Doran J. Seff

Another night passed sleepless and anxious for Benzi. He lived with the constant fear that if he fell into slumber, he would wake up and the world would make less sense. For his entire life, sense had been leaving the world one night at a time. That was how Benzi saw it, anyway. His biggest fear was that he’d reached the precipice; that one night, he would accidentally fall deeply asleep, and he’d awake in a world that made no sense at all anymore.

When the sun came up, he took Bink Bink out to poop. Bink Bink was a dog, and dogs needing to poop was one of the last bastions of sense for Benzi. There was hardly anywhere left in the Municipality for Bink Bink to poop. Every day, a new wooden sign popped up proclaiming another place off-limits for pooping. Most mornings they would sleepwalk around the neighborhood in dreary circles, watching the shops open and enjoying their limited horizons together before the world awoke.

It occurred to Benzi that every morning he’d watch the shops open yet had no idea what was inside them. He decided that he’d like to see the wares in the shops. It didn’t appear that most of the shops sold anything at all. They were full of desks and chic decorations, but no wares. Young people with trendy haircuts and bright flames came in the mornings and left in the evenings. Benzi didn’t understand what they did.

That morning, Benzi needed to find something in the Municipality that he understood.

He found a plainly decorated storefront with a big, well-lit front window and a sign that said “Hardware” in a plain font. Something about the simplicity spoke to Benzi. It was the only store on the block where there were real objects on the shelves.

When he got inside the hardware store, he was relieved. There was hardly anything hard about it, and the wares seemed to actually exist.

The clerk approached him. “Anything in particular you’re looking for?” Benzi shook his head. The clerk had a modest flame and a straight-forward horizon that made Benzi feel comfortable. He bent down and gave Bink-Bink a nice scratch behind the ear.

“Anything up there catching your eye?” The clerk motioned to the sprawling display mounted on the wall. There were dozens of different objects, but Benzi’s eyes were drawn first to a strangely shaped instrument near the top. He pointed at it.

“The hammer?” asked the clerk. Benzi nodded. The clerk pulled the hammer off the wall and handed it to Benzi. It was love at first sight.

The clerk felt happy to make people happy. “Yeah, that’s a good hammer right there. You’re
gonna be able to hammer all sorts of things with this baby.”

This made Benzi smile. “Like what?” He asked.

“Oh, all sorts of things!” The clerk repeated. “Nails...and wood.”

This made sense to Benzi, and he wanted more. “What else?””

The clerk chuckled, pleasantly confused by the question. “Well... mostly just the nails and wood. But it’ll hammer those really good! You can pull nails out too with the back end. Do you have a particular project in mind?”

“I want to...” Benzi tailed off. What he really wanted was for things to make more sense, but he didn’t know how to ask for that at a hardware store. Instead, he parroted something he’d heard his friend Hanso say a million times. Hanso was all about opening doors.

“I want to... open doors.”

The clerk nodded in understanding. “Ahhh, doors. For that, you’ll need a hinge. We’ve got those here. I can get you all sorted out.”

Benzi had heard of Hinge. Hanso had talked about that too. Hinge was a software for meeting girls. Benzi didn’t like software, but he liked the clerk. If he said hinges were good, Benzi believed him.

The sound of the cash register was pleasant to Benzi’s ears. He smiled while the clerk rang him up and put the hammer, nails, and hinges in a bag. The clerk thanked him and gave Bink Bink one last pat on his scruffy head.

“Thank you!” said Benzi. “Your store is the only one that makes sense.” This befuddled the
clerk, but he smiled broadly as he waved them goodbye.

Benzi felt powerful leaving the hardware store. He held the hammer in his hand as he walked Bink Bink home. The streets of the Municipality were full of pretty girls with bright flames and broad horizons walking designer dogs. Benzi smiled and waved at them, but they didn’t smile back. They stared as his hammer, uneasy, and scurried off to whatever mysterious place that their expensive dogs went to poop.

He was tired when he got home. Despite himself, Benzi did something that scared him; he took a nap. He was immensely relieved when he woke up to find that he still had two things that made sense. Benzi had a Bink Bink, and now he had a hammer. His horizon had doubled in scope. He spent a few hours swinging the hammer around the apartment before he had to shower and get ready to meet Hanso for dinner later.

The restaurant Hanso had picked was in a trendy, developing part of the Municipality. The waiters all had haircuts like the people in the stores that sold nothing, and the menu made no sense, but they let Bink Bink come inside. That was enough for Benzi.

Soon Hanso came and joined them. He took off his hat, revealing that he had a haircut now,
too. His flame burned brighter than ever. Hanso was Benzi’s oldest friend, and it made him happy to see his friend broadening his horizons, even if he didn’t understand.

They ordered food and the chit-chat began.

“So, what have you been up to?” Asked Hanso.

“Nothing much,” said Benzi flatly. “Walking Bink Bink and swinging my hammer.”

Hanso laughed. Benzi didn’t realize he’d said anything funny. “That’s a cool metaphor. You’ve
always been such a poet.”

“What about you? You look good.”

“I feel good!” said Hanso, radiating. Then he spent several minutes talking about stocks, none
of which made any sense to Benzi.

Benzi tried to follow along and feign interest. “So, how do you buy these... stocks?” He asked.

Hanso’s answer was quite long and involved, but Benzi understood the gist of it as with
software. They ate soup with spoons that were too small, smiling at each other because it’s nice to have a friend.

“The Municipality sure is changing fast,” said Hanso, switching the subject. “Lots of new
businesses coming in. Lots of new pretty girls, too.” His flame grew brighter when he talked
about girls.

“Most of the stores don’t sell anything, and Bink Bink isn’t allowed to poop anymore. I saw a
bunch of pretty girls on the street today, but they were all afraid of my hammer.”

Hanso laughed at this, like everything. “You’ll find the right one for you, who loves your hammer as much as you do.” Then he pivoted to himself. “Me, I’ve been talking to dozens. I figure strength in numbers. Talk to a bunch of girls, you’re bound to find one that likes you.” Then he slurped his soup.

Dozens didn’t sound like the unit that women came in. Benzi didn’t even know there were
dozens of girls.

“How do you talk to these dozens of girls?” asked Benzi, mystified.

Hanso laughed. “On the dating apps, silly. I’ve told you about them. Tinder, Bumble... there’s
this new one called Hinge.”

More software. “I got two hinges this morning,” Benzi informed him.

“Doubling down! Well good for you, man. Hopefully you’ll be twice as effective.”

They talked and laughed and slurped soup, and it was fine, even though the conversation made no sense. Soon it was time to go. Hanso had one more question on the way out.

“By the way, what are you up to tomorrow night?” Hanso asked.

“Bunch of nothing.”

Hanso laughed. “Well, if you’re interested, I do this spin class every week. The girl who teaches it is a real fox, and there’s girls on just about every bike. I don’t know if you’ve been exercising, but it’s a great time. It could open some doors for you, help your flame burn brighter. What do you think?”

Benzi thought it sounded like his own personal hell. “Sounds great, Hanso. I’ll be there.” He couldn’t let his buddy down. They said goodbye and agreed to meet the next day at the spin studio.

Nothing had ever made less sense to Benzi than the spin class did.

The room was hot and filled wall-to-wall with attractive young people, furiously pedaling the
fake bicycles nowhere. They all had haircuts, and their collective flames were so bright it was a wonder the roof didn’t catch fire. A statuesque, authoritarian woman rode at the head of the class, pumping her legs like a maniac and shouting nonsense. She had her hands free to point and shout at the people who needed shouting at the most (which was Benzi).

After the class, Benzi felt like he had just fallen up a mountain. His thighs burned and he was on the verge of vomiting. Hanso slapped him on the back enthusiastically.

“Was that great, or what?” He asked.

“Great,” Benzi repeated. It had not been great for Benzi. He didn’t want to move his mouth, for fear that vomit would fall out of it.

Hanso was dripping sweat, but his haircut stayed perfectly intact. “Would love to stay and chat, but I’ve got a date. Gotta run home and shower. Let’s do this again sometime soon!” Benzi waved him off, too tired to reply.

That night three things made sense to Benzi. He had a Bink Bink. He had a hammer. And if he lived a thousand years, he would never, ever, set foot in another spin class.

In the morning Benzi took Bink Bink and his hammer outside to address their daily business. Benzi’s thighs howled like cats in heat, but the crisp air felt good. The world made more sense. He was almost feeling optimistic, when he turned the corner to one of Bink Bink’s favorite places to poop and found... another sign.

No Dog Waste, it said. There was a picture of a wiener dog painted on there with a big red circle and cross through it.

Benzi was incensed. Every day, he needed to walk farther and farther to find somewhere for
Bink Bink to poop. In a few weeks, he’d need to leave the Municipality altogether every time his dog needed to use the bathroom. It made no sense. He leaned in to take a closer look at the sign. It was made of thin wood and was nailed to wooden stakes that were driven into the ground beside the sidewalk.

This gave Benzi an idea.

Benzi spent the next several hours patrolling his area of the Municipality, removing all the signs that prohibited dogs from pooping. When he found a sign, he’d take all of the nails out with his hammer and carry it to a vacant lot, where he stacked them all in a pile. By the afternoon he had collected dozens of wooden signs. The work exhausted him, so he left them there overnight and went home. He slept without a care in the world.

When he awoke, the world made more sense than it had the day before. He took Bink Bink and his hammer to the vacant lot and started hammering the dog poop signs together. There was no plan. He didn’t know what he was making when he started hammering, but the structure began to take form. After a long day, it became clear that Benzi had been building a little house.

The final step of building his house was the most rewarding. Benzi had saved the biggest dog poop sign for the last. He hammered both of the hinges on to one side of it, then attached the other side to the wall of his house. Before he knew it, Benzi and Bink Bink’s house had a door. He could open the door for himself whenever he wanted.

His horizon had never been broader, his flame never brighter. Benzi spent the rest of the day
with Bink Bink and his hammer, admiring the castle that his hard work had provided. Nothing had ever made more sense to him. When the sun started setting, they went home. Benzi determined to return the next day, collect more signs, and make himself some furniture.

When he got back to his castle the next day, there was a sign from the Municipality nailed to
the door. Benzi ripped it off without reading it. He brought Bink Bink and his hammer inside, shut the door behind them, and sat on the floor. He must have fallen asleep there, because he awoke to the sound of banging.

He hadn’t thought to install a peephole, so Benzi opened the door. A youngish man with a haircut and a cheap suit was standing there with an exasperated face. His flame burned low. He handed Benzi a paper that looked identical the one that was posted there when he arrived. Benzi didn’t read this one either.

“Hello, sir. My name is Mr. Fabego, and I work for the Municipality. I’m here to inform you that you must disassemble this structure immediately and return the signs to the locations you took them from or face discipline from the Municipality.” The man’s face was lethargic. Bink Bink sniffed at his shoes briefly, then lost interest.

Benzi was still groggy from his nap, so it took him a while to process what had been said. When he finally thought he had it understood, he picked up his hammer and started laughing. Laughing like Hanso did at dinner. Finally, Benzi understood something about the Municipality.

The man in the cheap suit didn’t find the situation funny at all. “You’ve been served with a
notice of infractions from the Municipality, sir. Failure to act on said notice will result in fines,
civil action, and potentially, misdemeanor charges for your behavior.”

This was the funniest thing that Benzi had ever heard. He couldn’t contain his laughter long
enough to reply to the man.

“This is a serious matter. You can laugh all you want, but clearly you don’t understand- “

Benzi cut him off, still chuckling. “No, Mr. Dog Poop Man, you don’t understand.”

“My NAME is Mr. Fabego,” interjected Mr. Dog Poop man.

“Then No, Mr. Fabego. You’re the one who doesn’t understand.”

Mr. Fabego leaned back and put his hands in the pockets of his cheap suit. “Oh, yeah? And
what is it that I don’t understand?” Bink Bink stood behind Benzi and emitted a low, menacing growl.

“What you don’t understand, Mr. Fabego, is that you don’t make any sense. Your papers don’t make any sense. My hammer... that makes sense to me. So, until you come back here with something that makes sense... you don’t matter. Does that make sense to you?” A profound surge of understanding was exploding inside Benzi, linking a world of things that made sense together in his head.

“No, that doesn’t make any sense at all!” Mr. Fabego exclaimed. “You don’t have the power to
threaten me. I work for the Municipality!”

Benzi grabbed the door and stared into Mr. Fabego’s confused eyes. Everything he had built hinged on his hinges, and now he understood. He wasn’t afraid anymore. He picked up Bink Bink with one arm, laughing, and slammed the door in the man from the Municipality’s face with the other.

A Cabrera's poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in The New Guard, Brain,Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Best Travelers' Tales 2021 Anthology, Mer, Deronda, and other journals. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company. She writes, teaches, dances and ride bikes in San Francisco, but not always in that order.

Doran J. Seff is a Writer/Composer/Show Producer in Denver, CO. He is currently working on his first novel, 'A Divine Case of the Spins', which will be a series. He has a 4 year old Australian Shepard named Bean, and his hobbies include History, Chess, and Vandalism.