Effervescent stars of deepest violet, maroon, and cerulean begin to flash at Humphrey from within the darkness of his eyelids. He slowly removes his hands from his eyes, flinching when the raw skin sticks to his fingers and then snaps back into place. He couldn’t believe his eyes at the sight of it, he just couldn’t believe his eyes, and in the television shows the characters always rub their eyes when they can’t believe what they see so Humphrey started rubbing his eyes, and he got lost in it. But the ad is real, it’s really real! Someone just an hour and a half away is selling their antique porcelain doll collection! Humphrey is a lifelong collector, an ancient relative in his family was the model for a line of porcelain dolls, it’s his passion and his muse!
“I must have it,” Humphrey says to himself, his cheeks beginning to drip sweat. “No matter what the cost, I must have it. This man has more ads, I’ll buy up quite a bit of his things as a gesture of good faith. Perhaps he’ll throw me a discount.” Humphrey’s hands come together at the fingertips. “Yes, this will be perfect. Just perfect.”
“Hamilton Beach. Huh. I wonder if that’s a place.”
An excruciatingly inflammatory itch sunk its prickly teeth deep into Calvin’s nose hours ago, but he hasn’t been able to scratch it. Isn’t that the worst feeling, when you have an itch you can’t scratch and you feel it seeping deeper into your body, heating up a tiny bit as it grows and spreads like a plague from your skin into your bones into the core of your physical being? It certainly is the worst feeling, and you know what that means? Scratching that itch is the greatest feeling. There is balance in all things.
“It must be, right? Why on Earth would someone make up a fake beach to use as a name for a company? It seems so ridiculous saying it out loud, but I bet that’s how it is. I bet there is no Hamilton Beach, not a single one in the world. Psych! Hah, that would be too good to be true, the world would have to be some kind of simulation if there’s not a single Hamilton Beach on the entire planet Earth.” Calvin turns towards Humphrey and looks him dead in the eyes. “What about you, Humphrey? What do you think?”
What Humphrey thinks is evidently no business of Calvin’s.
“Well fine, but let me ask you this: what sounds crazier to you, a salesman who makes up a beach to name his company after it, or a whole world populated by humans just like us who never thought to name a beach for a guy named Hamilton?”
Humphrey looks at Calvin with a dopey, vacant grin, like he smoked some stellar pot on the hour and a half drive over to Calvin’s place in the center of Wuester.
“All right, maybe crazier wasn’t the right word. What sounds more probable? Or should it be more possible? They say anything is possible, Humphrey, so long as you put your mind to it. But you don’t have much of a mind these days, do you?”
Rocking that spacey grin, Humphrey holds strong.
“You smoked too much stellar pot on the drive here, didn’t you Humphrey?”
If Humphrey meant to answer Calvin’s questions, he probably would have started doing so by now. And Calvin recognizes this. “I recognize this. Trying to talk to him is pointless, he might as well be a mannequin. Hey Humphrey, fuck you.”
Nothing but the grin and the spacey gaze.
“Fuck you Humphrey, you dirty, filthy little girl, you. Abominable, you are a horrid foot-sniffing abomination of humanity, Humphrey. I’m surprised you’re allowed within a mile of elementary schools you gleeping prostitute, you lesbian! That’s what you are, you klorfing Satanist, you supine figment of Hell incarnate! You are husky, Humphrey, you are hunksky! GrrAAAH! I can’t tell if I love you or if I hate you, but I know I want to touch you, Humphrey. I want to touch you in a very specific way.”
Vacant eyes. Dopey grin. Not a single bead of sweat.
“See? You’re spineless. You just sit there and stare at me, you’re impotent. You have nothing to say because you are nothing, Humphrey, you are absolutely fucking nothing. And now I’m going to touch you, I’m going to make you something.”
Calvin begins his slow walk towards Humphrey. The cord plugged into the wall stretches to full length and pulls the electric knife out of Calvin’s hand, but he doesn’t notice. He’s right next to Humphrey now, little hoary Humphrey who came a’knockin’ on Calvey babey’s doorstop. Saliva floods Calvin’s mouth, and he raises one hand into the air, fingers splayed, palm itchy, eyes livid. Shrieking at the top of his lungs, Calvin open palm slaps Humphrey across the face. Humphrey’s head flies off the table and the top of his skull is launched clear into the wall on the far end of the room.
Breathing heavily, Calvin removes one bloody rubber elbow glove, then the other. He removes his apron, falls to his knees, raises his arms to the ceiling, and thanks his higher selves for granting him the work he has received on this day. He then stands up, scratches his nose until it stings, and collects up the electric knife to be cleaned for sale. Humphrey’s head will join the rest of him in the big freezer, but not until the knife is clean. Humphrey’s a filthy little girl, he deserves to toil on the floor for a while.
You Never Know
White knuckles bound by skinny fingers strangle the steering wheel.
“This is so dumb, I don’t know why I’m bothering. It’s just a few things, and I only need one of them to sell. If they all went it would be great, but they might sit. They can’t sit, they can’t they can’t they can’t they just can’t, an–”
The front door opens. A furry gray old man in striped shorts and a white tee that’s three sizes too small for his bulbous gut slowly maneuvers his way down the four stairs between his front door and his walkway. He then steps over the five steppingstones between the front stairs and the driveway. Calvin is out of the car with the trunk open by the time the furry man gets over to him.
“So like I said, it’s just these things. Funko pop, electric knife, old recipe pad. I think it’s from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the recipe pad.”
The furry man grunts in affirmation. “And you put your advert in the pad?
Calvin nods gratuitously, adding, “I sure did, Mahty. You never know, right?”
“You never know,” Mahty agrees, nodding slowly. “All right, bring it inside and get. I’ll call you if any of it moves.”
Calvin hustles as he carries his stuff into Mahty’s house. Mahty is just mounting the second steppingstone as Calvin’s making his way out.
“Thanks again Mahty! Hope your mom’s holding on!”
Mahty says, “Yeahhh,” but Calvin doesn’t hear it. Calvin already started the car. Calvin’s already backing out of the driveway. Calvin’s nose is already starting to itch.