Sheldon Lee Compton is a short story writer, poet, and novelist whose recent fiction
and poetry has appeared in Wigleaf, Gravel, New World Writing, and many others. He
relaxes at


Eric Stoltz is our blueprint, those of us with the red locks. Us gingers. It's so strange that such a handsome man would have made his career leap forward portraying a terribly deformed character. But maybe I wouldn't like Eric if we met. It could be that he'd suggest having Chinese takeout for dinner and I would be devastated because I can't stand Chinese food. Rice makes me think of maggots. It's possible, I guess, that Eric and I wouldn't be pals. Having the same color hair doesn't automatically ensure a friendship or bond. It's a good start, but that's about it. And maybe if I did like Eric what if he was just in a bad place in his life the day we decided to have a nice, inviting Mexican meal? Here I am eating my pollo loco talking and talking about really interesting topics and Eric is across from me rubbing his hands through his perfect red mess of hair and shaking his head slowly back and forth. Mumbling to himself, even. How could a solid friendship be born from such a place of depression or anxiety or whatever it might be that could at any time be ailing Eric? But this man is our blueprint so if he is worrying himself we should be worrying ourselves. We follow that lead. We worry about the obvious concerns first, the boring stuff, and then move on to the more specific issues such as how often we should feed our dog and how often we should scold the dog for using the bathroom on the new carpet. There is enough time to worry about washing dishes and washing clothes and how best to answer hypothetical interview questions during junket prep. We can divide the worrying among us. You take the clothes, I take the dishes, and Eric, of course, takes the junket prep. It's all very simple really. But it takes something out of us. Not in a tearing away kind of taking but a slow and methodical kind of taking, the kind that happens when your identity is mixed up with a hundred million other people. It beats us down until what was once vigor becomes a scar, becomes deformed, becomes melancholia, becomes all the other details we thought about when first we began from loneliness.

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