We need a chair, said the Captain.
He was right, there was never enough room on the couch for all of us. So I acquired a chair. A vast, orange chair. So large. So very, very orange.
Later, about half an hour before the Captain was due back, Beans wondered aloud how long it would take him to notice it. Madness bet an hour. It was so large, so orange, he couldn’t possibly miss it. I said 24 hours, cheating, knowing he was going to be away again next day.
Beans said a week. I laughed.
He blew past the hour like it wasn’t there. Sailed through the next day without a word. Beans kindly agreed to split the difference, if he hadn’t noticed by Thursday I’d done my money.
Thursday came and went.
He passed it daily, dead ahead from the kitchen, huge and orange as a prizewinning pumpkin, illuminated like a spotlit opera singer by the morning sun. Steamed on by without a flicker of recognition. I wondered whether it was TOO huge, TOO orange, whether the cognitive dissonance of something so aesthetically objectionable had just jammed his switchboard.
The following Sunday I asked when we were going to mention it. “We shouldn’t,” said Beans. “Just let it ride. For science.” “There is,” said my daughter, as I related this in one of our rare comms exchanges, “a strong don’t question it vibe with you lot, isn’t there.”
A few days later, Beans had bunked down for the night but the rest of us were in the lounge enjoying a civilised four litre box of the cheapest wine we could lay our hands on. I was in the orange chair. Which was next to the couch.
Now, Madness isn’t a full-time resident of this dimension. She sings constantly to herself, skittering from room to room on tiptoe looking at the ceiling, and shrieking when there’s an unexpected person in her way. Which is usually, given that Beans strongly dislikes light, so we navigate the halls by strings of fairy lamps.
Madness sleeps like a cat, suddenly and at random, forgets to eat for days at a time and lacks a firm grasp of object permanence. I mean, she’ll remember something exists from time to time and have a vague idea of where she might have left it but not when, or vice versa. Since she has joined us it has become apparent that kitchen implements inhabit a state of quantum indeterminacy. Schrödinger’s spatula, if you like.
She talks at the top of her lungs to anyone in earshot, relentlessly and with verve. She knows a great deal about a great many things, few of them of any practical use past end of the 18th Century. She was on a roll, on the couch, the wind in her sails. The Captain stood up, slid past her, stepped over my legs and wobbled into the kitchen in search of more booze.
Madness shrieked. “He’s gone!” she said. “Who’s gone?” I replied, for a moment genuinely confused. I could hear the Captain in the kitchen, the sound of wine bucketing into a schooner glass. “Oh,” I said. “This is the pirate guy, right? What do you call him, the Captain? Are you feeling alright? Just sort of generally, of late?”
Outrage and hilarity cycled across her face like the chromatophores of a perplexed cephalopod. I caught the Captain’s eye as he re-entered the lounge. He seamlessly transitioned into speaking only to her. He stepped over my legs again. I ignored it. This was canon now, the Captain was Madness’s imaginary friend.
I was still sitting in the chair. It was still orange. He still hadn’t noticed.
*Names are changed regularly to preserve freshness