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16 September, 2009 / Erik

The Fuller Equation, Chapter Seven

7: The Man In-Between

My bags hit the hardwood and echo ever so slightly off the walls. At first glance, my apartment is exactly as Valerija found it. There is mail piled up on a small table by the door. The key-hooks are gone. My turntable and stereo are back near the windows facing the street.

There’s even a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the cupboard. Heh.

Everything that was mine is accounted for. The only thing she took is a Nick Cave LP she bought for me.

It occurs to me that I’ll need a computer of my own. She liked gadgets and brought them here; so they naturally went with her. Also, I hope email hasn’t changed too much since the way it worked when I was a teacher.

I plop down onto the bed. It doesn’t feel any different from the endless stream of hotel beds I’ve known the last year. You’d think there’d be some memory of what it feels like to lay here. Instead, the sense is totally new. Maybe she replaced the mattress; burning the previous one.

Home is just another destination on the endless tour.

I hear the phone, my real one on the wall, ring. The real bells let out a satisfying tone, so much so I let them play out.

Whoever needs me will need me tomorrow, I think.

Maybe I do remember what this bed is supposed to feel like.

#

The warehouse lights destabilize my vision. The electronic store is just as much a distribution center as anything else. A kid in a blue polo shirt spots me and walks over. “Fuller?”

Recognition is still nice. “The one and only,” I reply.

“Aw shit, man. My friends’ll bug. Can I take a picture?”

“During work hours?”

He suddenly remembers he’s an employee. “Oh, shit, right. Of course. You need any help or something?”

Heh.

“As it happens, I do. I need a computer of some sort. Something that’ll let me check my email, maybe write notes. I definitely don’t want it to make cutesy little sounds when I start programs.”

He nods. “I figured you’d have that all checked out.”

“Time for an upgrade.”

“Oh, awesome. I’m Derek, by the way.”

Derek shouts for another kid and they trade information. He recognizes me as well and Derek gets his photo with me on his little plastic phone.

Derek shows me a little black number and tells me about the different platforms and the operating system wars. All I know is Valerija had a white laptop with Care Bear stickers on it. “Really, I would think you’d be hip to this stuff.”

“I never really got into all this technology; got swept up into the past in school.”

Derek considers that. “Oh, right. Well, you gotta get updated. It is the twenty-first century.”

“And no flying cars,” I say. He laughs at that. He gets paged on the store intercom. “I have to deal with that. Try the laptop out, play with the interface. It has to feel right, y’know?” He slaps my shoulder as he leaves, just enough of a touch for contact.

Turns out, Derek is trying to make good and support a kid. Imagine that. He’s hoping he can talk me into an extended warranty and not get slapped at his upcoming review.

I play with the various pre-loaded options on the demo unit and consider the fingerpad in front of the keyboard. Looking at the price tags, I know Derek hasn’t even led me to the most expensive model.

“Fuller!” shouts a definitively female voice from the cell-phone section. In the distance, I see Amy drop a wall-charger and barrel toward me. She almost knocks me down as she hugs me. “Way to keep in touch, asshole!” she shouts as I recover my footing, still waiting for her to hit me.

“Things got weird,” I reply.

“Oh shit, yeah. I’m sorry, Fuller.” I’ve never noticed before how Amy attacks everything. Her sympathy for the senator is as powerful as her run toward me. I actually look back at the computer for a moment.

“I had to fire Valerija, so now I need a computer of my own.”

“Yeah, we heard she moved out.”

She pats my shoulder. Oddly, no contact.

“Look, fool, we’re having a party at the Do Drop tonight for Eve. Nobody’s seen you in ages. You have to come.”

“Under pain of death, of course,” I say.

“Yeah, it’s been too fun without our killjoy around.” She waves and returns to her shopping.

I see Derek in the distance and decide to take anything he pitches at me.

#

The boxes stack up by the door; a new laptop computer, a new tv, a new plastic phone; all the various totems of a new phase. All the things I never really required before.

After frustration, a phone call, and a change of billing, the computer connects me to the email address Valerija set up for me. Nothing pressing.

The TV takes the place of Valerija’s art supplies and I get fuzzy reception. It’s the twenty-first century and we still need antennae. A quick internet search and I get a satellite TV option set up for installation.

Strangely, the new phone was the easiest. They just moved all the information to the new device. It’s similar to what Valerija chose, but less purple.

The sun’s setting and there’s just no more putting off facing all the people I grew up with.

I dread what will happen if I run into Fred Simms.

#

“And that’s what makes Dune so astonishing,” says Ian Ferris. Since he was seventeen, when Kathy Day gave him a copy of the TV cut she taped off the Disney Channel, Ian has been obsessed with the film and he lectures about it at any opportunity. For several years, his obsession was merely focused on why the film failed. “Roger Ebert named it as one of the worst films of 1984. I need to know why,” he would say. Having researched the tiniest details of the production, interviewed whomever he could under the guise of a college thesis, Ian can tell you ninety-seven percent of the book was filmed. He can tell you about Universal’s expectations for the film and the producer’s run around with director David Lynch.

Everything I know about filmmaking comes from Ian’s quest to understand the 1984 film version of Dune.

Some years into his quest, I asked him if he’d ever read the book.

Heh.

“No, seriously, Fuller. I’d think you’d recognise the prescience on display. You’re living the story,” he says. I have no idea how many drinks Ian has had up to this point. I motion to Hugo for another drink.

We’re all back at the Do Drop Inn: Eve, Ian, Amy, Hugo, even Ian’s cousin, the rock star. I know I spotted Haley Caruthers when I got here, but Ian was anxious to talk to me about his latest revelation.

“It’s essentially about the Man In-Between,” he says. Amy stops by the table and drops off a gin-and-tonic for me. She winks and rolls her eyes at Ian as he continues. “I mean, that’s what people are waiting for: a Kwisatz Haderach,” he continues.

I’ll give you the short version. A Kwisatz Haderach, in the book means “Shortening of the Way.” A person who can be at two places at once.

“Did I ever tell you it’s based on the Jewish idea of ‘Kefitzat Haderech?'” he asks. “It literally means ‘jumping of the path.’ It all relates to the same thing: a person who can merge two distinct points.”

At this point, I’m willing to play. “Two points?”

“Well, strictly speaking in the role of Dune, the Kwisatz Haderach is intended to unite the ancestral memory of both the male and female aspects of humanity.”

“A tall order.” I take a drink of my gin-and-tonic and scan the room for Haley.

“Well, in practice, he unites the Empire under one banner to prevent the stagnation of the human race.”

“Never an easy job being the Keifun Haderach, is it?” I ask.

Kwisatz Haderach,” he says, correcting me. “Anyway, it’s all pointing toward someone who has the ability to see all points of view and unite disparate things; literally, a Man In-Between.”

“I suppose.”

Ian shifts in his seat. “Honestly, Fuller, I should think this would appeal to you. You and Kathy used to do all that reading about Gnosticism.”

“That was a long time ago, Ian. The only secret worth knowing there is that, ultimately, secrets are an endless pit.”

I get up, grabbing my drink. “As for your Man In-Between? He’d never be allowed to live.”

I wander toward the door to the kitchen. I pass Eve as she walks to Ian. She’s getting a story published somewhere and I quickly say “Congratulations” to her.

Scanning the room again, I notice all the couples: Amy and Hugo, Ian and Eve, Chuck Connors and his rockabilly girlfriend. In Haverbrook, these relationships start early and never seem to end.

Oh, did I never mention Ian and Eve got together? Yeah, imagine that.

Heh.

Amy walks out of the kitchen. “Are the two of you ever going to get along?” she asks, looking over to Ian and Eve.

I turn around to look at her. “We do get along.”

“No you don’t. You tease him relentlessly.”

“Well, he is a geek.”

She laughs. “So are you.”

I give her a quizzical expression.

“But your geekery is all about the Haterade. Ian, he loves his geekery.” She hits me. “And that’s why she loves him.” Contact.

Though my access is limited, I get the impression she’s worried about me. She starts to walk away before I grab her arm. “Out with it,” I say.

She blinks. “Patio.”

Out on the patio, we see Chuck Connors and his girlfriend have an opening salvo in their nightly fight session. This will see her walking down Del Mar and him chasing after her. It’s their peculiar dance.

Amy instructs me to sit down.

“Okay, Fuller. Here it is. I saw the way you were with Valerija and I didn’t like it.”

What?

“You teased her all the time. It seemed like you treated her like staff.”

“She was.”

Amy shakes her head. “God, you are so stupid sometimes.” With that, she walks off.

In August, Haverbrook gets baked under a blanket of moisture and heat and tonight’s no different. I don’t exactly get along with that. Even into the night, my summer weight jacket’s causing me to sweat.

Meanwhile, Chuck Connors runs off after his girl.

I light up a clove and take a nice, long, inhale.

I spot Haley Caruthers walking out onto the patio and motion for her to come over. “How are you doing, Fuller?” she asks.

“Sinusy, you?”

“No, c’mon Fuller … I mean with Senator Garland.”

“Well, I’m not involved anymore. I quit. I can’t give you any information on how things will go forward. Other than the Fuckhead will be the candidate.”

She looks down at her shoes. “No, I mean, you must still be hurting, right?”

I think about touching her and trying to get the Awareness to cut through language. I stop and take another drag off my clove. “I’ve had so much to do ever since, I never really—” I start to say. She rubs my shoulder, but the Awareness fails to kick in.

Only now do I wonder if she knows what Fred Simms did.

“Garland was important you know,” she says.

“It felt like history was changing around him,” I respond.

Another drag.

“I’m tired of watching the future die,” I say. With this, I stop acquiescing to hope. The election is still two and half months away and bleak is the most charitable word for my outlook.

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