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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 18 page 14

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Rachel nudged him. “Merle, move your foot,” she said.

“Oh, I won’t hurt their table.” He dropped his foot to the floor, slumped forward, then leaned back and extended his arms over the back of the love seat. “I hope no one is uncomfortable that I’m wearing a tie,” he said. “I have many silk double-breasted suits at home I bought in Thailand, but I thought today I’d wear this. If you two feel ill at ease, I’ll take it off.”

Nicole looked at him, Gray shirt, a wide orange and green tie, Docker pants two sizes too small. And he’s worried about us being ill at ease? To avoid laughing directly at him, Nicole turned and walked into the kitchen where she filled four glasses with tea, placed a straw in Rachel’s glass, then returned to the living room. Merle was still talking.

Rachel spoke to Nicole over Merle’s monologue. “Merle was up at four a.m. trying to fix my computer.”

“What happened?” asked Nicole.

“It kind of broke. Needed to be defragged,” said Rachel.

Nicole looked at Merle. “Did you get it fixed?”

Merle fixed his eyes on the table, then the walls, and said, “There are two ways to look at fixing something. First, is to just correct it. That’s for simpletons. The second, and, I believe, the proper way to do it is — and this may just be my scientific mind at work, which I feel has been more of a curse than a blessing, to have been born with this talent. Even when I was in grade school, when other kids were playing, I was reading, and educating myself to think. That may be my greatest talent, my ability to think.”

Without looking at anyone in the room, Merle clasped his hands behind his neck and continued, “You know, most people can’t think. Most people are sheep. In fact, when there’s a call to people to get in line, or to stand somewhere, I call out ‘Baah, baah’ to imitate the sheep people are. Even my doctor tells me he appreciates the fact that I don’t act like his other patients that just sit there and act like sheep, saying ‘Yes, doctor, no doctor.’ I bring articles from the internet about medical matters to educate him. And...”

Nicole began to drift. Just kill me now. When she refocused her attention, Merle was still talking.

As Merle backed out of the driveway, his subject had shifted to the architecture of garages and the stress force that concrete undergoes, and how most people don’t understand it as well as he does. When he took a breath, Rachel attempted to discuss the play, Doubt, they were on their way to attend, and the restaurant where she had made reservations.

Merle interrupted and redirected the conversation to Italian restaurants and his expertise in that area describing his sole criterion for a good Italian restaurant was how they prepared the carpaccio. “I’ve been to Italy, so I know about that.”

That monologue continued until the play started. At which time he slouched low in his seat, looked down toward the floor, and fell mute.

At intermission, Merle said to Rachel, “I’m going to get my camera and take photos of the coffee shop, this play is dull.” He stood and left the auditorium.

Rachel leaned toward Nicole. “He’s bored easily. He has a new toy. I got him a camera yesterday.”

When the play ended, Rachel searched for Merle. Her demeanor that of a fourth-grade teacher looking for a child who had not returned after recess. She entered the coffee shop, came out. Her smile vanished and her eyes assumed a squint. She veered to the left, descended nine steps, entered an exhibit hall and found Merle standing at a display panel. “Where have you been? Where is your camera?”

Merle continued staring at a corner behind the art displays. “In the car. I took photos. They’re pretty good, especially of the coffee cups.”

“We’re going to dinner at across the street. Let’s go.”

<CONT...>