“Look at it, Hastings. Not a building in
sight. Not a restaurant, not a theatre, not an
art gallery. A wasteland.”
—Hercule Poirot in
“The Adventure of the Clapham Cook”
PART THE FIRST
From A Philosophy of the Indoors—The Sublime: I often find myself in awe of the grandeur of the Indoors …
An excerpt from A Guide to the Indoors—Weather: “It’s goddamned hot,” said the old man.
Surrounding us were four walls that, for some time, weren’t so much painted yellow, as they were yellowed; the folks who came up with the color, embarrassed, shame-filled, likely called it Cigarette Miasma to warn buyers, though Charlie, asleep in one of the booths, wasn’t to be dissuaded, the price having been right—cheap.
“It’s goddamned hot,” the old man said.
Those four walls belonged to Kamper’s, a dive bar in Munroe Falls, Ohio, the kind of place frequented by permanently surly old dudes who complain about how it’s difficult to be a man in this shitty world, I mean you’ve gotta work hard all goddamned day, then you’ve gotta drink all fuckin’ night, then you’ve gotta get the hell outta bed at the ass crack a dawn, head pounding pounding pounding, then you’ve gotta break your goddamned back for another ten, twelve hours (with a hangover like you wouldn’t fuckin’ believe), and after that, hell, there ain’t no choice, what else ya gonna do to deal with all this bullshit, only one thing for a man to do, and that’s go get yourself royally shitfaced, meaning Cigarette Miasma was definitely right for this joint, not the color it had suddenly become—pink. The price must’ve been right.
“It’s goddamned hot,” the old man said, adding: “And soon … it’ll be winter. Then it’ll be sonuvabitchin’ cold! That’s what it always is—goddamned hot or sonuvabitchin’ cold.”
If I were of age, I would’ve happily contributed to tomorrow’s apparently mandatory hangover and bought him a beer. Since I wasn’t, I chewed my cheeseburger and thought about the fact that in the summer we complain about the heat, about the humidity, or about the fact that it isn’t as warm as we’d like; in the winter we complain about the cold, about the snow, about the ice; in the spring we complain that it isn’t quite summer yet; and in the fall that soon it will be winter, and during all seasons we complain about rain. When the conversation lists toward the topic of weather, we stop actually conversing and engage in ancient, elaborate, and ritualized laments which ultimately remind us that our place in nature is not to be happy, that no matter where we are, something will always be wrong. Then I looked at those hideous pink walls, at those spots where that old sickly yellow oozed through, realizing it was only because of the air conditioning and because of those walls that we weren’t being assaulted by the elements, that we weren’t at the mercy of the weather.
The old man said: “But it’s good to be in here.”
And he was right. It was.
A fragment of The Indoorsiad, or The Epic of The Great Indoorsman—The Origin Story: See the petting zoo. Perhaps it’s a barnyard, a grassy field, a slight hill (the paterfamilias unsure), the larger animals, possibly a cow, a llama, a zebra, a burro, a mini-horse, some hogs, all held back by gates with wide bars, all poking their snouts through the rungs, all waiting for pats on the head, all gleefully anticipating feed from ice cream cones, while roaming free are sheep, goats, little pigs, almost as free as the humans, the adult homo sapiens corralling their unruly offspring, full of a boinging, inexhaustible energy, joyfully screaming, the parents enthusiastically directing their rollicking rugrats toward the more sedate creatures, the smaller creatures, so furry, so cute, everything designed to be almost unendurably adorable, when, encroaching upon this scene, came a stranger, shrouded in mystery by his vehicle, the stroller, pushed by he whom everyone assumed was the occupant’s father, though the unlikely progenitor had dark, curly hair, dark eyes, dark skin (in short, a person made for the outdoors), while the inhabitant of the perambulator, as would later become apparent, had blonde, straight hair, green eyes, very pale skin (in short, a person made for a basement), toward this mismatched tandem, driven by some goat-instinct, probably stemming from his experience with previous tikes, a young Billy, having broken away from the other creatures, ambled, maybe with thoughts of food or nuzzling or whatever it is goats think about, and upon reaching his destination, Billy stuck his head into the pram.
As my father tells the story, retribution was quick: I, the young Indoorsman, without pause, clearly demarked Billy’s proper space as being in the out-of-doors and my own space as being in the (in this case, makeshift) Indoors by instantaneously socking the goat in the nose, sending Billy staggering back, sending my dad into laughing hysterics, so shocked he would tell the story again and again throughout my life, “You gotta hear about the petting zoo …”
Now, whereas I write to you as The Great Indoorsman, I hope you will take three things into account when thinking about this anecdote: 1) as an adult, I do not sanction serving up knuckle sandwiches to goats at petting zoos, 2) as a very little child, I could not be expected to think rationally, and 3) since I was small enough to be in a stroller, the force of the blow was not exactly Kryptonian in magnitude.
That said, and with the emissary from the out-of-doors vanquished, I like to think, while my father recovered from his laughing fit, that the raucous atmosphere of the petting zoo went silent, the adults, the children, even the fauna turned in my direction as I laid back in my perambulator, the congregants recognizing not who I was, but who I would be, and when I gestured to my father, letting him know it was time to continue on, when he, once more, began propelling me forward, the denizens of the petting zoo looked on and, especially the beasts, as we passed, gave a very wide berth to The Great Indoorsman.
Andrew Farkas is the author of two short fiction collections, Sunsphere (BlazeVOX Books) and Self-Titled Debut (Subito Press), and a novel, The Big Red Herring (KERNPUNKT Press). He has been thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, including one Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XXXV and one Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013. He holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an MFA from the University of Alabama, an MA from the University of Tennessee, and a BA from Kent State University. He is a fiction editor for The Collagist and an Assistant Professor of English at Washburn University. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.