Maxine was hired on as a records clerk at NaviQuest Globaltronics, one of the nation’s most robust privately owned companies which manufactured all manner of things – from the smallest of widgets to the largest of industrial freezing units. Also, it was rumored, the company held numerous contracts to design
secret weapons for the US military.. Of course, they were only rumors. But, while Maxine scraped by performing the duties of a clerk, that was merely what she did; not at all what she was.
Maxine was a tinkerer by nature. When taken by fits of romanticism, which were abundant, she would defend her station by claiming that she was a “creator”. From the outside looking in her creations amounted to little more than monuments to her wasted time. Maxine, perhaps, knew this. All the same, she would tell herself that she created pieces of great value – of near-cosmic importance, and of which the world could scarcely do without…. if it knew what was good for it.
She never fully believed her own grand claims, but she could hardly fault herself for making them. After all: “The world”, as they said “is what you deem it to be.”
Maxine was an awkward young woman, riddled with disorders that ranged from mild social anxiety to acute, clinical depression. Awkward... She detested the word, as most other women in the city used the term as a kind of superlative, as if they were cut from the same adorable cloth as Zooey Deschanel. They didn’t understand that being “awkward” was not the same as being aloof, or ditzy, or charming in spite of oneself. To be truly awkward, one had to be the kind of person most others would want little to do with once the working day was done. Maxine possessed that quality in spades.
She spoke when no one else was around, as it was hard – if not impossible – to feel ignored or misunderstood that way. She would savor the words she spoke, scant and precise as they were. In speaking so rarely, she appreciated the gravity of each and every thought that fought through clenched teeth and strangled throat muscles. Still, there were days in which even she had only the tamest of interests in things she had to say. None of that mattered to Maxine, not the good days nor the bad, as what she needed to say most – what the world had to know – was said through her creations.
It wasn’t until late in the evening on October 15th that Maxine completed her most recent masterpiece. She had been making adjustments for weeks, fine-tuning here and there so that everything could be just as she’d imagined in her head. She had scoured the city for the right bits and pieces; snippets of flimsy metal wiring, paper clips, and even a pair of buttons she had to covertly snag from the overcoat of an elderly woman who fell asleep next to her on the Q Train one afternoon. It shamed her to all but rob the old woman, but Maxine was certain she would understand if only she knew.
After providing her creation with a quick polish of spit on a hand-cloth, it was ready. It stood four inches from the ground, and held an awkward gaze with its multi-colored eyes made from the liberated buttons. It looked, as near as any one could figure it, like a rooster. Only that instead of feathers, it wore a plumage of meticulously set tin-foil “scales”, which covered an armature of paperclips that had been fastened together with the flimsy wiring. If one squinted, one could make out the precisely cut ribbons of scotch tape Maxine had to use here and there in order to bolster the structural integrity of the piece.
With the beaming pride of a new parent, Maxine sat the rooster on a nearby hutch then backed away. She stared at the creature with a keen scrutiny, almost expectantly, as if she assumed that it would begin pecking and strutting at any moment. There on the hutch, in front of her Twin Peaks commemorative plate, the rooster sat still as could be. After a moment, Maxine threw her hands into the air as if to will the forces of nature to grant life into her piecemeal Frankenstein, but… to no avail. She watched the rooster for another five minutes before melting to a puddle on the floor directly in front of the hutch.
Her disappointed gaze never left the unblinking eyes of the rooster, which themselves looked past her head and to the door of her apartment. Her head cocked, her arms crossed, she fell asleep.
The next morning, Maxine woke to see the rooster standing on the edge of the hutch, it’s body crooked so that it could look down at her. At first she thought it was merely an illusion, a bit of first-thing-in-the-morning optical trickery. She rubbed her eyes, ridding them of the granules that had found purchase in her tear ducts, when she noticed the piecemeal rooster cocking its head to the left. They stared at one another, Maxine’s eyes wide with disbelief..
Maxine waited a moment then cocked her head to the right. The piecemeal rooster followed suit, mimicking her movement. This befuddled Maxine to no end, and for a moment she thought herself crazy. Did I forget my Zoloft? She thought to herself, then straightened her neck. The piecemeal rooster mirrored her action.
Maxine jumped to her feet, and in an instant she was on the phone with her analyst. An appointment was made for 10:30. In ten minutes time, Maxine was dressed and bounding out of her apartment. She gave not one glance to the piecemeal rooster on her way out.