When Naomi returned home from visiting Albert, there they were: Charles and Eve, sitting on the couch as though they were glued on, each one holding a copy of CUE. Charles ordered two subscriptions, worried that one might be stolen. What would he do, should he ever decide to leave the apartment? Unlikely possibility, but still. He had Lucky Number Seven yellow magic markers, to underline movies and art shows and even Broadway shows. What he would attend, if he could. Eve participated, too. Charles drew lines through his choices, and Eve made large loopy circles around those activities she might choose. They never went anywhere much, choosing instead to sit right there, in the center of the couch.
Eve and Charles. In a funny way, they seemed to have gotten married on another planet, had descended briefly, very briefly, into the bright orange living room. Beautiful Eve, as always, was bedecked. Her shoes looked as though they’d previously belonged to Elton John. Very high, feet were balanced on red snakeskin platforms. Her legs were often crossed, legs, provocatively dangling. And Charles, neat Charles, he looked a little like a prosperous magician, a man who could saw anyone in two. Not a young unemployed CUE Magazine devotee.
“A man” Naomi paused, to create a little drama, “a man named Alyosha is actually missing,” she said, in a way she hoped would interest them both. “Maybe we should all try to find him. My friend Albert is his neighbor. Eve do you remember Albert? He’s a Rochester Button Company office temp. And talented clothing designer. He made me a hat from vintage ties. I can show you if you’d like. His neighbor just vanished,” she said. “The building doesn’t know what to do.”
“That isn’t his real name,” Charles replied. “My guess is it’s Jack. Or even Bill. You know what percentage of people are actually named Bill? I read an article at the doctor’s office once – maybe I could find it again – that talked about Bills. It’s a very high number. You wouldn’t believe it. Don’t know why my first guess was Jack. It’s Bill,” he said. And I’m not talking William either. Just Bill. There aren’t as many Charles’s as you might imagine.
“Who are you named for?” Naomi asked.
“I’m Jewish,” said Charles, “and I should be able to tell you about my Jewish uncle Charles, my mother’s favorite brother, who tragically died in an unfortunate drowning accident. That would make more sense than the reality here. Her brother is actually named Teddy. He’s an accountant in Baldwin, Long Island. He can’t even swim. I’m named after Charles Laughton,” he said. “My mother made all her own rules. And she liked Charles Laughton. Although his wife, Elsa Lancaster, that was another story.”
“Can we just call him Alyosha?” Eve asked. “I like that better. “Do we know his last name?
“We are in the process of finding that out. His super knows,” said Naomi. “I’d like to enlist Mrs. Israel too. I think she said she was a bookkeeper once. Her apartment would be perfect if we were to open a detective agency. Plenty of people disappear every day. I don’t know why, but finding them suddenly seems like what I want to do.”
“Me, too,” said Eve.
“I’m on the finding fence,” said Charles.
For previous installments of this serialized novel, check us out on the web. Esther Cohen posts a poem a day at esthercohen.com.