Usually Sid woke to the smell of rotten eggs and meat. In the corner of his room was a puddle of cream that melted every day and congealed every night. Towers of encrusted pizza boxes had framed his bed and a snowfall of scrunched tissues had blanketed the carpet. His bed was stained with food and spots of urine, and he had been in it so long that bedsores had formed on his legs and back.
On the twenty first of June, Sid woke to a clean and spacious room that glowed with sunlight from the dusted window. A pale, stick-like figure with wiry hair sat at a newly excavated desk. His eyes bored into Sid while his fingers fiddled stiffly with a dollar coin.
“It’s one o’clock,” the man said. “You’ve wasted half the day.”
Sid yawned and thanked the man for cleaning his room. No one had so much as dusted since his mother had stopped cleaning his room on his thirteenth birthday.
The man sucked his cheeks in. “It was painful to see the mess.”
Sid asked the man who he was.
“Yesterday I was your broomstick.”
Sid could believe it. The man’s face was wooden and blank, and his fingers creaked like balsawood. Sid asked if the man wanted any breakfast. He had an arrangement with a grocery man to buy food for him every morning, lunch, and evening. Since Sid’s parents had died, money had been no issue.
“When that man came with breakfast, I sent him away,” the man said. “I made cereal for us. It wasn’t hard.”
Sid nodded. He wasn’t aware that he had cereal.
The man handed him a gleaming bowl and Sid began to eat. The man stared at him until he was done. He took the bowl away.
When he returned he took a deep breath. “You’re wasting your life, Sid.”
Sid smiled. He asked if the man was here to lecture him on living life to the fullest.
The man shook his head. “No. I want you to stay here and not change a thing. I’ll take care of you and let you keep this going until the day you die, Sid. All I want is your name. Your name and your face and your hands.”
Sid said no. He wasn’t for sale.
“Why not? You’re not doing anything with them. Let me have them, and I’ll go out and do wonderful things.” The man stood up and pocketed the coin. “I’ll go out and do useful things. All in your name, and no one would have to know. They’ll think you’re a decent person.”
Sid asked if it would hurt to lose his face.
Sid relented, and the man took his face, his voice, and his hands. He opened the door easily with practically never worn fingers.
“Stay here,” Sid said, taking the dollar coin back out. “Stay here and extinguish yourself. I’ll be back at six o’clock to make dinner for us.”
The boy in the bed complied.