A knock at the door.
Aren’t there too many stories that begin with a knock at the door?
I open it, and see exactly what I expect to see: Me.
Now, it won’t do at all to have you confused all the way through, so let’s say that the “me” at the door is played by Gary Oldman. No, I don’t have a particular reason for that. I just like Gary Oldman. Think of him as he appeared in The Book of Eli, but wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The shirt is emblazoned with a reproduction of the front cover of The Lamb.
I (at least I’m pretty sure that I am “I” rather than “me,” but don’t think too hard about that) can be played by anyone you fancy. Whatever you do, however, please don’t envision me as Rael from that album cover.
Me (Oldman) has been looking at me blankly. I see that he’s holding five playing cards in his hand, arranged as a hand, as if he’s playing a card game. I look back, just as blankly.
Finally, he speaks. “So… What’s up?”
I know what he means, but play dumb. “Not much. What’s up with you?”
“Where the hell have you been?”
I can’t think of a good response, so I just continue looking at him.
“You haven’t posted since July.”
This time a response seems appropriate. “Yeah.” I didn’t promise it would be a good one.
He holds the cards up, and extends them slightly toward me. “You dealt, but you never finished the hand.”
“You know why.”
“Well, yeah, at first. You got all busy and distracted. But FOUR MONTHS?”
“Four months is not a long time.”
A slight smile. “We’re talking web-time here. You know damned well that you get impatient after ten minutes if no one has ‘liked’ your latest Facebook post.”
“I’ve been thinking about another post. I’ll do it soon.”
“But YOU know that isn’t all. Everyone is talking about The Lamb again! The fortieth anniversary, it’s on everyone’s radar again, and nothing from you!”
I’m back to having no response.
He sighs. “May I come in, please?”
“Sure.” I move aside to let him in, and shut the door. He drops the playing cards on the coffee table and sits heavily on the end of the sofa. I sit in a nearby overstuffed chair that does not match the sofa, and wait for him to continue. The cards are face-up, and my peripheral vision catches three Jacks.
“That’s the thing, isn’t it? If everyone else is talking about it, you lose interest.”
I shrug, and remain silent for the moment.
His tone begins to lean toward mocking. “You’re still that freaking seventies prog-hipster teen, who needs his music to be not-too-popular.”
My turn to sigh. “Yeah, probably. I’ve always had trouble with hype, even when something is very very good.” I shift a bit, and try to look subtly defiant, probably failing at it. “But that’s not all.”
He crosses his arms and tilts his head. “What else, then?”
I close my eyes. After about 15 seconds, I open them again. “All of us talk about it, or we try to. Does it amount to anything more than trying to find all sorts of fancy ways to say that we love it?”
He looks puzzled. “Of course we love it. Why not find as many ways as we can to say that?”
“But is it anything MORE than saying that in various ways?”
“Are you asking whether the things we say — the things that you write — actually mean anything more than that?”
Another pause. Much longer this time.
“If they didn’t mean more than that, why would anyone keep reading them?”
I open my mouth to respond, and begin making a sound, but then I stop, and close my mouth again. What was I going to say? That readers are dull and sheep-like, reading when there’s no substance? That readers think they find substance when there’s actually none? I eventually find my voice again. “I was thinking about my writing, as opposed to the readers’ reception of it.” That’s lame, I think.
“That was lame.” He smirks, knowing that he has voiced my thought. “Do you also suspect that The Lamb itself might have no substance?”
A feeling just a half a notch below horror. “Of course not! The problem is that it has SO MUCH substance. Inexhaustible substance!”
He uncrosses his arms, smiling now, and nods. I expect him to say something, but he just looks at me expectantly.
Okay, so I’m supposed to think about this. I do. He seems content to wait.
Inexhaustible substance, I said.
Time goes by. No one measures it, so I don’t have a clue how much.
At some point, I suddenly look over at him again, and lean forward in my chair. He is looking at something above my head, still smiling. I look up, and see a cartoon light bulb floating there. Very cheesy.
He gathers the playing cards, and stands up. “Don’t bother getting up. I’ll let myself out.”
I can’t think of anything to say, so I just watch him move toward the door. With his hand on the nob, he turns back briefly. “We can expect the next post within a few days, then?”
I look up, and the light bulb is still there.