Issue 8: Stillness vs. Frenzy
A Publication of the USF MFA in Writing Program


Denouement

Harbeer Sandhu


I


        Billy woke up one morning, as he did every morning. He yawned and stretched his arms and arched his back, sat up, and scanned the cold hard-wood floor with his two big toes for his velour slippers. He put his feet on the slippers, stood up, shuffled over to the bathroom door, stepped off of the slippers and onto his bath rug, and closed the door behind him.
        Billy turned his back to the toilet bowl and pushed his plaid pajama bottom down to his calves. He slowly bent his knees and leaned forward at the waist, preparing to lay his bare buttocks on the cold toilet seat. He stopped. He looked back to ensure that the seat was down and that the toilet paper dispenser was stocked. Satisfied, he turned back around and lowered himself onto the toilet seat, then nearly jumped when the seat greeted his warm cheeks with a cold kiss.
        Billy sat on the toilet with his elbows on top of his pajamas on top of his knees, cradling his chin in his palms, staring at the bathroom door before him, wondering why he bothered to close and even lock the door when he never had visitors. He wondered why he wondered. He wondered if he wondered too much, then remembered the time and what he was doing. He cleaned himself, washed his hands with soap and water, dried them, and stepped into the shower.
        He opened the hot water tap to flush the cold water out of the pipes, then slowly added cold water to make the temperature bearable. He turned the shower head away from himself and pressed the lever to turn the shower on. Thin jets of water shot out the shower head and bounced off the wall. Billy cautiously put his right hand in the stream of water and, satisfied with the temperature, turned the shower head to place himself beneath the stream.


II


        Billy closed the car door and buckled his seat belt. He slid the key into the ignition and pumped the gas pedal a few times, then held the pedal down and turned the key. The car started. He revved the engine to warm it and turned the heater on, removed his gloves and set them on the passenger seat and rubbed his hands together.
        Billy leaned forward and tapped the steering wheel a few times at the ten and two o'clock positions with his fingertips. He rubbed his hands together, breathed into them, then rubbed them together again. He quickly gripped the wheel at those positions and twisted his hands back and forth like he was revving a motorcycle. He let go and sat back, then leaned forward and tapped the back of the gear-shift lever with his fingertips, rubbed his hands on his pants, grabbed the lever, pushed down on the brake pedal, and put the car in reverse.


III


        Thompkins Street 2 mi, the freeway sign before Billy read. 2 Miles... Billy thought of his grandmother's cat, Miles. Miles smiles miles away, Billy thought and smiled, pleased with his wordplay. Miles smiles miles away
        Billy exited the freeway at Thompkins Street. He looked at the green digital clock on his dash and saw that he was half-an-hour early. Traffic was unusually light that morning. He decided to treat himself for being ahead of schedule, so he turned the car into the driveway of a hamburger chain by the freeway overpass. Billy was amazed to see only two cars in the parking lot of the normally crowded restaurant. He drove up to the large drive-thru menu and glanced over the yellow section which was devoted to breakfast foods. He could not decide between a bacon-egg-and-cheese muffin and a breakfast taco. He visualized himself holding a muffin and taking a bite, and wondered if he would want to take another. Just as he was about to imagine taking a taco bite a metallic voice rattled his window, startled him out of his reverie, and made him hit his head on the car’s ceiling.
        Billy rolled down his window.
        --Welcome to Burger Bonanza, can I take your order?
        --Two breakfast tacos, please.
        --Would you like anything to drink with that?
        A nice cold beer... Billy thought... An ice cold beer.
        --No, thank you.
        He rolled up his window and drove to the side of the restaurant. He leaned to his left and removed his wallet from his right back pocket. He took out a five-dollar bill. The man inside the restaurant opened the restaurant window and put out his hand. Billy rolled down his car window and handed the man the money, then rolled his window back up. The man made change at the cash register and put his hand out of the restaurant window to give Billy his change. Billy rolled down his window and took the change, then rolled the window back up. The man left the window and came back with a bag. He put two napkins in the bag and extended his hand to Billy.


IV


        Billy parked his car and removed the keys from the ignition. He put on his left glove and took the office key in his right hand. He picked up the bag of tacos with his gloved hand and exited the car. He closed the door and walked to the office entrance and was surprised to find the door locked. He unlocked the office door and entered. He turned the lights on. He went to the thermostat and turned on the heat. He went into the break room and put his things down and put on a pot of coffee. He removed his left glove and put it in his coat pocket, then took off his coat and hung it in the coat closet.
        Billy removed the napkins from the bag, then the tacos. He found three tacos in the bag. He checked the receipt. He had paid for only two. He was overjoyed. He wondered if he should go back and return the third taco, then realized that the restaurant, assuming that Billy had tampered with it, would probably not take it back. He wondered if he should go back and pay for it, but decided that paying for the mistakes of others was not his responsibility. Besides, if he did that today, the next time Billy ordered two tacos, the man inside might give him four in order to sell more tacos. Billy shrugged and smiled and tucked his tie into his pocket and proceeded to unwrap a taco. He ate it. He unwrapped the second and ate half of it, then decided to put the remainder of it, along with the third taco, away for lunch. He replaced the tacos in the bag and opened the refrigerator door.
        Half of Abraham Lincoln's and all of George Washington's face looked up at Billy from atop a half-eaten cake. Billy covered his face with both of his hands. He cursed himself for forgetting the President's Day holiday.


V


        Billy was walking down the street with a grocery bag when he remembered that he had forgotten something. He had reminded himself not to forget, but all he could remember now was that he was not to forget something. Exactly what, he did not recall.
        Billy realized that he would not be able to remember if he consciously attempted to, so he thought other thoughts. He thought about the summer time, and how he hated getting in his car after it had been sitting in the sun. He thought about the winter, about how he always looked forward to the first snowfall, and about how he always dreaded the second snowfall.
        He stood on the sidewalk holding his grocery bag, took a deep breath and stared at the sky, whistled, and tried not to think of what he had forgotten.
        Billy saw a woman approaching. Alas!, he thought. Alas a lass! He considered speaking to her.
        --Hey pretty lady.
        --Hiya, handsome. What's a good looking guy like you doing just standing in the middle of the sidewalk holding a bag of groceries?
        --Waiting for you, what else?
        --But why the bags?
        --Why, to exhibit my manly strength, of course.
        --Of course. Ha, ha! Silly me! What was I thinking?
        --You were probably just taken aback by my dashing good looks and brash salutation.
        --You have SUCH insight into a woman's mind.
        --What can I say?
        --Say you'll marry me!

        The lady drew nearer and Billy looked back up at the sky. She passed. He watched her walk down the street and around the corner.
        Billy remembered what he had forgotten--he was supposed to buy milk. He went back to the supermarket.


VI


        Billy sat down to write a story; he didn't know where to start. He hit the paper release lever on his typewriter and realigned the page, then pressed the lever again and rolled the knob on the side to bring the top of the page back down. He popped his knuckles and made typing gestures as he brought his hands down on top of the keys and made his fingers dance across their surface. He took a deep breath and put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair.
        Billy stood up and crossed his arms. He walked over to his window and looked out. He made sure the window was closed all the way, then walked over to the thermostat and turned up the temperature. He paced the length of his bed.
        Billy walked into his kitchen and turned the light on. He opened the fridge and took out his bag of tacos. He put the remaining one-and-a-half tacos on a plate and opened the door to his microwave. He set the microwave for one minute, pressed the start button, and threw away the taco wrappers.
         A minute passed; the microwave beeped. Billy took the tacos out of the microwave and put them on the counter. He removed a glass from the cupboard and poured himself a glass of milk. He put on a pot of coffee and sat down to his tacos and milk.
        Billy wondered what to write about. He finished eating and put his dishes on the counter next to the sink. He opened the hot water tap, then added a little cold. He wet his sponge and put some detergent on it. He scrubbed and rinsed his plate and drinking glass, then put them on the drying rack. He turned the water off and dried his hands with the towel hanging on the oven door handle.
        Billy took a coffee mug from the cupboard and poured himself a mug of coffee. He turned the kitchen light off and went back to his bedroom and set the mug down on a coaster next to his typewriter. He sat down on the edge of his bed with his elbows resting on his knees and his chin cradled in his palms. He watched the white steam rise out of the coffee mug sitting next to his black typewriter.
        Billy stood up and stepped over to his desk, pulled his chair out and sat down. He lifted his mug, slurped a sip of coffee, and replaced the mug on the coaster. Billy began to type.

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