the life of henry pearl.

carl j. darigold.

The most interesting thing that you could say about Carl J. Darigold was that he was a dog person. The second most interesting thing was that Carl was an accountant.

 Carl’s life was planned: a precise balance of eating, sleeping, working and pooping.

The only thing that he didn’t have control over happened once a month and he had learned to deal with it.

 Carl wore the same thing everyday: a grey suit with a grey hounds-tooth tie and wire-rimmed spectacles.

 In the mornings, he would eat a breakfast of ham and in the evening he would dine on discount steak, cooked rare.

 Carl lived alone in a one-bedroom, one-bath, one-person flat on N. Fourth Street.

 Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, Carl went to work. He enjoyed the monotony of his job, of fetching files and digging into spreadsheets to find whatever it is that accountants find.

 On Saturdays, he would go to Manfred’s Barbershop to get his weekly trim. Manfred, an old widower with a son that never visited, had taken a liking to Carl. Carl didn’t say much during their time together; he let the old man ramble and reminisce. When he left, his head freshly barbered, the old man would pat him on the shoulder and call him a good boy.

 When the moon became a perfect white circle, all of Carl’s hair grew until his skin was hidden beneath a layer of glossy brown. His nostrils split slightly and his nose darkened to a moist black. Lips loosened around a mouth of thickening canines, nails sharpened, and a pair of ears converted to triangles of thin leather. Carl’s ordinary accountant-body morphed itself into a hairy creature and his brain retreated to its primal nature.

 The most interesting thing that you could say about Carl J. Darigold was that he was a dog person.

the grey-house.

The grey house that Henry lived in was located on a side street in a coastal town that was foggy. It was old, but not old enough to be considered stylish. The landlady was a raisin of a woman that Henry had only met twice. As long as she got her money, she left them alone. The house had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a hall, a garage, a side-yard, a front yard, a tattered couch on the porch, a dog, four chickens, five tenants and a Swiss girl who appeared one day and stayed.

 The neighborhood was middle-class, but the grey house was middle-aged and it had not matured gracefully. All of the locks were stripped, hinges rusted and the paint curled at the edges of the leaking roof. Sometimes the electricity would stop and they would stumble around with candles, spilling wax and cursing, until it miraculously came back on.

In the winter, it was cold in the house, but they didn’t use the heater because they were too cheap. Instead of electric warmth, they bundled up. Layer, layer, and another layer. Their breath hung in the air and everyone drank too much tea.

In the summer, flies came in the house because the doors were always open. Sometimes they would have a barbeque in the front yard and play music into the night. Fly swatters were passed around and everyone drank too much beer.

125th of a second.

He lay awake in the uncomfortable bed, listening to the buzz of the AC, unable to sleep. He had always thought that he wanted to an adventurer, never settling down and always moving; now he was unsure.

Henry wanted to capture life. He wasn’t greedy by conventional standards; he only wanted a grain, not the whole world. He didn’t want to keep it to himself; he wanted to share it with the world. He wanted a sliver, a slice of life, a moment. It wouldn’t have to last long, maybe 1/125th of a second, maybe a bit longer.

He wanted emotion. Not the prefabricated input-output of feelings that was so common. Henry wanted the true face of love or genuine sorrow. He was tired of prearranged poses and waxy, plastic smiles.

Henry had wanted to record life through images and sounds, but he had a preoccupation with Death. During the day, he could appreciate most everything in the world, even if he didn’t much like a lot of it. During the night, he would think about how it would all disappear soon, how meaningless a steady job was if man was fated to die. During the night, he would think about how people were so focused on mass media and celebrities that they let life pass them by. He understood that by thinking this he was pushing his beliefs on thousands of people whom he had never met, talked to, or knew nothing about, but he believe that he was free from the grasp of Big Culture and was therefore more enlightened (not smarter or better). 

The philosopher and the photographer would hash it out in his mind, leaving him unable to sleep. What was the point in documenting life if no one would see it?

 

polly.

Polly was a quiet and patient dog. She would look you in the eye and wait. And wait some more. Her coloring was a dark black, with sprigs of grey on her nose and the tip of her drooping tail. When I met Polly, she had been in the house for only a few days. To me, her past was a mystery and would remain so if I had my way. I didn’t much care for pasts at the time; I was more concerned with the now.

Perhaps Polly had been the pooch of an old aristocrat, a refined lady whose family had lived in the city for eight generations. Maybe Polly had been with a traveling circus and had been forgotten when the troupe had left town.

Polly’s history was a mystery to me, but that was fine. She could rest beside me on the couch and I would scratch her neck until we both fell asleep.

claw-foot tub.

It was midnight when we reached the flat. The rain had caught us off-guard, soaking us thoroughly. We changed into dry clothes that we scavenged from closets and drawers: Scott wore cotton pants, Claire had on a tattered kimono and I had found striped pajamas that were a size smaller than I preferred. It was quiet in the flat; the only sound being the rain and the soft pat of our bare feet on the wooden floor. Claire drew up a bath with water that steamed, but was only a few inches deep. I found a dusty bottle in the pantry and Scott located a corkscrew. We sat on the edge of the claw-foot tub, our feet submerged in the warmth, passing the dusty bottle around and listening to the rain.

muse.

I sit in a dark café and drink a dark coffee as the rain comes down outside. I try not to think of you, but you keep appearing in my mind. Is it strange that you have such a hold on me? Perhaps it is (we only met twice), but it is true nonetheless. You were able to coax me into revealing much of myself, while I learned little of you. Maybe you will always be a mystery, a memory, a muse.

bricks.

What Henry noticed most about the city were the bricks. Brick walls, brick streets, brick houses. Bricks, bricks, bricks. He had come from a place where bricks were rare. In his hometown, builders didn’t use bricks often due the fact the earthquakes were common and bricks had a tendency to jump around when the ground started shaking. Bricks were rare, but not absent.

His father’s house had a brick chimney and when Henry was young and it was rainy and cold, he had sat in front of the fireplace until his back became too hot and he would have to move. Sometimes the cat would join him in this test of endurance. The cat would always win. The cat was a tough cat.

The coffee shop that he used to frequent had been made of bricks. He had spent a couple hours there nearly everyday, drinking coffee, reading, and pretending to study. It had been his first year of college and he may or may not have loved the girl who had worked there.

His hometown had more bricks, but those were the ones that he chose to remember.

the cafe.

Henry was there again, sitting at the table and drinking coffee. He had some pretext for being in the coffee shop (this time it was studying for an exam), but the reality was that he liked spending time there. He liked the mismatched bricks that held the wall together and the sound of milk steaming. He liked the damp lights that cast a warmish, dull tone on the faded black chairs and chipped mugs. The art that hug on the wall rotated every few months, but it rarely caught his attention.

It had been two (or was it three?) years since he first walked in and asked for a cup of coffee. He had sat at the table closest to the bar, which that gave him the best view of the people who walked in and the opportunity to talk to the tall redhead who smiled at him when she took his order. He drank his coffee and read a chapter from a book. After contemplating a muffin, he decided against it. He shrugged on his coat and nodded to the redhead as he walked out.

Months past and he began to go to the café more often, twice or three times a week. One night the redhead told him her name and then asked for his. They talked for a few minutes until someone came through the door and he moved to let her get on with her job. The next time he came in all the tables were full, occupied with college students studying, working, and flirting. After ordering his tea, he sat at the bar and began to read. Minutes later, the girl drifted over. She was there to do dishes and the sink was opposite to Henry. He looked up from his book and said something meaningless to her. She said something back and they laughed.

Time went on as it does and they grew closer. When Henry ordered his drink he would ask her to surprise him and she would. He learned that she liked birds and would go on long runs in the hills looking for a species that was new to her. On one occasion, Henry told her that he was starting a garden and the next time that they meet, she gave him a packet of kale seeds. Although she was a vegan, they often shared desserts that were broken (or broken by her) and could therefore not be sold to paying customers. Henry concluded that although she was a vegan, exceptions were made for cheesecakes, pies, muffins, cakes, cookies and other things that she wanted to eat. She told him her schedule and soon he would only go to the café when he knew she would be there. They made plans to meet-up outside of the coffee shop. They never did.

Eventually the girl, with her tangled red hair and quick smile, moved away; she was helping children in the Colorado Mountains. He had her phone number and she had his, yet neither called the other. They had had their time together and that was enough. Henry didn’t miss her; rather he missed being with her.