Man Next Door.

1 Conversation

He sits in his chair. Eying the bottle on the floor. The room is bare, a chair, a table, a man, a bottle. Some debris.
A stage.

The faded, oppressive bamboo wallpaper is peeling in places. Damp in the ceiling has caused the cornicework to be brown around the edges. It droops away from the ceiling.

A knock on the door: "James, you there? We're just going down to the Plough and Cabbage. Maybe if you come you'll feel better." The first voice: A youthful man, sounding concerned, almost paternal.
"Yeah, James, you old misery guts. Come and get legless with us. I might even let you play hide the sausage with me if you're very good" The second voice: An even younger woman, a girl. Flirtatious and mildly mocking. Nasal.

The sound of receding footfalls.

The man doesn't move. Perhaps he is mourning a lost love?

"James, I'm leaving you. You treat me like dirt. You never take me out. You never buy me anything. You're boring. You just sit in that chair. And you don't wash. We're finished."
She pauses at the door, waiting for a reply. There is none. She sobs, slamming the door.

It could have been. Maybe it was. Maybe he lost his job.

"James. Sit down, sit down. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but.... the fact is, the company's facing major downsizing. I know you've been here for a while, but you're still the newest one here. Last in, first out. It has to be, Jim, otherwise the Union would eat us alive. But listen, you still free on Saturday for golf.....?"

Or a death in he family. Or chronic depression. Mid life crisis. Lack of friends. Overwork. Boredom. Lack of incentive. Being without a goal to accomplish.

A noise: The ringing of the phone. It stops to be replaced by: "Not around. Back soon. Leave message." Beep. "This is a message for mr. Anderson. Mr Anderson, our records show you have eight hundred and thirty-six dollars sixty outstanding. If we don't hear from you immediately, I'm afraid we'll have to disconnect your power. Ring back on......."

Maybe he had some bad news?

"James, your.... mother and I have wanted to tell you this for a while. Well, the thing is, how do I put this? You're adopted....."

"Mr Anderson, we have detected an abnormality in your tests. You have been diagnosed with a form of cancer. It's curable, but...."

"Dear Mr Anderson, we regret to inform you that your services do not suit our current needs. However, in the event....."

"Mr Anderson, she slipped away at 10:34..." "Mr Anderson, your license has been revoked...." "Hate you, James...." "Sorry to inform you Mr Anderson...." "Mr Anderson..." "James...." "James, I..." "Mr Anderson, we.." "James"

"Thank you for your cooperation."

Footfalls: A scrunching sound. Some packages fall through a slit in the door, into the drift on the floor. Some bills, this week's never-to-be-repeated special offers. A letter from a publishing company stating that The Householder May Have Already Won One Million Dollars In Cash!. A calendar from the local smiling MP. A letter from a publishing company stating that The Householder Has Won One Million Dollars In Cash!.

He gets up and walks to the door. He opens the mail. Surprise engulfs his face. A million dollars! Letter in his hand, he leaves the room.

He sits in the chair, stoic, unmoving. Gazing at the bottle.
Another interruption: Bang. Bang.

"Mr Anderson, I'm not standing for it any more. Either you open this door and pay me the four weeks rent you owe me, or I call the police!"

A pause.

"That's it! Pack up your things, Anderson!"

Being out of his league? Temporary vitality low? Dietary Imbalance? Drug indiscretion? Inadequate education? Mental incompetence? Over-eating?

"Sir? Open the door. This is the police." Pause. "Open the door."

"Kick it in."

The door splinters. Two men and a woman enter the room.

The woman: "My God, what's that smell?
He stands. "I'm terribly sorry, Mrs. Wire. I don't know what came over me. Here is the rental money. Good day, officers." He leaves the room.

He remains as he is. "Ma'am, you'll have to leave the room. It's him, the smell, I mean. I think he's been dead for quite some time."

"Dead? What do you mean?" she says as she is escorted from the room by the other officer.

The remaining officer looks at the corpse. What happened to him, that he just rotted away? he thinks. What would make a man die where he sat, out of sheer apathy?

The officer wrinkles up his face. God, the stink of these corpses.

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