I left my apartment today without a destination and an equal lack of intent. That’s how you get things done. Leave your house for no particular reason with a destination to match. A man with nowhere to go and nothing to do gets things done. I’m not saying that if you leave your house to get milk you won’t come back with milk but if you leave your house to get milk you’ll probably only come home with milk. If you leave your house with nowhere in mind and nothing to do you leave your house with the potential to do, see, hear, learn, experience anything and everything. A man with nowhere to go and nothing to do gets things done, cosmic things, and that’s what I plan to do. Well not entirely, first I’ve gotta get some coffee.
As I sit shivering against a cold brick building on a carpet of cigarette butts and dirt jingling the few precious coins I’ve received from gracious souls, I listen to the symphony of the MBTA, the nervous system of the body that is Boston. The groans, the moans, the clinks, clunks, clanks, and especially the hypnotizing hum as the train lurches forward carrying cells to the various muscles, organs, tissues or what have you for which they are needed to keep the body moving, breathing, living. Red and white cells carry oxygen and antibodies, continuously productive, always helping, always answering the call of a need bigger or smaller than themselves. For now I sit on the outskirts of this bloodline as a bacteria, feeding off the body.
A white blood cell floats by and dumps spare change into my cup. He is satisfied with the illusion that he is helping me; he has done his part in curing the body of a useless unproductive bacteria. But alas, he is merely justifying my neediness, whetting my appetite for a life with out responsibility, driving me to reject the role of a red or white cell constantly supporting one thing or another. I will sit here for as long as I can, answering to no one but the inaudible voice inside me longing to live a life free of obligations, accountability, duty, and care.
On Wednesday he discovered yellow. Its vibrancy brought joy to his heart and put his mind onto an optimistic plane. He gazed at this yellow throughout the hours of the day. As each one passed the sun cast a new light on his yellow creating a different tone and instilling in him ever-new wonder and excitement. His eyes grew red, a color he had yet to discover, with the setting of the sun and he reluctantly retired. His yellow took on a shade close to grey in the absence of its friend the light.
On Thursday his eyes popped open starved for yellow. He leapt from bed to meet their needs but when he looked upon his yellow he found it reeked of familiarity. He stared at his yellow for at the very most an hour. Hoping to find something he had lost in the night but he could only walk away with boredom. He checked in with yellow as the day went by. Each time he looked for shorter spells and each time with an ever-growing apathy. He went to bed at a reasonable hour and thought of yellow only briefly.
On Friday he woke up in a funk and dragged himself from bed. He decided to give yellow a gander, one more chance to get him off. But when he looked at it he felt nothing but anxiety, a warning of impending doom.
On Saturday he discovered blue and that’s the way it went with him.
“Did you see it?” Raymond asked. The air was thick with accusation.
“See what?” Nick’s voice rose half an octave at the tail end of his response. Clearly he was lying or perhaps puberty was playing tricks on his voice.
“You know what, you just walked by it.” Raymond wouldn’t give him an inch.
“If you know I just walked by it then you must have seen it first and if you saw it first then you have to get it. That’s the rule.” This wasn’t Nick’s first rodeo.
“I only saw it because I went in right after you did like ten minutes ago. I just wanted to catch you walking by it again so you knew that I know you saw it.” Raymond was floundering. He didn’t think this through.
“What makes you so sure it was there the first time I walked through and even if it was how do you know I saw it?” He definitely saw it but what difference did that make? He was the oldest and that came with certain comforts.
“I walked in like right after you, there’s no way it wasn’t there and there’s no way you didn’t see it!” Raymond was on the edge of whining making the argument all but over.
“Well I didn’t and obviously you did so you’re gonna have to get it.” The case was closed as far as Nick was concerned.
“I’m not getting it!” And he wasn’t going to. He truly meant it. Raymond was putting his foot down. He wasn’t going to let his older brother take advantage of him any more.
“Well I’m not getting it either.” Nick replied nonchalantly. He also truly meant it. He wasn’t going to be pulled in by the gravity of Raymond’s gesture.
“Fine.” Raymond had made up his mind.
“Fine,” Nick could care less “but you should probably get it though cuz if dad see’s it he’s gonna freak.” He had one last trick up his sleeve.
“I don’t care.” He did.
“Yes you do.” Nick knew he did
“I know. It’s not fair though I know you saw it first. What’s the point of rules if no one follows them?” Raymond was on the verge of giving up.
“Consider it a life lesson,” but Nick actually felt sort of bad. Raymond was growing up and with that went his innocence. Raymond was beginning to see how the world really worked. Nick decided it was time. “I know, let’s make Celia get it.”
“How?” The idea had never occurred to Raymond.
“Ask her to get you a snack, she’ll walk right by it.” Nick was bringing him into the fold.
“Nice. CELIA!” Raymond screamed.
“WHAT?” Celia screeched back.
“CAN YOU GET ME A SNACK?” Raymond knew she would. She would do anything for her older brother.
“OK!” She yelled back with excitement.
Almost instantaneously they heard the thump thump thump thump thump of Celia pattering down the steps and into the kitchen.
“EWWW. George pooped in the kitchen!”
Nick and Ray stifled their laughter and traded beaming smiles.
“You know the rule.” Nick said tauntingly.
“If you see it first you gotta pick it up!” Raymond recited with a burst of laughter.
“UGH! I hate you guys!” Celia screamed as she tore a sheet from the paper towels.
That was the last snack Celia ever tried to get for Raymond.
He gently traced the curves of her body as if committing them to memory. Soft hills and silky valleys, each carefully considered. His fingertips were cartographers, lucky to peruse this land of perfection. The sensual storm had passed and the light of love was peeking through the clouds of copulation. Or were they simply lumens of lust so often confused with love in the wake of satisfied desire? Would this sexual sun set, leaving him cold and in the dark yearning for the warmth that he once had? Maybe lust was the seed of love, a seed that he had most certainly just planted, and this exciting peace he felt was just germination. Whether that seed would grow to be a mighty oak, a delicate flower, or a savage weed didn’t much matter. He was happy here and now and that would surely do.
“Whatcha thinkin’?” She asked.
“Nothin’,” He lied. “What are you thinking?”
“Nothing.” She said. He hoped more than anything she was lying.
Ryan Grissom was on his way to the bar. He was running late. Actually he was walking late but regardless of his gait he was late and Melissa would be waiting. Being late did not help his mental anguish. Anguish is probably putting it a little harsh but he was definitely uncomfortable. He was excited which made him nervous and his nerves caused he’s confidence to make way for apprehension. He knew it would go well. Could go well. Might go well? Might go bad? Could go bad. His ability to avoid thinking it would go bad kept him walking in the direction of the bar but every step he took brought his ease closer to un and further from at. He knew he should have made a drink to help him stomach this emotional cocktail.
He was much more charming in the company of woman, if he had had a drink or two. At least he thought he was. No, he was pretty sure and he could look to this date in confirmation. His sober self could never muster the strength to ask a girl as hot as her to dinner. And if he could, would he have the savoir-faire to elicit that elusive yes? Although… It had just occurred to him. She had had some drinks herself. Maybe the booze was working for him but from a different angle. Maybe her sober self would never say yes to a guy as humdrum as himself. That could attest to her request to change the date to drinks from dinner.
Whether or not that was the case didn’t matter much now that he had reached the bar and was handing the bouncer his I.D. He looked the bouncer in the face, not so much the eyes or any alternate part if its make up but generally his face and where it was. Eye contact was just too personal for such an analytic ritual. Ryan felt the bouncer would agree because when he handed back the license he looked past him to a phantom patron waiting.
“Uh, thanks,” he said, as if the bouncer was doing him a favor. He regretted it immediately. He tried to repair his ego with a sup nod in the bouncer’s direction but all it did was make him feel the opposite of cool. That feeling was quickly replaced by the anxiety of finding Melissa, if she bothered to show, and how to explain that he was neither dumb nor deaf despite the fact that he was late due to his inability to either tell time or adhere to it. It was fashionable though. Wasn’t it? To be late. Maybe it would give him the edge he needed. She’d be wondering where he was and whether or not he’d show and the thought of being stood up would be almost too much to bear and just as she’d be ready to give up on the date, and a part of her self worth with it, he’d appear and she would be happy, mostly to hold on to that part of herself that she had almost lost, but she would confuse it with his appearance and think she was happy to see him and he could snowball that happiness into more happiness and laughs and hugs and kisses and who knows what else. Ryan mentally gasped to catch his mental breath. It was a dirty trick and he would feel sorry to have inadvertently used it but he was sure he needed whatever help he could get.
Then he saw her and whatever edge he had became duller than a month old razor. She was on the patio sitting on a stool, legs crossed, her foot bobbing to the rhythm of her soul. She was a cross generational beauty. She casually smoked a cigarette while sipping scotch as if she were classic crooner of the fifties. Her teal tunic was tied with a soft long skirt flowing freely towards her leather strapped feet; you could almost hear the flowers begging to be in her hair. The hair that comprised of tousled tresses even Farrah Fawcett would fawn over. Her wrists let brace by Day-glo bands and neck by lacey choker. And all the while her hands met the millennial task of texting time away. He swallowed so hard his tongue had to hold on to his teeth.
Ryan took a deep breath, stood up straight, and walked toward Melissa with the most confident stride he could muster.
“Sweet Melissa, Haaeeyaaaaaa.”
The theory of special relativity must have come to Einstein after an awkward moment because the couple of seconds it took Melissa to respond felt like an eternity to Ryan. He knew he shouldn’t have gone with the Allman Brothers open but his co-worker Crystal had convinced him that it would be cute… curses!
She was obviously upset that he was less than timely. If being late were fashionable she had already worn it out and left it in the donation pile for someone else to wear ironically. He did not get a welcome hug and took a seat despondently.
“So, How have you been?” She took a drag from her cigarette and ashed it in a blasé manner.
“Ok, I guess.”She blew the smoke upward out of the corner of her mouth. Anti-smoking lobbyists be damned, smoking sure was sexy.
The bartender came by and wiped the bar. He threw the towel over his shoulder nonchalantly.
“What’ll be bud?”
“Uhh, I’ll have what she’s having.” Imitation was the truest form of flattery.
“Scotch on the rocks comin’ right up.”
“Thanks.” He drummed his fingers on the bar trying to think of what to say.
“Sorry I’m late. I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”
“No, not really.”
“Good, good. I kinda felt bad, somehow I just lost track of time. I don’t know how because I’ve really been looking forward to this. That didn’t really come out right, not like it’s all I’ve been looking forward to this whole week or anything but you know, like it is a highlight.”
“That’ll be 10 bucks.” The bartender handed Ryan his drink, forcing him to drop the shovel and pick up his wallet.
“Thanks.” He paid his dues and promptly took a drink. What followed brought his embarrassment to the level of his recent awkwardness. He began to cough furiously, almost maniacally.
“Oh my God, are you alright.”
“*Cough* Yea *cough* sorry *cough, cough, hack* just went down the wrong throat *uuuungh* I mean tube.” His eyes started watering as if to put out the fire in his throat. It took a solid five minutes to compose himself.
“Good stuff, really good stuff.” He took another sip this time with more success.
“So how have you been?” She looked up from her phone and raised her brow in mild disbelief. “That’s right, ok you guess, sorry.”
He took another sip in hopes to calm his nerves concentrating on the spirits warming his insides. Potvaliant was Crystal’s word of the day, it meant brave only as a result of being drunk, and as far as Ryan could tell, his only chance.
“So… do you like to read?” He asked over the edge of his glass tipping it toward his lips to put a nightcap on the question.
“Love to,” she answered matter of factly. Finally, some wind to get this date sailing in the right direction. That’s all he needed, just a little breeze.
“Really? Me too. I really like Tom Robbins, such a master of metaphor and he has some crazy knowledge about some very specific things.”
“Hmmm, I’m partial to Hemmingway. Short concise sentences. The man never wasted a word.” So much for sailing. If anything he was sinking. Sinking in a ring of quicksand and made to box her cell phone. Each time she checked her phone was a blow to his ego in the form of a jab, hook, and this fifth time by his count a brutal uppercut.
“So…” It was the first sign of interest she had shown since he arrived. Was she throwing him a lifesaver? Was she going to help pull him from the muck he stumbled into? Would she toss in the towel of her prized fighter and give Ryan a chance to recoup? “What do you do for work?” Her lifesaver was an anchor in disguise because although she showed him interest he was about to be a bore.
“I do audio visual work in hotels. I’m basically that guy in high school who pushed around the carts with TV’s on them but instead of high school I’m in a hotel and in a suit.”
“Well at least you get to look nice.” She was trying.
“I guess, but it’s really annoying cuz it’s mostly physical labor.”
“Oh.” She checked her phone again confirming what he feared. He was boring her. Hell, he was boring himself. He had to do something.
“It’s a pretty easy job. The only thing that took me a while to get was all the different names for everything. Like an extension cord for example…” This was getting bad. “People call them a handful of different things.” Think. “Some people call them AC cables, for alternating current…” THINK. “Other people call them Edison…” And then he had a flash of brilliance. It was risky but what the heck. It couldn’t get worse and it was pretty brilliant. He was gonna do it and it was gonna work. Be the master of your own reality. “Which I don’t really get because Edison backed DC, which is direct current…” He pulled out his phone and texted Melissa, ‘How’s your date going?’ “And AC was Telsa’s thing and he was like Edison’s rival, so… not sure how that works…” She checked her phone and he detected a slight grin, this was gonna work. “Maybe Edison was like a marketing whiz and somehow claimed AC after DC failed…” She texted him back, ‘OK I guess’ “Or maybe someone just mistakenly called it Edison and it caught on like wildfire…” Ryan checked his phone and texted her back, ‘Well you must be bored if you’re texting me. Don’t worry I’ll save you.’ Intrigue grew in text while reality remained dull, a sharp contrast in their juxtaposition. “That happened when I worked in Boston, the power cable used for computers and monitors, some people call it a D plug because it’s shaped like a D…” She read his text and gave him a look that begged to cut the bullshit but his resolve remained and she was left to play along, “Some people call it a UPC for universal power cable and other people call it an IEC, I’m not sure why, and some people just call it a power cable, anyway…” His phone sprang to life when he received her message and there was a buzz inside him that matched it, ‘Oh yea?’. He carefully responded without skipping a beat of his diatribe on D plugs, ‘Yea. I’m on my way.’ “Back in Boston we had this box of them labeled OSHA, which is a government agency that makes sure stuff is safe. So I guess one day a guy said, ‘Why don’t we just all call them OSHA cables,’ and it stuck. So everyone in Boston was calling these cables OSHA cables which is the one thing they aren’t and anytime they worked in a different region calling these cables OSHA cables people would look at them like they had two heads but that just goes to show you how names of things can evolve and not make any sense.”
“That’s uhh interesting.” Whatever enthusiasm she tried to muster didn’t quite translate.
“Isn’t it? I gotta go to the bathroom I’ll be right back.” Ryan finished his drink and walked to the bathroom with a devious smile on his face.
He entered the bathroom as a surrogate phone booth in hopes of transformation. Be the master of your own reality. He looked at himself in the mirror. Was he doing this? He was doing this. Would it work? It would work. Or it wouldn’t. It didn’t matter. He was doing it and it would work. Ryan turned on the faucet with a steely determination the faucet rarely saw. He took off his glasses and placed them in his pocket. He removed his sweater and tied it around his waist. He splashed his face and slicked back his hair. He was ready. This was gonna work.
He took the round-a-bout way back to the bar to approach as if he’d just arrived. Surprisingly her phone was in her purse. She had somehow changed. That or he saw the reflection of his own change. Funny how different the world can look when you skew the light you shine on it, or decide to turn it on for that matter.
“C’mon, lets go! I think I saw him go into the bathroom. We don’t have much time. Let’s go!” He pulled at her chair with an anxious yet demanding voice that got her moving yet made her feel like it was for her own good.
“What are you talking about?” She asked with an incredulous smile, “I just got a drin…” Before she could finish her thought he grabbed the glass from her, chugged it with one gulp and slammed it on the bar.
“There, now it won’t go to waste.” He wiped his mouth with the bristles on his arm and grabbed her hand to rush her out the bar.
They were moving at that place between a jog and a run. Really Ryan was running and pulling Melissa at a jog. Past the tattoo parlor, “What are you doing?” past the head shop, “Keep moving!” the record store, “You’re crazy!” she giggled, and the hotel. Finally they reached the beach both slightly out of breath.
“OK, what are you doing?” She asked as if the jig was up.
“I told you I would save you from your boring date. C’mon I wanna show you something.” He led her by the hand he’d been holding since the bar. This is working? This is working. They rushed past the pier into a pile of drug pushers and practitioners of pleasurable poisons. Fear was a form of excitement he was sure he could persuade to passion. Once past the peddlers they approached the point where the developed world decides it’s done and lets nature do its thing. The place where the ocean meets the earth and the sea sprays hi to the air.
“It’s a pity isn’t it?” They walked on sandstone smoothed by the pulses of the Pacific. Romantic gestures were carefully carved into the ground. EJ + PF lay snug inside a heart, TK + MC 4EVER, VICTORIA I LUV U, passionate petroglyphs that would far surpass the sentiments they provided but allowed a moment from the past to be present and live on far into the future.
“What is?” Melissa asked clueless as to what they were doing and why they were there, arguably the most important two W’s of the four.
“You see how the moon light shines down on the sea?” They stood at the edge of America gazing out at what could have been a never ending ocean had they not known better. The moon danced on the motion of the ocean leaving a trail of quicksilver steps. It evoked a nostalgic zen of hope and bliss. Which makes little to no sense but why would it? A natural wonder should make you wonder, shouldn’t it?
“It’s beautiful.” She remarked.
“It is isn’t it? It’s a pity that such a vile and destructive drink like moonshine should share a name with something so breathtaking, moving, ethereal even. I just think some things should be left in the realm of romance.”
They shared a silence as they gazed out into the glistening ocean. She squeezed his hand with understanding.
Ryan stepped away from Melissa and offered her his hand in a Victorian manner of proposal.
“Would you dance? If I asked you to dance?” Ryan sang as best he could.
“Really…?” Her outward annoyance crumbled beneath her inner delight.
“Would you run? And never look back? Would you cry? If you saw me crying?” Ryan sang, committed.
“Come on? Enrique Iglesies…?” She was milking his efforts.
“You better start dancing or I’m not gonna stop singing.” He teased.
“OK, Fine.” She obliged with enthusiastic reluctance. He pulled her in closely.
“And would you save my soul tonight?” They swayed while he hummed. He moved with a confidence matched only by what he had recently found in himself and in the night. She leaned in closer to rest her head on his shoulder.
“I can be your hero baby!” He threw her away into a spin and the hem of her skirt followed at phi, natures golden ratio and its basis of beauty. She became a conduit from the shell at her feet to the galaxy in the heavens. Fibonacci would have wept.
“I can kiss away the pain!” He pulled her in with purpose and they moved to the music that was not there.
“You can take my breath away.” He dipped her with grace and strength then brought her back into his embrace.
“You’re very beautiful you know.” He was preparing for something big.
“Thank you.” She replied, flattered.
“Do you wanna know what I think is the most beautiful part about you?” She bit her bottom lip and gently nodded her head. Here goes nothing…
“Your lips, they just look so damn kissable.” It was bold but would it work? He moved in for a kiss and stared straight into her eyes. They darted back and forth from left to right while he got closer and closer until their lips met.
It worked? It worked and they were kissing. Now for the coup de grace. Their lips released their lock and he quickly pulled out his phone.
“Oh jeez, I just realized I gotta be somewhere. This was great, seriously, but I gotta go.” And with that he scampered up the hill onto the street and started walking in the direction of the bar.
Ryan walked down the street with a dopish smile on his face. Or was it a smirk? No, It was a sincere smile, a reflection of his happiness. He received a text. He took a moment to relish in… well, the moment. He checked his phone and as he suspected the text was from Melissa ‘, Where did you go?!?’ His smile transformed into a smirk while his thumbs transformed reality ‘, Where did I go? Where did you go? I came out of the bathroom and you were gone? Should I get you another drink???’…
I wrote this story as a gift for my brothers birthday.
For the past five years, Candace McDevlin’s mail arrived everyday at 12:30pm, sharp and without fail. For five straight years, her mail arrived without delay and with incredible consistency. At least it did, until twenty-four days ago. You see, twenty-four days ago Candace McDevlin’s mail arrived at 12:31 and everyday since then it has arrived one minute later than the last, incredibly consistent in its delay. This may seem fascinatingly unusual but for Candace McDevlin it was fascinatingly inconsequential because for the past four years she worked a nine to five job. She arrived precisely at nine and left exactly at five, without delay and with incredible consistency. At least she did, until today.
You see, today Candace had a case of the lazies and to rid herself of them she decided to take the day off and feed them until they were fat with laze themselves, leaving her to get on with her life in the productive fashion she was used to. Now Candace did not make this decision lightly. She took pride in her professionalism and her perfect attendance was the bedrock she built her pride upon. But there was in her a laziness she could not shake, birthed from boredom stemming from what she could only assume was a quarter life crisis and the crippling consistency she had cultivated for herself.
Candace’s body was prepared to leave her bed at six a.m. as it always had but her mind had other plans. Her mind was made to play in the chaotic dreamscape of its design. It welcomed the confused vibrancy to the organized blandness of complete consciousness it was determined to defend. Despite her determination, her body became restless, causing her to shift from east to west and back again, buying her minutes to an hour of senseless mind space saturated in a significance she couldn’t quite command. After close to six and a half hours of playing cat and mouse with her consciousness, her ears became sore from trading places and she was compelled to leave her bed.
Dragging her feet to the coffee maker, she wondered what would be the most fertile way to waste the day. She mindlessly prepared the coffee, weighing her options. Daytime television was an option. An option primed with pathetic people presenting pitiful situations to poignant purveyors of philanthropy… please! Relaxing was her goal but not at the expense of her pride and pretension. She listened to her Coffee-Mate percolate and let her thoughts do the same. Eventually she decided it would be best to get the mail in hopes of getting a feel for the weather and if its factor would solve the equation of how to waste her day. This of course was a clever ruse arranged by the bureaucratic monster inside her who fed off menial tasks and small accomplishments. She poured herself a cup and exited her condo.
Bill Haskins had just delivered the mail of Lisa Marsden and you could tell. Bill had pep in his step and a glide in his stride that only came from his brief and cordial conversations with Lisa. The conversations mainly consisted of pleasantries, small talk, and occasionally a short discussion on the well being of Lisa’s mother, Anne, who happened to be the neighbor of one Bill Haskins. To most this would appear to be a common interaction between a mailman and a person on his route and to most this would be true. Sadly this was not the case for Bill Haskins because to him these people were the closest things he had to friends or family.
Not to say that Bill was an unhappy man; quite the opposite in fact. Bill lived in a microcosm of routine and his ignorance of the world beyond it left him content and rather blissful. In fact he probably didn’t even notice his elevation in mood after their brief conversations and if he did, he wouldn’t be capable of connecting the dots. Bill lived a soft and slow life that served his appearance well but gave him little wisdom in the ways of the world. But still waters in the mind of man can only last so long and Bill’s record-setting streak of forty-two years would end in a geyser of emotion called lust.
He first caught her in the corner of his eye whilst fingering his sack of envelopes. His heart leapt into his throat then fell with great turbulence into the pit of his stomach, causing his knees to turn to jelly. She was barefoot with booty shorts and a slinky cotton tee that did little to suppress her supple braless breasts. She had clearly just woken up. Her deranged hair glowed in the light that her vision struggled to orient to, which in turn, caused her eyes to do just that. He wanted her, not because the way she looked but simply because he did. He had seen plenty of women dress with less with more intent than getting mail. She gave him a foreign feeling he felt he had to feel.
Candace would have died if she were to be seen in such a state by anyone, but he was a man of service, which somehow made it all right. “Good morning…errr, afternoon.” Her greeting was a reflex built from years of being a receptionist. “Hi, I’m your mailman, Bill. I mean, duh, obviously I’m your mailman,” he said sheepishly. “Either that or I’m some weirdo dressed like a mailman carrying around a bunch of fake letters so I can talk to pretty girls. Which is totally false. Not that you’re not a pretty girl, ‘cause you are but I would never say that ‘cause it would be unprofessional.” Candace giggled as Bill struggled to talk to the only girl who ever made him feel the way she made him feel. “Even though I guess I just did say it…uh, anyway, you must be Candace McDevlin,” Bill stammered while pulling out a stack of envelopes. “How did you know that was me?” Candace asked. “Well you’re the only one in this condo who orders from Victoria Secret,” he motioned to her shirt, which said PINK across the chest, with the stack of envelopes as he handed them to her. “Oh, so I guess you know everything about everyone around here, don’t you?” Candace sassed him as she leafed through her mail, which consisted mainly of bills and junk. “Not everything but some things, mostly trivial.” Candace nodded at his rebuttal and came to the last letter in the pile. It was labeled URGENT.
“Could you hold on to these?” Candace asked as she shoved her mail into his chest and tore the URGENT letter open. As she read it, her face lost color and her eyes begin to well up. And then the floodgates opened.
Bill scrambled to contain the emotions that tumbled out of Candace. There was a look in his eye reserved for the face of man precariously perched at heights most unnatural, for the face of a man approach by sinewous beasts with heavy froth amongst their muzzles, for the face of a man clutching his arm rests as his vessel plummets a hundred feet out of the air with rapid recovery only to fail feverishly anew, for the man who’s just witnessed a girl with sodden eyes searching for safe haven. The look was fear and he felt damned to feel it.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, the thought seemed appropriate, at least. “I just got laid off. Apparently a computer can do my job.” she creaked through spasmodic gasps of air. “And now I can’t pay my bills, I can’t afford my car… my condo!” she continued at a most stoccatic pace. “What am I gonna do? My life is over! I don’t wanna move back in with my pa—“
“Ice cream! Lets get some ice cream. Forget all that because we’re getting ice cream and there’s nothing wrong with that.” He placed out his hand and she took it gently. “Ok.” She said, delightfully defeated.
The corner of Thurston Canes’ mouth rose with calm delirium. Billy Haskins missed his punch by more than just a minute. It was a deviation in his plan but in the right direction. Billy didn’t punch at all. Most undoubtedly grounds for termination.
Thurston Canes lived his life with calculated intensity. At home he spent a majority of his time with a bandana tied loosely around his eyes purposefully removing himself from the visual plane of existence. Placing himself in his mind where his thoughts would think and he could feel a force of knowledge. He was a deliberate man who knew what he wanted and methodically found ways to get it. The “it” from here and now was the route of Billy Haskins and his method was manipulation, manipulation of time and of relation.
For twenty-four days, Thurston Canes controlled the life of Billy Haskins. Billy’s routine and nescient life made it manageable and almost rueful. But pity was a weakness left for those with pussies, metaphorical or not. So, twenty-four day ago Thurston turned the watch of Billy’s, back a single minute. And everyday since, he turned it, back a minute more than the day before. In order to eschew any natural confusion, Thurston grew friendly at the lockers. He tested the waters of friendship slowly, first a toe and then a foot, gently creeping forward at the pace Bills watch went back. With clever conversation, Canes caused Bill to leave one minute later than the day before without a single cause for concern.
Bill was as predictable as the watch upon his wrist and equally unaware of the world around him. With this knowledge Thurston Canes trusted Billy would be as late as his watch allowed, which would be enough to garner the requisite late notices that lead to termination. If Thurston were diligent, which was impossible for him to be anything but, in covering his tracks Billy would lose his job and in turn his route and Thurston would be in position to take it. All he had to do was dispose of any warning slips stuck to Billy’s locker, a simple task in the wake of Billy’s retardation, and return his watch to the actual time while Billy post route showered.
His method was precise and working to perfection until today of course. No matter, as long as the ends were met he could care less if they weren’t means of his own, justified or otherwise. Tomorrow Billy would be fired and his route would then be Thurston’s.
The next day Thurston was told he would be taking the route of Bill Haskins. With feigned surprise at the direction he agreed and grabbed his sack. He whistled as he left the office. Colors seemed brighter and the air felt lighter. He felt no postpartum depression walking the route that was the babe he labored for. Envelopes were soft to the touch and the birds were singing just for him.
He approached the house of Lisa Marsden with the giddiness of a child. There were boxes sprinkled across the lawn with a massive truck parked at the entrance.
“Daddy!” Charleston squealed running into the arms of his father. Thurston hugged his boy and for a moment all was right in the world. Lisa walked towards them with a stern yet graceful stride.
“Hey, Lees. What’s with all the boxes?” asked Thurston, his voice several octaves above his natural tone. “Don’t hey Lees me. We’re moving, not that it’s any of your business. What are you doing here anyway?” She was flustered but clearly in command. “This is my new route.” He hadn’t seen his boy for months on end and to hold him was enchanting. Right until the gravity of her statement finally crept into his consciousness and he realized he built castles in the sand.
“Moving, what do you mean moving?” Thurston gasped with wide incredulous eyes. “Were moving in to the house next to my mother. My old mailman was my mother’s neighbor and he came by last night spewing something about some sort of epiphany and backpacking with some girl in Europe, I don’t know. Anyway, the gist of it was that he wanted me to have his place because he knew it would be convenient living next to my mother, me being a single mother and all. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, it doesn’t matter anyway. You need to leave. Come here Charleston honey.”
Charleston reluctantly left the arms of his father landing in those of his mother. Thurston withdrew himself dejected. He felt numb and detached from his surroundings. His body continued to deliver mail in a cold, grey, world that he merely witnessed and could no longer experience. He got the idea that everything he did mattered to everyone and nothing that he did mattered to himself. Fate and chaos were one in the same and predetermined or not, he had no control over his life. A depressing notion but knowing was half the battle.