Herbert, Frank (New English Library, ISBN 978-0450011849)
Sophie kept a boyfriend named Alan – the same way that one might keep a housecat or a gerbil. Alan belonged to that shadowy class of persons who somehow leave no discernable impression in your thoughts. You would’ve found him listed in the credits as ‘fireman #3’ or ‘guest at party’.
He had a genial temperament; he’d amble out to see you when you arrived and make small talk. He just appeared underwritten. When you looked up from a conversation, you’d find him standing in the background fiddling with something, as if his actor didn’t have any lines and needed to full up the time pretending to do something. His presence left so scant an impression that to this day I can remember only two facts about him: he owned a video camera and slept heavily.
Alan pointed his video camera down random city streets and empty staircases. He filmed car yards, corroded fire escapes and parking garages. But, like Thierry Guetta, he had no coherent plan for what he’d ever do with the footage.
From time to time, Alan would turn up in the evening to discover that Sophie had already gone out. He’d hang loose in the living room for a while, before taking a break to chill out while he worked up the energy to kick back for the rest of the evening. Exhausted from the effort, he’d fall asleep on the sofa (why he didn’t move to Sophie’s room eludes me). Nothing short of an air raid siren would wake him. I could blow my harp in the same room without rousing him.
Returning one evening after midnight, Hilary and I discovered we’d both forgotten our keys. While Hilary hammered on the door, I worked the intercom buzzer. I buzzed it on and off trying to avoid any sort of rhythm, which I reasoned the sleeper might adapt to.
“Bzzzzz b-b-bzzt bzzzzzzzz bzzzzzt bzz bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt b-bzzzzzz bzzzt bzzzz bz bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzzzzt”
Thus do the Fremen stride the great deserts.
Four flights of stairs down, I could hear Hilary hammering on the door. Inside it must’ve sounded like they’d detonated the family atomics.
When he answered the intercom at last it took me at least half a minute to notice.
“Bzzzt bzzz Yes? bt bzzzzzzzzzzz Who- bzzzzt this? bzt bzt bzt Can y- bzzzzzzz -rist’s sake pl- bzzzzzzt bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”
“Oh, Alan?” I said.
Hilary kept battering on the door.
“Oh God,” he said, “not this again.”