Millie Donovan did a most extraordinary thing one damp autumn evening.
While the dead leaves danced on the rotten wind howling outside her storm windows, Millie went through her immaculately clean, tastefully decorated bungalow and set every clock, including the walnut grandfather clock in the family room, the miniature clock above the kitchen sink that sounded the song of one of the birds of North America every quarter hour, the black plastic kitty cat clock with oscillating eyes in the spare bedroom, and last but certainly not least the orange-glowing flip clock on the nightstand beside her bed, one hour behind.
What the heck is daylight savings time, she asked herself, wasn’t noon, when the sun’s directly overhead, a fact?
Millie reminded herself there was something she was supposed to do, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember what it was. She shoulda tied a string around her finger. How did that come to be the symbol for trying to remember something, who decided? Jesus, I guess, prolly from the Bible, she decided.
Then it came back to her, she heard a strange voice, an oily televangelist voice, very unlike her own internal Jiminy Cricket croak, “CHECK.”
That was it, she had forgotten to write the check and drop it in the mail. She fetched her checkbook from her purse, sat down at the butcher-block table, and spread the checkbook open before her. She ran her hand over the blank check, ‘ghost-writing’ was a pet-peeve of hers; encountering palimpsest impressions carved into a sheet of paper from the pressure of writing on the sheet atop it, always made her close her teeth around one of her fingernails, half the time without her even realizing it. Scolding herself for biting her nail, she snatched the pen from the little leatherette holder loop, and filled out the check. She wrote CASH in the payee line, filled in the amount, $23.69, dated and signed it. She fetched an envelope from her roll top desk, stuffed the check inside, and licked it tightly closed. Choosing a return address label from amongst the thousands sent to her by ravenously soliciting charities, she affixed it to the envelope. She got a stamp from the drawer, licked, and affixed it. Nigh on five minutes were spent digging through the drawer in a mad search for a two-cent stamp. The upside was she found her missing rosary. More and more things were turning up missing lately. Was she hiding things in her sleep again? Was it the Hypnomide™? The cartoon anteater had warned that in certain rare cases driving and operating heavy machinery while sleeping may occur.
Pen poised over the envelope and wouldn’t ya know goshdarnit, she had forgotten the address. Nothing to worry about, all she had to do was will her mind to blankness and it would come back. She sat down and took a series of deep breathes in through her nose, out through her mouth. The address bobbed up from the depths of her mind, she could see it written in dripping blood-red ink on a piece of parchment with burnt edges. The hairs on the back of Millie’s neck stood up and goose bumps sprouted up and down her arms, like when she touched foam rubber. She shook off the sudden eerie feeling and copied the address onto the envelope.
Millie trudged outside, clad in her terrycloth robe and plush, pink bunny slippers, to the duck-shaped mailbox at the end of her driveway. As soon as the check was in the mailbox and the little red flag was up, Millie breathed a sigh of relief, as if a great weight had been lifted.
Walking up the driveway to the house, Millie found herself crying and she didn’t know why. She wiped her eyes and pushed the matter from her mind. Went back inside, double checked to make sure the oven was off, set her alarm clock, washed two Hypnomide™ tablets down with her nightly hot toddy, climbed into bed, and fell asleep with the TV on, visions of sugarplum fairies with restless leg syndrome dancing in her head.
The extraordinary thing was not that Millie Donovan set her clock back one hour for reasons completely beyond her understanding, nor was it that she wrote a check to some vague and nebulous entity whose purpose she did not understand, and whose interests were quite probably inimical to her own, the fact that each and every one of her neighbors, and millions more like them all across the country, also set their clocks back one hour and were immediately gripped by an overwhelming urge to fill out and mail a check to some Thing they could never possibly comprehend testifies to the ordinariness of both of these bizarre actions. Whatever It was that made itself a fortune that night was banking on the fact that the act of writing a check to some vague and nebulous entity whose purpose or function one did not understand and whose interests were quite probably inimical to one’s own was so much a fact of existence that few would even question the alien impulse that gripped the minds of so many sheep-walkers that damp autumn evening when the dead leaves danced on a howling, rotten wind.
The extraordinary thing was that under normal circumstances Millie Donovan would never allow her plush, pink bunny slippers to be caressed by the rays of sun nor moon without a prophylactic pane of glass, or at the very least, for the love of Jesus’ bleedin’ heart, a screen for protection. There are three things one just does not do out of doors, wear slippers, drink milk, and copulate. Whatever It was that caused Millie Donovan to trudge down her driveway to mail that check clad in her plush, pink bunny slippers was a very powerful Thing or Force indeed, and I for one shudder to think about what It may be doing with Its new wealth, and what It might demand next year.