I

It was a fairly conventional Sunday 9:30am. Conor was awoken by the sound of his neighbor mowing his lawn in perfectly parallel strips. He looked out of his open bedroom window and saw this through a mess of trees and sleep-swollen eyes and repeated the phrase to himself in his head. Perfectly parallel strips. Through the sylvan kingdom that lined the edges of the road and his "neighborhood" (a disjointed archipelago of model homes in the once-mighty-forest) he heard a woodpecker violently and mechanically drilling a far-flung tree. What sounded like Dire Straits or maybe The Eagles played on a distant radio.

Slowly, and almost blindly, he descended the weathered wooden steps into his messy kitchen. His parents had left a note before they went off to wherever they went - "Check the mail for college letters, mom and dad." Mom and dad. Both of them were in on this. He saw this note firmly mounted on his gently humming refrigerator, held up with one of the few remaining refrigerator poetry magnets. "clairvoyance."

He poured a bowl of cereal, and stuffed his cell phone into the pocket of his sweatpants. He put on a tee shirt, and slid a cigarette behind his ear. A Winston 100 he had taken from his dad's pack. He took this and the bowl of cereal, and went out onto the porch.

Setting his cold and still not-quite-mushy cereal onto the murky glass table, he took out his phone and began to look through his text messages from the night before. He got into a slightly drunken argument with his girlfriend Claire, who had told him she was pregnant a week or two ago. A claim he later found out to be false.

At the time however, he had forever resigned his fate to the abysmally bleak idea of raising a child at the age of seventeen, because as she said at the time (lying) "We have made a baby. It is inside of me at this very moment, and even though it's only like a tadpole in a egg yolk at this time it is our responsibility to lead it into this world."

The whole conversation reminded him of an ancient scrawling on a chalkboard in the English room - "the eloquence of the inarticulate." He wasn't entirely sure what it was from, maybe Chopin, and he wasn't entirely sure what it meant, but it seemed relatable. Her halfbaked mumbling and attempts at articulation, while entirely idiotic, seemed profoundly urgent and dreadful.

But this was not so. He was not a father-to-be and she was not a mother-to-be. He was blowing smoke into the morning wind that infiltrated the screened-in porch. Black flies crawled up and down the weather-beaten mesh. His life seemed as anti-climatic as one of the bugs, a week ago. And that shit was scary.

No college, no money, no degree, no nothing. One of the great plagues of his generation - lack of a degree. He had felt this coming like a summer cold. 17 years building up to nothing, but it wasn't true, so he guessed it didn't matter. Everything was good now.

He put the cigarette butt into the small pool of milk at the bottom of the bowl. It died with a satisfying hiss. It was now a fairly ordinary 10:23 Sunday a.m.

Sitting on a broken-down lawn chair on the chipped-blue-paint porch, he continued to watch his neighbor mow the lawn through the trees, about 100 yards away. He was wearing those big ear-muffs, and immaculately transparent goggles you'd see in a Sears commercial. He gave a dismal, obligatory wave. Conor felt like he had lived this early Sunday 10:30 am a million times before and would one-million times more. He'd send out a few more head-fucking texts before going back inside to slice up a pineapple.

To offset the dangerous effects of chain smoking and a still socially acceptable level of alcoholism, his mother had begun buying large amounts of fresh fruit. A pineapple was sitting in on the counter, and when Conor went in to slice it up it looked absurdly human and headlike. In fact, the act of slicing it up seemed like something from a mob movie. After decapitating it's green-spiked head (and dropping it into a black trash bag, covering his hands with pineapple blood) he began to slowly and deliberately skin the still-respiring fruit. Slicing off it's bottom and dropping it into the bag made the one cleared spot on the kitchen counter look like a crime scene. He threw the knife into the sink, and rinsed off his hands. He imagined a spiral of absurdly red blood twisting down the drain.

He took the swinging bag of pineapple parts out the front door to be disposed unceremoniously into a sticky, forever unclean trash barrel. It was one of those days where he was just getting used to spring and the heat and light and sound overwhelmed Conor and made him feel a little sick. A completely barbaric spring day. Claire was off into respected parts of New England visiting upper-middle-class family members in Boston suburbs. He checked his phone, no response. He decided to walk to the mailbox.

The gravel driveway that led to the mailbox wound through the shimmering emerald frontyard, dotted with bare trees and blooming yellow bushes of flowers. He could hear bees buzzing like some new noise a car would start making some day. A frantic and moribund noise.

On the bright side of things, however, birds were chirping, and the red flag stuck up on the mailbox pointing toward the cloudless morning sky. He could still hear his neighbor mowing the lawn in perfectly parallel strips. In the distant and dramatically rolling hills, he saw what looked like a plume of smoke rising from the green tree tops. Cars screamed down the road above.

Something was on top of the mailbox. He couldn't be sure from here, but it looked like a thermos. He squinted in the newfound light, and wished he had waited to get the mail. But college letters, financial aid, taxes, maybe checks and money and catalogs were waiting for him. All of the vaguely dull and adult trappings of postal and governmental duty. The powerlines overhead gently rocked in the imperceptible breeze. But what the fuck was on top his mailbox? A coffee mug, a thermos. Definitely a thermos. Sticky pineapple juice weakly held his fingers together, and he pulled them apart to touch the forest green strange thermos waiting on top of his mailbox. It slipped, and fell, knocking down the stoic, unwavering plastic flag.

When it hit the ground, every single person and animal within a five-mile radius would either hear or smell or see or feel the fall and the following bang.