The Bohemian Experiment

Edgar Whiteburn Makes A Stand

Posted by beckert10 on March 10, 2010

Edgar Whiteburn was fond of mundane tasks which didn’t require him to question the deeper questions in life. One day he saw an ad for a model plane in a magazine and, thinking it might suit him, ordered one for the modest price of $49.98. It arrived 11 days later.
During those eleven days he imagined the new hobby taking shape: sitting at his desk with a bright reading light, controlling the shaking of his hands as he carefully fit the pieces together, the smell of the model paint, applying the decals. He was already sitting in satisfaction at a job well done, his study steadily filling up with fighter jets, bombers, cargo planes-maybe he’d even branch out into cars, trains, ships. It was good to have such a hobby he thought, even divine.
Most people considered Edgar a boring, passionless man. His one true desire was to maintain order and stability. He was a slave to routine. But this was not the normal sort of regimentation that most people experience in their day to day. Edgar had always been compelled beyond reason to order the events of his life. The reason was that he always felt he was one step away from losing control.
His wife was the type of woman who would be described as lovely by her spouse, which is to say generally servile, complacent, and sexless. She was safe, never stretching his bounds, but serving as a sort of caretaker to his metered life. Dinner was on the table at 6:00 every night, the bed made fresh with the corners tucked in as he liked every morning, the carpets shampooed twice a year, and she even provided intercourse on anniversaries and those unexpected days when he felt frisky, which was usually after seeing college girls at the park. He usually thought of the young girls when he made love to his wife.

When the doorbell rang he was watching a repeat of MASH. At the door was a DHL driver and he carried a small parcel which Edgar signed for. The sender was J.C. Chase Hobby Shops. It was the plane.
He’d been anticipating this moment and precisely how he would feel since he placed his order. For eleven days he’d played through in his head how good the moment that would launch his grand new hobby would be. In fact, he’d imagined a scenario almost exactly like this.
After the driver had left and he stood there with the package in his hand, Edgar had a feeling that he found similar to déjà vu, though decidedly melancholy. He decided it was similar to the way outdated 70’s pastels on a modern façade can make one feel vaguely depressed and out of place.
Edgar realized he’d had this feeling before in his life, including when he upgraded to high-definition television, shot a sub-80 round in golf, and rearranged the tools on his workbench. It’s how he felt lying in bed next to his wife after he made love to her while thinking about pretty young girls.

Edgar set the package down on the coffee table and resumed watching television. He couldn’t focus on the program anymore. His attention kept wandering to the box. He desperately wanted to open it up and have a look, maybe even begin building.
“Better to start in on it tomorrow,” he thought. “Just carry on as normal for the rest of the day.”
But even as he thought this another idea was there. He pictured himself working feverishly through the night on the model, staying up perhaps a day or two until it was completed. But the moment he thought this he pushed it out of his mind. It was out of the question. He would start to work on it tomorrow. He’d rearranged his whole schedule to work on the model from eight to ten every morning, right before his daily exercise routine.

After MASH was finished he proceeded on with the next phase of his day, which was walking in the park with his miniature schnauzer Pete. Edgar hooked him up to the leash, laced his waterproof hiking boots, put on his overcoat, and went outside.
During the walk Edgar was uncharacteristically thoughtful. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he walked a full hour longer than usual. This was partly because he sat and watched a group of children playing. One toddler would make a roaring sound and put up his hands in a marching-zombie pose and start off after the other two, who would shriek and run off. The pursuer would give chase for a bit then fall back, as if no longer interested until the other two got closer, at which point it would all begin again. Edgar liked sitting and watching them play. Every so often he looked down at his watch and realized he really ought to be going, but couldn’t tear himself away.

When he got home his wife was near frantic.
“Where have you been!” she demanded.
“I just felt like taking my time is all,” said Edgar.
“But you’re never late!” she shrieked.
Out of the blue, he found his wife to be extremely unattractive. She was wearing a red and white apron with years of spills down the front, her hair pulled back in a pony-tail.
“Maybe it’s the way that one stray hair is dangling down between her eyes-its framing her face in a strange way-or the little globs of white stuff in the corners of her mouth,” he thought.
He couldn’t figure it out, but he found her utterly revolting. All he could focus on was her mouth with those hunks of crud in the corners. He was standing there, stupidly staring at her, as she carried on.
“Well, is that all you have to say? At least a call would have been nice.”
He suddenly saw her not as his wife, but as this odd little red-haired woman in an apron who happened to be his wife, as if he suffered from amnesia and had no historical context in which to place her. He stood there fixed, observing her as this totally new, foreign object.
“This woman is my wife,” he thought. “My God, she’s just a silly little woman!”
“Jesus Edgar! Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine honey,” he said. “I’m sorry. I just lost track of time.”

But at dinner Edgar wasn’t sure if he was fine. The surreal exchange with his wife had carried over and he found himself thinking things like, “My God, this woman has prepared for me a pork roast, carrots and rice pilaf.”
He couldn’t quite believe this stout little homemaker would do such a thing for him, or indeed that these things could just be procured, seemingly out of nowhere, laid out on imported china, eaten with shiny silver forks off an oak table. He was equally amazed that such things could exist and that he could somehow be entitled to them.
Edgar and his wife usually didn’t talk much at dinner which allowed him to stay suspended in the feeling. It was up and down throughout the meal and fizzled out for good at right around the time he sat down for the post-prandial newscast. Suddenly he was back in the world of the familiar, one where he knew exactly how the TV and the chair and the things which adorned the room had come to be there. When the 6:30 news was over he switched to the History Channel and watched a show about how cigars are made. From eight to nine it was CSI and from nine to ten a repeat of Law & Order. At ten o’clock he fixed himself a bowl of ice cream and ate it at the dining room table while thumbing through Newsweek, then it was up to brush and floss, read in bed until precisely eleven, and lights out.
As he was about to switch off the reading lamp he looked over his wife, hoping she would turn into that unfamiliar character from earlier, but to no avail. She was wholly her familiar self, sleeping as she always did on her side, propped up by two pillows. Edgar noticed the flecks of white in the corners of her mouth were still there. He resisted the urge to wipe them off and settled under the covers on his side, facing away from her, leaving a chasm down the middle of the bed more than big enough for Pete who let out one of those long dog-sighs and joined his masters in slumber.

Edgar awoke and through sleepy, squinted eyes managed to read the clock radio’s time. 2:18. He listened to the rhythmic, half-snoring sounds of his wife and the short, even breaths of Pete. He laid there slightly panicked, as one might after a nightmare, only he had no recollection of one. He rolled back over on his side and attempted to fall asleep, but was unable to.
At 2:27 Edgar felt that if he had to lie and listen to restful noises a second longer he would go mad. He got out of bed, put on his robe and slippers, and made his way down the hall and into the kitchen.
Edgar thought the house held an eerie silence. He liked that familiar items were dark and lumpy, almost unrecognizable. The only light was the faint green of the microwave clock. He felt his way to a chair at the kitchen table and sat down. Going back to bed seemed out of the question, but he had no idea what to do with himself. Part of him wanted to just remain sitting in the near-dark and silence. It was as if they were a great equalizer, making everything he saw with his daytime eyes totally subjective.
Edgar thought, “What is real? This same room which by daylight is so familiar, or this ‘new’ darkened version?”
This was followed by: “Is my wife the pleasant woman who caters to my needs or the ridiculous little lady shouting at me in the hallway?”
After thinking this he felt uneasy. A scene started to play in his head. Edgar had no idea where it came from and he wanted it to stop but it also excited him tremendously. This is what he imagined:
He goes to the safe in his bedroom and takes out the revolver. Next, he goes down to his study in the basement, puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Now, he’s dead but he can see everything. He can see the blood dripping down the wall. He can see the fallen gun. He can even see the model plane box on his desk and there’s blood on that too. In the morning his wife comes down to look for him and when she opens up the door and sees the blood and the gun and Edgar’s limp body she begins to scream.
After he’s done thinking this Edgar begins to laugh. He’s not sure why, but  what he’s pictured is perhaps the funniest thing he’s ever thought of. As a result, all by himself at 2:35 on a Thursday morning at his kitchen table, Edgar buried his face in his arm and laughed harder than he could ever remember doing.

At 6:30 Edgar’s wife awoke and noticed he wasn’t in bed. She was startled but too sleepy to think much of it. She slipped on her robe and shuffled out to the kitchen where she could smell coffee. This surprised her even more, as she was always the one to start it.
“What the hell’s gotten into that man,” she mumbled, heading downstairs to look for him. The door to his study was open a crack, and she could detect a strong smell in the air. She rapped lightly on the door then pushed it open. Edgar sat at his desk, focusing intently on a small, gray piece of plastic he held in his hand. She saw the lid of a box with the picture of a plane. Next to it sat a revolver.
“Edgar, what the hell are you doing with that thing out?” she said.
“It’s a model plane, an F-16 Tomcat to be exact.”
“No, no, that!” she said in a high-pitched voice, pointing at the gun.
Ignoring her he said, “Oh, is the coffee done…and by the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you, there’s some white stuff in the corners of your mouth.”

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