“Well,” I said. “This is the last time I ever buy furniture from one of those ‘unpainted furniture marts’.”
The dryad sighed and took a drag on the cigarette I’d loaned her, one of only four remaining in my household. “I’m not happy about it either, you understand,” she said. “But it beats being trapped in an entertainment center my entire life.”
I glanced over at the huge, ungainly piece of furniture, still sitting on about three acres of spread newspaper. Goodness only knew what had possessed me to buy it in the first place. I guess the thought was, “Hey, now that I have a kickass new sound system, a kickass new TV, and a kickass new game console, I need one single place to store all of them.” Come think, this (or some variation on it) is probably what possessed most people to buy entertainment centers. And there was this coupon in the paper for half off any one piece of furniture. It had seemed like a pretty good deal at the time. I was going to get around to finishing it soon. Frickin’ half off a monster like that was worth the extra trouble.
Or so I had thought at the time.
“So you’re telling me,” I said, “that if I had gone ahead and put primer on it yesterday like I had wanted to before Carl needed my help with the car-jumping thing, you wouldn’t even be here right now.”
“I’d be here, all right,” said the dryad, her hand gesturing lazily towards the entertainment center, “but I’d be in there. We can’t pass lacquer.”
“Why didn’t you say something before I bought… you?”
“I was asleep, okay?” she said. “We live on tree-time, kid.”
I shook my head and went to get a glass of water. “This is just damn creepy,” I said. “How much of peoples’ furniture has got you all living in it?” The grammar was wrong but, honestly, that was a little low on my scale of concerns right now.
“How should I know?” said the dryad, taking another drag on the cigarette. “We’re dryads. We’re kind of solitary creatures. We don’t get out much away from home, if you know what I mean. About from here to the couch. That’s all we got, boyo.” Another puff.
“That’s another thing!” I said, staring at the end of her cigarette. “Aren’t you people supposed to be all wispy and fairy-y and have names with lots of L’s in them and stuff? Something other than the ‘burned-out harlot’ act?”
“Listen,” said the dryad. “You try and keep a wispy fairy mystical outlook on life while someone chops your home down, saws it into pieces and reassembles it into a huge desk while you’re still living inside. It ain’t pleasant, I tell you.”
“Yeah,” I said. Emotions were mixed.
“And the L thing, that’s Celtic people. Not Dryads.”
“You got my point, though,” I said. “How come you aren’t all haunting the furniture galleries of the world? I mean, I didn’t go into the store and see just gobs of scantily-clad women draped over the headboards and the nightstands and the roll-top desks.”
“Dunno,” said the dryad, shrugging. “I doubt there are many of us. Few of you can see us. And most of us don’t stick around through the aforementioned chopping and sawing.”
“So what about you?”
“Piss off,” said the dryad. “I liked my tree. Bastards.”
“I gave you a cigarette,” I reminded her. “I don’t have many left. And I only get paid on Friday.”
She didn’t respond.
I sighed and wandered back into the kitchen. Many guys my age would be thrilled at the prospect of having a beautiful young maiden essentially chained to their couches. Two problems: One, she’s not really anyone’s fantasy woman, unless your tastes run towards the grouchy petulant bitch side of things.
Two, I’m gay, damnit.
* * *
On Thursday, Carl came over to my apartment again.
“Okayokayokay,” he said, before he even got in the door. “I got it this time. Disposable Frisbees.”
I just stared at him for a moment. “‘Frisbee’ is trademarked, Carl,” I said.
“WHAT THE FUCK EVER, MAN!” said Carl, laughing. “Disposable flying toys!”
“Why,” I asked, “does every grand idea you come up with inevitably begin with the word ‘disposable’?”
“Wave of the future, man,” said Carl, running his hand through his bleached-blonde hair. Used to be the sun that did it out on the coast, or so I once surmised, but I figure it’s hydrogen peroxide now. “Fucking let me inside, asshole,” he finished, grinning. “I got you a bagel.”
I did so. Carl and I used to have a thing going on but since his idea of intimacy was buying me food and telling me all about his new business ideas, I kind of cut it off. Actually, he still buys me food and tells me all about his new business ideas. So I’m not frankly sure he even knows we broke up.
I do this because I am grateful for the food. Sometimes he even gets me something with a shred or two of nutrition lurking furtively somewhere inside it, which is good, because I’m piss-poor at it otherwise.
“Seriously, Carl,” I said. It’s all ‘disposable’ with you all the time. First it was disposable toothbrushes; they already have them, not that toothbrushes aren’t kind of disposable anyway.”
“Uh huh,” said Carl, chucking himself into my recliner.
“Also on the topic of dental health, there was that one brief and rather silly digression on to the topic of disposable dental floss, which is by its very nature disposable.”
“I was stoned,” said Carl. “It totally made sense at the time. I just… can’t describe it now.”
“So now you’re on disposable flying discs.”
“Yeah! Okay, think of it this way. What’s the one thing that people hate about playing Frisbee?”
“Sudden… yellowjacket attacks?” I hazarded.
“Going to get the Frisbee, man!” said Carl. “It’s because they only have one, and they have to go get it every time! Well, not anymore, baby! We’d pack them, like, twenty to a package. And you could get a value pack of like, a hundred, for a remarkably reduced cost, to encourage people to buy more!”
“It’s a really stupid idea, Carl,” I said, going to get myself a glass of water. “Painfully, I will admit that it is marginally better than ‘disposable sleds’ in that the fundamental concept doesn’t defy logic.”
“I can still find a way to eliminate the most tedious part about sledding,” said Carl. “And what’s that? You know it, baby! Walking up the hill!”
“Yes, and ‘disposable sled’ is not an answer to that problem,” I said. “To make it work, the child on the sled would likewise have to be disposable, as would the fun he or she would presumably have had in going down the hill on the sled. If you were just going to push the sleds down the hill with no one on them, then ‘disposable sled’ might, might be a viable option, although in the end all you’d have is a hill with a lot of disposable sleds at the bottom.”
“I will find an answer someday,” said Carl, jaw set, eyes flinty.
“You do that,” I said. “Can I have my bagel now?”
“Oh! Sure!” said Carl, tossing me the deli bag he came in with. “I’m looking into making my own, you know!”
“Bagels? Please don’t.”
“All I’d need is a large vat of boiling water!”
I chewed thoughtfully on the bagel for a moment. It was an Everything bagel, which would have been a lot worse if there really was Everything on it. Maybe the people who made these bagels, I thought, my brain slipping into disassociative areas again, came from a dimension where all solid matter, save themselves, came in the form of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sea salt and dehydrated onion particles. They would be calling them ‘Everything Bagels’ in total, unabashed good faith and no one would even correct them on it, and then one day–
“Hey,” I said, “why wouldn’t you just rely on the other person to go get the Frisbee for you from time to time?”
Carl stared at me blankly.
“You know, the other person you’re playing Frisbee-catch with.”
Carl blinked. “People do that?” he said.
“Your plan,” said the dryad, who had been silent up until now, “shows a typically human disregard for planetary resource consumption and expenditure.” She took another puff on one of my cigarettes.
Carl looked over at her, noticing her for the first time despite the fact that if he kind of forced a stretch he could touch her with one beAdidas’d toe without even leaving the recliner.
“Who’s that?” he said.
“My dryad,” I said. “She came with my entertainment center.”
“COOL!” said Carl. “What does she do?”
“Mostly, she just hangs around smoking my cigarettes,” I admitted.
“Bite me, you bastard,” said the dryad. “If there was a convenience store or something within my effective range I would be more than happy to get my own. You were the one who brought me here, let’s not forget.”
“Unwittingly,” I said.
“Do you go on adventures?” asked Carl.
“What?” I sputtered. “No! What the hell are you talking about?”
“I dunno,” said Carl. “I thought, once a guy finds, by happenstance, that he’s in association with a nymph figure drawn from classical Grecian mythology, adventures are bound to follow!”
“I kicked his ass in Donkey Kong Country,” said the dryad. “That’s kind of adventurey.”
“Shut up, you did not,” I said.
“What’s that I smell in the air?” said the dryad. “Coming from the kitchenette? Matt, is that a big, steaming pot of denial I smell cooking?”
Carl laughed. “BURN!” he said.