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“The thing is,” he said, but then thought better about continuing his sentence, because he was about to lie, and it was an un-necessary lie – not one you might tell not to hurt someone’s feelings, but just telling a lie to tell a lie, to be dishonest just because it made him feel unclean, and he liked to feel that way, sordid and slimy, but he suddenly realized that he’d fallen into a dirty, bad habit – lying out of compulsion, not necessity, and he understood that he had to make a neat break from lying for the hell of it. She looked at him while he was sorting this all out, not talking, but trying to divine his thoughts. She knew him well, and, although she didn’t know precisely what he was thinking, she had a pretty good idea, as she was very aware of his habit and understood that eventually he’d have to come to grips with it.

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The dream Ray had about the octopus stuck around him all day. It was a humid, hot afternoon, and Ray had forgotten all about calling her, preoccupied as he was about that damned octopus. He dreamed that the octopus had nine legs. Why, he wondered, was the number of legs so important that that was all he really remembered from the dream? And when he *did *finally call her, would he discuss the dream with her? When he hung up the phone, he didn’t remember if he talked about the dream or not, owing to his short-term memory problems. She was just like that nine-legged octopus, he thought, in that she was like a cat with nine lives. An octopus with nine lives, he thought, and he found his thought funny, much like he often found his memory problems funny. His friends found it odd that he found this funny, but his friends did a lot of things that he thought were odd but that they found funny. This struck Ray as some sort of cosmic balance. Every time he tried to explain this theory to her, her eyes’d glaze over and she’d change the subject. As Ray walked further, he saw a man across the street urinating into a pail. This made no sense to him. It just seemed so incongruous. Why was the man urinating in a pail, and not just peeing right on the sidewalk? Why wasn’t he using a bathroom? Wasn’t he afraid of being arrested? It seemed to Ray that this was something someone who was drunk might do. The humidity and heat of the afternoon nagged at Ray now, making him feel listless. As he walked down Tenth Avenue, he saw a door with a poster that read “Drink Beer and Fight.” What sort of damned person puts up a poster like this? he wondered. Duh. Somebody that likes to drink beer and get into fights. He only got into two fights in his life, and he lost both. In the last one, the guy hit him in the head, hard, and he then understood why guys in cartoons who get punched in the head see stars, or at least stars ae drawn swirling around their heads. Sometimes instead of stars they draw birds, and usually the birds are singing, whistling.

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