I hadn’t noticed how Harry’s garden had filled up with so many guests - shouldn’t have been there at all, actually, but had chosen today to return a borrowed book which had haunted my conscience for over a year. That wasn’t a good idea at all, as I was about to learn.
The book was called The Art of Boredom. It was a dull volume of secrets; the literary equivalent of a vibracrete pyramid. It claimed that by lending people things, you’d rapidly increase your circle of friends and avoid boredom, but it lacked any convincing argument that the reader would not be bored to tears while attempting this devious method of social sculpturing.
I couldn’t see what Harry had enjoyed about it in the first place. He was a quick-minded man with a restless edge to him that I liked but he could be exhausting to be around. Although he was often smiling, he seemed to exude violence, as if his daydreams included rope, duct tape and rusty razor blades.
That was one of the reasons I was anxious to return his book.
He didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby, so I dipped my hand into the aluminium bath filled with beer bottles and grabbed two. The book was in my pocket, and I had hoped to surprise him by just leaving it in his bathroom next to the copies of Samurai Monthly and the collection of animal skulls he’d gathered after wildfires where he’d find them, white exclamation marks among the blackened vegetation.
I wandered around the garden. Spoke to a woman I recognised but whose name I’d forgotten on both previous occasions I had met her. She laughed and touched my shoulder, called me Mickey. The beer started to weigh on my bladder, so it seemed like the right time to head for the toilet.
At every party I have ever been to this has happened: I go to the toilet, wash my hands and discover that there’s only one towel hanging up. Not a hand towel, but the towel which is very clearly used for drying off after a shower. There’s an element of guilt to drying your hands on that towel, but then you notice that everyone else seems to have used it, too.
At Harry’s, the towel wasn’t looking too good. It was a black towel, but it seemed blacker in the middle. I didn’t want to wet the book so I used the towel anyway. My fingertips came away smeared in redness. The coppery smell was unmistakeable. Blood.
I looked down. On a table next to the bath was a book. I felt the volume in my jacket pocket weigh heavier as I read the title of the one on the table:
Bored to Death: The Art of Boredom, Volume Two.
Forgetting my bloodied fingers, I picked it up. Sat down on the toilet. Chapter One, it read:
“How to alleviate boredom by committing the perfect murder.”
The words swam a little as I read them, but I felt compelled to carry on.
“Invite everyone you know to a party. Especially the ones who have borrowed your books, DVDs and favourite Tupperware. Stock up on dark towels for cleaning purposes.”
The key in the bathroom door rattled and a shadow fell across the page.
“Hello, Michael”, Harry whispered.
This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. EIGHT other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time as this. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging 'The Art of Boredom' and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!
Click away on the names below: