Fiction from NER 35.1.
Lydia Williams—as the finder put it in his final report before siphoning off his outlandish fee—moved in “without a hitch.” Invisible, an abstraction, RENTER—all caps—but indeed her rent got paid, expediently and electronically, on the fifteenth of month two—and with no trouble, no communication. It was as if Lydia Williams remained in the finder’s hands—she existed contractually but not in person; he could not have said what she looked like or how she sounded; now and again he stopped to wonder who Lydia Williams was, but his questions about her had to do with her reliability as a rent payer and with whether she could change a light bulb in figurative terms, i.e., whether she could save him time and money, by virtue of solid do-it-yourself skills, on repairs and maintenance. He wondered but made no move to find out about her, fearing that by asserting himself he might pave the way for a burdensome relationship, invite nuisance, regret his forwardness, ultimately end up with more trouble, work, and concern than if he’d stayed in the background.
Finally, he sent her a benign and innocent-enough e-mail.
David Guterson is the author of ten books, including the novel Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award. His most recent books include the poetry collection Songs for a Summons (Lost Horse Press, 2013) and Descent: A Memoir of Madness (Vintage, 2013). A new collection of short stories, Problems with People, is forthcoming from Knopf in June.