Fiction from The Future: “Old Faithful” by Nathan Dragon

HE’D SAY IF MAYBE HE got a new one, he’d be able to get some work done. The desk chair was a pain in his ass. Couldn’t sit right and couldn’t work right.

Always something, Rosie would say, whenever he complained.

He just couldn’t get comfortable in the damn chair, no matter how he’d adjusted it or how he’d sat down.

“I can’t get comfortable in the damn chair,” he said when he was trying to work this one afternoon.

It was a bad chair, a free sign on the side of the road chair, tossed in the bed of their pickup.

Free for a reason, he told her when she brought it in. Free for a reason is right, he thought.

Nonetheless, Rosie—she said that he wasn’t allowed to spend any more money on anything and definitely not on a new chair until he made some more of his own money and saved it, and that she was carrying the two of them for crissakes and that all he was good for was spending their money—all her money on that equipment. And what’s he doing sitting at the desk all day instead of calling people and doing what he was supposed to.

Call them and sell them what people suspected people needed sometimes.

He’d had to start using half as much fruit punch powder, or lemonade powder in his drinks, stretch it it out. He knew he was on thin ice. He knew what thin ice felt like.

Shit, he’d say and to Rosie, You want me to fail, don’t you, well go ahead, he’d say.

Make some damned money and replace the damned thing, is what he’d get back, for crissakes.

Shit.

He’d tell her that she wants him to fail.

Most of all, Rosie hated him since the day he had spent what they had left of their savings. Spent it on a permit for a closed-circuit television set up. She may have even hated him earlier on in their time together, it was the unavoidable thing up ahead for them, same thing happens to others.

 

She said to him that morning, “You know, I hate you and I’ve been wasting my time. Can’t sell shit to a toilet for crissakes.”

 

But the CCTV set-up for watching Old Faithful at home did it if nothing else.

He felt he didn’t have any other choice though; it was something he couldn’t live without, with everything down the road. He told her some of this, that he’d’ve thought she’d’ve understood: the town said it has something to do with money and tourism. A certain faction in the Park’s Rangers were worried people wouldn’t go if they could watch it at home, with all the new technology coming into play and the environmentalism, within the comforts of their homes.

Initially it had cost him for the permit, he covered the cost of that, a lot cheaper than he expected, still drained whatever crumbs he contributed to their livelihood. The equipment though, and the maintenance were regular and on-going.

He got the permit just in time and made the switch from public access to his own system. He was able to have the equipment set up and all the paperwork filed before the cancelation date came around.

The closed-circuit television monitor sat on his desk next the phone, at his work station.

 

And that afternoon, while adjusting his chair, attempting to adjust it on his knees with the chair flipped, he thought, It’s been how long since he got a new desk chair?

When he did what he could adjusting the chair, he got up and got back to the phone call. An office style, multiple line phone receiver next to his monitor, red hold-light blinking, he cleared his throat, picked up the phone and took the line off hold:

“Hello, Mrs. Silva? Thank you for your patience.”

There is a sigh in his earpiece from who he presumes is Mrs. Silva, listed head of household, house of two.

“Well the reason for my puttin’ you on hold is that my manager, the head honcho, wanted me to inform you of our brand-new promotion. He felt it would be absolutely unfair to you if you didn’t get to hear such a great promotion, being that I was on and still am on the phone with you right now while the promotion was being activated across the system. It is a fantastic opportunity, Mrs. Silva.”

A pause, ruffle, and click of the phone being hung up on the receiver, the line buzzing. Another one.

“Mm hmph. All right. Yup, that’s right free shipping on any of the blenders. No problem! Thank you very much, have great day as well Mrs. Silva. Be in touch. May I have your address? You have such a lovely voice, thank you and we’ll call back when payment is confirmed, when we get the check. That’s correct PO box 322.”

All loud enough for Rosie to hear the positive banter, a new desk chair in mind.

He skimmed the names and numbers on his call-list, glasses on the tip of his nose. He’d better back up whatever of this banter he could. Looked for names like hers.

On the wood paneled wall of his and Rosie’s living room there was a calendar: a schedule of Old Faithful’s forthcoming eruptions, each time of eruption penciled in by hand. It had nothing to do with telemarketing, but he took a look at that too.

He’d have to take a few minutes off to watch the next eruption. He really didn’t have a manager. He worked from home in the living room, the office, telemarketing. The whole you’re your own boss type of deal, he just had to pay for the call-lists and stock or wholesale prices for the products.

Rosie, though, his wife and not a coworker, but sometimes Rosie’s like his manager or boss.

According to the schedule on the calendar, the next eruption was sooner than expected. Must’ve had the call on hold for a little bit too long.

Took his glasses off, rubbed his eyes, and looked at the empty mug on his desk from the Park gift shop not two miles away.

Didn’t have enough time to get up at that point to go to the kitchen and maybe fix something up, like a cold drink, so he called into the kitchen from his desk chair, “Hey, Rosie can you mix me a pink lemonade?” Pause. “Half a scoop is just fine. Thank you!”

Rosie did not answer so he sat very still to listen, called again. He heard tapping. “Hmhp.”

The screen door must be unlatched, it seemed to him. He must’ve heard it bouncing against the frame and only guessed this was the case since Rosie didn’t answer.

She couldn’t be ignoring him, he thought, and the geyser started up on the monitor. Its movement grabbed his attention and he lost his train of thought.

He liked watching Old Faithful at home. And he never missed it go off once, since the first time he saw it. It was the only way for him to watch it—to watch it at home, inside, that way, it would start late due to the natural lag in reception, but more importantly it would end later. He would have a few seconds to himself to watch the eruption end, even after the people who were actually there in the Park saw it end. He could watch it as the crowd dispersed, as it had gone.

The geyser peaked in height and he watched, arching towards the monitor, leaning both forearms on the edge of the desk. His mind, calm. The geyser sputtered out and the ending few seconds, his few seconds: exceptional.

The first time he ever saw Old Faithful go up was later in his childhood, before the teenage years, some key moment of impressionability, apparently. He had seen it go off on a television in a room of the Firehole Motel, town of West Yellowstone.

He had grown up in the vicinity of the Park and his family took one of those in-town vacations people sometimes do with time off and without a lot a money. After checking in, his parents had turned on the television to unpack to. They tuned it to a local public access channel, an Old Faithful broadcast. He had lit up and when his parents saw his fascination they told him it was going to go off again that very day and that they were planning to go see it. Interested, he declined, afraid he’d miss the one on-screen, also unsure of how long it would take to get there. No amount of explanation would convince him nor persuade him. He sat in front of the TV, waiting, his parents eventually annoyed in this new interest—it being a hindrance to their small vacation—so they moved the antennas out of tune when he went to the bathroom. As soon as he came back to the set, he saw the static and tuned the antennas, both parents impressed.

When he wanted something.

He sat content in the motel while his parents went out for a little while, intermittently, and each time trying to get him to come out.

While growing up, more and more his family, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, classmates, and lovers had asked him to go to the Park. He would always say, he don’t know. No. Might miss it.

 

His mind returned to the living room, slowly, the episodic ending.

The sun glinted off of the framed Old Faithful Paint-by-Number that Rosie had bought and painted for him. Its glass reflected a large lighted and golden rectangle on the opposite wall that framed the windows that let that light in.

He called again to Rosie. “Rosie?”

Nothing.

Hmhp.

He looked at the Paint-by-Number picture of Old Faithful hanging over his desk, somewhat covered in the sun’s gleam.

It was a nice sunny that day. That day, when Rosie had given it to him; it was warm in his mind thinking about it. He felt like the TV, his shadow projected in the sun shine on the wall. The warmth felt like how he imagined the sun on the glass pane of the Paint-by-Number would feel. And like the day he first encountered Rosie, a sales call.

Rosie was just a name and number on one of his call-lists: Ms. Carlton, phone number, household of one. In the living room, the sun coming from the window was starting to get in his eyes. His call to her was one of two calls that stood out to him that day, really, out of his whole career as an over-the-phone salesman. He swiveled the desk chair towards the screen showing the landscape and a crowd gathering. It wouldn’t go off until the end of the hour but for crissakes, the longer he watched it dormant before the eruption, the more clarity he would feel during the action. It was like he was gaining in on something, the one thing he had wanted all along or it was like fasting with a hamburger at eye level.

And not sharing when it happens.

 

 

***

Nathan Dragon’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in NOONNew York Tyrant, EgressThe Collagist, and 7×7 LA.

Image: yellowstone.org

What’s HFR up to? Read our current issue, submit, or write for Heavy Feather. Buy our merch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.