The postman said, “You need to sign this delivery ticket” and handed the parcel to Karl.
Karl’s hands trembled as he carried it to his study. The anticipation of the past few weeks was now boiling over. The Isolator was here.
Just before closing his door, Karl hollered “Do not interrupt me upon penalty of restriction. I mean it. The Mayonnaise Jar Rule is in effect.”
The rule decreed that there needed to be at least a jar’s worth of blood before the five children were allowed to interrupt their mother during her afternoon stories. It was the first time Karl had invoked it.
The parcel, a large box wrapped in brown Kraft paper and stamped on the side with the word fragile looked none the worse for shipping from New York City. Its weight surprised Karl foretelling a quality product. He reached for his scissors. In his haste, he knocked over the container of paperclips creating a mess on his desk. He paused. Karl hated disorder.
His brow furrowed with aggravation. He stopped and cleaned up the paperclips before continuing. Yes, yes, he did despite his excitement. Karl was nothing if not precise and organized. He chastised himself for his haste. Karl often berated himself for letting external circumstances derail his intentions. Yes, he was precise and organized, but focus and concentration escaped him. He had read many writing how-to books that talked about flow – that state where writing is almost just a matter of taking dictation from one’s muse.
Karl longed for flow.
He often blamed the children, whom he loved, for his inability to concentrate. Their chatter, songs, and squeals when he was working often led him to the rumpus room to horseplay with them. His wife, Loretta, was better at tuning the kids out. She said she had to develop the skill or go insane. Or get nothing done. It was her opinion that she was too busy for either.
The advertisement for The Isolator promised clear thinking and an abundance of gamma brain waves. Karl had tossed and turned for three nights before discussing the purchase with his wife. He rarely wanted for himself, and she granted her approval immediately though she couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just close the door.
He pulled out the helmet first. The packing materials were formidable, and he had much tape to cut through to free it. Holding the helmet in his hands, he marveled at its engineering. A nicely tanned leather, the helmet was lined with copper foil to repel outside interference. Karl thought it a genius design.
The oxygen tank had been delivered the day before by the pharmacy. Sold separately, Karl discovered he could buy it locally and save money besides just the shipping and handling costs which were considerable.
This was no small purchase.
But The Isolator was going to allow him to finally progress with his novel.
He pulled out his journal and scribbled a few lines.
The Isolator is here! Truly it felt as if entire geologic epochs were formed, I have waited so long. I thank God above that Loretta was approving of this extravagance though I view it a necessity. I must get these words out. The torment will drive me mad.
Brow furrowed again, Karl turned the pictorial directions this way and that hoping to orient the image in a way that made sense to him. Diagrams were not his strong suit, and it wasn’t readily apparent how to attach the hose to the helmet and then to the oxygen tank.
Karl had fantasized about the cool, clear pure oxygen breeze releasing negative ions — proven to improve mood and function.
He would be dynamic. Unstoppable. Sure of it, he gathered up the helmet and the hose and the tank and spread them out on the desk.
“I am a man of above average intelligence. I can figure this out.”
It took some trial and error, but he did indeed get Part A to slide into Slot 1 of Part B. Success! The machine was assembled.
Karl’s hands trembled again as he lifted the helmet over his head.
“Here goes greatness.” He whispered to himself.
The helmet was hot and had a heavy odor of metal – the copper no doubt. The helmet was heavy as well and the hose caused the helmet to slip forward. Karl readjusted the placement on his head finding the toggles to tighten the angle.
He turned the oxygen on. Clear, cold oxygen filled the helmet minimizing the smell and banishing the heat. The tips of his ears were positively cold. He turned to his typewriter and inserted fresh paper complete with carbon into the carriage.
Karl grabbed his fountain pen and journal.
Success! I have assembled it and the sweet feel of oxygen is coursing through my brain. The Remington sits at the ready. Now we wait.
And Karl waited.
And waited. The blank paper in the typewriter still blank. Taunting.
The noise of the children penetrating the leather.
The heat returning as his exhalations warmed the air inside the helmet. His thoughts churning. The muse silent or absent.
A tear slid down Karl’s cheek.