When Harmon returned to his house he found Sprawl’s car in the small, circular concrete drive before the rickety porch of the two-story ramshackle and another, unfamiliar vehicle next to it. Company. He parked behind Sprawl’s car, got out and ambled to the intrusive machine and looked in the window. A purse lay in the center console between the driver and passenger seats. The window was rolled down half-an-inch. He scented perfume.
He looked up at the moon, like the eye of a meteoric coelacanth, and fished a cigarette out of his roughened leather jacket’s inner pocket and withdrew his cheap plastic lighter and stood looking at it, thinking of its origins. It had once been nothing more than blacked goo in the ground; through sapient ingenuity it had been fashioned into a portable combustion device. He thanked the creators, whoever they were, and stood there smoking as the clouds obscured the moon, as if that celestial body were ashamed of its nakedness before the eyes of Man. Then he turned and let himself into the house. As soon as he passed the threshold he heard a clamour coming from above. An argument. Two voices. Sprawls and his female companion. He couldn’t discern precisely what they were saying, their words muffled by the thickness of the walls. He didn’t really care and set himself down at his computer set up in the living room, cigarette still dangling from his mouth and searched up Serena McCallister. He scrolled through her social media accounts and swiftly found her public photo collection. There were numerous pictures of her and Lyla, dancing at a party, drinking their strange IPAs, others at school, others still of Serena alone. She didn’t seem to have a boyfriend. With a sigh Harmon shut his computer. Despite the public availability of all Serena’s personal information, he felt slightly guilty for looking her up; as if he were engaged in something seedy and untoward. Minutes later a woman stomped down the stairs, she was thin and sallow and fake blonde, flat-chested and round-stomach’d. Pregnant. She was crying. Harmon turned his wooden armchair around and rose.
He slipped a clean and neatly folded beige napkin out of his jean pants pocket and handed it to her. She thanked him took it dabbed her eyes as Sprawls came down the stairs.
The woman nodded, saying nothing and then turned to looked at Sprawls and left off out the door. Sprawls swore under his breath and shook his head.
“Women, man. You know?”
He didn’t know, precisely, but he had a good idea of the nexus of the problem.
“Fuck. Yeah. Something like that.”
“She’s pregnant. Is it-”
“Fuck no. Ain’t mine. Bitches get around. You know how it is.”
Harmon mulled his roommates words over in his head and didn’t respond as Sprawls threw himself down into the battered leather couch beside the stairs, the only piece of furniture in the living room other than Harmon’s table and chair. The black man looked up at the ceiling and shook his head and and muttered something to himself and rubbed his hands over his face as if splashing insivible water.
Harmon got the man a beer and then sat down with his back to his friend, typing at his small black laptop’s keyboard, working through the second chapter of his novel. It was his third work of fiction, but the first which he felt proud, despite its fetal character. When it was finished he was sure it would get picked up quickly; it would not be a best-seller, it wouldn’t even be close but it would be remembered and he along with it. The thought of legacy turned his mind back to the woman and to Sprawls who ate a candy bar on the couch, watching something on his tablet.
“So what happened?”
“Ah, nothing, man. You got the money?”
“For rent? Yeah. I have it right here actually.”
Harmon reached into his inner jacket pocket and withdrew a small, white envelop and tossed it to Sprawls.
“Cool. Cool. Hey man, let me have one of those cigarettes.”
Harmon fished the last of his rolled sticks of tobacco out of his front jacket pocket and tossed it to his roommate who caught it wordlessly. He never said “thank you” and Harmon never chided him for it.