Jun. 16th, 2014

After my aunt died I received a small inheritance from her estate. I packed a few books and a week's change of clothing in a worn suitcase, and took the bus to an unremarkable city in the middle of the country. There, I planned to be unemployed, live in anonymity, and work on a novel.

Prior to my arrival, I'd made arrangements to purchase a house. It was in a desolate area, far away from other people. When I got there, the owner — a sixtyish, balding woman in a jumpsuit with dentures — met me out front. She had the face of a mackerel and her breath smelled like wintergreen. Along with the property, I also purchased her car — a metallic gold 1997 Nissan Stanza with a 'Don't Hate!' decal on the rear window. She handed me both sets of keys, said something about watching out for "the buggers from the retard house" and rode away on a child's bicycle.

Night was coming. There wasn't another soul on the street besides the shrinking image of the woman. The neighborhood seemed only composed of giant factories, warehouses, and vacant tracts of tall grasses and garbage. There weren't any other residential spaces, shops, or restaurants. I stared down at the house key — its end covered in a cracking pink ring. I ran my thumb around it for a few minutes, looking up at the sky.

Eventually, I walked to the front door and opened it. Inside, I was relieved to find it recently cleaned, with simple wood furniture and bare walls. The main and second floors had a faint lingering of Murphy's Oil Soap. When I opened the door to the basement, the musty smell of all subterranean places came up from the cold lower air. It took me a moment to find the light switch, walking carefully down a rickety wooden staircase. I was halfway when I found one of those metal bead cords hanging from the ceiling. When I pulled it, an unexpectedly bright light blinded me, and when I recovered I saw what I thought were a hundred dead bodies: the basement floor was four feet deep of department store manikin parts: torsos, arms, legs. There were no heads though. Somehow, it made no impression on me, and I pulled the cord again to shut off the light. I went back up stairs and forgot about it.

My novel concerned a main character — an autistic woman I copied almost wholesale from the likeness and personality of Temple Grandin — who inherits a pornography empire by a clerical error, and sets about making pornography for autistics. These movies would involve no touching and a lot of diagrams about genitals, and lots of mechanical devices to hug the actors naked bodies, but not in a sexual way. I had a vague idea that it would go very wrong, the woman's fate that is, but I wasn't sure how. And then at the end maybe she was saved from the jaws of disaster because her movies were misinterpreted as great works of art by the film curator at the MOMA.

That was about as far as I had worked out the plot, and I was sitting in front of my typewriter, dressed only in socks, at the kitchen table, when someone rang the doorbell.



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