P—W  V° 01:03

Late Morning

by Gabriel Smoller

The doorbell rings and Macy starts to bark. Her voice rattles picture frames and the light fixture and I do my best to shush her as I scramble out of my chair. She follows me out into the living room. Before I make it to the door, I see the courier through the window. He waves at me and gestures at the small brown package he’s left on the stoop, then he gets back into his van and drives away. Macy whimpers and tugs at her leash hung over the doorknob. No, I tell her, you just walked like an hour ago.

I bring the package in and set it on the kitchen counter then go back to the office and sit down at my desk, the dog in tow. She calms down almost immediately.

There is a sacredness to working in the morning. I can’t describe it. Something about the way the sunlight warms a room. There’s just some strange amalgamation of conditions that only exists in the morning that compels me to produce work. It’s a specific fleeting energy that I can’t activate if I don’t harness it early enough in the day. At this point, I estimate that I need to tap into it in the next ten or fifteen minutes to make today count.

Sarah calls from down the hall. Who was that?

Delivery. A package.

For you or for me?

It doesn’t say. It’s just the address.

Weird, she says.

You can open it if you want. I’m going back to work.

I close the door and sit down at my desk. I have two goals today:

First, I want to finish tracking the percussion overdubs for my new album. Lucas told me that I should be thinking about the microphone like it’s a human ear: nobody experiences a shaker with their ear right up against the player, so you shouldn’t record it like that. Back off the microphone a few feet. Record the room. Think about how it’s actually going to sit in the mix. Same for triangle and tambourine.

Second, I want to find a birthday gift for Benjamin that Sarah and I can both be happy with. We have landed on a price point and some ideas, but we disagree on the appropriateness of a toy that generates noise. The last thing his parents want, says Sarah, is another noisemaker. He cries and screams all day every day and he already has plenty of things that he can bang on. Maybe so, but based on everything we know about him, a noisemaker is precisely the kind of thing that can actually hold his attention, thereby minimizing the extent to which he is compelled to cry and scream. As he approaches his first birthday, Benjamin is chiefly interested in the relationship between cause (striking a reverberant surface) and effect (the deducible resonance given force per strike).

I’ve only sat back down for another thirty seconds when the doorbell rings a second time and Macy springs into action, bellowing and whimpering, hackles raised. In her frenzy she collides with a microphone stand and knocks it over.

I’ll get it, Sarah yells from the other room.

Macy will continue to bark until the commotion settles anyway, so I just get up and go into the kitchen to see what’s up. I see that our door is closed on the deadbolt. Sarah thanks someone in the hallway, then she brings another package inside. This one is larger and seems heavy. She carries it with both hands and grunts a little when she sets it down on the floor.

So weird, she says. Also just the address, no name.

Is there a return address?

No, it’s literally just our apartment address. She flips it over onto its side. Yeah, there’s nothing else here.

I grab the smaller package from the kitchen counter and compare it to the second.

That’s so weird, I say. Both printed labels.

Yeah, she says, no handwriting either.

Sarah feels around on the larger package looking for an easy point of entry. Not finding one, she goes to the junk drawer and digs around for a while. Batteries and nails and thumbtacks and small tools clatter and clink as she sifts until she finally comes up with a pair of scissors.

Pass me those when you’re done, I say, struggling with the cardboard of the first package.

I look up to the microwave to check the time and my heart sinks: 11:30 already. We stayed up late with that dumb movie and didn’t set an alarm. Even skipping a real breakfast for a granola bar only saved me about ten minutes, and it will take me thirty to forty-five minutes of hyperfocus to settle into a groove. We finished the last of the cold brew, so no more caffeine. I work through the variables and realize that I will almost certainly fall short of my goals for the day.

The doorbell rings again. Sarah looks at me, incredulous.

Is this a joke? Are you serious right now?

Shit, the deadbolt, I say. Macy has already wedged the door open with her snout. I chase her into the hallway and grab her by her trunk, then stand over her and hold her in place with my legs. Her barks are shrill and piercing and desperate, and they echo on the bare walls, disappearing up the stairwell.

Can you get the door? I can’t really move.

I’m coming, says Sarah. She races out and opens the front door. A refrigerator sized package stands on end in the frame, completely obstructing the doorway.

What the fuck? says Sarah.

Macy is practically vibrating. She thrashes like a hooked fish and punctuates her barks with menacing growls. I waddle her away from the package back to our apartment like a penguin carrying an egg and shut the door behind me.

Sarah and I stand on either side of the cardboard monstrosity and work together to slide it inch by inch. It’s heavy and there’s little give, but to our surprise it just barely fits.

Definitely won’t fit into our apartment, though, says Sarah. We have to open it out here.

Sarah runs back into the apartment and returns a moment later with a box cutter. She hands it to me and I make a deep incision at the top of the box, then slide the blade down its length. I peel back one flap just as the doorbell rings for a fourth time. Sarah shakes her head.

Macy’s cries escalating behind me, I open the door just in time to see an enormous cardboard box fall from the sky and smash into a sedan parked in front of our building. Every car alarm on the block sounds at once.

Before I can get a word out, another box falls into the middle of the intersection at the end of the block, diverting a bus into a fire hydrant. Then another box falls. Then a shipping container. Sarah pulls me out of the hallway and into our apartment.

Thunderous crashes pummel the neighborhood as boxes of all shapes and sizes rain down like hellfire, pulverizing cars and trees. Sirens wail. Our building shakes. The living room windows shatter, spraying the room with shards of glass, and our doorbell rings again and again and again. Macy shrieks and spins and bites at the air, crazed and hateful.

The office, says Sarah. There’s no windows.

I pick up Macy and follow Sarah into the office slamming the door behind me. She crouches down at my desk and grabs at cords and wires with two tight fists, clearing space for us to shelter. Help me, she says.

I kneel beside her and unplug my computer tower then hurl it across the room. Its shell splinters and comes apart when it hits the hard wooden floor. I crawl under the desk beside Sarah and hold Macy tight to my chest. I can feel her tiny heart racing. For a moment, I become aware of an interlocking rhythm between our pulses, and I am able to ignore the noise outside.

Okay, says Sarah. I think we’re safe here.

2021 © G.Smoller