by Peter Byrne
(Swans - March 11, 2013) "Thank God your front door still swings on its hinges. The doorbell doesn't work. Listen, no tingle. Look, I've got my phone out at the ready. I was going to punch in the fire department. You gave us a scare. Did you keel over in a faint?"
"Us? Who's us?"
"The poker players in my condo. They're coming in their cars."
"Come in quick then. I'll bolt the door. You can wave them off from the window. What's all this about fainting?"
"Man, your phone's been off for eight hours. You haven't picked up my e-mails, even the priorities. We feared the worst."
"Funny you should mention fainting, I haven't blacked out since the seventh grade when Mary-Lou Growski showed me how my zipper worked. This morning I pulled all the plugs, yanked down the shades."
"Depressed, eh? You have to get on the stuff they hand out at the clinic. It warms you up for group therapy. You ought to have a cat or dog here. My condo has a pet owners club."
"You play poker with them?"
"They get under the table or sniff around on the balcony. You say you turned your phone off? You need care. You'd better see somebody. What was that shrink's name who straightened out Clem what's-his-name? Remember Clem with the crimped ear? He snapped when his bank went west."
"I've got no investments."
"You just sat here, staring and hurting?"
"I've been busy."
"All by yourself? No way. With your phone off? Stop kidding me. Get yourself a canary at least. They chirp. It cheers you up. You need a touch of nature when you watch an afternoon talk show."
"I told you I pulled all the plugs after breakfast."
"I heard you. I heard you. So now you realize you can't digest butter and bacon without a smile across the table."
"Yogurt's no problem. The low-fat kind without sugar. A big bowl."
"No wonder you're depressed. Now let's sit down and talk this through. Put the TV on for background. Where's your radio?"
"I tried listening to myself."
"That's it. You had a weird patch. You can pull out of it. Get on your chat forum quick."
"I feel fine."
"Give and take, chit and chat, that will put you straight."
"Someone telling me about their lumbago?"
"So? You're human, aren't you? You're a hypochondriac like the rest of us. Shoot back with your backache. Chat's about firing shots and not getting hit by return fire. It's not about listening.
"You know even the deaf hear something."
"You'd better get a grip on yourself, man. You start with solitary confinement and the next thing you know you're pronouncing the death sentence. You got a gun in the house?"
"Of course not. You want a drink?"
"Booze doesn't help, you know. It might relax you and get you talking to yourself. That's not the same thing as real chat or laughing along to a good comedy hour."
"I thought silence was golden."
"We've been off the gold standard for ages. Paper money's in. You could join a Monopoly circle if you don't like poker.
"You don't think silence has a voice?"
"Not with your old-fashioned audio setup."
"I junked that."
"What about antifreeze? You keep any of that poison in the garage?"
"The garage is empty."
"Not even a Volkswagen Beetle for company?"
"My push-bike's had a flat tire for going on three years."
"No wheels! Immobility's the beginning of the end."
"I intend to keep walking. You know, one foot after another."
"That's all very well. You can get hiking boots with an integrated pedometer. Where do you walk to?"
"I like to do circles."
"Whoa! That's vicious. Anyone will tell you."
"Once out my door I take a sharp right and make a big arc."
"I hope you have a self-help course plugged into your ear."
"I don't need any help with my walking."
"You don't listen to music?"
"Never when I'm circling."
"Well, now you've admitted it. You start by keeping to yourself and before you know it you tramp off into immorality."
"You got to face it. You waste time."
"Should I walk back the way I came to square my account?"
"You have to hit the flint and make sparks, c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e. You never heard of democracy, of Western Civilization?"
"The arc becomes a circle and before I know it I'm back on my doorstep, left side."
"And how long does that take you?"
"I don't know. I've got rid of my watch."
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