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    Terre d'Hermès by Hermès

    Terre D'Hermes lives alone. At 5:30 each morning, he wakes up (without an alarm), fastens his robe, and walks barefoot across the hardwood floor to pick up the paper on his front porch. Before coming inside, he sweeps the dead leaves off the steps and shakes out the doormat. He coughs. Once inside, he walks into the dark kitchen, reaches into a cabinet and pulls out a canister of instant espresso. He fills a kettle with cold water from the faucet and sets it on the stove. While waiting for it to boil, he toasts two slices of rye bread until they are blackened, then scrapes a thin layer of orange marmalade on the surface. He bites into one corner and chews several times, then swallows. He prepares his cup of coffee—black—stirring it with a metal spoon. He takes out a hard-boiled egg from the fridge and coats it with stale black pepper (even though his favorite part is the chalky yolk). At the table, he opens the newspaper and reads the business section, chewing on the toast. He turns to the op-ed column, then the obituaries. After he is finished eating, he wipes the crumbs from the table and takes a cold shower. He gets dressed, carefully buttoning his shirt in the mirror. He puts on his tweed jacket and adjusts his tie. He lifts his left elbow and accidentally knocks over the potpourri bowl on his dresser. He spends several minutes carefully picking up the pieces, one by one, off of the rug and sets them back into the bowl. After combing his hair, he puts on his hat, switches off the lights, and walks out the door.

    He drives 37 miles into downtown and parks on the street. He walks into the barbershop and asks for the usual straight-razor wet shave. He enjoys such shaves—the prickly feel of the badger hair brush on his cheek, the aroma of musky after-shave. He pays and leaves. After driving another several miles, he pulls into the parking lot behind the store and opens the front door with his key. He hangs up his coat and flips over the “closed” sign to “open,” then sits down in his chair behind the register. Business is slow, even for a used bookstore. A customer comes in and asks about a particular biography he does not have. Over the next six hours he chats with customers. People think he is intelligent and kind. An older woman asks him about his accent. After closing time, he drives home, changing radio stations occasionally. He is very alert at nighttime—vigilant, almost. He brushes his teeth even though he hates brushing his teeth. He goes to bed and stares out the window into the dark. He thinks about something, then he sleeps.

    03 December, 2010