Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin:
The place was busy for a Wednesday afternoon. She ordered a large coffee and a cookie shaped like the state of Montana. She managed to snag a table right as an insane local artist was leaving it. Next to her, a child—maybe three years old?—with a gloriously untamed mop of dark hair bashed an action figure against the corner of an unvarnished wood table while his minders sat across from one another staring into their laptops.
She recognized the toy—it was a replica of a professional wrestler circa 1992. The Ultimate Warrior. Her older brother, Steve, had owned that one and dozens more, spending his mid-single digits smashing them into each other in the course of hermetic, byzantine narratives. She’d joined in occasionally—as older brothers went, he’d been on the sensitive side—but it was clear that it required great effort on his part to make the sharing of his private world comprehensible and fun. More frequently, they played with their gender-mandated human simulacra across the room from each other, she freely mixing Barbies and life-size baby dolls and miniature horses in swirling psychodramas with no clear narrative thrust. Whereas Steven’s wrestlers seemed to follow a more or less filmic pattern of violent antagonism followed by grudging acceptance of one another to defeat some larger evil (often represented by faceless vehicles that dwarfed them in size, hence the teamwork), her women, babies, and animals simply bickered continually, never achieving resolution. The sources of their complaints were mostly lost to her now—surely a bricolage of overheard and misunderstood adult phrases coupled with vague rehashing of concerns gleaned from television—but she remembered her engrossment in them, the dreamy endlessness of the afternoons spent deep in her own mind.
The child perched his Ultimate Warrior on the rim of his father’s giant coffee mug, then plunged him in, sending coffee spilling down the sides of it and onto the table.