by Corey Mesler
Harry Pinker, not normally a man given to obsessions, blamed his wife Jean for the one which largely destroyed him. Harry was an unsuccessful writer, who, thanks to his wife’s well-paying job as an OB-GYN, was able to spend every day at home, alone, writing. He had published a novel when he was younger. It was remaindered before he could get to the mailbox with his second manuscript. Since then, one slim volume of stories from After Howl Press.
When Harry complained to Jean that he was in a rut (he meant he was having trouble turning a rickety short story into a rickety screenplay) Jean told him, “Of course you’re in a rut. You do the same damn thing every day. Shake the bugs out of yourself.”
This irked Harry Pinker.
And, in brooding about it, he propagated an obsession. Jean meant that Harry’s day was so regulated that he ate his meals, moved his bowels, took his breaks at the same time every day. Harry admitted (to himself) that this was true. But, to rebuke Jean for her unkind comment, Harry Pinker decided to replicate one of his days down to the minutest detail. That would, he reckoned, show her.
This took weeks of preparation. For instance: since, with lunch every day, he watched Sports Center, he reasoned that he could not watch TV unless he taped the Sports Center from the previous day, the day he was replicating. But then, the act of placing the tape in the VCR, would not correspond with the previous day’s equivalent moment. So, to make it simpler, he decided to eschew things he could not control: television, radio, phone calls, email, other people. He would make himself a world of one in order to more readily create his masterpiece: two days in a row, unerringly identical.
Harry planned to copy a day when Jean would be out of town. She often traveled to medical seminars and he knew she had one planned for later that month. He began to outline his plotted, religiously regulated day. His graph was the most successful thing he had ever written.
The day after the day Jean left, Harry set his alarm for 7 a.m. He woke, showered, shaved, shat. He made mental notes at every turn (he deduced that he could not create physical records because the following day would consist of writing the same things down, until it resembled a mental Escher drawing, or one of those pictures inside a picture, inside a picture—it made his head hurt–so it was a lucky thing that Harry had a prodigious memory.)
At the end of the day he took an Ativan so that he could fall asleep at the precise moment he would need to repeat the next day.
The day of replication arrived. Harry woke at 7 a.m. He did his ablutions. He ate the same shredded wheat, in minutely calculated proportions of wheat, sugar and milk. He sat down at his desk at the same time. He was wearing the same clothing, even underwear. And, he wrote the same three pages he wrote the day before. He continued this repetition all day. It was working! He was experiencing the same day all over again! It was the finest thing he had ever fashioned. This is a rut, he planned to spring on Jean when she came home. His triumph would be the appropriate corrective to her taunt.
Around dinner Harry was tiring and his movements became more precise and studied. He willed himself not to go slower. His concentration was almost crippling. He had to be in the same place, in the same position, at the same time. His brain was churning. His body was following its instructions like an automaton.
The sun set. It grew dark, at almost the same time as yesterday.
Harry sat in an easy chair as night surrounded him.
When Jean returned the next day, she hallooed as she came in the door.
“Harry? I’m home. Harry? Where are you?”
She moved from the foyer into the living room. Harry was sitting in his chair.
“Harry?” she said, tentatively, tenderly.
Harry’s eyes were open but he was not seeing. Harry was as still as a stopped clock.
Jean touched him. She stroked his cheek. She kissed him on the mouth. Harry did not move. He was fixed. He was in a coma with his eyes open but his senses shut down. Harry had discontinued himself as a human being. He was not dead. He was not alive.
Harry Pinker was frozen, never to be ambulatory again.
A week later, Jean packed her things and moved out. She had encountered a handsome anesthesiologist on her last trip. She began to visit him in Philadelphia when they were both free. She never thought about Harry again.
And, as time passed, Harry’s house fell down around him. The world was at work: termites and dust and putrefaction and disintegration and other natural processes were part of the constant flux of ruin; they eventually decomposed Harry too. He had unwritten himself. “Dust to dust,” the police detective said when they found Harry’s almost decomposed body.
“Who was he?” the clichéd uniform rookie asked.
“A writer,” Detective Doppler said. “A very good writer. I’ll let you borrow my copy of his first novel. He never hit it big but he was a real innovator.”
Corey Mesler has published 8 novels, 3 books of short stories, numerous chapbooks and 4 full-length poetry collections. With his wife he owns Burke’s Book Store in Memphis, TN. He can be found at www.coreymesler.wordpress.com, and on Twitter at coreymesler.