Immaculate

by T. Sean Steele

Devon and I were sleepy. The shop had been empty for a week. No one had come in since the man, Peter Hills, pitched us his movie.

“Remember that man who came in the other day?” Devon said woozily. “The one who pitched that movie to us?”

“Yeah, Peter Hills. I was just thinking about him.”

“The guy has been visiting me in my sleep. He sits by my bed like I’m dying and asks me to star in his movie. When I say no he eats my pet bunny like corn on the cob except then he eats the cob too. The horrible part is he seems more real in my nightmares than he did when he came into the store that one time. Like our real world is his dream and our dream is his real world. It’s not good to have real things in your dreams. It’s like having a kidney stone.”

I felt bad for Devon. Peter Hills had also tried to invade my dreams but he only got into one. In it he had wanted to measure my belly size for a baby fitting but then my sister Kim arrived and ripped his head off. Because of Kim I more or less didn’t have nightmares. Anytime a dream took a turn for the worse she showed up and put a stop to it.

“It is only a movie,” Devon said. “Maybe I should just say OK and star in it so I can sleep easy again.”

“No, don’t,” I said, but they dozed off.

I was alone in the shop.

Sleepiness aside, an empty shop wasn’t bad. We hadn’t had to touch the receipt paper in days. My eyes slowed their drift apart and Devon’s face de-rheumified: the cancer was clearing right up.

*

Devon had been asleep for a few hours when Kim called me.

“I’ve been thinking and I decided you should move back out here,” she said. “I know you feel immortal working at that shop but it’s better to have things to do and eventually die than have nothing to do and be immortal.” She went on to describe the things there were for me to do in Los Angeles.

“Those are all clerical tasks,” I said. “You want an assistant.”

“Grocery shopping isn’t clerical. Everyone grocery shops. Also assistants don’t fix septic tanks. That’s the problem with the backyard. The septic tank is leaking and it’s turning the earth to muck. It’s like cleaning a bathroom, but better. You love that stuff.”

Sometimes Kim didn’t know what she was talking about. Fixing a septic tank was nothing like cleaning a bathroom. For one thing, a bathroom had porcelain surfaces and tile surfaces.

Devon clutched their belly and said ow in their sleep.

On the other hand,  I was indebted to Kim for killing Peter Hills in my dream.

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it,” I said.

*

When Devon woke up I asked them what had happened in their dream. They couldn’t remember and it made them nervous. “My god,” they said. “What about all the dreams I have that I can’t remember? I never considered those. Who knows what he gets up to in my forgotten dreams?” From there things unraveled quickly. “What if I’m still asleep right now?” they yelled.

I told them my foolproof way to determine whether or not I was in a dream.

“Even in the most lifelike dreams I always have a flat top.”

“A flat top?”

“The haircut. A flat top haircut.”

They went to the bathroom to check their hair in the mirror.

Outside the early evening moon scraped against the treetops. A prison work crew was picking up trash on the boulevard. Wait, no. I shook my head and looked again. It was mid-afternoon. A woman was leading a line of toddlers down the sidewalk. They were all connected by a rope tied around their waists.

What was happening was, my similar memories were consolidating into one. A side-effect of feeling immortal was any moment could be slotted into any other given moment.

Devon came back out and announced their hair looked like it always did.

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