Things That Drop
Eric Lloyd Blix

 

My mother used to say, “just make sure your bills are paid on time,” which I explicitly remember her saying only once when I was 7 or possibly 8 or 9 and wanted to talk with my grandmother on the phone, who lived in Florida, and our phone was disabled for reasons that were mysterious to me then but fully comprehensible to me now, though the saying, “just make sure your bills are paid on time,” has the cadence and solemn humor to be something of a mantra, or a slogan, or a personal motto and so I imagine she must have said it many times about various things (the water, the heat, the credit cards).

Something upstairs drops to the floor, it rolls across the floor upstairs, which if the floor of the upstairs apartment is anything like mine—this seems likely, that it is similar or identical to my apartment’s floor—then it is a sickly green enamel laminate with decorative color blots—red, yellow, white—dotting its surface seemingly without method or control. The color blots are scattered as though blown from an upturned palm.

This thing that has dropped from some surface rolls across the floor. It sounds like a marble, or a BB, or a ball bearing. I imagine it fell from a table. This happens several times each day, though not at the same time each day, but at arbitrary times. Noon, for example, or much later. Sometimes I am in bed, sprung to sitting when I hear this object fall and roll, gaining an increasing awareness of where I am and what has startled me. In these times, when the fallen and rolling object wakes me, or disturbs my efforts to sleep and so shifts my focus from my inability to sleep to the skittering above me—the initial tap and the subsequent sound of rolling away—the orange cat leaps to my bed and brushes against me, asking in his way for me to fill his bowl. I get up at these times and do not fill his bowl but instead refresh my browsing window, so that the streamed episode of SVU is no longer timed out, and I can refocus on sedating myself with the sounds of police procedure and courtroom drama.

At other times I am at my desk, doing whatever. Work. Surfing the internet.

Now, I intend to call home. I intend to catch up with my mother and father and learn of my siblings’ updates. My phone has no service.

Two men direct each other outside; they are moving a sofa into the apartment below mine.

“Turn it,” the one says.

“I can’t,” says the second. His voice is much gruffer than the other man’s. “The door’s in the way.”

“Back it up. Back it up.”

The thing upstairs drops, the BB or ball bearing, or the marble.

I am habituated to the existence of this sound. I close my web browser. I wait for the object to tap again, and in the meantime wonder what goes on up there between taps, if they, the man and the woman who live there, are playing with marbles as I and my several cousins used to when we visited my grandmother’s house, or if they are loading their own shot gun shells to massacre the other tenants with, or if they each sit on opposite sides of their table, wondering what they should each say next, and the man plays idly with one of the many small sapphire zirconias they keep in a decorative bowl at the center of the table, and it falls from his fingers, rolling underneath the refrigerator where all the others have gathered.

 

Eric Lloyd Blix lives in Minneapolis. His writing has appeared in such journals as Western Humanities Review, Caketrain, Paper Darts, and others, and it has been reprinted at Longform.org. He is a candidate in the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he teaches writing and serves as the managing editor of Blue Earth Review. His website is www.ericlloydblix.com, and he tweets some under the handle @eric_blix.