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The Lost and Found of Years

By Claude Lalumière
2,541 words · 10-minute reading time
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Phone rings. It’s Jasper. Says he wants a Montreal story for a new anthology he’s preparing, something about cities. Go crazy, he says.

Big money, he says. Hard/soft deal with Knopf/Vintage. HBO planning mini-series based on his concept, adapting stories from his book for TV. Put in all the sex you want, he tells me. It’s cable TV. Money, he says again.

Right. Money. But any of it for me? I ask.

Tell Jasper about Bestial Acts deal. The first story about my fictional bookshop, Lost Pages. Haynes bought the rights, made a film with Depp playing Lucas. Big indie hit. Didn’t see a dime. Not even a penny. Pringle took it all. Read your contract, he said. Fucking publishers.

Tell Jasper I’ll think about it.

Money sounds like a good thing. No story ideas, though.

Take the dog out for a walk. Look around. Maybe something in the neighbourhood will spark an idea or two.

Girlfriend always says I never notice anything. Always in my head. Stores go out of business. New buildings go up. And I’m just clueless.

I’m not really that bad. But she’s not wrong, either.

Walk around with the dog, look at stuff. But I get no story ideas.

Long walk, though. Makes the dog happy, at least.

Girlfriend says, Take that camera I got you for your birthday last year. You know, the one you never use. Take pictures of the neighbourhood. It’ll rev up your imagination. You’ll think up a story in no time.

Yeah, right.

I go out with the dog again. And the camera.

Meet lots of people from the neighbourhood. Portuguese grandmothers who can speak neither French nor English. Cute McGill students. Other dog walkers. Clerks from the neighbourhood bakeries, the newsstand, the used bookstores. People who know me ‘cause they see me walk the dog all the time.

They all fuss over the dog. They always do.

Dog just soaks it all in. Wags his tail. Smiles. Pants.

I don’t manage to shoot any pictures. No inspiration. Getting depressed. Go to the park to play with the dog.

Betcha Jasper never thought about how happy his stupid anthology would make my dog.

Lots of dogs in the park. Dog loves it. Humps a bunch of them.

Fuck it, I’m too depressed. Can’t play anymore. Head back home. Dog’s not too happy about leaving the park.

Girlfriend gives me a good pep talk. We gab about Montreal. What’s fun about it. What’s special about it.

All the different kinds of people. Culturally diverse. No violence. People holding hands and kissing in public. Gay. Straight. Whatever. Lots of sexy girls. Great city to walk around in twenty-four hours a day. Easy to make friends. And the food. People love eating. All kinds of food. And bakeries everywhere. Bagels. Croissants. Baguettes. More.

Then, bad stuff. The paranoid Anglos who think their culture is threatened. Yeah, right. The gullible Francophones who believe all that tripe about being oppressed. Yeah, right.

Nowhere near as many people like that as the media makes it appear. Most people just like to get along. Québécois. Anglos. Jews. Arabs. Blacks. Asians. Latinos. Whatever.

More bad stuff. Everyone fucking smokes. Well, not everyone, but, fuck, it sure feels like it sometimes. And everyone’s always late. Always. Montreal custom. Hate that.

Well, so what. Still no ideas for a story.

Fuck.

Temperature shoots up ten degrees today. The sky is clear, and the sun is hot. It’s just a few degrees above freezing, but, for us Montrealers, so eager to leave winter behind, it’s like the first taste of summer.

Go out to Rue St-Denis with the girlfriend.

Same as every year on the first day with even a hint of spring. All the terraces are open for business. Everyone eating outside, everyone underdressed, everyone checking each other out, everyone happy and chatty.

Fuck, there’s a lot of beautiful girls in this city. And it’s nice to see a bit of flesh again, after months of winter.

Girlfriend notices me noticing.

She laughs. She always does.

I love it when she laughs.

She gives me that look. I love that look.

We go home and fuck. We have so much fun we can’t stop laughing, even while we’re cumming.

Still no idea for a story, though.

I decide to try again with the camera. I don’t bring the dog this time. I give him a cookie instead. He takes it in his mouth and plops himself on the couch.

Okay. I’m outside. I’ve got the camera.

Take pictures. Lots of pictures.

Buildings. Skylines. People. Dogs. Trees. Stuff on the ground.

Run out of film pretty fast. Fun, though.

Dunno if it’ll help me with the story or not.

I go buy more film. Lots more. What the hell.

I feel good.

I go home and write.

I write a whole story in one sitting. But it has nothing to do with Jasper’s anthology.

I reread my new story. I’m pretty happy with it. Needs only a bit of editing. A big turning point in my Lost Pages mythology. I send it off to Klima at Electric Velocipede.

I try the camera thing again. Use up another whole roll. Fun.

But no new story ideas today. Not for Jasper, and not for anything else.

I do the camera thing every day now. Sometimes I bring the dog, but it’s too distracting.

I end up taking lots of walks. Camera walks; and dog walks. I try to leave enough time for writing.

Story for Jasper. Book for Savory. Novella for Kasturi.

Today, I notice something weird. But it’s too freaky. I’ll look at the pictures again tomorrow. Probably too tired. Seeing things.

Halpern on the phone. Wants a new Lost Pages story for a Di Filippo tribute anthology.

I ask about the money.

Print on demand, he says. No money up front, but higher royalties. Royalties. Yeah, right.

I tell him I’ll think about it.

In bed. Trying to sleep. Girlfriend snoring. It’s kinda cute. Makes me smile. But restless anyway.

Didn’t use the camera today. Dog walks only. Didn’t write anything.

Didn’t look at the pictures.

Don’t want to deal with it. Too weird.

Can’t get to sleep. Get up. Go look at the pictures.

I look at the pictures. Of the row of houses across the street from our house. I spread them on my desk. Compare them. And there it is. I can’t deny it.

I look out the window of my office. Across the street. To that house. 4140.

And there it is.

Fuck.

Should I wake her up? Fuck. That makes her grumpy. She’d bite my head off.

I’m gonna wait till morning.

Go back to bed.

Try to sleep.

Can’t sleep. I have to tell someone. Show someone.

I whisper girlfriend’s name. Touch her shoulder.

She mumbles. Doesn’t really wake up.

I try harder. Say her name. Once. Twice. Little shake.

She mumbles again and turns away from me.

I shake her harder. Say her name and, You have to wake up. I need to talk to you.

She turns toward me. Opens her eyes. She’s not happy.

She gets up. Reluctantly. Puts on a T-shirt.

Dog lifts his head to see what’s going on, but then he moves around and settles on my pillow.

I drag the girlfriend into my office.

She is annoyed, but not biting my head off.

Good.

She can tell that I’m really upset. Takes it seriously. Takes me seriously.

I show her.

Look, I say. Look. Look.

I point to that house, on a whole bunch of different photos.

She doesn’t get it.

She says, It’s that house across the street. So what?

I say, Don’t you notice something weird?

She doesn’t get it.

I drag her to the window. I point to the house across the street.

Look. Look!

I hold a picture of that row of houses in each hand. Pictures from two different days.

Look at these. Then look outside. 4140. Don’t you see?

No, she doesn’t.

Fuck.

Why the fuck did you wake me up, she says. Is this another of your stupid jokes, she says.

No.

We fight.

It gets ugly.

She gets dressed and storms out of the house.

I shouldn’t have woken her up.

Okay. Calm down.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Stupid house.

Fuck you, stupid fucking house across the street.

Girlfriend always says I don’t notice anything.

But now she’s the one not noticing.

Not seeing. But why not?

Fuck. This is too weird. Plus, she’s mad at me.

I hate it when we fight.

This is all Jasper’s fault. Stupid fucking anthology.

Okay. Calmer now.

I look at the pictures again.

Then I look at the house.

Fuck.

Every day, it’s a different house.

Every day, that house changes.

It’s not the same house from one day to the next.

Okay. Stop reiterating. No matter how I say it, it still sounds crazy.

One day, it’s a well-kept red-brick duplex.

The next, it’s a triplex, with one of those famous Montreal outdoor staircases.

And then, it becomes an ugly 1970s apartment building, with half the windows boarded up.

And then, a gorgeous old-fashioned place with big, grey stonework.

Then, a yuppy townhouse.

Then, a croissanterie.

A travel agency.

A condo development.

A pet shop.

An empty lot.

A small park with nice big trees and a couple of benches.

A narrow renovated house, in the same style as ours.

I look out the window again.

Right now, it’s a barber shop.

Can’t sleep.

Get dressed. Go for a nighttime walk with the dog.

He growls at me when I get him out of bed. By the time we’re outside he’s happy enough. Wagging. Running. Sniffing.

I do not look at the house across the street.

Breakfast. I make pancakes. Sausages. With maple syrup. Girlfriend is back. Not talking to me. But sits with me while we eat. So things not too bad.

Tea for her. Orange juice for me.

I don’t mention the house.

I don’t say anything.

We eat.

She has to go to work.

She almost gives me a hug.

Stops herself.

Then hugs me anyway.

Okay. Things are good.

I decide to never mention that house again.

When I sit at my desk, I can see that house through the window.

Today, it’s a teepee.

Maybe I should move my office around. So I don’t see outside while I work.

I stare out the window all the time. I try to see the house change. To witness that moment of transformation.

Fuck.

I always miss it.

I go to the bathroom. I yawn and blink for a second too long. Whatever.

I always miss it.

Changes getting weirder. Bizarre architectures. Foreign. Or something.

One night, I recognize it. From one of my stories. Not a house that time. But a giant, dark, deep hole in the ground, surrounded by a moat of water sparkling with green, blue, and brown light. Giant black tendrils slither from the hole in the ground, kept in check by the godly water. 

Too weird.

Not sleeping. Not writing.

Fuck.

Midnight. Can’t sleep. Girlfriend and dog curled up together, sleeping. They’re beautiful.

Get up.

The house looks kind of futuristic tonight.

I’m so fucking tired.

Peculiar architecture. All curves and unusual angles. Don’t recognize the building material. Some kind of stone, but different. Weird.

Window slides open. Woman appears.

Naked. At least the part of her I can see.

Dark wavy hair to her shoulders. Light brown skin. Big eyes. Full lips. Svelte with soft curves. Full, firm, round breasts. Looks about twenty.

She notices me looking. Staring.

She laughs.

I love it when girls laugh.

She turns away for a second and gestures with her hand.

A second woman joins her.

They look exactly the same. Twins?

They laugh.

I love it when they laugh.

They touch each other’s breasts, looking at me.

I’m so hard I feel like a teenager.

They gesture for me to come join them.

On my way out I see the dog and my girlfriend on the bed. Sleeping.

I should stay here. I love her. She loves me.

I go outside.

The women are still at the window.

They’re the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen. They look at me. Gesture for me come to them.

Fuck, I’m almost creaming just thinking about them.

I walk to the house. To the door. Strange futuristic door. Have no idea how to open it.

While I try to figure it out, it dissolves. And I see inside.

And the girls are there, on the floor. Naked. Looking at me with their mouths open just so.

Fuck, they’re gorgeous.

And then I think: What happens if the house changes while I’m in there? Will I vanish along with it? To another place?

With these girls.

But I love my girlfriend. And she loves me.

I hear the girls moan.

I’m trembling. My cock is almost ripping through my pants.

I look at them. They’re a fantasy.

I run back home.

Wake up girlfriend. Dog growls and jumps out of bed.

Take my clothes off. Kiss girlfriend. Have sex. I cum right away. But then I make her cum once, twice, three times. I love her.

I sleep for fifteen hours.

Lying in bed, waking up. I feel so good.

Then, phone call from Jasper. How’s the story coming along?

I lie.

Phone rings again. Kasturi. Where’s that Lost Pages novella I promised her?

I lie.

Phone rings again. Savory needs to know when I’ll hand in the manuscript. Book’s listed in the new catalogue, he reminds me.

The phone. Again. Halpern. Still wants a new Lost Pages story for that Di Filippo book.

Fuck.

I haven’t written anything for months. Way behind.

I don’t feel so good anymore.

Step out the door, walking dog.

It’s not a house across the street today.

It’s a lush garden, with a giant apple tree in the middle. With a naked man and a naked woman. They kind of look Jewish, except that the guy isn’t circumcised.

They’re contemplating the apple tree.

There’s a snake slithering around. A luminous, seductive snake.

This is too weird.

Girlfriend says she’s worried about me. I seem troubled, distracted. Asks about my writing.

We fight. It gets real ugly. She storms out.

I know it’s my fault.

Fuck.

Today, the house is a bookshop.

Not just any bookshop.

Lost Pages. The bookshop from my stories.

The stuff my dreams are made of. Cliché, but true.

I walk up to it. I peer through the window.

Inside, a man and a girl in her early teens. Lucas and Aydee. My characters. Me.

I haven’t written anything for months.

I hear barking.

I look back toward my house. My dog is looking at me through my office window. Barking at me. Telling me to come back.

I think about my girlfriend. I love her.

She loves me.

I haven’t written anything for months.

I open the door to Lost Pages and step inside.

This story originally appeared in Intracities (UnWrecked Press 2003), edited by Michael Jasper.


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Author: Claude Lalumière

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