The linen man was having a sale. The townspeople got up early to buy linens.
The linen man had boasted of his sale for seven years, and the townspeople were driven by a rabid impatience. They’d pressured him to hold it now, and then now, and so on.
On the day of the sale, the town was caught up in a colossal heat. It was uncommon, so early in the summer, and the townspeople swung their limbs in wretchedness. Henny and Ida claimed the temperature had increased daily as the sale neared.
Others noticed this, too; worse, the air took on a density that smelled of flowers. It was clear from the smell these flowers had flourished in the heat, grown large in it, and died. The townspeople chose not to say anything, as it was unpleasant in a variety of ways. They held handkerchiefs over their faces as they walked to the linen sale.
The sun hadn’t come up yet, and all but one of the streetlights along the linen man’s street had gone out. It was too hot to fix them, so no one had, and the solitary light turned the air an uncomfortable green.
“There’s something linen-like about that shade of green,” said Mrs. R.
“It’s not the shade of green you’re noticing, it’s that machine sound,” said Mr. L.
“It’s the smell,” said Ms. X, “which is clearly linen in nature.”
Mr. L and Ms. X were notoriously confident about the superiority of their perceptions.
Townspeople streamed into the linen man’s street. The machine sound was very loud there, and a large object shook under a piece of plastic.
Near the object was a crate of cubes.
The townspeople needed dishcloths, bedclothes, curtains, and shirts. But they saw none of this—merely the cubes, and the density in the air.
Mrs. R drew a line through the air, an involuntary motion.
“Linen sale,” called the linen man. He ushered the townspeople with his hands.
The Night Pool
A pool appeared in the middle of the square. It came out at night, and the grocer nearly tipped into it, or so he said, when he closed his store on Tuesday. He said the pool was dark and still, smelled of chlorine, and made a sound like a street cleaner.
Ms. L knew the pool well and found his description suspect.
The previous month, Mr. H, who was the grocer, had told a story that sounded quite similar, only that time it was a sofa, sitting in the alley behind his store.
There’s a sofa that comes out at night, he’d said.
Charlotte and Ruby saw the pool, but then Ruby said it was a crow they saw, not a pool, and she made a fuss about it and insisted the crow responded to a name she’d called him, something she wouldn’t repeat. Charlotte disagreed but said the sound the pool made was the sound of birds.
Ms. X was bicycling through the square when a pool appeared in her peripheral vision, glowing yellow, and she stopped to tell Miss Yatter, who’d come out to mend her fence in the relief of sundown. They went to look at the pool, and it seemed full and deep but otherwise innocent.
The weather was very bad, and beans withered on their vines before ripening.
Miss M spoke of this often, because she was a bean salesman.
Mrs. Grenon ventured out with her tools to make an analysis in the early hours of Thursday, but the pool wasn’t there, or so she said. The pavement was a vibrant blue. Mr. Hensing didn’t believe her, because he went to visit the pool in the early hours of Thursday, and it was there. He said a night insect rode circles in the far left corner.
Mr. K demanded to be shown the insect, but Mr. Hensing refused.
Gerald D became upset.
Ms. L broke her silence to say the pool was harmless.
The Carousel Repairman
The town’s carousel had sat idle for nearly half a century on account of a broken foot.
M and C advertised for a carousel repairman.
It was late spring, and the storefronts were decorated in fruit blossoms, and the stores sold fruit gums in twopenny tubes.
Cora S saw the advertisement, which hung from a lamppost on Miller Street. “I’m a carousel repairman,” she said, “and they’ve no need of another.” She bought bread, and though it was bundled well in brown paper, it was too hot to hold, and she slung it over her shoulder with a string.
Mr. Z and Ms. B walked by. She repeated the phrase, that about being the repairman, and they both felt unsettled, though they couldn’t say why.
Cora S walked past the carousel and noted its foot and its face. She adjusted the bread, which was far too hot to rest against her back, and which had caused her, or so she assumed, a terrible feeling of unease.
She said she was the carousel repairman and now it could be fixed.
Young Rita handed out vanilla slices, but with a somber look on her small face—according to Mr. Roads, who said it was the sudden change in sunlight to blame. Mitchell D pointed north and then south, trying to locate the source of his discomfort. He said there was a bird up there, making a terrible scene, but when the carousel repairman turned her face to see, there was nothing.
M and C sat in the sun in the square. They talked about what to do if a repairman should arrive, and then a machine went by and drowned them out with a screaming sound. C looked up and said, oh dear, it’s the carousel making that racket, it’s been fixed; but M, who’d looked up three-quarters of a second later, said nonsense, no need to worry, it was only old Mrs. Q’s boat, going on its weekday rounds.
Lorie Broumand is a librarian. She plays guitar, hurdy gurdy, and Tetris. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Confrontation, SmokeLong Quarterly, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Slush Pile Magazine, Whiskey Island, Memorious, The Cafe Irreal, Litro Online, and Fiction Southeast. She’s writing a novel about a milkman.