Discover more from This Week in Tom Merritt
Tom Has a New Novella
Sawyer the dog has been having a rough go these past few days. He got a UTI, then the antibiotics upset his tummy— like I had to get up at 3 AM upset his tummy. Then he had to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours because he’s had a heart condition for half his life. The good news is the heart is in good shape and Sawyer looked VERY important in his heart monitor vest.
In other news, these exist.
Talk about peak thing.
Want to hear a story?
I mentioned a few weeks back that I had some fiction that I was going to make available on the paid level in here. And I think I’m ready to lay it on you. So if you’re interested, scroll on down to the end of this newsletter for the first little bit. If you like what you read and want to get the rest of the story, sign up for the paid version and I’ll deliver it to you weekly in a separate email. If you have requests for other formats and such, save those for later, because I definitely want to make it available in other ways at some point. But for now this is the way I’m focusing on. Cool?
Video conferencing in the 1800s
OK that’s a bit of a stretch but not as far as you may think. The history of video conferencing is long and twisted. I break it down in 12 minutes on this week’s Know a Little More.
In other news, floppy disks aren’t a thing anymore. I know. You’re shook. But it was admirable how floppy disks survived so many attempts to unseat them as king of storage before they finally fell. Roger dug up the Top 5 floppy disk replacement failures.
Ok here goes. Again if you like what you read, you can sign up for more. Link at the end of this excerpt.
The Moment by Tom Merritt
Time is broken. Three parts broken. Cracked and open. End of hoping.
One can fix it. Change and mix it. If they miss it. End of hoping.
“The Chronometrician” - from A Modern Book of Children’s Rhymes.
“You don’t want any more of the sandwich?” Pat’s Mom asked.
Pat was scrunched up under a pink and white checkered blanket on the rough fabric of the couch. The Waltons was on TV in the background but nobody was watching. It was an unusual Thursday night.
The sandwich, two pieces of white bread and cheese, sat on a plate on the end table, with one small 8-year-old-mouth-sized bite taken out of it. The cheese tasted awful.
“What about more 7-Up?” Pat’s Mom tried.
The small glass with the yellow and red stripes had a bit of water from melted ice at the bottom. She picked it up and walked over to the kitchen.
A book of Ed Emberly’s drawings sat on Pat’s lap, next to a pad of paper filled with attempts to follow Emberly’s instructions. Pat had drawn cars, boats and dragons. They weren’t the best drawings but he followed the instructions, so they were recognisable at least.
A puzzle of the states of the US sat on the floor next to the couch. Each state was a piece and each piece had the date the state was admitted to the union on it. Pat had spent a good amount of time putting the states into the puzzle in order, slowly watching the US fill up the board.
“Here,” Pat’s Mom brought back the striped glass, filled with ice and 7-Up.
“Drink that slowly, then it’s time for bed.”
The 7-Up felt good on Pat’s throat.
After filling a few more lines of the notepad with drawings and finishing the 7-Up, Pat went to his room, climbed up on the bed and kneeled. The fever made everything feel like a dream, like being an astronaut.
“You can skip prayers tonight if you want,” Pat’s Mom said.
“It’s OK. Now I lay me down to sleep. Pray the lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake. Pray the lord my soul to take. God bless Mommy and Daddy, God bless Grandma Del and Grandpa Carl and Grandma Roxie and God bless Kelly and Jo. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, amen.”
“OK. Go to sleep. Feel better.”
Pat nestled in under the sheet and sleeping bag, both of which were printed with the names of pro football teams. The sheet was newer. It had the Buccaneers and the Seahawks. The sleeping bag didn’t. But Pat liked the letters on the sleeping bag better and wished it had all the teams.
Mom turned off the bedside light, leaving on the little yellow night light with a smiley face in the corner.
She said “Love you, Pat. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” And closed the door.
The usual rush of thoughts sped through Pat’s mind on the way to sleep. Pat imagined there were multiple tapes like an 8-track playing. The slowest tapes were conscious thoughts. The ones that described everything he was thinking right then. But there were other streams Pat could access, like evaluations of the Emberley drawings, or lyrics to a song. “Lead me on. Tease me all night long,” played along in one of them.
As Pat drifted off to sleep, a buzzing noise began to drown all the thoughts out. Two figures appeared on the other side of the room where Jo’s bed was set up. Jo was still too young to sleep there, but they had set the bed up because he would be big enough soon. Pat saw the outlines of a tall oval with a hat and a short squat circle with big ears. They were trying to talk. It was scary.
“He’s not showing up.”
“What does he see?”
“This might not work if he gets too scared.”
“He’ll be fine.”
“Who are you?” asked Pat.
The two faceless blobs both stopped talking and the buzzing dimmed.
“I think he can hear us. Can you hear us?”
“What do you see? Is it scary? We’re sorry if it’s scary.”
“You look like cartoons. Like from Simon. You’re like cartoon people but just heads.”
“We don’t mean to scare you.”
“Just get to it,” the other blob said.
“Are you listening, Pat?”
“Yes, I’m listening.”
The taller of the two blobs began saying a string of nonsense words. It sounded like “banana pants ana folgers most tiff…” and on and on. Suddenly the voice stopped and Pat felt one of the tapes in his head snap. It was like when a cassette tape broke and you saw the wheel spinning faster but no sound came out of the speakers.
“What did you do?” Pat asked.
But the blobs were fading. They only made a buzzing noise now. And Pat felt suddenly sleepy. He drifted off.
Pat got up in the morning and went into the bathroom to pee, brush his teeth and change clothes. He felt much better now. Almost like he’d never been sick. He pulled a dixie cup from the plastic dispenser and filled it with water. They were the green plastic ones. He liked these much better than the ones with butterflies. He knew his Mom thought those were prettier but they tasted like wax and sometimes the water leaked through.
He picked up his blue plastic toothbrush with the gold letters “Dr. Hentze D.D.S.” on it, dipped it into the water, then added some Crest toothpaste and brushed his teeth. He imagined the map of his teeth like Miss Hall had shown them in class. He finished by spitting out the toothpaste then rinsing his mouth with the rest of the water from the dixie cup. He put his toothbrush back in the holder by the faucet and began taking off his shirt.
But there was no school shirt laid out for him. He supposed his Mom didn’t realize he was feeling better. So he put his pajama shirt back on and opened the door and yelled “Mom. Where are my clothes?”
“Pat?” Mom came around the corner from her bedroom holding a half-folded towel. “You’re awake?”
She immediately felt his forehead with the back of her hand. “And you’re cool as a cucumber. Bill! Come here. Pat’s awake. His fever broke.”
Pat’s Dad came around the corner wearing a green polo shirt and jeans. “Hey pardner. You feeling better?”
“Yeah. I can go to school today.”
Mom and Dad looked at each other. “That’s going to be tough,” his Dad said.
“Honey, it’s Saturday,” Mom said.
Pat felt confused. “But The Waltons was on last night.”
“That was two nights ago buster,” his Dad said. “You slept a long time. Had us worried.”
“Yeah,” Mom said. “You barely woke up yesterday. Just enough to eat a little toast and drink some water. You were pretty feverish. Kept talking about things that didn’t make sense.”
“Blobs?” Pat said, not exactly sure why he said it. He had a vague memory of talking blobs.
“Blobs and all kinds of things.”
“You sure you feel alright? Just take it easy. Are you hungry?” Dad asked.
Pat realized he was and nodded his head.
“I’ll make you some toast with butter and see how that goes. Then maybe some bacon. If Kelly didn’t eat it all.”
Jo started crying from the bedroom.
“I’ll get him,” Mom said. “You make him the toast.”
“Come on bud,” Dad said, taking Pat by the hand.
“Can I have coffee milk?” Pat said.
Dad laughed. “Well that’s a good sign. Sure. You can have a little.”