She refused to look. She’d let it lie unquestioned, untouched. The thing. It had arrived wrapped in bubble paper. The delivery man wheeled it into the middle of the living room and slid it carefully off the cart. “Sign here,” he said.
“But what is it?” she said.
“Ma’am I have no idea, someone here ordered it. Is all I know.” He pushed his clipboard in front of her, and she signed.
She sat on the sofa and looked at the massive object sitting in the middle of her living room. She had no idea what it could be, something her husband bought – on a whim maybe, maybe a chair, a shelf, a motor for the boat, or a tree? – He’d bought a few plants lately – maybe it was an exotic tree from Africa or Japan. A Bonsai or a Baobab. But no. The thing beneath the bubble paper was solid, heavy. She didn’t dare unwrap it. She’d wait.
As soon as he got home, he went straight into the living room and unwrapped it. She never even had to ask. Which was a good thing, since they weren’t speaking these days, hadn’t spoken for months, beyond “I’ll get this,” or “Why did you do that, don’t answer,” or “I told you that would happen,” or “I don’t want to talk about it,” Or “There’s mould on the spinach; can’t you see there’s mould on the spinach? What do you think that black stuff is? It’s mould, can’t you see that?” or, “Forget it; just forget it.” And these words – most of them spoken by him – were never answered; they just hung in the air as insult and accusation.
The thing. What it was. Jesus! What it was, was what – an unnameable – thing. It was immense, a great hulk that took up the whole centre of the living room. A sculpture, she guessed. But it had no recognizable shape – it was an ugly blob, a frozen vomit of metal. And it blocked the view of the television from the couch. She noticed that right away. But he seemed well satisfied as he ripped the bubble paper off and rolled it all up. He stepped round the thing, gazing at it and smiling. As if admiring it. As if he was some kind of art critic. He’d never been to an art gallery in his life. What the – but she said nothing. She was damned if she was going to say even one word about it. No. She would not do that. She would not even acknowledge that the thing was there. She stumped into the kitchen.
They watched tv every night, the same programs in the same order. That night, she pushed the sofa well over to one side of the room so she could see the screen. She huddled at one end of the sofa. If she squashed herself into the corner and tilted her head to the right, she could just about see the whole screen. He sat at the other end of the sofa, which meant he couldn’t see a damn thing on the screen – no, he was just staring at the object – the grievous obstruction. And he stared at it with a satisfied smirk on his face. She never said a word.
The next morning, after he’d gone to work, she took a close look at the thing. It was impossible to tell what it was made of – it could have been steel or bronze or brass or iron. Half way up one side two little black holes pierced the surface, eyes that seemed to watch her. Every day when her husband left for work, she covered the thing up with a white sheet like a shroud. Even so, it seemed to radiate a strange electricity, almost a hum, from under that sheet.
At first, she went into the living room during the day, to watch the afternoon shows, Dr. Phil, Oprah, Judge Judy, but she felt the presence of the thing as if it was peering at her through the sheet. One morning she took a carving fork out of the kitchen drawer, lifted the sheet and tried to stab it. The thing resisted every effort to pierce or even scratch its surface. After a few days, she stopped going into the living room at all. And after two weeks, she closed the double doors of the living room and locked them until her husband came home.
One evening when they were watching “Heartland” – or at least, she was watching it, he got up and pushed the obstruction over to the right, so that even if she perched on the arm of the sofa, she couldn’t see the screen. She’d have to move over to the other end of the sofa and sit close to him if she wanted to see anything. That was out of the question, but so was leaving the room. That would be defeat. Heartland was her favourite show, and he knew it.
She didn’t move. She sat there hunched over at the edge of the sofa, perfectly still, staring at the object. She never looked at her husband, and he never looked at her. After Heartland was over, he moved the obstruction back into the centre of the room, sat back down on the sofa, crossed his legs, folded his arms, and stared at it, squinting, and nodding from time to time as if listening to some message it was telling him. She got up, left the room and went to bed.
The next morning, she found him, still sitting on the sofa, still staring at the object. He didn’t hear her come in. “That’s it,” he said. “That’s clearly it. I can’t deny that.” She looked at him. She left the room, closed and locked the living room doors. Quietly, quietly, she tiptoed into the kitchen, where she closed that door too.
Rosalind lives in Toronto and began writing short fiction six years ago. Her stories have appeared in journals in Canada, the UK and the USA, including Fairlight Books, the Blue Nib, the Chiron Review, Fiction International and Into the Void. Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions.