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Half-heard, chapter 7 

A weekly serial novel.

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On the television a local anchor on a low-quality camera was fumbling through a piece. He was clumsy, and was hired because he was clumsy. That made viewers tune in to the down-home pieces about remote control boat races, demolition derbies and the canine that joined the Citadel High wrestling team. Tonight he was participating in a children's talent show—getting both his feet jammed in one mermaid tail-fin, flapping on the ground trying to get up. His sea-shell bikini top clanged against the stage really loudly for most of it, and children held their parents' hands tight, asking if the fat man was OK. 

Will, Leland and Trevor were sitting idly against the living room's longest sofa with Gert between them watching television for the past five minutes. A yellow-orange streetlight had cast itself through the windows imbuing the walls and furniture with its glow. It cast a dimness even over their voices. They were all quiet. Except for Gert. They sat in the strobing light from the television that flickered into their eyes only when her flailing shadow did not fall over them. She had been talk-yelling about her summer class schedule and how busy she was going to be for the next few months before becoming busy again come September. On about how she's always busy, and not the bullshit keeping-herself-busy sort of busy—there was that yes, her own personal deadlines, but professor's deadlines too—and  doesn't anticipate a "break" of any sort for a long time, until her 20s are done, she figures. It was that quiet and veiled kind of bragging maybe, but totally legit, because she was definitely at it more than anyone else as far they as they could tell.

What it was she was at though, they couldn't keep up with. In brief moments of repose, her shoulders would slump and you'd see the weariness in her eyes. And all just for a moment, like half a second, she'd sigh a big sigh and brush her long hair out of her eyes, just before she'd revert back to her usual state of full-on mental exertion. In these moments she looked more welcoming, if only by resembling other people. Like a tornado she came and went, out the door to find someone else's house where she could use the bathroom. 

"There are just different things that, like, concern us, you know," Trevor said in that laidback waxing philosophical granola-head hippie sort of way, diminishing any credibility. "You're preoccupied with the synthetic foam, man, and the down feathers and the fancy-schmancy fabric envelope, the superficial things, you know, you're a, uhhhh," and in that instant Trevor began peeling layers of dried garlic mayo off the sofa's arm. 

"I'm what?" Will asked. 

"No, no, let's hear him out, Will. Go on, Trevor."

"Me, well, I'm concerned with it being an oblong cushion support right under my head, doing just what it has to and nothing else: Keeping me comfy when I'm sawing logs through the night."

"I don't think you have to make this an issue of me being too materialistic or too preoccupied with—"

"I think you're doing that for both of us right now, you bougie schlooze."

"Ugh."

"I'm just saying, whatever I can lay my head on at night is just fine by me as long as it's soft and provides the needed support. It's about needs, not high-end superfluous wants and ornamentation."

"Maybe he has a point, Will. I heard only the wealthiest Mesopotamians used pillows way back when. And in the middle ages in the village green—"

"Oh shut up."

"Exactly! Thanks, Leland. That's why I'm fine using what I use at night. It's utilitarian, it's—"

"Goddamned ridiculous is what it is. It's a sack of dirty laundry. A smelly, lumpy..."

"—whatever clothing I can find around the bed at night (that doesn't smell too bad) stuffed into my pillowcase."

"Or into a sweatshirt," Will chimed. 

"Or that."

Just then A. Welnot popped into the living room, fresh from checking both bathroom entries to see if his yellow-tape and badminton racket barricades were still intact. With the smell of the unclaimed B.M.'s hydrogen sulfide gases seeping from under the door and probably being responsible for killing the rat that crawled under the bathroom door a day ago, Welnot decided maybe it was time to finally have a formal roommate meeting to discuss the mystery of the downstairs turd. 

On the TV the newsanchor was face-down rolling around in his mermaid's tail, breathing heavily into the wireless mic pitted between his face and the ground, Please-Help and Oh-God-ing between huffs of air for the whole city to hear.

The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.

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