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.