ALBERT PHILPOT IS QUIETLY DESPERATE
The birds never visit his birdfeeder. Despite having no curtains, his house is always slightly dark and murky inside. Albert’s wife is overweight and hates herself. Their dog Flicker is dyspeptic. Albert wakes up every morning with a glimmer of hope that is quickly distinguished.
It wasn’t always this way. When Albert graduated from Community College with a degree in journalism, he had high hopes of a grand career, exciting assignments, Pulitzer Prizes, and bylines galore. Instead, he writes obits for the local paper, The Clarion, which loses subscribers yearly. His job prospects for the future with The Clarion are dim indeed—just like the inside of Albert’s dusty living room.
Albert used to work five days a week, but now he only has to go in three days. Just as many people in town are dying, but The Clarion is cutting back on staff; Albert feels fortunate to still have a job at all. On the days he doesn’t work, Albert goes to the library. He just hates to stay home with nothing much to do but listen to his wife Edna’s mutterings.
The library is cozy and cheerful. Built in the ‘30s, it has lots of dark wood, red leather chairs, and a large fireplace at one end of the main room. They don’t burn fires there any more, but Albert still prefers sitting at that end of the room. He begins each day pulling the newspapers and reading the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Guardian. That takes a few hours. He always reads the obits carefully, not just to pick up stylistic pointers, but because he has a morbid curiosity about the dead.
Albert skips lunch. He has no appetite, really. So when he is at the library, he continues reading. Albert likes periodicals, especially the obscure ones. He enjoys photography magazines, because at least for awhile, they take him out of himself. Then he looks at medical journals. Checking for symptoms.
The days are long. On work days, Albert comes home at six. Library days are shorter, because Albert’s eyes get tired around four. At home, Edna provides a low fat dinner that is never palatable. They eat in silence. A little television. Again, no discourse between them; Edna has virtually nothing new to say to her husband of thirty years.
At eleven, after Edna has gone upstairs to their brownish bedroom, Albert takes Flicker out for a final walk around the block. They often gaze up at the stars. Flicker seems as interested in heaven as Albert does. Flicker is twelve years old, and he lives his doggish life much more slowly than ever.
Last night, the moon was especially bright. Albert had read that morning in the New York Times that they call it a “super moon.” It seemed to loom towards them, glowing and throbbing with some sort of lunatic magnetism. Flicker moaned deep in his throat. Albert caught his breath.
This morning, Edna called the police. It seems that Albert and his dog simply disappeared.