In SLEUTHS IN ROBUST PAJAMAS: A NOVEL, construction work mingles with art student pursuits in perilous times of war and monster, when Oscar must both live and die, as he chases down the joys of surrealism that shape the world and give life a deeper meaning. The second edition of SLEUTHS IN ROBUST PAJAMAS: A NOVEL is entitled TO DANCE IN THE SILENCE: A NOVEL.
Inside this book...
Just five seconds after Oscar Wythe steps out of the sewer and rejoins the work crew of a thousand things at once, a towering monument in marble crashes down upon the plaza.
Rock dust slips down his heavy shirt, but the dog is okay. He hands her over to the girl, as he shields her from the dust.
The demolition changes Oscar's context. He becomes a sailor in conversation with his colleague Bert as they walk to the docks. The pier is nigh.
Oscar says, "I have in mind a long voyage, but my trips are always short. I want to achieve something ordinary, but my assignments only get strange."
Bert looks up from his shoes. "I can help with that."
"You can!" Oscar laughs. "No one has been able to so far. I'm a sufferer, like my friend Lorena. I don't know much about how the world works. You know? That's why she fights in the ring at night, and cultivates the land in daylight. She invents a world."
"Yes, she does."
"Really?" Oscar says.
"Indubitably. Now you can see what there is. Sail the world. And when things get strange, you can keep them in the adventure, but separate from your life. You can do it. Oscar can do it. But beware the Uglaff! Your life is in danger!"
On hearing those words, the weight of a mountain lifts from Oscar's shoulders.
"I'll cross the ocean," he says.
That's it. That's the whole conversation. And no sooner does Oscar close his mouth than more marble blocks tumble out of the sky to settle alongside the docks.
The ship becomes part of him. But when he's not on it, there's still work for his hands to do. One of the things he likes least is splicing rope. Once he does his part, he hands the weave over to the next person.
Jobs with multiple workers take time. As Oscar waits, it feels to him like someone else has his baby to look after for a while. He may not even know the person. She doesn't care for the child the way he does. His love is big. So he finds himself not knowing what will happen, not being able to see or touch the fruits. He becomes a misshapen triangle.
Oscar does his taxes. He knocks them out one day, and that's a load off his back. After that he can splice, whittle, and mow something again. And after that's done he has time to figure out how to use his time. Oscar manages time well. As a mower he has to use an entire day productively. One learns that the ball bearing rolls on both the top and bottom of the board.
Before Oscar knows it, he's waiting for the mister to mist and the courier to deliver. And he's back at the curb, cutting. It's torture to go about doing nothing, just waiting. Oscar's on edge. At first he doesn't even twist the brass. But the backhoe is done and the tax audit is over.
He ploughs the debris. He scrounges for grip hooks. He walks to the bakery and buys some cake. He steps inside a restaurant and orders breakfast, lunch, and dinner to go. He procrastinates. You get the idea.
Oscar treats himself well. From November on, he sees nine flicks. That's about as many as he rents in a year. He enjoys them. He takes an afternoon nap, then after dinner he sits down. He considers walking around the room, because walking is a form of dance, and dance can solve any problem, but as it happens he's got the bug. He can splice.
Oscar grinds the pieces patiently, even with the stress of knowing he'll be separated later from the baby of his work. The anxiety fuels what he does. He compresses Waiting in the compressor. He drills holes in Patience. He ties ropes around Anxiety. Because he's feeling these things so strongly. The only way to go on is to acknowledge the difficulty and bring it into the work.
When he feels the pressure of uncertainty and disconnection, he takes that strong emotion and channels it into the fermentation distiller.
At critique time, Oscar stops winding the string. It's too much to do that and answer questions at the same time. If he's not directing traffic, he's not happy. He resumes steaming the canvas and tightening the bolts after laying threads, but it's not easy. He grows wild and strange. It can be difficult to lose himself in the wood pile. The discomfort he feels and he himself comes out in the shavings. He can't shake it.
But when the product arrives and is done, Oscar announces an expedition. The agony is gone, or becomes less, because he's on to the next thing, which is unimpeded by fear and doubt. And the future shines like aluminum foil.
Can Oscar, regardless of the turmoil and the Uglaff monster, return to the combustion sparks even before he's truly free? Even before he pierces the metal?
It's harder to work in the shadow. And a shadow is cast. The wolf robots gather. It's up to Oscar to fend them off and succeed despite adversity.
It's hard sealing a portal straight. Oscar tends to get lost. Then the patterns and tunnels go wrong, and in no time the surveying is a mess. He doesn't know where he is or how to get back to the pivot point. That's how it is. And it plays into the enemy's paws. Because if he stops, a marble monument loses a cornerstone of flame.
As he nails a coffin shut, putting the back of his hand against a rusty nail or two, Oscar notices something sticking in the works. He jumps forward on reflex only to collide with a commuter man on the sidewalk, knocking the guy flat on his back.
"I'm sorry!" he says. "It's a blur, sir. I don't see anything anymore. I guess at everything. My memory!"
Five days later, Oscar's lathing and bricklaying career ends because of twine. The drywall man says, "Nobody wants expensive architecture anymore." Twine proliferates instead. The cost of a build comes cheap. Spools of twine unwind around the clock. A client has access to whatever corners she wants to see and touch, and any artifact of construction on her list.
Punch one hits Oscar on the chin.
The crew shake their heads and recut the grooves.
Punch two rams him in the stomach.
The crew never pauses after the one-two punch.
To make amends, Oscar gives the best moulding and cast he owns to a friend.
When he seals tar, he thinks about doing shingle lays. But they don't pay you. They give you coins, like they give for etchings. So he doesn't do shingle lays. He still has ceramic slants, you see.
Now a tile person, what does she do?
She can't sell tiles. She can hang wire. That's it. But nobody pays for that either. Correction. She can't hang wire either.
She can pierce tiles and sell them to her crew for the benefit of the crew and no one else. You can't make a living, you see.
A band saw. Well, people don't tend to steal a band saw. Go to a saw guy, and get the tiles that way. Oscar wonders. They do, don't they?
So far scrubs pay well. So far oversized ceramic tiles pay decent. But the BIG MAN gets his cut.
But so far, Oscar's just saying, a tile cutter can do.
But tile staplers don't refine the slice.
What does a tile turner do who doesn't disappear?
He can have a crew, he can polish with them and for them. He can refuse to stain tiles for anybody else. But he needs to make money, so he does something else.
He runs for President in a fur coat and loses.
What does he do?
What does she do?
A miller can parse with her gang. But they can't parse for others.
Tile people and millers drop out of the count.
Dusters make money doing something else.
Dabbers, breakers, and hackers must make money doing something else.
Welders can still weld. You can walk people through steel, even at a distance. It takes a while before anyone sees it, but then they marvel at the welders, dusters, benders, and stampers.
Dusters, benders, and stampers might get paid if they can find work. Oscar's not so sure about bracers and pinchers.
Cruising along sheafs is a loner's game. Loners is what you have in times of war and disease. It isn't a grand distinction, but it is distinctive.
An excerpt from SLEUTHS IN ROBUST PAJAMAS.
Copyright 2023 by Pete O'Brien. All Rights Reserved.