Wednesday, April 30, 2014


By William M. Noetling

            In the ray of sunlight peeking through the front window Carl could see specs of dirt and pollen.  His drug store bought $25 fan stopped oscillating days ago and Carl wasn’t smart enough or hand the handy-man knowledge enough to fix it, so instead of circulating the air it just blew heat and detritus of every shape and size floating through the air.  As a result Carl had resigned himself to combating his hay fever with a never-ending supply of over-the-counter anti-histamines.  In addition Carl had several prescriptions for diabetes medicines and anti-coagulants.  He was waiting for his delivery from the pharmacy when his phone rang.
            The black Bakelite phone was old-fashioned enough to still have the old boxy plugs instead of the newer, more modern modular design.  It still had buttons and the ringer was just as loud as the day the phone company installed it in 1974.  Carl never even thought of replacing it.  Sure he’d purchased novelty phones here and there, back when he used to frequent the flea-markets he’d once flipped a Rolling Stones Lips phone for first edition Kermit the Frog, but since he rarely spoke to anyone on the phone now, he figured as long as it still worked, why replace it?
             Hello?  He shambled over to the answered the phone.  His brother was on the other line inquiring as to Carl’s health and well-being.  Vic promised their mother on his death bed that he would take care of Carl, make sure that he was looked after and such.  Vic loved his brother but looked at him as a burden.  This was his weekly check-up call.
            Carl, it’s Vic.  How are you?
            Fine Vic.  Just fine. 
            Did you call the doctor Carl?  You said you were going to call the doctor. 
            No Vic, I forgot.
            How can you forget?  It’s not like you have a lot going on over there is it?
            I’m sorry Vic; I’ll call tomorrow morning, first thing.
            Write it down.
            I will.
            I got you those post-its.  Stick it to your monitor so you see it first thing.
            I will Vic.
            Look, uh, Patti is going to stop by tomorrow afternoon, get your laundry together and try to pick up a little?  Please?  For me?
            OK Vic.
            I love you little brother.
            Goodbye Vic.

            Carl picked up a pencil lying on the end table next to the phone and wrote “DOCTOR” in child-like scrawl on the top post-it.  Then he dutifully stuck it to the top of his monitor.  He sat back down and scrolled through the eBay listings, looking for vintage Japanese action figures.  He didn’t see anything that he didn’t already have or had coming.  Carl had never been to Japan, but he did love Japanese television shows and movies.  Ever since he saw Speed Racer as a kid he knew that cartoons from a foreign land were far more interesting than the pabulum that Warner Brothers or Disney were pushing. 
            His tiny apartment was filled with the ephemera of anime culture, but nothing so vulgar and recent as Attack on Titan or Death Note would satisfy Carl.  Carl was a die-hard Mecha-junkie, he liked his big robots and he owned multiple versions of virtually every major mech from shows like Gundam and Macross and they were displayed in exquisitely crafted glass cabinets.  His walls were covered with posters from theatrical releases like Char’s Counterattack and Do You Remember Love?  His favorite item was a five-foot model of the titular Mobile Suit Gundam.  At night when he was lying in his bed he pretended that the huge model was his guardian, watching over him as he slept.
            Finally he heard a knock at the door.  As he closed his laptop he sighed loudly and pushed his very comfortable office chair back from the tiny desk.   He stood up slowly, because if he stood up too quickly he’d get woozy, and then willed his barrel shaped legs forward to the door.  Forty some odd small steps later he opened the door to see the pharmacy guy waiting with his bag of drugs.  He signed the proffered clipboard and took the bag, closing the door without uttering a word.  This was the preferred method of exchange between these two.  The Delivery Guy hated the building that Carl lived in, and Carl hated the fact that the Delivery Guy was never on time.  They hadn’t spoken a word to each other in two years. 
Carl got along better with the other delivery drivers, especially Marco the UPS guy.  Marco had a couple of kids who really liked Carl’s robot toys.  He’d let them visit once, and was visibly nervous the entire five minutes they spent oohing and ahhing at the miniature war-machines.  The kids were of course disappointed that they couldn’t touch anything, but they loved looking at them nonetheless.
Strangely Carl couldn’t remember the last thing he’d purchased, so he couldn’t remember if he was waiting for a shipment of new toys for his collection.  He’d finally completed his Takatoku Macross Movie Valkyries a couple of months ago by trading some original Power Ranger toys for a mint-in-box VF-1S Strike Package.  Nothing in the Gundam Fix Figuration or Robot Spirits line was interesting him, and the Mobile Suit In Action line had ended a few years previously.  He was still debating with himself as to whether-or-not he was going to try to complete his collection of Southern Cross or Orguss toys. 
Grabbing a bottle of water, the only beverage he could still drink, he tore open the pharmacy bag and uncapped a bottle of pills, tossing a couple back and swallowing.  Then he lay down on his bed, the same bed he’d had when he was a teen-ager and turned on the television directly opposite.  The news blared as he snored away, dreaming of giant robots and Gundams.  They told him he was a good boy.  He liked that.

The next morning at 7:30 on the dot Vic’s wife Patti opened the front door with her key.  The television was still on, news was still airing, only now it was the morning show complete with an unctuous weatherman droning on about how hot it was going to be the next few days. 
Hello Carl.  Are you awake?   She never waits for a response.  She put down the bag of groceries she was carrying.   
Anyway, time to get up sweetie, can’t sleep all day.  She started to unbag the food, most of it healthy low fat and tasteless.  Carl hated the food she bought, but since he wasn’t going to do his own shopping, he figured that he’d just suffer through it the best he could.
She got finished stocking the fridge and called told him to wake up already.
He hadn’t moved since she’d arrived.  Finally she checked the bed, fearing the worst.  She dreaded coming into the apartment every day, knowing deep down that some day her poor brother-in-law would be dead inside.  Thankfully that day wasn’t today, she thought to herself as she discovered that he was indeed alive, but still wasn’t waking up.
            It took her a good five minutes before she dialed 911 on the Bakelite phone.  It’s a good thing it wasn’t a rotary she thought.

            His doctor said that Carl slipping into a coma was probably brought on by the accidental overdose, but they couldn’t be 100% sure.  His chances of waking up weren’t good.  He would need around-the-clock care.  Fortunately their parent’s trust was set up to ensure that Carl would always be cared for.  They’d have to sell his things though.  Clean out the apartment. 
            Vic was actually more relieved than anything else.  They could finally get on with their lives.  It was already hard enough for Patti to do everything she was doing, and with her second baby on the way; it wasn’t going to get easier. 
            In the end, the toys would fetch a good price on eBay, and helped ensure Carl could live the rest of his time in comfort.  They saved one box of toys though, the last one, after making sure Marco’s kids got some of the cheaper items. Vic made sure to take the VF-1S out of its package and carefully snapped on all the armor pieces and placed the gun in the toy’s hand.  At least maybe this mecha could watch over my brother, he thought. 

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