Mr Fallopian, my landlord, was drunk when he came to collect the rent.
“It was a brown envelope – you remember,” I told him on the phone the next day.
“I don’t remember.”
“You were dancing, sir – Armenian-style.”
“Frank, I’ve told you before – I am not Armenian. Come around in the morning, we’ll talk about it.”
I turned up at his house at 10am the next day.
“Welcome,” he said, ushering me into his living room.
I noticed on the mantelpiece a picture his late wife, Mrs Fallopian, wearing a black headscarf. Like the Mona Lisa, her eyes followed you around the room. But, unlike her, she was not smiling. Nor was she at risk of being stolen. Mr Fallopian was in the kitchen making tea. On his bookshelf I noticed a copy of The Complete Works of William Shatner. Inside there were pictures of the actor with Dr Spock, numerous aliens, and during shoots of TJ Hooker.
“Sugar?” he shouted, as the kettle whistled.
“Honey,” I replied. “If you have any.”
We sat at a creaky table by the window and said nothing. He stuffed his pipe.
“About the rent,” I ventured.
He lit up, sucked at the pipe, and exhaled.
“So, you’re a writer.”
The aroma of tobacco surrounded us.
“Yes,” I said. Rent was not on the agenda.
“I have something you might want.”
“A hook for your novel.”
“The first line?”
He explained that years ago he was writing his own novel but couldn’t get past the first sentence it was so good. What was it?
“She had to defrost before he could stick it in.”
As he spoke these words, the smoke he blew out seemed to fill the room with a divine presence. Mr Fallopian smiled, knowingly. He told me he remembered having turned up drunk and apologised. This sentence was his gift to me.
I couldn’t wait to tell Lou. She hadn’t spoken to me for weeks. She wanted to have babies. I told her we couldn’t until I was published. To cheer her up, I sponsored an elephant in Kenya. It was called Bambi, of all things.
I read out the sentence to her:
She had to defrost, before I could stick it in.
Lou said it was misogynistic. She assumed the narrator was a man who worked in a morgue. I told her it’s someone sticking a turkey in the oven.
She left me. I fell into a pit of despondency. I failed to pay my rent. And Mr Fallopian evicted me. Now, I’m back to living with my mother. She tells me to get a job, but I can’t. I blame the sentence for my misfortune. But she tells me: “Your sentence started long before that son.” She does keep up Bambi’s adoption payments though, and it gives me some comfort to have made an elephant happy.
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