The envelope on the doormat

The Muse

The envelope on the doormat

The days grow longer. No longer do I travel beneath black skies to my work each day, only to return in the same blackness. Sunlight is no longer a vague glimmer on the dull windows of my classrooms, but something that warms my skin whilst cycling home across streets filled with the scattered skeletons of burned up fireworks.

               I put my bicycle in the shed. The door is slightly frozen. I walk across the wet stones of my backyard and enter my house. Through my headset I hear an enthusiastic growling coming from the top of the stairs, but I go to my living room first.

               The coffee beans pulverize while the machine lets out a high pitched scream followed by the arduous pumping of water through the freshly grounded pulp. I rewind my audiobook two minutes. Since entering the house I had stopped listening.

               I hang my coat on the rack, throw my gloves in the closet and bend to the stack of mail on my doormat. I curse a little, because of the explosion of leaflets that has turned the hallway into a pandemonium of bright colours and loud slogans. I collect them, and I am sad that my girlfriend does not allow me to stick a ‘no junk mail’-sticker on our letterbox.

               Beneath a bright red advertisement of the cheapest supermarket the envelope sticks out like a glacier on Mars. My name is on it. It’s not a letter from the bank or my insurance and it’s not from the retirement fund to whom I send money for a pension I never expect to receive.

               I exchange the leaflets in my left hand for the steaming cup of coffee. The hot air dances above the black liquid like waltzing phantoms. The soft fabric of the stairway muffles the sound of my steps as I walk upstairs. I open the door of my study, sit down in the chair in front of the desk and stare at the envelope in my right hand.

               ‘What’s that?’ asks Kuranes. His eyes burn like searchlights on a nightly prison yard. He sits on the far corner of the desk, on a printer that has not seen fresh ink in years.

               ‘A letter,’ I answer. Most others would have made a cynical remark now, told me that I stated the obvious. Not Kuranes. Even though he knows many things, there is plenty completely unfamiliar to him. The limits of his knowledge, which he takes directly from my brain, are still a mystery to me.

               ‘Is it a special letter?’ the creature asks.

               ‘I don’t know,’ I answer. ‘It feels like that, but I’ve no clue why.’

               Kuranes takes the miniature sword from the pen tray and unsheathes it. My dad bought the letter opener for me in Germany, when we visited a castle. I don’t recall which. ‘Open it!’

               Acknowledging the letter was all he needed, I think. As soon as the words left my mouth and reached his pointy ears he had absorbed all the information from my mind. How else could he have made the connection between the envelope and the opener?

               The paper makes a satisfying sound as the dull blade tears it. I carefully release the letter from its container and unfold it. Kuranes leaps from the desk to the backrest of my seat, where his tail falls over my shoulder.

               ‘It’s a letter from a publisher,’ Kuranes says. He speaks my mind, as he so often does. ‘Could it be?’

               My eyes scan the paper. The letter starts friendly enough. They even took the effort to call me by my name. The rest of the letter, however, is standardised.

               ‘Our staff has reviewed your novel manuscript and unfortunately your work does not fit in our current plans for future publishing. Kind regards.’

               ‘A rejection,’ I mutter, disappointed. To myself, to Kuranes.

               ‘The first,’ he says. ‘Did you expect the red carpet to be rolled out straight away?’

               ‘No,’ I lie to him. ‘Of course not.’

               I know it was foolish to expect my manuscript to be accepted instantly after sending it away. Even J.K. Rowling had to survive twelve rejections before Harry Potter was finally published.

               With his tiny wings Kuranes flutters back to the desk, where he grabs the cellotape with his three-fingered hands. He tears off some of the sticky plastic and snatches the letter away from me.

               ‘What are you doing?’ I ask the critter.

               ‘Sticking it to the wall,’ he growls, while he slaps the letter on the painted wood of the wall behind the desk.

               ‘Why?’

               ‘You very well know why,’ his golden eyes glimmer humourlessly. ‘Because of what we read, in that book by that writer, about rejections.’

               ‘On Writing by Stephen King?’ I ask.

               ‘Bingo,’ Kuranes snaps his fingers, and sound fills the room like a firecracker. ‘He wrote that he pinned all his rejections on a board. That made him determined. We should do that as well.’

               I look at the paper in front of me. It’s a bit crooked, and the paper is slightly off colour compared to the wall. Kuranes is right, I decide.

               Downstairs I hear the sounds of boots on tiles and the jangling of keys. My girlfriend has come home.

               I look at Kuranes. ‘I’m going back downstairs. I’ll see you tonight.’

               ‘Sure,’ he says and flies to the bookcase. He moves four big tomes and enters his resting place, behind the volumes, where he sleeps.

               I close the door of my study and descend the stairs.

The muse in the bookcase