It’s Feb. 1 and the garden is still beneath a coat of snow criss-crossed with footprints and pocked by various tree droppings. Even the roof, bathed in sunlight, still has snow and ice on it. In the summer, there were tremendous spiderwebs spanning the eaves with huge, voracious spiders and these webs have been replaced by lengthening icicles. Winter’s lock remains and the heating system creaks and groans.
A thing to look forward to today: my new phone arrived at the destination sort facility at 6:28 AM this morning and a man in a blue uniform will deliver it to me by noon. It says so on the tracking page and I believe it.
Let me tell you something I don’t believe: Susannah Fontaine-Williams does not love me although she says she does. She’s too practical for love and I’m just someone who can knock down 18 year old Scotch Whisky with her dram by dram and throw her pithy phrases that sometimes ends up on her show, the fourth most-watched afternoon talk show in the land.
She has the most amazing extra-dimensional bag and it’s gotten her into several kinds of trouble. It all started when we were on Canal Street looking for knockoffs and a man led her into a narrow shop with bags hanging from the walls and ceilings like cave bats and piled everywhere on the floor. You waded more than walked through this place.
“I need a bag that will hold a lot,” she told the man. “But isn’t very big.”
He pointed to the knockoffs and SFW held them, appraised them, hoisted them onto her spaghetti-strapped shoulder and shook her head no. No. “Too big. Too heavy.”
She took my hand and we looked at each other and laughed and walked out of the store.
The man said, “Wait. Come with me. I show you something special.”
He led us to the back of the cave to a door covered with dusty bags and found the knob beneath the faux leather. We walked onto a creaky, wooden stairway. Bare fluorescent bulbs hung every few feet so where we hoped for and expected a puddle of dark, we were instead treated to blue-white light. After 27 steps, one of which had an nail sticking straight up (“nail, watch out), we landed in the basement, a big, neat, mostly empty space.
“My workshop,” he said.
At the far end was a metal desk under exposed fluorescent tubes. On it sat a single bag.
“That doesn’t look like it would hold very much,” SFW said.
The man smiled and handed her the bag. SFW dutifully put it on her shoulder.
”The straps are too short.”
“Put your hands on strap and lightly pull,” and as she did the straps lengthened.
“Now, put something in the bag, your wallet…”
SFW pulled out her wallet, a bulky thing weighted down and fattened with credit cards, slips of paper, loose change and lots of cash. She always carried too much cash.
“It will take up the entire bag,” she said.
“Put in everything else you have with you now. Except nothing electronic.”
She piled in a notebook, a few loose pens, a makeup kit, a toothbrush…”
“You carry a toothbrush?” I said.
It all fit. I looked in the bag and it was black inside, dark, although a bright light was shining directly over it. I reached in and felt around for her wallet and pulled it out. “Huh.”
“For you, $1500.”
“Too much for a knockoff.”
“Not a knockoff. This is one of a kind. A prototype.”
He gestured to his workbench with his neatly organized tools and implements and tubes.
”Tell you what. I like you. I watch your show. You take it with you, try it for a few days. If you still want it, buy it. If not, just give it back. No charge for trying it out.”
She looked over at me.
“Why not?” I said, not realizing that that question would be answered soon enough.
“Remember,” the shopkeeper said. “Nothing electronic.”
“Well, where do I put my phone?”
“Outside pocket. Always in the outside pocket.”
…to be continued.