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"I Just Had to Look, Having Read the Book"



by Rudolfo Carrillo

i.
At six-twenty, while rosy-fingered dawn was leaking through the blinds in his bedroom, a man awoke and he shook the night from his hair. 

“Damn,” he said, ”I think I've left my wallet in the truck.” 

And he reached for his pants, which had earlier collapsed on the floor. They were typical of pants manufactured in the twenty-first century. They were made from “microfiber” and had a white band, with blue racing stripes, that ran along the inside of the waist. They were very nice pants and fashionable, too. Never needed ironing. 

They had been bought during the height of discount season, but the wallet was not in them.
Neither was it on the nightstand. 

From her half-sleep, his wife muttered something about his faulty organization level, about falling asleep while reading Soviet science fiction at two 2:33 in the morning.

In order to avoid an argument, he retrieved the book buried beneath a bundle of blankets and dropped it into the incinerator, which hissed timidly like an overfed snake. He applied the pants to his body and stepped quietly into the larger world. 

For a minute, he contemplated going outside - without wearing a shirt - to look for the wallet.
“Easy enough to do in this neighborhood”, he thought, then revised himself, thinking that he did not want anyone to see how fat he had grown this summer. So, he found a polo shirt to wear. It was in the laundry room and crinkled but clean and white. 

He remembered the wallet, turned toward the front door. It was breezy outside. 

The truck was unlocked. 

At first, he was certain the wallet was gone and a thread of panic was opened. Somewhere deep inside his body, more than a few neurons sent a minute electrical signal to their friends and allies, calling for the body-wide release of substances guaranteed to make the heart pound and the mind race. 

But, then, there it was, the thing itself, an ashen plastic rectangle, perched at the event horizon of an equally black seat crevice, complete. 

He grabbed the wallet from where it lay and his eyes darted to and fro as he wondered whether he had been seen.
 
ii.
He read the news today, but no one seemed to be making the grade. In fact he was currently of the belief that the world was becoming more and more like a Kilgore Trout novel, and less and less a quasi-romantic, existentialist-inflected, orchestral reverie.

After taking a few puffs on a cigarette that he had saved for two days, he fell into a deep sleep upon the couch where he sat.

In the dream he went into
, he was driving two friends to a grocery store that did not really exist, on the eastern edge of Nob Hill, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. By the looks of things, the man reckoned the year to be 1948 or thereabouts. The mesa spread outward, emptily triumphant, to the north and to the east.
The two friends who came to visit him in the dreamworld - which, by the way was a magical, trans-dimensional place composed of complex proteins and electromagnetic radiation, encased in a calcium-based shell - were humans whose existence within the framework of material reality had ended. They were dead. One of them was a young man, the other, a young woman.

When all of them got to grocery store they found it was part of a shopping center that was possessed of a very complicated design, based on the positions of the bricks that composed it. The bricks were self-organizing entities and were capable of creating and manifesting a plethora of intricate configurations. This excited the man, who was fond of postmodern architecture and said so. His spectral visitors were nonplussed though, having recently witnessed the formation of galaxies millions of light years away from the dusty mesas and forlorn arroyos of Albuquerque.
They exited the truck and were distracted from their cosmological communications by the crowd. La tiendita was filled up; humans and animals and even birds hopping around from shelf to shelf, twittering and turning their heads. After a few minutes the man lost track of his friends.

“That’s just fine”, he thought, staring longingly at the ceiling fans, whispering recipes he remembered from his grandmother's kitchen. The brightness and activity inside the store were confusing to him, though, so he went back outside, still chanting oaths to lard and catfish.

It was darker now than it had been; a storm was approaching. Inky clouds gathered on the horizon. They moved quickly and then hovered over the larger buildings of the neighborhood.

“Is that a tornado?” a passerby asked.

Everybody started leaving the store. The birds and other animals were lifted skyward, as if connected by wires to a quaint, invisible mechanism.

The wind came up with the clouds and it started raining. People were wandering all over the parking lot. From inside the truck, with the windows rolled down, and the water pouring from the sky and drenching the earth like it never does anymore in real life, the man looked for his two lost friends, but did not see them. He chose not worry too much about them; they only appeared on random occasions in the somnolent realm he plumbed nightly.

Instead, he was concerned about getting home. He was sure that the storm and its water would wreak havoc if he did not.

As he turned onto the street with that chaotic thought anchored to his chest, he noticed one of his students sitting at the bus-stop. The student was holding onto a portfolio that contained a copy of the research project she never turned in for review.

A bus drove by and she disappeared into it, dissolving and being absorbed into the cylindrical machine as it passed. The portfolio was left behind, draped casually on the bench and the man stopped for it, removing it from the surrounding tempest in an extra-vehicular rescue mission that took only seconds to successfully complete.

When he got home, the storm was ebbing; steam rose mightily from the asphalt and the trees wagged their saturated limbs, wanly in the breeze. The man opened the portfolio and showed it to his partner. It was filled metallic seashells, glittery costume jewelry and wisps of fine white hair.

iii.

At nine am, the dogs started barking because they were hungry. One of them was also howling, doing a sort of dance in the living room that might have been indicative of native intelligence if not for its primal urgency.

Those events effectively ended the man's reverie about ghostly friends, heavenly food markets in the middle of the undeveloped northern mesa that once upon a time preceded the Sandia Mountains as a wilderness of sorts, tornadoes over Nob Hill, and the poetically deconstructed symbolism of unfinished research.
Then he rose up. He checked for his wallet and glanced out the window for any signs of rain.

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