Friday, January 17, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 1/17/14

(note: see the Master Document for explanation of the End Lesstin Kering project.)

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Lesstin Oswald Kering stamped the mud off his shoes. He took a deep breath, felt the autumn air blow into his lungs. It smelled like returning to school and Halloween, like treats and costumes, and smiling children knocking on doors. But Lesstin, Les, barely noticed the smell; to him, it felt like a lonely valentines day, bitter and cold and all too aware of its emptiness.

He pushed his way through the loose screen door, and set his bundle on the old wooden bench, sentinel of the entry, and one of the few things left in his house. Almost everything else had been sold or given away, but like Les, no one wanted that old bench. He didn't bother removing his coat or hat, or even his gloves, all of which were older than the bench, and too worthless to sell or donate. But, sitting on that old, trusty bench, he took his shoes off, even now. Today, he had all the time in the world, and determination was no reason to be sloppy.

Over the years, he had learned a thing or two about haste. The type of lesson that repeats itself until a person forms habits that define who and what they are. In such a way, he had discovered, that even when he thought it wouldn't matter, just a quick run in for the wallet or keys, that if he left his shoes on, he, and only he, would inevitably step in the puddle left by his haste. There were few things in life he hated as much as wet socks. He suspected there was a larger lesson there, but couldn't quite pin it down.

Les walked, padded feet warmed by thinning wool socks. The floorboards were cool, but not cold, under his insulated feet. The night would be chilly, with the heat turned off, but he didn't want to risk any trouble, or waste any gas, on this house, empty and useless. After all, he wasn't sure how long it would be before someone else was here, and heating the place seemed unfortunate. Sad almost, in a way that tugged at Lesstin's heart, just so, pushing a tiny salty tear into the corner of his eye.

Idly, unsure of what to do next, he ran a hand over his head, still surprised to feel it shaved nearly bald. Hair always made a bigger mess than he expected. Dust could be wiped away, water was easy to mop up, but hair snagged, caught in things, and found ways into cracks, that always shocked and surprised him. Even in the cleanest house ever, with a dozen people to work and scrub, he felt sure he could have found hair under a bed, between two floor boards, next to the toilet, or any of a dozen places.

So the hair had to go. Cleaner. Easier. He'd left his eyebrows, after a test a few weeks ago had shown people's odd reactions to a man with no hair above his eyes. People raised their unshaven brows, watched him sideways, whispered, as if he couldn't see them. He hadn't even known those people. Though, he really felt like he didn't know anybody anymore, not here, not in this town. Only distant family in different cities. None were doing better than he had been, there was no one and nowhere he could go stay on a couch for a while. But it was nice to know they were out there. They sent him letters at Christmas, Easter, solstice. The usual. At least someone would come see the house, eventually.

In any event, he wanted eyebrows when his family saw him, assuming anyone came. How odd to think he had waited from then until now, just so he would have eyebrows, for one meeting that might not happen.

Lesstin went through the list in his head, making sure everything was in order. Closets had been emptied of clothing, mostly donated, where they would be accepted. So many closets of shirts, coats, pants, shoes. Even trivial things, wallets, who needs nine wallets? And ties, enough to fill a box that barely fit in his car. Wearing a tie, every day, it would have taken months to wear them all. Of course, he only ever wore two or three. The red one, the brown one, the blue one. No one wants to see a tie with pumpkins, or skulls, or guitars.

He smiled, laughed to himself, wondering at the odd things that distracted him. Ties. Wet socks. Hair. He took a deep breath, hesitating, waiting for that tense moment where determination became action. He let the breath out, and oddly, discovered he wanted coffee. To his surprise, he even felt a little hungry. Of course, there was no food. The fridge had been donated to a old coworker who couldn't remember Lesstin's name.

But right now, coffee, rich and dark, with a dash of cream, which he'd have to go without, sounded wonderful. The coffee maker was gone too, but he scrounged a small dented kettle and a single serving pack of pre-ground beans that somehow had escaped the harrowing of the cupboards. A lonely survivor. Just like Lesstin.

The old beans made a bitter drink, the last for the old house, with it's creaking, cold boards, and windows that neither heat nor cold. Should have replaced those years ago, but now, Les was glad he hadn't. Can't waste old windows on a house that had no use. It seemed fitting, for the scene.

He had made every effort not to waste. Not to make work for someone else. Power was off, gas was off, mail had been diverted to his aunt in New York. Not that anyone sent him mail. Even the magazines for plastics from china (laced with who knows what,) had stopped coming. Personal bills had been paid, there had been enough money left for that. At least, until they came for him again. And they would.

Certainly mistakes had been made. Some remembered, some forgotten. No matter. He couldn't fix them anymore.

So he continued the list. Letters had been sent on delay to everyone who would want to know. To remember. Messages after messages, letters to family and distant friends, to relatives, old loves, and to Maria. Or, at least, the last address he had for Maria. He didn't begrudge her a life away from him, but suspected their separation had been the beginning of his madness. Well. Maybe not so mad as foolishness.

After all, his entire success in business had come after their separation. But had he been trying to escape the memory? Or just prove to her that she had lost more than he had? It didn't seem to matter. Success had proven fleeting, and disaster had a way of lingering, like that smell of holidays and feeling of...nothing. Of nothing he could define. Just, of ending. Of this, of an empty house, and a man with no ties to the world. Of apologies sent, checks mailed to charities, the last of his money given away, the last of his tears, send to people who would value them.

Lesstin smiled, pleased with his thoroughness. He couldn't remember the entire list, and it was sealed in an envelope now. A record of all he had done. Perhaps too thorough, just this once. But he knew what it would say. Everything in its place, just so. Right angles, straight lines, and loose ends tied.

Lesstin walked on crinkling plastic, into the living room. Walls, floors, and ceiling, all were covered with 8mil plastic sheeting, taped and sealed. The room looked ready for painting, but the lightly-stained wall boards behind the plastic said paint was not in the plan. In fact, they were a major feature of the house. Not that he'd been able to sell it. But someone might, later, and he hated to ruin them. No waste, nothing destroyed that didn't need to be.

As he came to the end of the coffee, Lesstin's mind rolled. Was this what he wanted? Truly, this was how he wanted to end it? But he could see no other way out. If he waited, other people would get drawn into his messes; people he loved would pay for his mistakes. Still, he was glad he checked. Very thorough. Only a sane man would ask, and he felt better knowing he wasn't entirely mad.

He unlatched the rifle case, casually opening the plastic box. He ran his hand down the barrel, feeling the gloss finish. His heart beat faster, sprinting after his thoughts. He sighed, fingered the cardboard box of bullets, filled with one solution, and flicked the tab open.

“I guess this is it,” he said to no one.

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