no friendly drop to help me
About the Writer
Timston Johnston is the founding editor of Little Presque Books. Similar work has appeared in Cheap Pop, Juked, New Mexico Review, Atticus Review, and Pith. He tweets candy bar reviews @TimstonJohnston.
T-SRB, the one-time unrepeatable success of simple-to-complex mechanics and anti-oxidation aerosols, rubber gaskets and greased bearings, runs entirely by the perpetual-motion heart. Estimated half-life: six-thousand years. Like the silver-plated frames and the platinum watches and the hand-sewn quilts and chicken-beak potholders, T-SRB becomes generational to the children, trusted as the one who cuts the umbilical cord, who buries the placenta as well as the eventual body, who adds to the box of familial gold teeth.
In its years of service, T-SRB has removed and installed seven ovens, four chandeliers, remodeled the house twice, added an indoor greenhouse and an outdoor foundry, replaced retaining walls and load-bearing studs, found a way to cast more durable nails, modified itself to mirror the human form, learned how to repair its blown fuses, the first after believing the phone had rung specifically for T-SRB, the attention causing an overload, and again, much later, upon discovering the need for phones had gone extinct. T-SRB often spends nights with the receiver off the hook while the house sleeps, takes in the reverberation of the dial tone until that, too, fades into dead air.
Though no fuse needs replacing when the doorbell shorts and rings on its own, a chamber overheats in T-SRB and the lithium plates protecting shoulder O-rings rise beyond normal limits. Nothing close to an annealing. T-SRB unplugs the phone from the jack, wraps it in a sweater and places it in the attic. T-SRB raises the phone’s original box upright atop a pile of newspapers, imagines granite resting upon the soil, leaves the phone buried next to expired kiln warranties, next to the tools that will soon remove the brass door knocker, to the graver that will etch Ring for Service in tungsten.
When ordering screws, or anything small and duplicate, T-SRB separates items by tens and requests packages be delivered on different days from different shipping companies, requests specific times so the arrival does not coincide with the come-and-go dog walker, the weekly grocery drop-off. They all ring the doorbell, and the ones who knock quickly learn the door will not open unless the button is pushed.
T-SRB changes the doorbell’s battery every time its tone droops to a disappointment-like frequency. When the battery is switched, T-SRB lingers longer until pushing the pole past the spring, until replacing the cover, until the test ring. T-SRB feels no heat until T-SRB ignites a soldering pen against T-SRB moisture-identifying sensors. T-SRB wonders of memory and its purpose.
Every five years, T-SRB reorganizes the attic, shifts boxes to different corners, sprays for ants and moths, replaces insulation and windowpanes, trashes whatever seems unnecessary: a bowling trophy of someone three-decades gone, a set of cracked hand bells, a zinc-scrapped television set. Underneath sun-bleached newspapers, T-SRB finds the phone. T-SRB unwinds the cord around the base but never lifts the earpiece. From downstairs, the doorbell, rung by a friend of the family, wanting in.
T-SRB forges a horseshoe knocker from iron, hangs it on the front door with lead brackets and bronze hinges, the knocker plate from melted and cooled tungsten. T-SRB knocks twice and a child from within the house says, Who’s there?