Case hears a scritch-scratchy noise he can’t identify. A carpenter bee digging at the door frame? A piece of wire blown up onto the eaves somehow, scraping against the window? The tent zipper flapping in the wind?
But no, it’s Ira, cleaning his grill.
That was nice of her to come by, he thinks.
It takes him a minute to realize that they’re both wearing turbans.
“I don’t know why I put this on today,” he says. “I don’t wear it all the time.”
“I do,” Ira says, “when I’m not working or taking a bath. Or sleeping.”
“I guess I wear mine when the it’s cloudy like this,” he says. “I like having my head wrapped when the barometric pressure is changing.”
“That makes sense,” Ira replies.
The structure on this property is so tiny–just a bathroom and a room for sitting and reading.
“You have a great library,” Ira says.
“What do you do here, anyway?” Ira asks. “You don’t own this place, do you?”
Case explains about how the environmental NGO owns the lot, and he works for them, and part of the job entails living here, so he can be part of the community he’s working to change.
“I’m starting to have second thoughts about these changes,” he says. “I mean, not about the actual changes. I know it’s our only recourse, if we even want to have a livable planet, that we make major shifts in economy, population size, and sources of fuel. But I’m starting to think about the costs of those changes.”
He counts off on his fingers. “One: it puts people out of work. Two: people need to change their source of entertainment. That’s not a simple thing! People love their TVs. Three: people really should change how they eat, transitioning to plant-based diets, and nobody wants to be told how to eat,” he says, “I’m starting to discover that.”
“But are you here to make everybody happy?” Ira asks.
“Well, no,” replies Case. “I guess I’m here to help with the grass-roots efforts to get certain Action Plans adopted and then to help implement them.”
“And are you doing that?” Ira asks.
“Well, yes!” says Case. “That’s what I was hired to do, so yes.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I guess, nothing?”
“I think you can leave people to manage their own discomfort,” Ira says. “It’s not really something we can moderate, anyway. It’s sort of up to them.”
They spend the day talking. Case has never talked with anyone as much in one day as he and Ira talk that day. But it’s nice when they’re quiet together, too.
By nightfall, the barometric pressure has adjusted, and Case unwinds his turban. He pulls his hair back in the tiny pony-tail so he can still feel some slight pressure on his scalp.
Tinker Tailor drops by just as he’s dishing up grilled fruit for a late supper.
He’s not really paying attention to Tina, but I am. She seems a bit surprised at first, to see Ira there, like she’s not quite sure of her. But when she sees the way Case looks at her, she relaxes.
Look at Tina’s closed eyes while Case and Ira smile at each other–is Tina thinking of her sweet family at home and hoping that same warmth would fill this small room? Is she making a wish, saying a prayer, bestowing a blessing?
Maybe all of the above.
And when she opens her eyes, they’re eating in silence, like good friends do.
But soon they’re talking again.
Ira’s describing this plan she has for a sort of celebrity exposé. She calls it “Without a Filter.”
No-filter photos of Cho and Ward and all the others that the periodicals pay her to shoot.
“The idea is to show them how they are,” she says, “without the gloss.”
“I don’t know,” says Case, “without the gloss they’re not really celebrities, are they?”
“Exactly,” says Ira. “Without the gloss, without the special filter, they’re just real people.”
“Like us,” says Tina Tinker, “which is what we knew all along.”
“But the people who swoon over them don’t know that. Maybe I’ll lose my job, but it’ll be worth it. Go out in a blaze of unfiltered glory!”