Law of the Diminishing Return

ISS044-E-45553

            It’s the hottest May on record in this city.

‘May 5, 2015

Dear Mr. Martin,

Hi Billy! Welcome to our building. Happy to have you here, and no problem about helping you move in. You certainly have a lot of stuff! Attached you’ll find a pack of tenant guidelines. If you have any questions, please ask.

Yours truly,

The Landlord’

            The full moon was on June 2nd. For the next four years, it’ll be on June 20th, June 9th, June 28th and June 17th. Long ago, people depended on the moon for light. Not anymore.

‘June 20, 2015

Dear Mr. Martin,

We got your toaster oven. It was nicely placed in front of my door, where it tripped me as I went out to get the mail. Fortunately, I’m fine, and was glad to see that you had left a piece of bread on the heating rack. I fed it to the birds. While you are really generous for leaving us bird food, please dispose of your appliances in a more suitable manner.

Yours truly,

The Landlord’

            The cost of electricity in Ontario is 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. You can leave a lightbulb on all day and night for a month, and the energy cost would be less than the price of a coffee.

‘July 5, 2015

Dear Tenant,

We are in receipt of your television set and the accompanying video cassette recorder. While we found it remarkable that you maintained a collection of VCR tapes – and such an eclectic mix at that – we are not sure that this technology is of any value to us. The television set, though usable, is a little small and the channel dial is missing. Thank you so much for your considerate gift! However, if you had simply bothered to take these items to the curb on garbage day, there is a good chance that our municipal workforce would have collected it for you. After all, taxes.

Yours,

The Landlord’

            Every billboard in the city is the same. They are white and lit up with Christmas lights. The billboards say the same thing. They all say: ‘we have arrived’, in capital letters. No punctuation, just those words. And those lights.

‘August 12, 2015

Dear Sir,

We do not understand what you are trying to say by leaving your vibrating dildo in our mailbox. You could have at least taken out the battery. The Missus was mortified when she reached in and pulled out the thing, its last gasps of electrical energy expended in a sad, weakening shudder that saw it expire in her hands. When she presented me the object, I immediately disposed of it – of course – and had the Missus shower. For your sake, I have placed an electronic-waste bin in the basement. Kindly dispose of any and all unwanted electronics in that designated area. Please.

Sincerely,

The Landlord’

            It’s not like August doesn’t have its detractors. It starts hot, but ends up smelling like school. August is an ending, that is all, but this August is the hottest there’s ever been. Just ask the farmers. Or the hummingbirds. Or the guy on the top floor.

‘August 18, 2015

Dear Billy Martin,

I know that our last conversation was a little harsh. But you just stood there, holding out your radio until I didn’t know what to do but take it. Thanks for that. For the radio. It’s the one thing you’ve handed over that I can use. I wish I could have gotten you to talk. You don’t look good. No one should look like that. No one should stand there and give themselves away. I can’t tell if you want this or just more badly don’t want something else.

Yesterday, I was outside walking the dog. I found your phone on the sidewalk. The batteries were fine. Nothing was cracked. But there it was, still getting a signal. Anyone could have taken it and run up a bill.

I wanted to give it back to you. I wanted to drop it in your mailbox or try to sneak it under your door. I think I have the right to do that, after all the shit you’ve dropped off with me. What I did instead was look through your missed calls. There are so many of them. Not many numbers, but so many calls. So I called the last person and told them what you’ve been doing, how you gave everything away, even the stuff that still works and is worth something.

I don’t know what happens now, but I suppose I don’t have to bother with it, because you don’t have anything left to give up. I threw the phone in the river. Now I feel like a bastard.

But thanks for the radio. I needed one.

The Landlord’

            School started late this year. The billboards all went back to normal, but there’s a message that keeps circulating between kids, and it says: ‘we have arrived’. It’s written all over the place. On books and desks. On hands and foreheads. It doesn’t matter whether you can see it or not, it’s there. We have arrived.

‘September 25, 2015

Dear Landlord,

It’s Billy. I feel I should explain. Please excuse my handwriting. And all that other stuff.

The air conditioner in the apartment died in June. I didn’t have the heart to tell you, because you always seem so stressed. It was really terrible, the heat. My computer overheated, did you know that? I lost a lot of files. I’m a writer, and those files are important, but not a great one, so not so much. I went to the river a lot to cool off, same one where you threw my phone.

I’m sorry about the dildo. I have to say that. It wasn’t mine. Honest.

It was touching that you were worried about me, but I want you to know that I didn’t give anything away. Nothing that mattered.

Thanks,

Billy’

            September was freezing. October? Not so much.

‘Dear Landlord,

I don’t know what the date is! I don’t have a watch. I’m on Waupoos Island. You wouldn’t believe how many sheep there are here. I worry about them – if the island ever floods, they’re toast.

I sleep in an old monastery and swim in Lake Ontario, fix fences and maintain the barns. It’s amazing.

At nights, I sit on a raft and pull myself into the lake. It’s where I’m writing this. I’ve written other things too, sometimes bits and pieces of the stuff I lost. Sometimes new stuff. I don’t know if it’s any good. Maybe I’ll send you some. But sitting on the raft in the evenings, I get glimpses of things that need to be written, and there’s not a sound or light to keep me from it. I think that’s okay. And you know what? There’s other rafts in the lake. Lots of other people but still lots of space for more. Sure, it’s dark. But when I wave at people out here, they wave back. And that’s just so okay. I think, you know, that I might have finally made it – that this is actually a real place, and I’m a real person inside it.

If you ever want to come out here, let me know.

Sincerely,

Billy’

            It’s the brightest December in human history. The planet is lit up. You can see it from space. You can actually see it from space. There’s no doubting that we have made it, finally.

‘December 12, 2015

Dear Billy Martin,

Sorry it took so long to get back to you. It’s been really busy.

I wanted to tell you that I gave away my microwave yesterday. I cook on the stove instead. And I threw away my automatic car starter. For the record, I did dispose of these things in the appropriate bins. Just saying.

I wonder if you’re still on Waupoos Island. I’ve never been there, but I went to the library last week and read about it. First time I’ve been to the library in years. I hope you’re keeping warm, because they say it’s going to be a cold winter. But I think you’re going to be all right, aren’t you? I hope you have a beer on that raft. I hope you have many.

Anyway, I’m sending you a present. I don’t want to tell you what it is. Okay, don’t be surprised if it’s a dildo.

Sincerely,

Your ex-Landlord’

            They say this is going to be the coldest winter. Somehow, they know this, but only because they’re not looking at the message, the one that says ‘we have arrived’. If you listen carefully, it’s everywhere. Say it again and again, because it’s there. We have arrived, it says. Over and over again, that is what it says.

72 thoughts on “Law of the Diminishing Return

  1. Heart wrenching and warming, as always. Your character sketches, your introductions into the slices of these people… Are always welcome and wondrous.

    I hope Billy is happy, truly happy — and I hope the landlord will be, too.

  2. I love this. Complete whack a doodle, out of any reality I know, love it. Are you on a raft NB? Is that where you’ve been? Good to see ya buddy…real good!

  3. I think we would all be better off living on Waupoos Island. If I knew where it was I would head off there right now. Don’t look back just hang out with sheep and float on a raft. Just float on a raft…

  4. I Googled Waupoos Island. It’s real. Right across from Waupoos. I thought it was a figment of your imagination. I had to check myself to see if you actually posted something or if it was a figment of my imagination. This is a lovely piece but once every 12 weeks ain’t going to cut it, pal. I’m going to ask for a refund if you don’t pick up the pace a bit. Just sayin’.

    • Yeah, it’s real. My imagination is not fertile enough to make up such things.

      And yes, a post! Alternately it feels like I’ve been away a long time, or not at all. Weird stuff. Thanks for the kind words, Mark. I haven’t been around blogland near enough, something about the summer just takes the wind out of my blogging sails.

  5. Dear Mr. Lewin,
    I likely know the answer but I’m curious if you can elaborate on the “we” who have arrived?
    As usual, I believe the people are more important than the where and when, for they provide the why.
    Sincerely,
    Another person sitting on a raft and waving at those who float nearby

    • Well Mr. Matticus, to me the ‘we’ is simply us and where we’ve taken ourselves, accumulating such wonderful trinkets and possessions that our happiest moment appears to lie in discarding them quickly. We have arrived at our peak consumption, I estimate, and now we have to shed the extra weight if we’re going to be happy, and I recall that that was what the story was about. I think.

      Pull your raft closer, I have some drinks in my cooler, and then we’ll create some fantastic stories of the mind together. They will seem so real that people will think they are.

  6. I hope this is truly a whack-a-doodle piece as intimated above, whatever that means (I think I know but I lack confidence sometimes in what I think I know), because if it’s not then I don’t get it. But I enjoyed it all the same. I kept waiting for it to reveal itself to me, but it didn’t, so I’m not sure if it’s over my head or it’s the wack-a-doodleness that’s throwing me, and which is a phrase that I feel requires hyphens, me being old school. I mean old-school. I enjoyed this, even if it furrows my brows unwittingly. I also agree that once every 12 weeks is too long. (Has it really been that long? That’s too long.)

    • Just a bit of discontent, Walt. I figure someday, someone will have such abundance of stuff (relative to their personal condition) that they’ll quickly discard it all to get back to some more natural equilibrium; in my estimation, that will be a contagion, as we look around at ourselves and realized that we’ve arrived at the absolute highest point of our desire for stuff. It’s all downhill from here, but I think that run down the mountain will be the fun part.

  7. Great to see you, Trenty. My fav part is when Billy writes the landlord and says, “I think, you know, that I might have finally made it – that this is actually a real place, and I’m a real person inside it.” Isn’t that what we all want? I can tell you I just got rid of a lot of shite. Man, it felt good! Excellent piece, Trent.

    • Sounds like you’ve experienced the raft, Amy – good on you. I got to get rid of more crap, and fast. It’s weighing me down and getting in the way of the important stuff.

  8. good one; I love an epistolary piece; and it didn’t seem whack a doodle to me; we have arrived at a place where we have all we could ever want, but what makes us happy is getting rid of it…I hate reducing such a rich work into one line so please forgive my blitheness.

    And have you read my latest; I think you might like it…unless it was that which put you off blogland?!

    • You just said it better than I could have, Babbage. And also – holy crap! Can it be??? Really??? You’ve made me happy. I’m in a bit of a summer-heat-induced absentia at the moment, fuelled by healthy draughts of the keg and the wine bottle, as well as sips of the scotch, all out in the heat, but please tell me you’ve posted something Babbage. And now that I read it, seems you have… I shall visit.

      I won’t even bring up this Brexit stuff. That only broke my heart.

  9. Waupoos Island reminds me of blogland… where you kind of drift along on your own little raft… writing stuff… maybe with a beer… or sheep if you like… or other more controversial things… like fights over dildos thanks to you, Trent. Could only happen here!

  10. Dear god, Trent. This was absolutely brilliant. I read Thich Nath Tanh the other day…about when you have nothing, you have absolutely nothing to lose. Or fret over. Or be distracted by. Freedom.
    Hope you’re well.
    x

    • Hey thanks Nadia! I hate having possessions, honest, almost as much as I love having them. Love-hate relationship to the extreme.

      Hope you’re doing well too – great to hear from you.

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