A World Of Certainty.

February 28, 2012

I met Matthew Chambers in a cafe in a small village of Hamme, Belgium. We talked on several occasions and always I had the impression that he was a man who was being pursued. I knew not by whom. And then one day he was not at the cafe at our accustomed time. Weeks passed. No Matthew. And then one morning this manuscript appeared on my door step.

Its not the first time that I have written a book in another name. A fictional author. Distancing myself. One more place removed from the work. I didn’t invent the idea. Kierkegaard did it with Either/Or.  I’m not sure why I like it. Maybe I thought I was being clever. The Box is followed by a second book which describes the author’s life. It is called The Moron.

The Box by Matthew Chambers is a book of stories written by Matthew Chambers, a visionary. People who are obsessed with their own view of the world. I studied one. Hegel. I lived through one. Marshall McLuhan. Hitler was one. So was Warhol. They are self-absorbed. And very uncritical of their own ideas.

They live in a world of certainty. That is why they are so influential. And ultimately boring.


Here Comes the Sun

A radio woke up, blurting out a Beatles’ song into the dark room. A hand reached out from beneath the bed sheets and slapped the radio. The music stopped. A low moan slipped out from beneath the sheets. A face moved out toward the radio, nose to nose, fluorescent numbers lighting up its dreary eyes.

“Oh!” Matthew moaned. The image of an atomic blast flashed through his brain. Hiroshima!

A middle-aged man sat up in bed, his eyes squinting, hair jutting out in several directions, his pajama top misbuttoned. His hand struck out into the darkness for his glasses, its legs wrapped suggestively around a desk lamp. Putting on his glasses, Matthew Chambers pressed his nose to the clock once again. He flicked the lamp on.

“Gads!” he cried. An image of Albert Einstein smiling flashed across his mind. Event horizon.

The clock radio showed the numbers 330.

Matthew turned and nudged the other body in the bed. The body was wrapped in sheets like a mummy. There was no flesh visible.

“Mumsy,” Matthew muttered and tapped her shoulder. “Wakey wakey.”

Martha Chambers moaned and rolled over, her head peaking out of her tent. She kissed the air where she expected to find Matthew’s cheek.

“Not now, dear. Later, I promise.’

Matthew smirked. He placed his hand on his wife’s hip and shook her roughly. She moaned again, stretched, yawned and in one movement, rolled out of bed into Matthew’s robe and sleep-walked out of the room.

“I had that dream again,” Matthew spoke unaware of his wife’s departure. “I dreamed that I got lost in a dream and couldn’t wake up. It was terrifying.”

He turned and looked to see his wife’s response. When he discovered her disappearance he leaned over the bed and looked for her on the floor. Martha! He fell back on the bed.

“What am I doing up at this hour?” he cried into the darkness.

“You love me,” Martha responded from the adjoining bathroom.

“One should never marry for looks,” he cried out.

“You married me for my money,” Martha’s voice found him again.

Matthew moaned, rose up into a sitting position, his feet on the floor, and looked around the room. He felt drunk. The face of an African warrior grimaced from the cover of the National Geographic. On the warrior’s chest sat a glass. Matthew picked up the glass. Thank you. Matthew attempted to drink its contents. The glass was empty.

“What are you laughing at?” Matthew scowled, addressing the smiling warrior.

Matthew placed the glass back on the bedside table and looked for his slippers. Here kitty. Bending over, he looked under the bed. There were no slippers. His head began to swim.

“Gads!” he cried.

Standing up, Matthew was temporarily overcome by dizziness. His glasses fell off. He sat down again and reached down for his glasses. He felt nauseous. The Theory of Relativity became suddenly clear to him. He wished he hadn’t drunk so much the evening before. Climbing to his feet he tramped over to the bathroom. Cold water would feel good on his face. The door was locked. The cat rubbed up against his leg. He tried to push the animal away with his bare foot.

“Get!” he muttered.

The cat persisted.

“Are you in there, Martha?” Where else can she be?

The cat licked Matthew’s bare foot. Sandpaper. Attempting to shoe the cat away, Matthew stubbed his toe.

“Gads!” Matthew cried out, dancing around on one foot as he nursed the other with his hand.

“Are you torturing that cat again?” Martha asked.

“Where are my damn slippers?” he cried.

“I’m wearing them, dear,” Martha explained. “The floors are like ice.”

The bathroom door opened.

“Why do you insist on locking the bathroom door?” he asked as he stepped inside. “And why are you wearing my bathrobe?” Carnal images.

Martha smiled as she stood over the sink brushing her teeth.

“I didn’t want to waltz around the house half naked. Allan is at a sensitive age right now.”

Matthew stood behind his wife, examining his teeth in the mirror. Terrorist plak.

“Are they all there?” Martha asked.

“Gads! You made me lose count. I wouldn’t worry about what’s his name.”

“Your son’s name is Allan.”

Matthew smirked. “Allan is fast asleep. You couldn’t wake that kid up if a bomb was set off under his bed. Cockroaches and teenagers would survive a nuclear attack. They’d sleep through it.”

“What a dreadful thought,” Martha remarked as she washed her mouth out with a glass of water and spit it into the sink.

Matthew stepped over to the toilet and began to urinate.

“Must you make such a racket?” Martha pleaded.

“Comes with the territory,” Matthew responded.

Martha began to wash her face with a face cloth and warm water.

“Look at how low our marriage has sunk,” she said. “You no longer have any respect for my female sensitivities.”

“I could have gone in the kitchen sink,” Matthew responded. “But last night’s dishes are still there.”

Martha turned to her husband. “That is disgusting!”

Matthew shrugged as he flushed. “I thought so too, but it was your turn to wash.”

As Martha continued her toilet, Matthew removed his pajamas and stepped into the shower.

“You’re going to steam up the bathroom,” Martha said. “I won’t be able to put on my makeup.”

“Shall I take another cold shower?” he smiled.

Martha pretended to laugh and left the room. Matthew showered, dried off, and then returned to the bedroom wrapped in a towel. Martha sat at her vanity, plucking her eyebrows. Matthew winced. The Inquisition.

“Gads!” he cried. “Must you do that?”

Martha ignored her husband.

“Why do women feel compelled to mutilate themselves in order to look beautiful?”

Martha glanced at her husband in the mirror.

“What have you got on your feet?”

“Towels,” Matthew responded. “These floors are cold as…”

“What time is it,” Martha said interrupting her husband.

“Almost four,” Matthew sighed. “Do you think they’ll sacrifice a virgin?”

Without glancing at her husband, Martha responded. “You know very well they’re not going to do any such thing.”

“Can’t find one?” Matthew grinned.

Martha took a deep breath. “This is a serious religious ceremony, Matthew. The Quinn’s have been our neighbours for fifteen years and I think it’s time we accepted one of their invitations. After all, they did come to Allan’s confirmation.”

“They stood outside the church distributing religious pamphlets,” Matthew muttered under his breath.

“The Cormier’s and McSherry’s will be there,” Martha added.

Matthew mumbled as he turned to leave. “I need a drink.”

Martha looked up from the mirror. “You’re not going to walk around the house naked, are you?”

“You’ve got my bathrobe,” Matthew said in his own defense.

“Wear something else. What if the neighbours see you?”

“I’ll wave.” Matthew grabbed the comforter and wrapped it around himself and exited.

In the living room, Matthew looked out the front window. Except for the streetlights, it was pitch black. Matthew stepped over to the bar and poured himself a scotch and returned to the bedroom.

“You certainly poured yourself enough,” Martha said scornfully.

“I didn’t want to have to make a second trip.”

“Don’t get drunk,” Martha pleaded. “I thought you and Vic Genova were going to have it out at the Cormier party.”

“The guy is a hot head,” Matthew said, taking a swallow of the scotch.

“You kissed his wife!” Martha cried.

“It was New Year’s.”

“It was eight o’clock!”

Matthew shrugged and sat down on the bed. He took another drink. A few moments of silence passed. Martha brushed her hair. Matthew smiled.

“What kind of party is this going to be?” Matthew asked.

“It’s not a party,” Martha sighed. “I told you that before. And there will be no alcohol.”

“No wonder Genova’s not coming. Gads! Am I to have no fun?”

“Just relax.”

“I’ll fall asleep.”

“Cloris said,” Martha explained, “that we would begin with some chants. And there will be a march around the fire.”

“I knew there would be dancing.” Matthew smirked. “The Quinn’s love to dance.”

“Just before dawn,” Martha continued, “Everyone will kneel down on the ground and chant as the sun rises.”

“Sounds pagan.”

“Don’t be so narrow minded,” Martha said reproaching her husband. “Accept the ceremony in the ecumenical spirit.”

“Was Father Branigan invited?” Matthew asked.

“You know how conservative Father is. He’s up in arms about hot tubs. How do you think he would react to sun worship? Besides, he’d be bored.”

“Ah yes,” Matthew responded, raising his glass. “There’s no alcohol.”

Martha turned around on her stool and shook her fist at her husband. Matthew squinted his face and took another drink. His wife returned to her vanity.

“What is the appropriate attire for the ceremony? Informal or tails?”

“It’s on the chair in the corner,” Martha replied.

Matthew stepped over to the corner of the room and picked up one of the two long red robes that lay across the chair.

“Gads!” Matthew held the robe up in front of himself. “You don’t expect me to wear this? And what’s this yellow circle in the middle of it? It looks like a jersey for a Japanese bowling team.”

Martha turned around again. She looked at her husband.

“Matthew, this is important to me. Cloris really helped us out with Allan’s math. And I like her. Please don’t make a scene.”

Matthew looked at the robe and sighed. “What a man won’t do for the woman he loves.”

Martha smiled. Matthew pulled on the robe and headed for the living room. He poured himself a refill. A few moments later Martha entered the room dressed in her robe. Matthew put down his drink and took his wife in his arms.

“What are you wearing under there?” He smiled.

“If you’re a good boy,” Martha said laying a kiss on his chin, “maybe you’ll find out later.”

Matthew blushed. Martha took his hand and led him to the front door. As they opened the door, a bolt of lightning slashed open the sky. A brief moment passed before thunder shook the house. It started to rain.

Martha looked up at Matthew sadly.

“No sun,” Matthew said.

Martha sighed. “Cloris will be so disappointed.”

Matthew looked out into the downpour.

“The gods must be angry!” he said.

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