The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:
Out in the hallway, something or someone slammed hard against the door, and the men laughed and coughed. Then Nate told a story. The story began with a kind of rustling or scuttling sound in the basement. Carl gritted his teeth. God help me, he thought, this is going to be a story about an animal in the house. Carl had been at the hotel for a little more than twenty-four hours, and he had already heard six or seven stories about animals in houses, identical in dramatic contour—the strange noise or scat or smell, the mystery, the false hypothesis, the persistence, the breakthrough, the discovery, the grim and triumphant resolution. The unstated moral: It’s my house. But Carl tried to be patient, he did. He understood that each animal in each house felt unique to the home owner. A man with an animal in his house is an archetype. He joins a long narrative tradition, and yet for each particular man in each particular house the event is not allegory. It is an urgent and singular encounter, exceptional and unrepeatable. Carl remembered very clearly the bats in his own attic. Those terrible little fingers. He knew that each man was entitled to his story about an animal in the house, and he tried to pay attention, tried to nod and sound surprised when it turned out to be a raccoon. “Are you serious?” Carl said. “What did you do then?” Nate had good hair, and it was a pleasure to cut. He had, at least in the decade that Carl had known him, always parted his hair in the middle. It was time, Carl thought, for a change.