Dean hates tea kettles. He hates their piercing whistles and steam burns. Dean loathes the shiny chrome kettles most of all. When he sleeps, he often hurls himself awake, drenched in a sweaty dim memory of loud voices and walls that gave away every secret they were supposed to hold. Sometimes, in those dreams, he ducks in time and that silver blob races over his head and loses inertia right about the time it dents the living room wall. And sometimes, he just sees what was: the kettle soaring, as gracefully as if wings had been built into the thing; a thud that should have been a fist beating-pounding-kneading a ball of dough, but instead was the edge of the pot embedding itself into his brain stem. The room was a lunar eclipse, details blacked out, with a maddening sliver of light around the periphery.
He didn’t know then if his eyes were open or shut, and when he wakes up now, he is back to not knowing again. His fingers are a blind man’s, frantically testing out the surfaces of an unfamiliar universe. He knocks a glass of water off the bureau. When his toes squinch into the soggy carpet, he wonders how he managed to find the bathroom without his eyesight. It is 9 p.m. His neighbor’s tea kettle throws its nightly hissy fit. “Shut that goddamned thing off!” Dean is sure he is screaming and feels mildly guilty. His pupils dilate. He glimpses his reflection in the mirror and realizes his mouth never opened at all.