Edgar Allan Poe and The Season of the Tortoise Dish

Edgar Allan Poe wakes from fitful sleep his eyes burning and swollen. He looks at the alarm clock but can’t focus his eyes and can’t find his glasses. He dresses and goes downstairs and looks at the clock in the kitchen which says two in the morning. Upstairs his wife is coughing. He looks for laudanum but they’re all out of laudanum.

A red cat rubs up against his pantleg, covering it with hair. Edgar Allan Poe opens the door and lets out the cat.¬† In accordance with the Law of Preservation of Red Cats, the other red cat comes in and demands food. Edgar Allan Poe goes back into the kitchen to get cat food because even though it’s too early if he gives the cat food it might let him sleep. If he doesn’t, it won’t.

In the kitchen, he steps into the tortoise dish.

These are the facts of the tortoise dish: it is too warm for the tortoise to hibernate, but too cold for the tortoise to spend all day outside. So the tortoise lives in the kitchen. That’s why there is a tortoise dish in the kitchen. The tortoise dish is full of water. The tortoise drinks from the dish, and walks through it before having a bowel movement.

Of the three nasty things you can do with the tortoise dish, stepping into it turns out to be the least nasty, as it spills the least water. The second-worst is to kick it by accident, which spills more water. The worst is to step on the side, which flips it over and empties it out, throwing algae-and-worse-filled-water a long distance.

Edgar Allan Poe goes back to bed, but the cat he let out is meowing so he lets it back in.

In this manner, he fails to fall back to sleep.

His alarm goes off at 4.30. He gets up, feeds the cats, eats breakfast, makes a cup of coffee and his wife asks him to take out the garbage.

He goes around the house gathering  the residual waste from all the half-filled garbage cans into a single garbage can. When he empties out the bathroom garbage can, something remains stuck to the rim of the bin. He looks closer. It is a sanitary napkin.

He sighs, and reaches to take it, but his wife is walking past and plucks it off and drops it into the other garbage can.

Edgar Allan Poe gathers residual waste from the rest of the bins in the house. He goes outside and empties it all into the large garbage can. The sanitary napkin is stuck to the rim of the small garbage can again. Edgar Allan Poe says, It’s the Tell-Tale Sanitary Napkin, or something. He plucks it off, and throws it away and returns to the house.

He opens the cabinet to get cat treats to lure a cat out of the living room, and kicks the tortoise dish.

Edgar Allan Poe drives his daughter to town on his way to work.

It’s beautiful isn’t it, he says. The weather. Like a new season. Too warm to be winter, too crisp in the mornings to be summer. They should invent a new season.

Dad, dad, dad, says his daughter.

The smallest man in the world takes out the garbage

Actually it’s the cat litter, but it goes in the garbage can so what else can you call it?

He’s only 22 inches tall now. He measured himself in the home office, where everyone marks on the wall how tall they are – the kids, visitors, maybe repairmen, what does he know.

22 inches.

He knocks at a door. Knocks and knocks. Maybe no one is home and he should go do something else. But maybe they’re home. Maybe they were just asleep and now they’re getting up to answer the door and if he gives up now it’s like he was a kid playing a prank, getting them up for nothing, so he keeps knocking.

Just a little while longer.

But now he’s taking out the garbage. A white plastic bag of cat litter. In his other hand he has a fifty Euro bill, because his wife needed money for the cleaning lady and he was going to give her the fifty but that’s too much and the cleaning lady can’t make change so he gave his wife two tens, and then another ten because she needed money for something else too.

And when he throws away the cat litter, he throws away the money, too.

It’s a big garbage can, he has to climb up a ladder to throw away the cat litter and money.

After he climbs back down he looks at his hands and pats his pockets and stuff, but he realizes what has happened. He looks back inside the garbage can and sees the money down there.

He tells his kid to get the money out for him, because he is too small.

I’m too small, too, his kid says. And besides, that garbage can is gross.

She’s right, it is.

I can lay it down and you can reach in and get the money.

If you lie it down, you can walk in and get the money, she points out.

Lay, lie, he says. I’m wearing a suit.

I just ironed my hair, she says.

How much will you give me if I do it, she says.

The smallest man in the world sighs. He is lost. Why do all the women in his family drive such hard bargains?

Still, he has to put up token resistance. How would you like to ride the bus to school instead of getting a ride like every day?

Here, help me lie down the garbage can, he says.

This is why you don’t put money in your mouth, he says.

Why would you want to put money in your mouth, she says.