of the dining room, unable to tell Mr. A. that she herself had bloodied the sheet when he’d left town for the week and she’d slept in his bed. She had washed the sheet three times- twice by hand, but the edges of the round spot were still slightly visible. She had no thought that he would ever be at eye level with the spot, unexpected and one of the last she would ever make, and after the three washings, she’d felt satisfied that it was barely visible.

What were you doing crawling under the covers and inspecting the godforsaken sheets? she wanted to say, but instead said “I’ll have to ask my father ” and ran from the room as if on a mission to do so. That was thirty years ago, and the incident was the first of many wherein Mr. Altuscher was caught engaging in precarious or questionable positions in order to catch the evidence of Mrs. Norbert having done something she oughtn’t to have been doing while he was elsewhere and unable to cast his fervent and disapproving eye.


Mr . Elroyd Manchester, Mrs. Norbert’s father who had predeceased his wife by six years, was a distinguished man though a plumber all his life. He’d been dead for decades and there was no asking him anything. He had served as a volunteer fireman in the carnival colored pier town of Tenby, Wales and when she was six, in happier times, he had taught her to slide down the fire pole. Despite this childhood perk, when the truth was spoken, her brain turned to slush and her tongue corroborated nonsense limericks.


“Gone deef, Mrs. Norbert?” Pfeiffer inquired.

This was an odd bit of concerned respect mingled with rude conjecture which belied the boy’s interest in her, but she couldn’t get her tongue to trip out a retort. This particular big butted offense, upon which the black and now red headed boy had tripped and landed squarely, was a long time holding place of grief for Mrs. Norbert. To compensate for the fear that her lower self was turning altogether invisible while her upper body increased, Mrs. Norbert grew a middle to throw the attention off both the bottom and the top. She grew it and grew it. Her middle was impressive. She looked like the snake in The Little Prince who ate the hat, or the elephant, she couldn’t remember which.


‘There’s lots in between! “ Said the black haired boy, Jones, who was scrawny and plastered with sweat.
“ I ate an elephant,” said Mrs. Norbert, surprising herself. That made sense. She set her cup down on the stoop menacingly, and reached sneakily for the bodily hiding place of her fags, turning back towards the window. She just now remembered that Mr. A. had gone to the Garden Show with that slutty Lily Hennessey, the Mobile Librarian. Her candied beau with the pencil moustache and cowboy bolero was the traveling lingerie salesman who appeared at Mrs. Norbert’s door like clockwork every other month and tried in vain to sell her fringey brassieres. Despite Mr. A.’s frequent troddings and trippings on Mrs. Norbert’s prize begonias and over her prize roses, suddenly Mr. A. yearned to learn the wonders of flora and fauna.
“I’ll say,” said Jones awkwardly.
“Who’s the new boy?” She ventured.
“Say it, Ackeynack,” demanded Pfeiffer.
“ Fuh fuh Fred Ah ah uh – Abernathy,” he offered, surprised he’d gotten it out so easily.
“ Alright, Freddy. Now you boys get along,” she suggested, and took a cigarette out of the pack tucked under her left bra strap.
“ Can we have one?” asked the black headed one.
“ None of your business! ” bleated Mrs. Norbert, belatedly.
“ Aw come on, Mrs. No Butt, give us a smokeydoke,” said Pfieffer, rubbing his nose freckles hard, then scratching them. They stuck and wouldn’t move.
“Give us a chokey smoke! ” said Jones. The blond looked on, mute.
“How ‘bout some lemonade?” she suggested, eyeing him suspiciously. Maybe he could help her tie Mr. A. up with rope and put him in the trunk of his Marathon Cab. Maybe she could try out the arsenic dosages on the little monsters’ lemonades. No one would miss them.
“Or some biscuits?” suggested Pffieffer.
She was famous for her biscuits.
“Why do you still call them biscuits?” Mr. A. niggled, “ You’ve lived here for 66 years. They’re cookies.”
“Biscuits is what I call ‘em. You eat ‘em, anyways.”


She hoarded her Welshness and coveted certain words to annoy him. ‘Boot’ for trunk. ‘Fag’ for cigarette. ‘Pram’ for stroller. It took a bit of effort, but was worth the sheer aggravation it caused him, a small triumph, when she casually mentioned any of the above. Biscuits.


“I can bake some up right now, while you wait.”


She turned over the three smokes to the boys, who by turns rolled up their pant legs, hiked up their shorts, wiped their noses on the backs of their hands and made the requisite serious and manly preparations to smoke before setting themselves on the stoop.


“Give it here,” said Pfeiffer, the one in charge, motioning to the match box.
“Children aren’t allowed to play with matches, “ said Mrs. Norbert. She swung her chubby arm away, the melted bicep swinging. She faked a throw and as they all jumped for it, she kept the matchbox in her hand. “I’ll light them for you.”


The three heads, Jones the black corkscrewed, the straw colored head of the scrawny and stuttering Abernathy, and Pfeiffer’s red frizz mop leaned in to her with their cigarettes poking out of their o shaped mouths. Mrs. Norbert imagined dousing them with gasoline and setting them on fire, but their faces were momentarily sweet and eager and trusting, and the red gasoline can was in the garage under boxes of Mr. A.’s old tweed suits. All three closed in at once on the narrow flame, puffing ferociously. Maybe she’d spare the little buggers. Three bugeyed fish in a bowl.


Easy now, you’ll blow it out, she thought.


“ I’ll make those cookies,” she said, getting up while the three now sat down on her top stair and puffed and sucked and by turns took the cigarettes out of their mouths to look at the burning ends and ponder, pursing their lips and frowning and spitting as if they were professionals tasting the quality of this year’s tobacco crop.
“Nah thanks, No Butt,” said Pfieffer, getting up and pushing his hips forward. “ We got practice. S’ thursday. Friday’s the Big Game. That’s tomorrow.”
“ Well, good luck, then. “
“Thanks for the butts, No Butt.”
“What time’s the game?” she surprised herself for the second time by asking. She’d never had an interest in their games. What game was it? Tiddlywinks? Rugby? Checkers? Cricket? She was good at that as a tyke. The new boy had acne.
“3:30. Fuller Field,” Pfeiffer answered.


This was almost a conversation. Usually he’d flip her the finger after he’d gotten his fag and leapt over the gate, but this time, he did a cartwheel through the now open gate with the burning cigarette in his mouth.
“Bring your pom poms, Miss Naughty Butt! But, oh, I see they’re ATTACHED!

He sprang up, clutching his chest with both hands- a lithe Olympic girlchild on a springy mat, then gave her the finger – a benevolent fairy passing dust. Then he shouted like a truck driver pulling his big horn “We play HARD ball, No Butt- HARD BALL! No BUTTS aBUTT it! ” and hiked up the little package beneath the fly of his shorts in her direction, bowing reverentially, whirling his hand in front of his tiny (she could only guess) apparatus, and turned away, hopping down the street on one leg. Fourteen, she thought, or twelve. Getting little pricklies down below. She’d forgotten to call Dr. Hoffmeier about her X-rays. He was a crack. They were off to school though the morning bell had rung.

***

She would set the trap for Mr. A. then run down to the game, a perfect alibi. She would make cookies- biscuits- butter shortbread, his favorite- why not his last meal? Then serve them warm from the oven in the fancy living room under the antique glass chandelier of which he was so proud and which would soon be hers, and while he was humming and yumming with glee, while the buttered crumbs were still getting caught in his bicycle moustache, she would hit him over the head with his new snow shovel, never touched from last year’s stock, half price, twice or thrice. Or better yet – snip the electrical wire that held the shaking antique chandelier to the ceiling just enough so that when he sat down on the loveseat with his big belly underneath as usual and vibrated the entire room with his landing, the wire would snap and Crash. The End.


He was always stealing her shortbreads. She’d tell him one plate only. This would guarantee that he’d get up from the couch in the living room with the first plate and steal the second from the kitchen, bringing it back to the couch under the chandelier where a second small earthquake would unravel the chandelier onto his moustachioed head. He lacked originality and it wouldn’t occur to him to eat them in the kitchen. He would go back to where she had placed him like a dog who liked his favorite spot.


She would be gone by then, having run to the game with another plate of shortbread. The boys would see her there as would the entire town, and she would be rid of him and rich. She would be rich and rid of him, a perfect combination, though the money hardly mattered. The creamy Victorian aka 337 Elmhurst, the tools in the shed, the money in the can on the top shelf between the candied pears, all hers. And no him. The Grim Reaper would seize and cease him. The chandelier would embrace him like a deathly Christmas tree.


She would sing at his funeral – Rock of Ages. The black dress, mid-calf, lavender flounce at the breast. Pfeiffer would accompany her down the aisle to view the body in the matching lavender satin lined coffin she would pick out, weeping in the wake room at Weschler’s Funerial. The red headed Pfieffer would deliver her to the coffin, take a step back in a gentlemanly fashion, do a backwards cartwheel, grab a smoking fag from the cripplied mitt of Mrs. Weschler, the undertaker’s wife crouched in the third row smoking under a pew, and give Mr. A. the final finger on Mrs. Norbert’s behalf. Then, sprinkling his pixie dust of nonchalance and razzmatazz, he’d grab his little, undernourished, overanxious crotch- the packet with its prickly hairs down below, and shout “SO LONG SUCKER!” All in honor of his eternal devotion to Mrs. Norbert. Prickly hairs down below she had never seen.

***

She had met Mr. Norbert at the butcher a couple of months before he was shipped out to Germany and they married on a whim the afternoon before his ship sailed that night, never consummating the marriage. She had continued to work for Mr. A. while writing to Mr. Norbert, until she got word that her beloved, a year into his service and on his way home for a conjugal visit to finally deflower his wife, (he had written to the President with their story), was killed when his small plane flying out of a French field over ran the runway and sped through a patch of trees to a neighboring farm, where just at the point of lift off, it collided with a Spanish Italian cow named Senorita Santa Maria Olivetti and crashed nose down, killing both the pilot and Mr. Norbert.

This last detail was included in the letter the French farmer wrote in his broken English when, after the plane exploded and the flames died down, he climbed weeping from the loss of his favorite cow into the fallen plane’s burnt out cockpit and retrieved a photo of Mrs. Norbert from the co-pilot’s breast pocket. The back of it said “Love Eternal from Gladys to Mr. Norbert, my Fred.” The farmer, being a Frenchman, was touched, and while he loved his cow, he also loved a good love story, and so did his best to honor the deaths of both of their loved ones.


The remains of Senorita Santa Maria Olivetti and Mr. Fred Norbert were buried next to each other in the French farmer’s lavender field with the Pilot, Dr. Bruno Paladino, because the army couldn’t get there in time to stop them from rotting and stinking. They never sent the bodies home. To prove their deaths to the military and be reimbursed for his expenses before he buried them for eternity behind the cow shed, the farmer took a photo of all three laying side by side: pilot, co-pilot, and cow, and sent it with a letter of explanation to the English War Counsel and the families of the bereaved, inviting them to visit the graves at any time. The farmer keeps fresh flowers on the graves to this very day. Thus her career as Mrs. Norbert ended, but not anticipating the No Butt clause, she kept the name because it was shorter to write than Manchester by three letters.

***

At the game on Friday afternoon- it was really early evening -, Pfeiffer hit the ball so soundly, so smack dab right on, that the bat cracked with a sound that split the world in half, or so it seemed to Mrs. Norbert, because though it was traveling at the speed of light, she saw – for one tiny flash of a second – that the ball was headed straight at her head, which she turned. There was another crack, this time from inside her skull, followed by a whirring noise as the baseball loosened the large cluster of blood inflamed grapes that was the faulty vein formation in her head and the subject of her unclaimed X-ray – the cluster which had caused her occasional seizures throughout her entire life. Somehow Mr. A. had only caught her having one as they had become more frequent of late, and he never spoke of it again, though he had wiped her mouth with a cool wet cloth that night.

Sometimes she’d find him outside her door in the dark, pretending to read the paper by the hall light. Dr. Hoffmeier had told her to remove it long ago before it grew, but she didn’t want anyone tampering with her head, least of all a quack doctor. Beady little eyes. Blue.

The Pfeiffer boy, indeed, had been her downfall. It would have been a home run. The grape cluster, upon receiving its impact from the baseball – a personal vendetta between ball and grapes, sent an instant message to Mrs. Norbert’s brain that said, “ Let’s just call it a day, shall we?”

Mrs. Norbert, for the third time in the last twenty four hours, was surprised. The timing was unexpected. She had to get back to the kitchen and clean up. She wondered if Mr. A. had eaten the second round of shortbreads and jarred the chandelier onto his own head, meeting his crystal-y demise. The whirring sound turned into celestial music – O mouthed sopranos where she preferred the mellower alto- as the bleachers shook with people pouring over to Mrs. Norbert’s fallen body. She had simply toppled forward over the bleacher below her and was no-butt to the wind. Her heavy top was nearly invisible beneath the bleachers, her feet were waggling in the air.
They struggled to right her, and she saw as she floated from above, as the parents and friends of Treadle Middle School baseball team manhandled her body and attempted to pull her upright against the top heavy weight of her upper body, that the whole Design was utterly hilarious, – totally ridiculous, and yet, there was a certain perfection to it all. An unquestionable sort of roundness.


Mr. A. was in the kitchen, looking for more shortbread after having left the couch in the living room. He had eaten all the shortbread on the plate in the living room under the chandelier, which missed him as it fell just as he got up from under it to go to the kitchen. He fixed the faulty wire, stood on the ladder, attached the chandelier, and ate the second plate of shortbread. That immortal monster, that magical escaper from the Grimmest Reaper, that slippery phantom of life had done it again.


Mrs. Norbert saw him from above as she suddenly flew from the baseball field through the front wall of the house to the kitchen, where she hovered between the high beams. After he ate the last shortbread at the counter, warm and buttery from the white and scallop edged plate, he did something, did Mr. A, that was very very strange indeed. He picked up her apron from where it lay draped on the knob of the drawer and lifted it to his face. He smelled the front of it. Then he smelled the place that wrapped around under Mrs. Norbert’s armpits. Then he laid the fabric against his face and sighed like a thumbsucking school girl. Then he smelled the part that was her lap, and buried his face into it as if he were washing his face.


Mrs. Norbert floated above the ceiling fan, looking down disgustedly between the slightly moving slats. There was a knock at the door, and she could see Pfeiffer standing there – see him right through the door, though she was down the hall in the kitchen, and he was teary eyed and blotchy faced, wiping his sweaty, grubby hands on his reddened eyes, then on his pants, then across his nose, rubbing his freckles off while still they stayed stuck to his face. It would be summer soon, and she would miss the blueberries in the back. Mr. A. didn’t know the pancake recipe, so who would make them for him?


Due to some scheduling problems, the funeral would have to be Sunday, her day off . The undertaker’s son, Clarence Weschler, played short stop. Pfeiffer delivered the news, crying, then closed his grubby mitt around the door and shut it one last time. Jones the black headed and the new boy with the stutter and the straw colored hair, Abernathy, stood silent and grief stricken behind him. They had lost the game.


Mr. A. sank to the floor, sniveling, then crawled to the kitchen. His lower lip quivered and pumped, and little snorts shot in and out of his untrimmed nasal hairs.Mrs. Norbert waivered above him like a 3-D cartoon snipped from the Sunday Paper, being shaken out between two hands. What she saw surprised her for the fourth time in twenty four hours.
“For God’s sake, he loves me, the brute.”
For suddenly, Mr. A began to bellow paroxysms of grief like a moose in the wilderness, a moose who had just fallen over, his feet all caught in a metal trap, as top heavy as she at the moment of her death.
“Gladys, nooooooooooooooo! Gladys, noooooooooooo!”
His voice rose like heat off the coils of their old stove, the one she had asked him to replace a thousand times. He’d refused, of course.
“ Stop that this instant !” Mrs. Norbert screeched. “It’s disgusting ! Stop it! Stop it right now! ”
“Gladys, noooooo! Noooooo! Gladys, noooooooo!, ” he continued, repeating this mantra again and again and again and again until after dark, when he sprawled out full length upon the floor with the apron clutched between his hands, his feet moving as if he were riding his unicycle, and muttering as if he were reading a bedtime story to himself, one with a sad but inevitable ending.

Written by Sea R. Glassman

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