Thursday, November 30, 2006


I failed NaNoWriMo again this year. I still have 13 hours, but I won't tell you how many thousands of words I would have to write per hour to get caught up. It's more than one. It's about three. I'm not telling you out of pride, it's that I can't do the math.

Anyway. Here's the start of it. It's about a guy who daydreams about being a superhero all day long. I think I'll probably still work on it, though I can't tell you how many times I've said that. And again, because of the math involved. Anyway, here's the first third of my second failed novel, "Hello."

It's posted in the spirt of NaNoWriMo, so it's not really edited at all, don't nag about that.

(Edit: Also, about half of the text below is supposed to show up in italics, but doesnt, the italics makes it clear when he's shifting in and out of his head. It doesnt want to work on here and I'm not going through thirty pages of text and re-italicizing things. So if it gets confusing and you want a copy let me know, I'll email you one. I can't imagine this ever happening. Salud.)


I’m Superman. I’m Spiderman. I’m Ben. I’m Clark Kent. I’m Peter Parker. I’m lonely.

The only good thing about my apartment is the roof. I hate just about everything else about it. It’s noisy, full of people and the plumbing is criminal. But I stay here because I have pretty good access to the roof. They don’t know that I have access to the roof, but I have access to the roof. I stole someone’s freight elevator key. Specifically, I stole Ramon’s key ring. He left it in the elevator door on his way to someplace that needed cleaning or fixing, dredging or scrubbing. I haven’t seen him since, but I’ve got complete control over the building now. Nobody has changed any of the locks yet. That was probably Ramon’s job.
I needed to get access to the roof, I’d asked for a key before but everyone thought it was so that I could jump off. Even if that were the case I’d fly away. I’d go someplace warm and respectable, fight crime and fall in love with one of my many secrets. Capes and lassos and villiany and I wouldn’t want to leave someone with the mess. I wanted rooftop access so that nobody would have to deal with me and I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone else. I don’t want to hear the noise anymore. Too many unexpected visitors wondering about everything in the world but me. Can I believe the plumbing, is my heater working, did I leave the bathtub on and the drain plugged and oh yeah, then why is it raining in my apartment asshole and what about the rent and have you heard from Ramon what the hell is that look for and why cant you open the door like a regular person unlatch the chain so we can talk and and and and and the city needs me. To the rooftop!
The city needs me. It calls to me in the night, the horrible glitter of shattered glass, the swirling black mask of night aiding the ruthless in their quest for no good. One foot on the ledge I peer out over it all. Life gridded, orderly confusion terrible nightmares and the thumping of the freight elevator. I have to hide! My cloak conceals me in the shaddows of a nearby smoke stack. I must conceal myself properly lest the who is that? Who the hell is that? New Ramon? It must be a new Ramon. Just stay down, they’ll go away. Don’t let the keys jingle.

Whoever it was left before I got a good look. They left a long time ago. I couldn’t move for an hour or more. Silently crouched behind a broken condenser for the broken air conditioning system. What if they were listening downstairs, what if they had microphones or listening devices or night vision googles, I’d be found out and caught and arrested and evicted and maybe I’ll just lay here for a little while longer. It’s safe up here, safe, open, nobody can see me, millions of people all around and nobody has any idea that I’m here. There are millions of people all around and noone has any idea that I’m here. No one.

I take walks sometimes. Just to get out, to get out of my apartment, away from my neighbors and their bratty kids. The kids who tease me and poke at my jacket just to see if I’ll scream at them, to see if I’ll chase them, to see if I’m as crazy as they’ve heard from their friends. And I don’t scream, I don’t say anything, I wind up fueling all of that, remain some weird hallway mystery for my miserable apartment building. The guy in five. Who’s the guy in five? I hear he’s crazy. I hear he’s got people stacked up in that apartment. It’s probably a bunch of hookers, prostitutes, sluts, then it goes the other way too, maybe nuns, maybe kids, did you see the girl scouts this year, I haven’t seen them come by, why do you think that is? Why would they not come by? That whole apartment is empty except for a big freezer and one of those, whatta-ya-call-its, with all the tubes? A lab? Like a lab, but with more, I don’t know, glass and smoke. Like a chemistry set. Yeah, but evil.
This is the conversation I hear from time to time. My fire escape is tucked away behind a bunch of trees, Estelle and RuthAnne don’t know that I hear them when they sit out front and gossip. Gossip about all the twisted things I have in my house, how I eat cats and kids and priests and that bus driver Rudy that used to drive the seven bus. I’m the fall guy for all their missing bits and boring days, a one stop shop of dilemas and mystery and dramatic finishes for the little mundane things that happen in our shitty brown apartment building: the guy in room five. I think his name is Ben.

I grew up near here. While I was growing up, I would walk by this place and I think I knew I’d wind up living here. It’s an old building, gothic looking, through the windows you could see the wall sconces in the halls, if you got snoopier, you could see them in the rooms of the houses, the bedrooms and tv spaces, the walls in the living rooms had bookshelves built into the walls. Bookshelves and wall sconces are the perfect places to hide the secret switches that open secret doors to secret stair cases or fire polls or laboratories – pronounced Lah Boor Oh Toor Ees – where all the people went to be themselves. There had to be more, there had to be secrets and costumes and power and magic. A building like this one was the most likely to house these things. The things that assuredly were a part of everyones lives, the things you read about in comic books, and regular books and saw in the movies and dreamt about flying I dream about flying still and it’s all there, just pull that first edition slightly and our adventure begins.
It couldn’t all be like growing up. Someone had to be in charge of saving the day. Didn’t they? It couldn’t all be lockers and toilets and stairways and gravity, tortured days flowed into the next; bruises healed so that others could breathe. Ambitious, blonde hatred from every corner of the halls. I was the one they all hated. Every school had to have someone like me, I figure. It’s too sad to think otherwise.
Eric was the worst. Eric Fanning. There were too many individual instances to remember, but this once he approached me in the halls for no reason. I was walking to class, reading, and he shoved me into the lockers and as I fell I grabbed his jacket and pulled him with me, spinning us, slamming him to the floor, kicking out my right foot I swept the legs of his friends fell on top of me they grabbed my limbs, one man to each arm, each leg and using all of my strength I shook them OFF! I yelled, but nobody came and there I am bleeding all over me, I pressed the secret button on my belt that called the doctors and wound up missing the next week of classes. I graduated in the hospital. I think I preferred it there.
I was there for six weeks and then left. These things happen to me. These things have happened to me.

There’s a park by my house. Tall buildings and a park. It’s good for swinging from, bouncing and running and lifting and throwing and sitting and reading. I like to sit there and read and think of bouncing and running and lifting and throwing and lunging and swimming. It’s lonely there too. I’m a fixture there, like the hotdog stands and the pigeons and the other lonesomes sitting and wondering if it’ll ever be possible to run and jump and lift and throw and blast and kill and mostly they get swept up into the chess games. They get beaten, and the little money they have is taken from them, sometimes violently. I don’t know why I find that so surprising. Chess, by nature, is a violent game about killing as many people you can until you force the king to surrender. There’s only ever mercy for the king. The people in the highest reaches of the tallest buildings that overlook my beautiful park with the tinier things that I overlook, things with feathers and disease. It’s cold. I don’t ever stay long. Never until night time. People like me get justice at night time. It’s best not to think about.
The walk home is quick and the doorknob is the only way to enter the ugly brown building I used to admire as a kid. It looks like a fortress. Lots of stone protection; you could put archers on the roof, cauldrons of oil, old bearded warriors and safety.
The boards creak and I wonder why they continue to let the walpaper remove itself, let the lights die slow, faded yellow deaths over the sticky casino carpet. The carpet has dice on it. Dice. It’s only a short walk to the hall, and then a quick three story climb in the elevator and I’m at my front door. It’s locked many times. Lots of locks. I have too many keys. A ring of key rings, collected from everywhere. The door always speaks and whines and creaks and draws unwanted attention from my paranoid neighbors, someone is breaking in, they think, they’re happy, maybe it’ll chase me out. Maybe I’ll leave town and quit scaring the kids. The door talks more than I do. I always debate if it’s better to open the door quick, but loudly, or slowly, dragging the creak out over a minute but, with a more quiet and controlled creak. I usually opt for the former, it lets me in the house faster, away from the peephole eyes of the hallway, the scents of cooked dinners and dying, the misery of being here. Being here.
Sleep comes quickly, thankfully, though the building sweats. It feels like thunder is coming, the air is balmy and hot and maybe they fixed the heating and it’s cold outside and is it possible to have a thunderstorm in a room a thunderstorm a thunderstorm a thunderstorm!

Sleep speaks for me and I’m off and washed and warm. Thank god. One more gone. Thank god.

An airplane has been hijacked but the mayors son has been kidnapped and the Crobra Gang is pouring acid on the city Dam! I don’t know if I can stop them all in time. If I get to Dr. Chronos in time, perhaps his time pills would help me. What about the pills? Why don’t you take the pills anymore, Ben. Ben take the pills and how could it be that bad what could it? What about the pills, Ben, are you listening I’ll never let you get away with this!


In the morning it’s bright enough to wake me. I’ve blacked out the windows, covered them with thick black blankets, but it doesn’t do any good. I have a hard time sleeping, but I always wake at first light. It’s a nuisance and it makes it hard to be alive. Too many dreams, not enough sleeping. I don’t have anywhere to go anyway, it’s Sunday. Bright sunny Sunday. Days like this it’s best to stay in bed and dream. The Cobra Gang has been stopped for now, the city dam is safe. They weren’t counting on my Ice Powers, frozen water is almost as powerful as concrete and steel. Most of the villians have escaped but I’ve encased one in ice, the weight crushing him slowly, the cold unbearable, he thinks I’ll leave him to die unless he talks.
“The Cobra Gang would kill me if I talked.”
“I’ll kill you if you don’t” I’d never kill the man, but he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know any different, his miserable life is swaddled in death, threats from masked men are a part of his life.
“But The King –“ I push him closer to the edge of the dam, his ice block prison keeping him seated and sliding towards the waters below, towards oblivion. His face is cowled, but the fear reads through his scaly mask. “No, you can’t I don’t know anything” he screams, the weakling. The pathetic small man, afraid of death, of fear itself.
“The King will not mourn you” confidently pushing him ever closer towards the precipice of his demise. The ice is slowly grating on the cement, slowly grating, slowly grating, slowly grating slowly grating. What is that sound? Grating. The neighbors upstairs. Newlyweds. There is no escape. I should live in a cave. Vaulted ceilings swirling with the most fearsome creatures, protecting me, circling above me like demons feeding on the bones of when will it end? Please stop.
Pillows should block out more sound. The headphones are usually the only way. The headphones are a pair of Sonix3, they cost a lot of money. Money I’d saved for other things, but the man at the store insisted they would block out the sound of anything, even a powerful locomotive! It’s mostly true, I bought them in a hurry, stereo stores are loud, busy places. I wasn’t breathing as well as I usually do. The man behind the counter was young and had metal peices everywhere like armor and it was impossible to not slip into thinking he was A metalman! One of the many subterranian races, metalmen, thankfully, are a peaceful bunch. I met them first during an adventure to the hardware store. It’s difficult to be anywhere but mostly beneath the earth, the heat would kill a normal man. Too many people and buying headphones means that I’m going to be surrounded by people, by noise and people. The young man had metal bits in his face, and hair that I’d thought was assigned to a different race of mankind. He spoke slowly and smelled bad. My heart was racing and I left without even considering the cheaper models. The headphones suffice, they block the noises I hate most.
Jazz isn’t always the best music to listen to during times like these, when the people upstairs are being people upstairs. I have to make careful selections in my collection. Some Jazz is condusive to that sort of noise. I have louder selections, noisier, but it’s my noise, Jazz is for just for me. There are no Jazz stations on the radio anymore and the day they removed Wjzz from the dial, I was so happy I cried. It was finally all mine.
The brown chair in the living room is one half the length of the headphone cord. It’s perfectly distanced from almost everything in the room. It’s a hand me down from the house I grew up in. My mom tells me it was my fathers favorite chair. I understand why. It’s leather, but it’s old leather, it’s got the sort of cracks in it that make a leather chair comfortable if you know how to sit in it. A stranger sitting in this chair would wind up scratching their arms and legs on the parts that jut out, the thin, firm switches of leather that will rake a person if they don’t sit properly. It still takes me a minute to get ajusted. It’s beautiful and perfect. I estimate that the chair is worth roughly fifty dollars due to all the errant change that has slipped from my pockets and down into the rips and tears and ravines and canyons of leather, eaten by the tufts of white stuffing. Fifty dollars worth of change and it’s too heavy to move. I couldn’t possibly want to move it, but if I did, I couldn’t possibly move it. It might, at some point, fall through the old floor. I hope it doesn’t, but it might. But now, music.
My vehicle has an extensive music library, the radio is tuned to my biorhythems. After a brilliant fight, it might play a soothing mix, or before a fight, when my heart flutters and I’m anxious for justice, it might play Flight of the Valkeries or maybe something with a lot of drums. Something with a lot of pop, a lot of heart beat mimicry. This car was my masters, the man who valliently wore this mantle of Hero before I did. He taught me everything and still I have much to learn. Horrendously captured and tortured by the nefarious King. The King Cobra, King of Evil, King of Despair. He goes by many names, but he will be brought to justice for the wrongs he has wrought on this city and it’s Hero. The drive is nightmarish in anticipation, I must run this new data through the SuperComputer at The Cave.
A left turn brings me through my city and into the utility section of the city, the fallen area. The area undone by financial failings, the docks and the workers all long gone. It’s spires cast longer shadows through the hearts of the families undone by the strain. Industrial parks dusty with disuse and abandon make the perfect hideout for The Hero, I enter the secret code into my vehicles computer and don’t jingle the keys. The secret gate swings open and my car enters the secret lift that brings me upstairs below the city. It is here that I can do the most good at the moment, I should be out catching burglars but the city needs me to breathe. Sometimes the headphones aren’t enough. I noticed that the lights were swaying and I had to get out. I needed to get air. Air.
I’m secreted now. Alone in the dark of the cave and now must enter all the data that my “friend” supplied me. What a fool. He was convinced that I’d push him over the edge. An ice-block villian would make a tremendous splash, but, this is no time for levity, now we must work. The computer is massive and occupies much of the room, the hidden room, the cave, beneath Leviathan Falls, connected by pneumatic tubing to hundreds of shadowed locations in the city. It took years, dedicated, albeit hypnotized servants but, it needed to be done. Justice, like wind.
It’s windy. My eyes are watering. Everything is far away, tiny and speckled. It’s noisy here, but mostly it’s just the wind. It’s calming scenery, the computer shows me my city in reds and blues and greys and shadows. It’s all color coded. The computer scans the police band and alerts me to trouble that needs my attention. The city is large and needy windy and slick. It’s getting cold. It’s far below. So far. Don’t look down. Don’t put your head just past the — CLANG.
The door slammed behind me the alarms are ringing – intruder. Hide. Run Hide Run Hide. Run. Run. What’s happening why the noise, my roof mine, my cave. Cave. Run. The condenser. Always. My place. Mine. Too soon, I can’t let this be taken from me, not yet too soon, not fair, not fair. Interlopers. Must be the cobramen after my secrets, I can’t let them have the computer, it’s taken too long, it’s full of all my information, my contacts, information about my loved ones, if they take the computer they take everything. It’s too soon goddamn it, it’s not fair, mine. Maybe it’s just the wind and just a peek and they couldn’t see me I’m camoflauged, they don’t know the secrets of the cave, the impliments in place to hide everything, the self-destruct mechanism, as a final, horrible solution. They’re around me now, the police band is singing, the wind is blowing and they couldn’t have heard me over the wind, they couldn’t have heard me but I can hear them and there are five of them now, surrounding me and who the fuck is she to be here, who is that, why is she smoking in the fifth quadrant, they seek to smoke me out of my home, my computer is becoming hazy, they’re secreted in the darkness, but they don’t know my secret place and it’s taken too long to build the cave is to know the cave, the pneumatic tubes, the transport tubes, hidden above them, they’re approaching the computer, but I have the activator switch on my belt buckle and oh lord here she comes, hide the keys, hiden above them is the airpump, and, hazier still, mustnt cough, so much smoke, and now, the smoke is cleared and the villians are visible and weak, their plot foiled and –

“Hello?” She knows I’m here and who is it and what if there’s trouble there’s always trouble and why now why now why now why now “Hello?”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to be here, I’m sorry, I was just going, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I’m sorry.”

“No, no, no, it’s ok, I –“

“No, no, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m going, I’m gone and I’m sorry and I have to go, I have to go and I’m sorry.” I can’t hear the wind over my heart and its there and it’s there and she’s looking and her eyes are big and she’s mad and she’s going to tell them and they’re going to take my key my key, they’re going to take it away from me my key to the cave. This had to happen, it had to happen, “Of course it happened, of course” and thank god, it’s dark and I’m gone and I’m safe for now, the Cobramen have been tied. I’ve locked them away, and sent them above, to the holding cell, my private holding cell, my room again, back in my room and I need to sit and think and who was that person. Manic, manic, manic, manic. I can’t breathe in here. Little blonde thing, tiny blonde venomess. Spinning the lights are sweeping, left and right and grinding and nightmare now a nightmare this afternoon, it’s loud and violent and I’m shaking and shaking and the door is pounding and my heart is screaming when does it end and why cant I have it and little terror tiny venomess. Please just sit down, just go sit down it’s too much and listen to me, listen to us, go sit down and breathe and let it happen don’t let it crush you, but it’s huge and it’s heavy blotchy and sweaty just sit down I can’t see what happens and just let it quiet the door keeps pounding and “Hello? It’s ok” and it’s not and I’m screaming and please let it go, it’s fine and “please leave me alone” the door isn’t chained and I cant get there in time the spot by the stove between the counter and icebox and cower and hide and breathe let it beat let it beat and let her scream let it go and there’s clawing and screaming and boiling the walls are on fire the room is shrinking she’s going to kill you, and the apartment shaking the dishes are shattering the table overturned and splintered wood shatters the floor and it’s dark underneath more than you thought let it take you and you’re gone again far away and it’s The Dam. The Dam. The Dam. We can’t let them get to the dam.

Sometimes you wake up in the kitchen, bleeding. I do. Most people do, I think. The door was still shut when I woke up, I was surprised. I thought she was going to break it down, I was worried she’d break it down anyway. I cut myself on the countertop. I had to hide fast, it wasn’t up to me, she was pounding on the door and there was too much to deal with, I don’t want to see her ever again. I hope that I don’t. I won’t.
There’s no way to know what tme it is, it’s dark and it’s quiet and the apartment is clean, it didn’t vibrate to peices, I thought that it might’ve. There’s no glass on the floor, nothing but red splotches, near the counter. Brave. So brave. Such a hero. The shower is calling. Then sleep. Sleep. I’m drained, sleep will help. In the morning I should probably put the couch in front of the door, maybe the tv too. I should get a cat, a big cat and a gun. The cobramen are closing in. They know where I live, the fortress must be fortified, the cave secured. For now, I must plan and must rebuild, small parts of the cave have been damaged, the doors need resecuring, it’s possible they came in through the hidden entrance the vehicle enters through, there might also be a hidden entrance somewhere, a snakehole. Hidden. One of the cobramen, got a lucky shot shot in above my eye, it is bleeding and I am damaged, I must rest. My medi-chamber must be charged. My essence draining, shades towards the edges, I stumble towards the chamber, the fangs were poisoned, my mind is fadnig sleep.

I have the running dream again. There’s something behind me, far behind me, but it smells me, and I know it. I can see for me and I can see for him. I cant see anything in front of me, just blackness, the wind is brushing my face, faster still. Keep running. I can see for him. He cannot see me, but he knows where I am, and he is coming for me. He sees red. I can hear his breathing. I can see myself now, just a smal redl man, a small speck running, through grey trees, getting larger. I’m running through grey trees and I can feel him behind me and I need to run faster, I crouch down and run with my hands on all fours and run faster and faster until I see red and we’re running and it’s red and there’s something on the horizon and –

I don’t sleep much. I might have mentioned that already. When I do I have nightmares, when I wake I’m sweating and gasping. And the lights are on in my room. Sometimes I wake up and the lights are on in my room. I sleepwalk, turn on all the lights, and go back to bed. I think I go back to bed, I don’t have any way of knowing.
There’s an hour or so left before my alarm goes off. My water bill is tremendous. When this happens I spend as much time in the shower as I can. It lets me wander before work, while the medi-tank has repaired me completely. I have to thank the Quandto waterfall people again for their wonderful miricle contraption. Our meeting was accidental but fortuitous, I had tracked the cobramen to their secret lands. You see, the Quandto waterfall people are a secret nation of mermen – they don’t enjoy the term mermen, they’re hybrids, more like a fish-people. I chased a pack of cobramen through South America, into the jungle, over the course of nine days. It was exhausting, but their schemes to poison the waters. Their plan was nebulous, I’m still not sure if they knew the portal was there, if it was a plan to interact with the Quandto people, or if it was an accident.
Deep in the jungles, I finally caught up to them. We met, violently, in a lake at the foot of a grand waterfall. There were about nine of them, I was able to defeat several of them in the first few minutes of interaction. As I was facing the waterfall, making a grab for the a strange silver canister filled with mysterious contents, I was tackled from behind, the both of us spilled into the waterfall and emerged on the other end, at the top of another waterfall, confused and spilling downwards over the side. The fall proved too much for my foe, the fall too high, the waters too strong, he shattered. I survived, but only barely. I lost conciousness.
When I woke I was comfortable, warm and breathing. Just warm. Warm. My eyes haven’t opened and I’ve never been so happy. Life and crime is far away. When I open my eyes, I’m floating in a yellow liquid, in a glass cylinder, and I’m breathing, without air. I’m surrounded by fish-ish people. They have spears, and they look confused and unhappy. A fatter fish man approaches and taps the glass. Life is funny. I’m in an underwater tank, and a fish, on the other side of the glass, is tapping on it. I’m afraid.
It turned out, the one tapping was the king.
I was brought to the throne room and –
I’m out of hot water.
It’s time for work. I have to go to work. I can’t even begin to relate how horrible of a feeling this can be. Every single day. It’s unbearable. So much of everything is unbearable. I didn’t think my life would wind up like this. I thought it’d wind up a little better. Not much, but a little better, maybe a lot better. It’s not been like that. The wall sconces are just wall sconces no they aren’t.
My “office” isn’t far from here. I lift things and move them and send them and rip them and shred them. It’s very awful. I don’t enjoy any aspect of it. The pay is marginal and it simply allows me to continue existing in my small apartment. I can’t afford a cat. It keeps me in my small life. Surrounded by my small things and just barely affords me the luxury of the bus.
I hate the bus more than most people hate anything. I hate the bus more than people hate terrorism, or hitler, or war. It’s a crowded, noisy tube full of smelly, awful people. They’re angry at you because you’re in the way, but of course you’re in the way, there’s no way to not be in the way, it’s a tiny, wheeled contraption and I don’t want you to be touching me either, but that’s the way it is please stop breathing on me sit down fat man. Its nearly an hour, but if I take the first bus of the morning, I can sometimes get a seat in the back where nobody sits. The ride is calmer then, spacious and dark.
But that never happens. I never get out of the shower in time.

I will not describe any staff member in my office. I work below them, in a small, caged room. They come by infrequently and when they do, they appear affraid of me, like I live there year round. Like I’m the gaurdian of the basement, the keeper of the lair. I hate each of them differently. They’re all very young and condescending. They’re all about my age actually, just younger. They’re different, alert. None of them know my name, how busy I am, or how disinterested I am in their conversation. It’s forced and the sooner they leave the sooner I can get back to my job. It just seems to take forever and go on and on, and they never leave.
“Hey, could you pull up a jay five nine five.”
“A jay five nine five”
“I am.”
“’s your day going?”
“How about –“
”It’s fine.”
“You been workin down here a long time”
“Yes. A long time.”
“About how long there?”
“Doesn’t matter. Hang on.”
“.....How about that –“
”Jay five nine five. Here.”

Most of the time, that’s how it goes anyway. There is one guy who comes and talks. He’s maybe the only person I can think of that’s more out of touch than I am. Or, I should say, he’s not purposefully out of touch. I made the choice. I did. His name is Robert. He doesn’t have much cause to be in the parts division, but he comes down sporadically and will talk continuously regardless of my involvement in the conversation. He is unkempt and, I think, slightly crazy. I feel bad about not speaking to him when he comes down, but I don’t really know what to say, and when I do try to talk, he almost seems agrivated. I think he thinks that I’m the only person he could possibly talk to. The social ladder has just one more rung below him, and I’m it. Usually it’s a storm of words and names that don’t make a lot of sense. He’s a tank of information that needs to be purged every so often, he has noone else to speak to, and so, I get the wonderful responsibility to pretend to listen, fade in and out, nod and just let him pour.

“Dave from upstairs is some kind of jerk, isn’t he? I mean, he just doesn’t stop. It’s like this every day” He doesn’t ever say hello, or address me in any way, he marches back and forth in his plaid button down shirt and his greasy, tussled hair, he is panicked. It’s how people look when they’re panicked. “And another thing, is he my boss? Because I don’t think that he is my boss, he’s never been my boss. I’ve got seniority. I’ve told you that right, that they told me that I have seniority over them about it.” I don’t who or what they, them and it are. It should be any moment that he realizes where he is and that he needs a part for the line upstairs. I’m caged and trapped and cannot get away. “But Dave! Oh no, that’s not good enough for Dave. He’s like all the rest of them. He couldn’t possibly leave well enough alone. Sometimes things get spilled, that’s all. I didn’t want anything to spill, but sometimes the parts fall, that’s alllllll there is to it. I’ve seen the almighty Dave spill a box of parts before. Oh – one box of L-730's.”
He’s pacing back and forth and I decide that I like him and I don’t like Dave. I don’t know either of them, but I like this guy. He’s afraid and angry and I understand that. It’s difficult to be. “Al fell down on one of the parts, but you know what, fuck Al. That’s right. I said it, fuck Al. I know, I know what you’re thinking ‘oh but he’s the boss’ I know, I know he’s the boss. He should watch where the fuck he’s going. And – “ It’s about all I can take. The cave is clear and I know now that I’m running out of time. They have discovered my lair and I don’t know how much longer I have. This plan of theirs is larger than I originally thought. It’s impossible to tell how long they’ve known about me, about my cave, about my network of tubes, perhaps my network of spies and confidants. I must alert the others. They may be in harms way. The weary affects of the medi-tank are wearing off. It’s dangerous to do much after the healing charms of the medi-tank. “And he just walks around like he’s king shit of fuck mountain, you know what I mean? You know what I mean right?” There is much to be done. To the computer!
I usually just switch on the little television set in my box. It helps to drown him out when he gets out of control like he is now, he’s on fire, on a pulpit, a soapbox, a roll. “There’s no reason for them to talk to me like that. And that’s all it is, he just keeps going. And going, for no reason. And it’s all the time. He never shuts up, he just won’t.” This is the irony portion of the day. He never realizes what he’s saying. But he’s entertaining and I feel for him and despite the fact that he’s loud, he’s not really here and neither am I, we’re both off in other places and our being in the space of the other is largely incidental and so we’re friends. I think. I think that we’re friends. I like him and he likes me and as much as we are involved with each other, as much as we could be friends, we are. The screaming man from the line upstairs is my only friend and I think that maybe I’m his only friend and it doesn’t matter and we’re happy sharing the space for a few minutes a week.
It’s a big decision, to be friends with someone. It’s not an easy choice for anyone involved, even if, in this case, the person isn’t involved in the decision making process. He’s probably fine with it. And on cue he shouts, “And I’m fine with that, I’m fine with that asshole being an asshole, you know? But just give it a break now and again.” It’s good to eat during these sessions, this way it’s like we’re eating lunch together. I have someone to share a meal with. I don’t have that often. I don’t even have much food here. Eating is dangerous. But it’s good to share with someone even if they don’t even know that you’re there. It’s close enough to company.
He’s wrapping up now. “You know, I mean, c’mon. What a – ahh forget it, what’s the point? Are these the parts?”
I nod.
“Great. All right man, I’ll talk to you later then. You have a good day.”
What a nice guy. I will have a good day. I’m going to really try to have a good day. As soon as I leave anyway. It’s hard to have a good day in here. It’s dark and small and I’m in a cage. Like Louie DePalma in Taxi. That kind of cage. It’s eight hours a day in a small wire cage handing small parts to small people, waiting for the whole thing to end so I can go home and go to sleep and wake up and come to work and the computer is online despite last night’s attack. I have been lax for too long, it is time to go on the offensive and take the fight to the cobramen. The compters functions are simple in these times. The computer flickers at hundreds of thousands of frames per second, the pertinant information is streamed, sub-conciously into my brain. At the appropriate time, the trigger is fired, a single bell, in the depths of the cave, post-hypnotically releasing this information into my brain. The information is coming soong. A moment longer.

Ring! The alarm. It’s still set from when I needed the alarm to alarm me to perform a set of behaviors that I’ve since outlawed. It was time for a little orange bottle full of little blue ovals and a glass of water. I no longer need them. I’ve overcome the need for them. I have rid them of my life, but I keep the alarm on my watch as a reminder. The pills are still in the drawer below the cogs and widgets in the shelves above. It’s a symbol that way. I think. It’s important to have these things nearby as a reminder of the person I used to be and the person I need to be. I’m almost there. The flickers are faster and faster the information is streaming and the colors are running into the crevices and corners of my brain, awaiting the appropriate moment. It draws nearer. There will be justice soon. My hands will find the neck of the King Cobra. He threatens my city. I will threaten his life. If he takes my city. I will take his life. This night will end with justice. He is mine and I will have him soon. There is a hunger there. My need outweighs my reason, a part of me fears for him. It will be swift, it will be brutal and it will end. This night will be his undoing. Attend to your minions, villain. I come for you now.
The end of the day is near. I have a thermos. It’s mostly gone. It usually isn’t, but my visitor encouraged me to have more soup. Not directly, but his being here was comforting and so is soup. Soup is warm and velvety and salty. It reminds me of days when I was smaller, younger. I don’t like saying smaller, I think that my younger self was bigger in a lot of ways. It’s hard to look back then, things weren’t as clear as they are now, my mission is clear. There’s not a lot to remember, but there’s enough to look back on. With or without fondness doesn’t much matter. It’s just hazy. There was a lot of yelling and empty chairs and then it shatters. It doesn’t matter. But when I was young there was soup. Soup and ginger ale. It was for when I was sick. I was sick a lot. But still, even with all that, there was a lot of my life spent being proud of myself. I still feel that way. I was sick. Ginger ale and noodle soup. But I had my moments when I was young. Big valiant shining moments. In the back yard. In the afternoon. After things were shattered and the grass was stained and the chairs were emptied. But enough. Stop. It doesn’t matter. It’s time to leave. It’s time to go back to my home and stare at the walls. The wall sconces. It’ll be better soon. I hope it gets to be better soon.
Close the cage and lock it.

Chapter Two

The walk home isn’t long. I usually take the bus, but I don’t feel like dealing with it. I have a lot on my mind. Specifically, that little blonde creature who is following me. She’s terrifying. How is she accessing the roof? I think she said something about it after spotting me on the roof, but I couldn’t hear. I was escaping. How did she get up there, what does she want, why is she after me? Who is she, does she live in the building? Why is she after me? There are too many questions. There are so many answers now. I know where they are, it was in front of me all the time. My only hope is that I can shut down their labs before they make it to the dam. What if they make it to the dam before I get to their hideout? The terror is too enormous to conceive of. Thousands of lives will be lost. The damage will be irreparable. Billions of dollars of property damage, thousands of lives. Thousands.
I’m coming up on the lake soon. There’s a big lake right in the middle of my city it’s a beautiful spot. I mentioned the ducks. It’s enough to make the walk. It’s chilly and awful, but it’ll always be better than the bus. Always. I think I might never take the bus ever again. That yelling man told me to have a good day, and I think that I will. I think I will make this day a good day by never taking the bus ever again. It doesn’t matter how cold it gets, if it rains, or any of that. I will walk. The walk will be good for me. I think. I don’t need the hassle anymore. I didn’t need it ever. It’s important to stay healthy and exercise. I think it’ll be a good thing for me. Deep breaths. Quiet. Survey the city on the ground level.
They’re just north of here, by the Jay Nineteen pneumatic exit. I will be there in moments. I must make final preparations. The tomb must be attended to. My master must be honored. The doors must be opened. It requires much. The back wall of the cave contains a smaller secret. It is here where my master sleeps, his eternal resting place. The wounds he incurred while fighting King Cobra were too great. He was placed here, in helio stasis, here even beyond the healing reaches of the medi-chamber. The wall opens. And my Master remains. Sleeping. Resting until the day I can return the King Cobra’s venom to this site. The blood of the King Cobra the only cure for the king cobra bite. Its roots are mythic and mysterious, magical in nature. Tonight the Cobramen will be defeated, their king unseated and the city reclaimed by justice. Our paths will cross one final time, intersecting for the good of the nation. The wall will now be sealed. The cave must be sealed. I am prepared. All is in readiness. My belt activates the pneumatic lines. I’m off. Moments from now I will achieve my destiny.
The trees are rustling and alive and the walk is pleasant. The lake is aproaching. It’s quiet, it’s getting dark. The fall has arrived, the winter approaching, the nights are longer, its creeping on the horizon. It’ll be dark soon.
The arrival. They’re beneath my feet the snakes. A simple mile from the dam, their hidden nest below me. My plans are inacted. The seeds have been planted, they do not know that they are trapped. The information gathered from my attackers alerted me to the location of several key vents. The smoke billowing from them now, a small portion of the poisons enveloping the monsters below. They will sleep for days. They will live, but just barely. Walking will be painful but their nerves will learn to breathe again, but not quite soon. I almost feel guilty not facing my arch nemesis directly. His face should have met mine when I removed the blood from his body, the vicious antidote stolen from your corpse.
The ducks are gone. The weather gets too cold too soon. They leave too quickly and honk above. Alone again. There’s a small outcropping where I like to stand and leave them go by, let them see me, and let them know. It’s silly and I’m strange and people see me and think the same. It’s difficult but it’s beautiful. The joggers float by, some tight and taught some loose and breathing. Machinery clanking purposeless motion. It’s difficult to watch, but there they go. And there she is.
The blonde thing. Jogging. Of course she is. She’s underdressed and cold. I can see that she’s cold. She’s motionless, but flying. She doesn’t see me, but she must’ve, she’s looking away, not where she’s jogging, not at the ground, to the left, away from me, on my rocky outcropping in the lake. A monolithic weirdness of the guy down the hall. The one who screamed when she knocked on his door and cut his head when he hid from the sound. The terror of the rooftops, the scourge of the third floor, the terrible Ben. Please, let me look, but please, don’t look at me. And there she goes. I hope she’s happy, she ruined it for me. The keys are useless now, there’s nothing I can do with them It’s better I don’t have them, if I keep them I’d be too tempted to use them and then she’d find me and I’d have to hide again, run down again, cower and faint again.
I look at the lake and then there are ripples and then they are gone. My hideaway is gone. My secret place is dead. It’s gone for me now. It’s been ruined, sullied, spoiled the little tiny blonde creature. She has ruined my only happy place. I hate her.
I hate him. He will die. He has escaped me. The hide out is full of quivering cobramen. There are only a few missing, by my calculations. The lab is a smoky nightmare and is clearly missing at least one of the acid canisters. Just one. Even one. It could all be done with just one canister. I must kill him now. I wasn’t sure that I could, but now I must. He’s entirely too determined to destroy this city. I will destroy him. He will be lifted over my head and I will remove him from the earth. The dam will destroy him, my hands will be washed and clean, the dam will kill him. The innocents saved will hail my vengeance, my innocence. It is time. This must be the end.
It’s time to leave. I was half tempted to jump in the water for the key, (retcon) but it’s over. My lair has been destroyed, she’s destroyed it. It’s time to leave. I have to go back to my hovel and read. Think about other things.
The dam is close. There is gunfire. There are flashing lights, they are not prepared for me, they are distracted. This will be the end. I am jumping, fifty and sixty feet at a time. I am over and through trees, rocks are crumbling beneath my feet, the wilderness around me is giving way, the trees are bending, I push off the ground, fly to a tree, plant my feet on the trunk and I am through the air and I can see above the treetops, the dam is near, and he sees me. He knows I am near. He is affraid.
It’s too dark. I spent more time than I thought at the lake. She may have passed me twice. It’s difficult to know how long I was there, I lose track easily. I go away sometimes. Better places. It’s a strange walk, I don’t live in the best neighborhood. It’s always noisy and sometimes the sounds are violent. It’s like that now, I should hurry. It might be easier to cut through the edge of the woods. I might as well. I’m nearly home now and I want to get home, sit, read, battle is near. He’s surrounded by cops, they’re doomed. They don’t know who he is, he’s enormous, the bullets are deflecting, hitting other cops, they shouldn’t be on the bridge, this is hero territory. I am high above now, they don’t see me, it will take a few seconds to fall from this height. He knows, he can hear me, he is smiling. For now.
I shouldn’t walk through the park, but it’s late and I should be home. It’s more dangerous to walk on the sidewalk at this hour, people are looking for people like me on the streets, weak, small people, the park is empty. But, then, now, there is screaming. I can hear it. Keep your head down, keep moving it’s got nothing to do with you. Get home faster. There are distractions at home. I’ll immerse myself in the battle.
The cops are dead. They shouldnt’ve involved themselves. Most of them are open, and melting. There is acid for the dam, they died horribly. It is time for this to end. We are squared now. The battle is now.
The screaming is blonde. I can hear her and I know it’s her and it must be a trap. And it’s her. She’s thrashing, and there’s a black mass of cloak above her, she’s wounded and bleeding. I can’t see her villian but she’s screaming. I can’t breathe. I’m frozen and terrible and he’s winning. I’m bleeding and crushed, the dam is dissolving. The people will die, and I can’t stand. He’s unscathed and laughing. His hand is coming towards me again, I try to leap out of the way, but his left hand catches me, slams me and his left punches me. My body is breaking the dam, I’m helping and I must kill him before it’s done. It’s gone horribly. He’s eight feet tall and above me, laughing, preaching, I can’t hear him, I think my ears are bleeding, I’m spinning. Who am I to do this, this is none of my business and she’s my enemy and I can’t get home and my keys are at the bottom of the lake will be released and hundreds will die if I don’t help and I don’t know what to do and she sees me and she’s reaching and he’s laughing. His foot is over my face.
Before I know what’s happening, I’m on top of him, and she’s still screaming. She’s now more afraid of me, I think. I don’t know what’s he’s doing, he’s wriggled away from me, and he punched me. It’s terrifying, but I’m holding his legs and I don’t know why. She’s gathering herslef and her arm is broken, it’s dangling and my face is swelling, my glasses are shattered. But he’s off now and he’s limping away, I think I hurt him somehow. I don’t know how, he’s enormous, and it’s over the dam has ruptured. She’s collecting herself and he’s not leaving. He has to know he could beat me and get her in the same moment. I’m a small, weak man. It must’ve occurred to him too, he’s coming back and she’s shrieking as she runs off towards the street. The dam is liquefying, it’s slashed open and running, it’s opening further and it’s coming towards us quickly. His hand is raised and he’s got something, gleaming, high over his head, and he pushes it down into my chest there’s fire and lightning and the dam is broken, he’s left and I’m falling. The water is accepting, cold and encouraging. It’s getting dark and we let go.

Two. Two. Two. Two. Two.

I woke up in the hospital. I’m told I was stabbed with something jagged and I’m lucky to be alive. The blonde thing, Teresa, her name turned out to be, called the cops after she ran off. She ran up to someone, her arm dangling, and pulled their cell phone from their ear and called the police. She passed out immediately after calling, the shock got to her. The cops arrived and strangers were taking care of her, someone was trying to make her a splint out of some sticks they found, but it wasn’t working, eventually she was on a bus stop bench while five people stood off to the side and argued about the splint’s design. People are horrible. When the paramedics arrived, they, took her to the hospital, revived her there. All of that happened over the course of thirty minutes or so, she was being royally treated while I was bleeding on the sidewalk in the cold.
When the police found me, I’d lost a significant amount of blood and I was partially frozen to the sidewalk. I remember the following things after blacking out:

Someone mumbling blood, a few distant sounds.
I told someone that I was awake during the trip to the hospital and they told me that I was crazy, hallucinating. The road was bumpy and awful, I couldn’t breathe. I was sleepy and affraid, I went out again.
I’m in the hospital, on a stretcher, the long florecent lights moving by faster and faster, blending into a single stream of brilliance, the walls pushing back away and I’m gone again.

Then I woke up here and a blurry nurse was explaining the incident to me before a blurry police officer came in and asked me exactly what happened. I was very loopy. I was loaded on pain killers and I don’t know exactly what I said. The nurse had to explain the situation to me again later. I didn’t remember anything after dropping my keys in the lake. The blood loss affected my memory. The ‘trauma’ they said. I’d blocked it out. A nurse told me again later, she’s a stout black woman and read from a clipboard like she was reading the minutes from a board meeting: “You were walking in the park, and you saw a woman being attacked. You intervened. The man attacking her stabbed you before running off. She made her way to Stern Ave. And contacted the authorities. When they arrived, she’d passed out on a park bench, her arm was dislocated and broken in two places. Probably from being pushed to the ground. The paramedics arrived and brought her here where she was revived. She informed us that you were still in the park. When we found you, you had bled out. You almost died, Mr. Haas. You were stabbed once in the chest, the police said that you were partially frozen to the pavement upon their arrival. You were carried into a police car, the police had arrived on the scene before the ambulance, they risked taking you themselves. When you arrived – I was there, Mr. Haas – you were revived. Luckily. You’ve been unconscious for four days. I was there when you arrived, good to see you up and around Mr. Haas. We didn’t have a whole lot of hope for you. You rest up, if you need anything, you just call. I’m Denise. You rest up now. We’ll talk later if you need it, your neighbor was in a fire. I have to get over to him, now, that lady will want to be in to see you.”
There was more afterwards, and it was more of a conversation, but that’s the gist of it. She was a nice woman and didn’t seem to mind that I said “I’d rather not see her, if that’s ok.” it came out weakly, I don’t have a lot of breath, but more than that, I felt smaller than her, she’s maternal and beautiful, I wanted it to be ok. But I didn’t want to see her. And she’d be horrible and there. The nurse spoke softly and didn’t seem to care that I was there or not. She was on a schedule, and at nine fifteen on Thursday she comes and sits in a chair by a bedside and reads a police report to a victim in a soothing, melodic voice. “You were frozen to the sidewalk –“ came across as a flowery touch on an otherwise boring story about something that happened to someone else. I was listening, rapt, completely interested in this storybook reading by my lovely new friend.
After she left, everything started to sink in. I was becoming more sore, I couldn’t move, I had tubes in my nose, one from my chest, I couldnt move and there was a bed pan. It’s bright and it’s quiet and on the otherside of this wall there is a man who has been caught in a fire. Shouldn’t they separate him, he should be farther away from me. Idon’t really know what to think about that. Could he catch something from me? How do I turn off the lights from here? How long until I get to leave? When will someone tell me to use the bedpan without hurting myself. I don’t really know what’s happening. I really need to get out of here.
But it wouldn’t be for days.
Apparently, I got the “hero-suite”. I’m the only person in this room, it’s giant. I don’t know why they thought I’d need the giant room, I can’t move. I won’t be walking for a little while. But they’re fawning over me. It’s strange and I don’t trust it. They’re like most a lot of the women I’ve known in my life, frightening and impossible. They don’t seem to underestand that I want to be left alone. That I’d rather not have the morphine if it means I can be alone. I’d rather my chest feel like it were on fire, like it was being devoured, like acid was being poured on it, than see another human being in this giant, bright room. This giant room that a different nurse enters every hour to see me, to see the guy from the television who saved his neighbor in the park. It’s a big hospital and there are hundreds of nurses, each one comes in to ask if I want water, if I want ice, if I want new bandages or bed pans. To tap the tubes and ask me questions and fix the blinds and isn’t dark in here, you should get some magazines, would you like a crossword puzzle? No one has asked me if I need my glasses, they’re still in peices in the park. Each blurry nurse enters and asks questions they don’t really want the answers to, they want to stop by and gawk and hurry out to tell their friends that the hero from the park is a scrawny misery with tiny grey eyes.
It hasn’t been fun. They mean well but they’re terrifying and the hands that change the bandages are different each day but they ask the same questions about the girl, always about the girl. If she’s my girlfriend, if we’ve been friends for long, how long have we known each other, did we always go jogging together. I answer no to every question in the hopes of it going faster and they will feel that I don’t want to talk to them. But they never do, I’m not really essential to the conversation. They’ve plugged in all the answers already. They know the story they want to hear, and so they hear that story. I can’t really judge them for that, but it hurts me and I don’t like it. The whole building is devoted to healing, at least half of it is devoted to gossip. Some of the wonmen think that due to my injnuries, I lack the ability to speak, so I hear very large, horrible stories about people I don’t know and events that I don’t care about. I tink that I understand that syndrom a lot better now. Wsomen just want to talk to someone, they don’t seem to care if you’re listening or not. I cant even see them, everything is blurry, my chest is blazing and they’re telling me stories like this:
“And Julie” I don’t’ know who Julie is “was in the bathroom with Jake!” I don’t know who Jake is, either “Again! But Jake is married and he’s got kids and they’re so cute, the kids, not Jake and Julie, they’re five and seven. Once, oh my god this is so funny, little Jake, Jakes son” of course “he was on the swing set, they have this little fisher price swing set thing, it’s like pink, and it’s like he realizes this at once, that he’s a boy and he has a pink swing set, right?” Right. “And he just pushes the whole thing over. The whole thing, it’s so enormous and he’s this cute little boy, and he pushed it over and told his dad that he didnt want a pink swing set anymore, isn’t that just the best.” The blurry gossip nurse seems upset that Jake picked Julie over her, because blurry gossip nurse clearly loves Jakes children.
It goes on like this forever. I continue to not talk, and they continuously, selfishly, tell me horrible stories while I try to deal with the fact that four days ago I almost died when a large stranger stabbed me in the chest with a “Jagged Object.”
“Couldve been anything” said the police officer who came in to reiterate what Erica the nurse has already told me, but he does it more abruptly and as if we were in a sports bar. “You were in the park, you tried to help some broad, we cant disclose her name, you got stabbed, we found you on the sidewalk. Kinda frozen, did anyone tell you that, that you were kinda frozen. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’ve seen frozen people before, usually homeless guys or something like that, but nobody that was still alvie, and only kinda frozen. You were blue, like blue - blue. You know?” It continued like this, it was very awkward and I thought about fainting at three or four different points when he got graphic. At one point, his friend nosed into the room and he said “Hey larry, it’s the blue guy from the other night, come say hi. What? Nah, I don’t know, he can’t talk or something, fuckin guy is deaf I guess. I know, right? Good for him, deaf guy saves the fuckin day. Hey” talking to me again “you leave the heavy lifting to us, from here on out, ok, you take it easy, you feel better.” He was genuine at least, a nice man, saved my life, and I’m thankful for that but I’d love very much to never see him ever again.
Same thing with the blonde woman, Teresa. I’m continuously needled to let her come and see me. To accept the flowers that she’s left, but I’m tired. And I’m hurt and I’m affraid. I don’t want anyone in the room with me at all. It’s too bright in here. I don’t like people and I don’t like the bright lights and the noise. Erica the nurse has only come by once or twice since I’ve been awake. She tells me that I’ll be here for at least a week. I don’t want to be here at least a week. I want to leave here as soon as I can. But I don’t think that I can walk, so that will hold me up a bit. I can’t shift in bed. The tv is on but they don’t have the channels I like. It’s going to take time. I need to remember that I’ve been stabbed in the chest. It will take time. But I don’t want it to. I want to be healed now and then I want to leave.
Sleeping is impossible. I had no idea until these last few days that I am a chronic side sleeper. Not even just a general side sleeper, I sleep on my right side, always. Roughly four times a night I wake up in searing pain as my right side folds into my wound, into the cavity in my lung, into all the awfulness that’s keeping me in this bright white box. I reflexively jump and I have to then reajust all the stupid wires and contraptions that I’m hooked up to. Invariably, this sets off one of the alarms and a sleepy, blurry nurse comes in to fix all of the wires and shut off the alarm above my bed that can only be deactivated with a three number code, in this case, four five six. I was angry when I saw the code, I thought it should be more complex, and more difficult to press by accident. If I have a traumatic event and the alarm goes off and during the traumatic event, my body finds itself in a fit of flailing, it’s possible that my hand will glance across the keypad and depress the four then the five then the six. It’s not impossible, they’re all right in a row there. If that happens, then where am I? I’m in the nightmare that I have every night just before I wake up in spasms. Thta’s the dream, every night the first dream I have, is that I’ve fallen asleep and have hurt myself, then accidentally shut down the alarm. A shaddow filters in under the doorway, it’s tall, near the door, and then, as my hand hits the buttons, the shaddow turns and recedes back to watch late night television and wait for deaths.
On the odd occasions when I fall asleep on my back, the nurses wake me up with their shuffling, or someone elses alarm goes off, usually the burn victim, and then I’m awake all over again. If it’s not that, it’s the nightmare of seeing a very large man over top of me with a glimmering something in his hand in the instant before he plunges it into my chest.
It’s a wonderful dream. One of the most vivid I’ve ever had. Each night it comes to me I wake up sweating and wishing that he’d killed me.
I dream like the movies. They’re vivid and well cast. The cameraman is a genius and he knows all the angles, every possible way to makie my nightmares as beautiful as possible. At the end of that one, the camera is above my body, bleeding and frozen, blue as a robin egg and gagging, it pulls back slowly and up through the snowflakes and past the clouds. It’s a beautiful scene. Slightly embellished, as it wasnt snowing that night, but snow is photogenic and it makes murder more tragically beautiful. That’s how the movie ends though, each nightmare the same. The camera pulls back for miles and there’s not another soul except for the poor blue and red man in the middle of the park, completely alone, a vast, heartbreaking expanse of nobody, very quietly dying.
My dreams used to be more fast paced, I don’t think my brain has caught up to itself just yet. I think it’s still short on blood. Mostly I’d dream in fractions of fragments, quick bursts of images and weirdness, ocassionally of flying. From the rooftop over the neighborhood, surveying, searching for something. Quickly cut though, still, like the frames of the film were missing, the editor a junkie. Quick flashes of images that my waking mind had stored to scare me later. Even the flying dreams were more like falling if Im honest. But, I’ll take that for me, I’ll confuse myself into flying now and again. It’s worth it to have that.

Most of the day is spent watchin ght eoor and praying that it wont fly open and loose some candystriper into my little room. Noone has really asked me what I wanted, nobody has asked me if I watned to get out of hrere, the more they don’t ask, the longer I think it’ll be. No one has asked me in a week, I might never be getting out of here. Over the last few days I’ve convinced myself that the days are longer, the nurses meaner and that I have a very problematic infection spreading over my chest and is going to kill me at any moment. I think this because noone will say when I’m leaving. I think they might just be waiting to deliver the final blow, wait until it’s too late to sue them and then let me die in this room, this room that they clear out for dead heros.
I spoke to one of the nurses today, I thought she was going to jump through th eceling when I did. She thought I was mute, psychosomatically unable to talk after the trauma. She ran to get someone. It turned out to be Erica the wonderful. She laughed when she found out I hadn’t talked to the vast majority of people who came in to check on me. She thought it was cute, romanitc, that I was a stoic, not a crazy. I think that I’m a crazy.
“She tells me you want to see a doctor” I’ve been in here a while now, I’m not awake often, but when I am, I only see nurses. “Thats how these places work, kiddo. The doctors try to check up on you while you’re sleeping, they’re busy. We do most of the actual work. The good stuff.” Oh, I said. I didn’t know. “Most people don’t.” I aked when I was going to be able to leave, but she said she didnt know, that it was up to the doctors. The ones I’ve never seen, I ask. “The very same,” she said and she alked out the door, extinguishing the lights as she went.

The days here sort of blend together. I do nothing but sit here and supposedly heal while fresh hands come in and change my bandages and leave occasional bits of gossip. Evenutally I got Julie’s side of the Jake story. “Bethany” I assume Bethany is the orginal blurry nurse who told me her part of the Jake and Julie saga. “Just keeps sticking her nose in it. She has no idea what’s going on. But she just keeps talking to me about jakes kids, and how wonderful they are, and that stupid story about the pink swingset over and over. Yes it’s cute. Yes he has kids. Yes the kids are cute. Yes Jake is cute. I get it, I get it. Shut up already though, right?” Right. Please shut up. “She has no idea what’s going on between us, she keeps winking at me evvery time I get up to go to the bathroom. Like she knows something. Sometimes I just have to go to the bathroom — oh, how is the, ok good” She pats my stomach while she checks on the bedpan. “But she makes it seem like we’re constantly off in the bathroom going at it or something. I’m a professional.Jake is a doctor here. A resident here. He’s respected, we’re not up to anything. Not here anyways. You wont’t tell anyone. Right, you can’t, I guess. But still, you see where I’m coming from.” She sounds exactly like Bethany, and tells her stories in the same jaunty, disjointed way that Bethany does. It’s irritating, but it’s better than the television. I love the television, but why not have the sci-fi channel? I’m surrounded by beeping and alarms and electronics all day long, it’d be a fun thing to watch here. Easy to get away, I wouldn’t be in a hospital, I’d be in a spaceship with a chattering alien that made no sense to me and told jaunty, disjointed stories.
“And she’s just always going on and on about it. She’s always talking about her ‘seniority’ we graduated the same year, she got her about three days before I did. I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about most of the time, but still, right?” Right. I don’t know what you’re talking about. “Oh, and that swingset? He didn’t push it over because it was pink, she’s got the story all wrong. It fell over. He’s seven, he’s getting big like his daddy and he’s too big for the thing, it fell over, almost hit his little sister. Then, when his dad asked him what happened he told him it fell, and Jake went over to fix it and then, oh man he’s sooo cute, he said ‘It’s ok, I’m too old for that and it’s pink anyway. Pink is for girls.” She laughed loudly and expresively, her arms went away from her and up in the air in a “what is this world coming to” sort of gesture. Then she expounded on the cuteness of little Jake, checked the bedpan once more, very brutally changed my bandages and left the room, turning off the lights as she went. I spent the rest of the afternoon in darkness and silence until about six, when Erica came in to feed me.
They’ve been feeding me more and more substantial meals. I think that’s a good sign, or they’re lacing my food with meds and need the heavier foods to carry them and mask them. It’s a terrifying sort of thought. I want to eat the food because I’m always so goddamned hungry, but I don’t know if they’re putting pain killers in there. I’ve been refusing them lately. I don’t really trust pills and I don’t really like being here and feeling good. It makes staying here bearable and I want them to see how much I hate it. I want them to see that they should hurry up the treatments so I can get out of this place. Erica says I’ll be on my feet soon. That a doctor will talk with me soon. But not a physician she warns. She warns me as she goes back out before turning off the lights.

The rest of that night is sleepless. I don’t want to have the dreams again, and now they’d be peppered with Erica’s little frightened warning about the non-physician. I’m assuming they’re sending in a councilor to see “what’s all this about the no-talking then” It makes for a long, dark night, but I wouldn’t have slept much anyway. The burned man next door must have died during the night, and there’s a huge commotion and crying. I hate the hospital and I want to leave very badly now. It’s getting longer and longer and the food is thicker and thicker and they’re drugging me and I know it and the people around me are dying and I don’t want to talk to a psychiatrist ever again. They can’t make me, I don’t think. What if the physician is Jake? I don’t think I could take a third side of that story. Who could possibly have three separate stories about a swing set. This place is awful.
The psychiatrist is terrifying. Uselessly so. I’ve had experiences with psychiatrists in the past, it’s not pleasant situation. It was around the time when that’s all you heard about on television, everyone was going to councilors, people were tlaking about it on talkshows, mentioning their “shrinks” like they were mentioning an aunt or uncle, someone close enough to them to be refered to by a demeaning name without causing any harm. Someone who was able to be playfully jabbed in the ribs, elbowed affectionately. Everyone was going to see a psychiatrist to talk out their problems, to work things out, to communicate, to clear the air, and a million other polite euphimisms for letting someone into their brain and tinkering. Letting another mans hands creep up behind you and work his way in through your ears with convincing and oddly phrased questions and compliments. Memorizing your every movement, judging every word, every sound, any move towards the complimentary water, a ballet of subjectivity, dancing swriling around your precious mind while you chit-chat unawares. Just a casual conversation with a nice man in an ugly vest, a disarmingly ugly vest. Every little bit of the situation a controlled, thoughtful movement so at the end of a two hundred dollar hour, he can reach into his little drawer, the one he keeps spare pictures of his family in to switch out as each patient might have different needs. The patient with daddy issues has to face the picture of the doctor with his father that is sitting on his desk facing the couch, a giant fish between them, others get other pictures, maybe a shot with his mother, his kids, his wife, a pink swingset. Who knows. It’s dizzying to think about, you have to at least admire the machination of it all. All the world’s a stage.
Then, at the end of it, he reaches for that little white pad of his and fills out a paper for a gigantic white man, white even set against the ceiling tiles and fake lighting of the pharmacy, a man you look into more than up to, a gleaming spectre of a man, so that he might hand you a bottle full of secret potions. Little plastic capsules of magical nightmares, spiders eyes, eel perfumes, squid ink, dried and encapsulated, and a bony hand reaches over the counter and closes the distance, an impossible distance, his arm continuously stretching, his hands become more and more bony as he pats the bottle in your top pocket before you know it’s there. His eyes glow yellow, his white hair whispy and immeterial and says “good luck, son.” You are not his son, and he calls you this anyway. He looks like death and you can make out the wall behind him through his torso, the world shrinks down, far, far beneath you both, and your left floating and staring into each other. A little label on a little orange bottle told him all about you, he knows you through and through, and he reaches to pat the bottle again, but goes right past and gently holds your heart in his skeleton hand, his face shrunken away, just bones now, his giant, skinless smile tickled on the edges by his mop of underwater hair, he squeezes it gently and it stops just enough. Just to kill you a little bit, the pills are in there now, he’s done it and you’re gone and far away and ripped back into the pharmacy on Lee Street, an elderly pharmacist is staring at you oddly, the line is angry and everyone is staring at you, “may I help you son?” But he can’t. He’s already killed you, the doctor and his ghostly companion, they’re done with you now.
That’s the last time I went to the pharmacy. I went directly outside and poured the contents of the bottle into the sewer. Hopefully the fish aren’t having anymore night mares, day dreams or visions. Or any combination of those. Oh to be a fish. It’s an easier life, more straight forward, the bigger fish don ‘t wear ugly sweaters.

Erica comes in a little before noon, after the Price is Right but before Hogan’s Heros. I would’ve won a car if I’d been on that day, I usually wouldve won the car most days. Most people are ridiculous and stupid. Don’t listen to the audience that much, but don’t completely ignore them either, it’s a tightrope walk, nobody seems to realize that the audience is the crux of that whole show, find your corner and focus. It’s almost always the one just above higher than the middle, but not yet the highest. Example: If you’re given four options for a soap and the numbers are a dollar, a dollar thirty seven, two dollars and two dollars and ninety nine cents, the answer is almost always two dollars. Almost always, Bob will throw you a curve ball now and again, but for the most part, it’s two dollars. Life is rarely that simple and when it is, jesus it’s about the most beautiful thing in the world.
Anyway, Erica tells me about the doctor coming to see me, that he’s a nice man and wants to help me. More importantly, that it’s hospital protocol and I won’t be released until I see this Doctor Who Ever The Hell He Is. I heard his name but didn’t want to hear it, I don’t remember what it is now, but it was a new name, no one from the past. They must’ve transferred my files from Dr. Moray.
With this new information, I realized that it was time to make my escape. I haven’t been on my feet in a week or more, since I foolishly helped that Teresa person who won’t leave me alone. It shouldn’t be that difficult, I just have to disconnect myself from all the wires and tubing without setting off the four five six alarm. Then, I just have to sneak out the door and out of the hospital. I don’t know exactly what floor I’m on, but the elevators are usually towards the middle of the building, unless it’s a very old building, then it’s off to the outer wall, but, I think Chester is a newer hospital. So it should be towards the middle of the building. Get in the elevator, go downstairs, hail a cab and go home. I can go home, be with my books and I’ll be done with all of this. I can get back to my little life. All of this attention is nausiating and that doctor will try to kill me. I can’t have that happen.
He’s scheduled to be by in a few hours, I’ve got all the time in the world to plan and I’m just about done planning. The only real issue is getting into my apartment. I didn’t really think everything through that night by the lake. I threw my key ring into the lake instead of removing the key to the elevator, to my lair that that harpie stole from me. But Ms. Jackson should still have my extra key, and someone will buzz me in. I hope. So I can get out of here, and I can get in my apartment, but I don’t have my clothes and I don’t have any money. Think. Think. Think.
Ah! The paper. I’m on the front page of that stupid newspaper. Erica left it here for me to bask in my wonderfulness, but it’s stupid and I hate it, but a cab driver would have to give me a free lift, I’m feeble, weak and small and I saved a horrible blonde woman from the evil clutches of a rapist. I think that’s worth a cab ride home away from this villainy. He’d have to, and then he’d call me ‘mac’ and whisk me away from all of this. Clothes aren’t really all that important, I’ve got the hospital frock, and I’ll just grab some sheets from the bed, and I’ll walk out like Ceasar, but after he’d been stabbed, I suppose. I think this is going to work fine. I’ve got one more nurse coming in a few moments, and then I’ll just walk out of here. Four five six the alarm and then walk right out. I can’t even think of an easier thing.
“Morning!” Morning. “How are we feeling” Anticipatory. “Still not talking huh, does it hurt to talk?” Yes. Yes it hurts to talk. “Poor thing, we’ll up the drip for you, would you like that?” I wouldn’t. Doesn’t matter. I’ll be free soon. They cannot keep me here if I don’t want to be here. “Let me see these bandages, we have to change these every day, you know.” I know, you always say this, red haired, southern accented nurse, I know you have to do it every day. I know about gangrene and “gangrene, my grandfather had that” during the war the “poor thing. He was in” World war two “and he was” out on a mission with his platoon, “guys he was friends with” till the day he died “he used to talk about them at” Dinner time, holidays “mostly. That’s when he missed them most, you know. They were good” men. “Johnny and Rico” were the only ones that you “ever met. But good men.” Anyway “he got shot in the leg by one of those German fellers” and he just fell right down in the “muck. But the boys they went back” picked “him” up “and” carried “him” to “safety.” Safety in numbers dear, you shouldn’t be walking through that park all by yourself. “If nobody found you, you wouldve died, you know. You should be more careful, little thing like you.” This was the first time she brought me into the story, usually she starts talking about the importance of clean socks. It’s refreshing in a way, but, it just makes me more eager to walk out the door, get on the elevator, get in a cab and walk right home. All by my lonesome. “There, all done, doesn’t that feel nice?” It doesn’t, it’s a stab wound. “I thought so, well I’ll leave the lights like you like them, but you really should get some sun in here, it’d be good for you to have some sun. Some sort of light anyhow. You feel better now.” She turned the lights off as she went.
After her big speech about how a little person like me shouldnt ever be alone, not ever, I decided that it was time to leave. I reached up to the alarm, the one that was going to sound directly after I removed the heart monitor patches from my chest. Three two one four five six. Barely a peep. I lay still for a moment, waiting to see if they would react to the beep. No one did, southern nurse mustve been deep in her clean sock world.
The tubes come out easily, if a little painfully. I never thought I’d do something like this, it’s just that it’s less painful than being here and hearing about swingsets and socks and bandages and how lucky I am to be alive. How lucky? The nostril tubes go farther in than they feel, it’s very uncomfortable and my brain eats the feeling for nightmare fuel. Doesn’t matter now, the shrink will be here soon. (RetconShrink: hateful term when he uses it) There’s goo and pus and awfulness leaving me where the tubes had been. My body is crying with relief. Crying from each arm, my nose and eyes. I’m untangled and free to stand up and walk out of this place.
I swung my feet over the edge of the bed, then sat up, then, my chest ripped open, and I fell forwards onto the floor in an explosion of pain, the wound reopened and bleeding onto the tile and everything is flooding out around me. Four five six. Four five six. Four five six. I find myself hoping that the shrink comes early just before I pass out. I figure it’s the end and I sigh as much as I’m able to. This is becoming a familiar feeling, this floating, swimming in blackness and when it comes I welcome it as the end and an escape from the shrink, the one who was going to come and play with my brain, my insides and then leave me to rot here with the swing sets and socks and bedpans. Roughly handled every day by strangers, and their conversations with themselves. Each one more depressing than the next and there’s copper on my tongue now and then I’m completely gone, vanished and away.

I hear beeping. It’s reassuring and terrifying at the same time. I’m alive. I don’t really know how to feel about this anymore.

Monday, October 02, 2006

In honor of my knowing a person that had the ability to get me an interesting job at NaNoWriMo, and my realization that I'm completely screwed for November as I haven't written anything of substance in a while, I'm going to try to post a peice of short fiction at least once a week until the big novel kickoff in November.

Four stories in four weeks, hopefully. I'm going to use the time rational people use for research or planning, and just use it to get the brain unclogged. The November novel will be incredibly difficult as I have no idea what it's going to be about but I'm fairly sure it will be titled "Hello." Fairly sure.

I will have a peice of short fiction posted for all four of you in the next few days. It will be so brilliant your eyes will feel like they've been tobascoed.

One. Foot. Feet. Think about that. One foot. Each. Jesus peesus.


Sunday, August 20, 2006


In honor of a friend of mine getting hired on as the Managing Editor of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I've decided to post my failed attempt at writing a novel in a month. I'll never get back to it anyway, and why the hell not let you see how truely awful I am. It's 22 pages long. I got to 15k, then just sort of stopped. This year though, I'm going to write 50k if it kills me.

So here it is, in all it's weirdo glory, a story that got miles away from me: Domino.


Rubicks Bob is my friend He is my friend because we share very similar interests. He is my friend because we spend a lot of time together at the store. I’m at the store a lot buying “toys.” He is also at the store a lot buying “toys.” We met because we were there at the same day at the same time. He was there because he needed a few new Rubicks cubes. I was there because I needed another case of dominos. He got there later than he thought because of traffic. I got there earlier than I thought because I was coming from the other direction. I was coming from the other direction because I moved from the North East to the South West a few months ago. I’ll be moving again soon.
I’m going to try to stop talking that way. It’s hard for me. It’s hard for me because everything happens because of something else and if I start thinking about anything it’s hard for me to not thing of all the things that came before it because what’s the point of even knowing the last thing if you don’t know the first thing and all the connected things in the middle?
I don’t talk to people much. I try not to. If I start talking I have a hard time stopping because of all the things I already said. I like bob because he doesn’t talk much either. Bob would be more comfortable if we all talked in numbers and patterns. I understand because I would be more comfortable if we all talked sequentially and connectively. Some things make sense differently.
I like dominos. Bob likes cubes. He shops at the same store that I shop at. Hank’s Toy Emporium. Bob calls it 4105, sometimes 1405, sometimes 5041, sometimes 0541, because it’s located at 4105 in the Burlington Mall. Sometimes he calls it all the possible permutations of that number, there are a lot. I’m not sure how many. Ask Bob. He get’s stuck sometimes like that, he’ll rattle off numbers for hours. I let him go and try to figure out why he’s going in the direction that he’s going. Bob doesn’t really understand directions. He’s just everywhere at once. I think lineally. It makes more sense. For me.
Today I’m starting in the basement. I always start in the basement. Start from the ground up. The ground up. I’m in the basement, I’ve only gone through a few boxes of dominos so far. This whole house will be alive again. This whole house will have motion and movement. I start in the basement, start in the basement, start in the basement, move forward move forward move forward. I’ve only gone through 3,200 dominos. 2,300, 0203, Bob would say.
I will now describe my house starting from the lower left hand corner, moving clockwise through the floor, then up one floor, clockwise through that floor, then up to the third floor, and then clockwise through that floor.
Coming in from the back door there is a hallway which leads directly to the stairwell, behind the stairwell is a storage space, behind the storage space is a walk in closet, behind that is the main room of the basement, it’s very large and occupies the majority of the floor, on the far end is a small bathroom which contains only a sink and a toilet, there is a small window and a ledge high on the back wall, it looks out to the ground level, to the left of the bathroom is the far wall, turning you find yourself looking at the main room of the basement once again, ten paces in front of you is a wall with a door in it, this door leads to the garage which is nearly empty, there is a bike and some paint cans left over from the previous owner, there is a garage door, then you’re outside. There is nothing else to tell about the basement. There is no furniture.
Come back in the back door, you’re now facing the stairs that lead to the second floor. There are six stairs, then there is a landing, then the stairs make a 90 degree turn left, then there are six more stairs, you are now in the kitchen. Directly to your left is a refrigerator facing the same way you are, then there is a series of cabinets and a counter top that wrap around until you are facing approximately 9oclock. There is a sink here, above the sink is a window, next to that the counter top starts again, there is a washing machine below the counter top directly next to the sink, above the washing machine there is another cabinet. It is the last cabinet in the room. There is then a window, then a far wall that’s covered with ugly yellow tile. In the middle of the room is a small table and above it a small chandelier. Chandelier is a grand term for it, it’s a light that hangs from the ceiling. Now, looking at 12oclock, walk forward three paces, then turn right. You are now walking through a door that goes into the dining room, the dining room is large and vacant. No furniture. There is a wide opening that leads into the living room, the living room has a grey recliner in the middle of it and no other furniture. There is a large mirror on the right hand wall. Directly in front of you is a bay window. If I had a cat he would sit there in the sun. I don’t have a cat so there is nothing in the bay window, the sun only touches the recliner in the middle of the room. There is no artificial light in this room. No lamps. No chandeliers. No lights.
Standing at the recliner and looking out the window, turn to 9oclock again, you are now facing the stairway. The stairway has 13 stairs, just like the set that leads to the basement. Directly in front of you is the back bedroom, the door is shut and locked, I don’t use this room. The door is shut and locked. Inside there is nothing but two windows on the outside wall. These windows have newspaper taped over them. Turn left there is another bedroom. There is nothing in there but the door is open and unlocked. To the left of this room there is a bathroom. The bathroom has one toilet, one shower/tub combination, one sink with vanity mirror, above the center of the floor is a skylight that is never opened. There is a bath mat on the floor so I don’t slip when I get out of the shower. The tile is black. The caulk is white. The tile is black the caulk is white. There are 48 tiles. An old newspaper is draped over the edge of the tub so that I can read when I use the bathroom.
To the left of the bathroom there is a bedroom. It’s my bedroom. Going clockwise around this room, to your immediate left is a closet there isn’t very much in here, then there is a dresser on the far wall, this is also nearly empty, then there are two windows and then a night stand, with a glass of water and an alarm clock on it, then my bed, it needs to be made and it’s black with white stitching.
That’s my house. I don’t like it very much, but it’ll make do for now. I’ll probably leave soon anyway. Soon. I’m not sure when, I have to wait to see what happens next.
I move a lot. I have to keep moving. It’s important. If you stay in one place for too long you stagnate and then you die. And then you die in the place where you were already dead but didn’t know it because you didn’t ever move. A person has to keep moving in order to keep living. Motion is life, motion is time. Motion is motion. Keep moving. When something dies it means that all cellular motion has ceased. It’s ceased because all of the tiny bits of electricity that keep things moving has stopped being generated because the thing that generates all the electricity has stopped moving and can no longer generate electricity, so cells stop functioning and the body dies. I think that’s how it works. That’s how someone described it to me once.
Rigger mortis. I know about that. The longer you’re dead the less malleable you are, it’s harder to move a person after they’ve been dead a long while. If a person dies, at say, 9oclock, not the direction now, the time. The time is 9oclock and someone dies a horrible death. There is no other kind. At ten after nine, the person is still able to move, not on his own anymore, but I could move a body that’s only been dead ten minutes or so. If you let that body sit on the floor for a few hours, it stiffens up, becomes even more dead than it was and becomes frozen. It’s impossible to bend any of the joints. It’s better if I never find that out again. Motion is life, death is stiffness, rigidity.
Bob doesn’t move much. He’s not dead, but he sits still for longer than I can tolerate sometimes. The first time I met him I almost kicked him out of my house. He sat in my recliner for hours and didn’t move a muscle, didn’t make a sound. It was horrifying until I looked at his eyes. I’m able to be friends with bob because of his eyes. His eyes are constantly in motion. I didn’t realize till then that Bob spends most of his time in his mind, and he’s constantly moving in there. I imagine it’s a nonstop parade of numbers and patterns and ways to figure out those numbers, make patterns of those numbers and to make numbers out of those patterns. I view bobs world as a series of melting, changing numbers. That’s probably how he sees things.
I call Bob, “Rubi Bob” because Bob can complete a randomized Rubi Cube in under 20 seconds. Every time. Without failure. He is a whiz. A Rubick’s Cube is a game. It has 9 color squares on each side of the cube. A cube has six sides. The cube has 54 individual squares on the face. Each individual square is a different color. There are six different colors. Each individual square rests on two different axis at any given time. Each row can rotate and each column can rotate. Thereby allowing each cube to move in nearly any direction. The object of the game is to get all the sides colored with the same color square. Nine yellows on one side, nine reds on another and so on. It is ridiculous that I am describing a Rubik’s Cube. Everyone knows what a Rubiks Cube is.
They were invented in the early eighties and created a craze over the country, then the world. They are the highest selling toy of all time, there are approximately 44,000,000,000,000,000,000 different configurations. Bob loves them. I know a lot about rubi cubes because bob knows a lot about rubi cubes. He can solve any rubi cube in any configuration in under twenty seconds any time you ask him to. He could do them in his sleep. He might actually do them in his sleep, I’ve never seen him sleep.
I love watching him solve Rubi Cubes, I could watch it all day. Which is lucky because he does little else. Even when he goes into his number trances, if you throw a cube at him, he’ll work through it as he’s running through the numbers. It’s remarkable. It’s too furious a flurry of movement to keep track of, I try though. I try to watch the square dials spin and rotate in his hand like a gyroscope and try to catch glimpses of how he starts and when he finishes. It’s impossible. He moves. He moves too fast.
I had him teach me to do it once. Just once. He got upset and couldn’t take my not being able to do it, so he would snatch it out of my hand and finish the puzzle in seconds. It went this way:
“Bob, show me how to do a Rubi Cube.”
“Ok.” he said and then he got out of his recliner and came to where I was, which was just inside the dining room, writing on my pad and planning maneuvers. He brought his backpack of Cubes with him. He removed three, one for me, one for him, and one for him to complete when he got aggravated by my shortcomings.
“Hold it like this,” he said. Then he held up his hands so that I could see how a professional holds a Rubi Cube. He grabbed it just like you would think to. One hand on either side, just the fingers touching the outermost dials.
“Ok,” I said. And then I held it the way he was showing me. Then he reached over and moved my hands to the exact correct place for “maximum spin time.” He was holding his, I was holding mine. Between the two of us was the third cube, which lay on the floor unsolved. He kept sneaking glances at it every chance he got. He glanced at it more and more as we sat in my empty dining room, my empty dining room that would be a perfect place for a flower pattern, it was distracting him. It was keeping him from explaining the process to me.
“Ok. Now figure out where everything should go.” He glanced down at the unsolved cube, and while I asked “What do you mean?” he began and completed the cube he was holding in his hands and then quickly mixed it up again. All the while staring at the cube on the floor between us. Flower pattern. He looked surprised at my question. He tried to answer as best he could. “Where are you going to put the reds? The yellows? The greens? The whites? The bl–“
”Oh.” I cut him off. “I guess it doesn’t really matt-“
”Doesn’t matter??” He cut me off. His eyes darted from the cube on the floor to the cube in my hand. Faster and faster. Flowers and stairs. “It matters! It matters! It matters! It matters!” He looked red, he wasn’t breathing very well. He was breathing in short. Quick. Bursts. He made a wheezing sound for a second and I thought he was going to pass out. Then he reached for the cube on the floor, solved it, he was still flushed, barely breathing now. He finished it, grabbed mine and worked through it faster and faster. Solved it and put all three down in a row.
“Ahh” he breathed as he was able to exhale again. He was now just staring at the three completed puzzles. White side up. “It matters” he said. Then he took his cubes and walked back to his chair and sat down. He rested his head in his hands.
He sat there for a long time. It was 11 o’clock in the afternoon when he sat down. He didn’t get up until well after dark. Motionless for hours, just resting his head in his hands. Numbers flying through his mind trying to calm him down from our training session. I sat in the middle of the dining room watching him for fifteen minutes or so, feeling bad. I shouldn’t have asked him to do anything. He’s a touchy person. The slightest thing can set him off like that. I imagine whatever he does in that head of his is calming for him, but he’d probably be happier if he didn’t have to do it. Or at the very least, he’d be happier if he were concentrating on his cubes instead of running through numbers to balance himself out again. Poor guy. I wish I left him sit and enjoy his cubes and the sunshine. I felt bad about it for a little while, then I had to get back to my planning. There’s only so much worrying a person can do before it starts to interfere with his life.
I was busy making notes. This was a new house after all and I needed the measurements for each room. Each step. I had to take the tape measure to every stretch of wall, every plank. I had to measure each angle. I had to check for dips in the floor. When I found one I had to mark it with spray paint. I had to spray the floor so that I’d remember where the dip was so that I could go back and figure out a way to level it off. Most times you can accomplish this by buying a piece of lumber from the lumber yard on 8th street. Then you take that lumber and bring it into the lower floor. Then you cut the lumber so that it will fit perfectly between the floor and the ceiling. Then you take the lumber and wedge it under the place that dips in the floor below you. That usually balances the floor enough to run a proper stream. Streams flow. On and on and on.
It’s difficult to properly mark the underside of the floor you’ve discovered a dip in. It’s possible to drill a hole through the floor. Then you can just wedge the lumber under the hole which has clearly marked the center of the dip. But if the lumber is just a bit too long, the lumber will strain the floor, the hole has weakened the floor, and the floor will crack around the hole. The cracks create more problems. I don’t want to think about all those problems right now. Those problems haven’t happened yet. Those problems will probably happen by next Thursday. After I get all the lumber and cut the lumber and prop the floors. Things crack sometimes, regardless of planning.
The measurements have to be precise. I’ve gotten better at measuring, I’m proud of it. Most of the time I can just judge by looking at a space if it matches the blueprints of the house or not. It’s important to have the blueprints. If a person doesn’t have the blueprints for his or her own house, that person is being irresponsible and doesn’t deserve to live in that house. They should lose that house and it should be given to someone like me who can read and understand and appreciate blueprints.
Then once a person gets the blueprints for the house, it isn’t enough to just have the blueprints, you have to check. You have to check the blueprints, because you didn’t make those blueprints, how do you know they’re right? You don’t. That’s all there is to it. If the blue prints are off, how could you possibly know if the dining room is level enough or not. Or if the room is as big as it says it is? You have no way of knowing. Then you walk through the room at night, or when the lights are off, if you have lights, and then you stub your toe in the doorway and you wonder why. Know your house. Know everything about it. Know the insides and outs, know the quickest way to get everywhere. You should. It’s your house, you paid good money for it, and if anything happens in that house, you’re responsible for it. You’re responsible for the contents of that house and no matter how much planning you did, no matter how much thought you put into it, nothing can forgive not knowing your house all the way through to the core. From the south west base of the house to the northwest corner. From the garage, all the way up to the back bedroom. Know that house. Know the dangers that are there.
This floor is not fucking level. Worse yet. It has lumps. Humps. Peaks and valleys. Hills and dales. It’s a roller coaster. Everything has to be level. Nowhere in the blueprints does it say that the floor should be roller coaster. The average person wouldn’t even know that the floor is almost an inch off level in the corner. Why would they not know that? They probably haven’t measured. They probably haven’t gone to get the blueprints and looked at them. I’d be amazed if anyone even knows where to get blueprints.
It’s simple. I went to get blueprints the day after I bought this house. It’s very simple. Leave the house. Figure out where you’re standing in relation to the nearest bus stop. Get on the bus that will take you to the trains. The beautiful trains. Admire the trains, appreciate them. Every fifteen minutes they fly by at terrific speeds. The ones you need stop, the ones you don’t, don’t. They’re large and rectangular and when they move they say “clack clack. clack clack” Like dominos. Running by in a blur of motion. Clack clack clack clack.
Get on the train that runs into the city. When the train stops at the fifth stop, get off the train. Watch the train leave. Understand that the train is gone, but it will be back when you need it. Take a moment. Breathe. It will be back. It will be back. Back back. Back back. Clack clack.
Walk down to Jefferson Street. Turn right. Walk straight four blocks. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison. The streets are named for presidents. They’re named in order. One two three four. Right in a row. At Madison, turn left. Walk up 9 blocks. Walk from 9th to 18th street. Admire the order falling behind you, first to fourth then 9th to 18th. Walk to the third building in. Look at it. It’s the Department of Records. Walk in that building. Go to the third floor. Take the stairs. Always take the stairs. Listen to your feet.
In room 309 there is a woman named Anne. Speak to her. There will be forms to fill out. Fill out the forms. Give them back to Anne. She’ll give you a roll of blueprints. Leave the building and get home following the directions in reverse.
These are important documents to have. Everything important is in these blue lines. Study them. Remember them. Check them over and over. Spread them out on the floor and hover over each blue line until you know it like you know yourself. Like the palm of your hand, like you know the palm of your hand connects to your forearm and up through the rest of your body. Each turn is important. All the lines are connected. Blue streams of squares. Sectioned, square and sequential. Each place is going someplace else. A constant blue blur of motion. Nothing bad can happen if you know where everything is at all times.
I have my blue prints, I’ve had them since before I bought the house. I had them since I lived in my last house. I have all the blueprints for all my houses. Each one more important than the next. Each floor of each house was off kilter at some point. I fixed each one with increasing speed and proficiency. Speed is important, always.
I need to fix this house. I need to make it right. The floors will be perfect. The floors will be level. The dominos will run through this house like blood, this house will live again. My house will be my home with the soothing clack clack of motion and black.

Chapter 2

When I woke up this morning, Bob was already in his chair working through cubes. He was finishing a cube and placing it on the floor next to him. Then he’d get another cube, solve it, and place it next to the first. I’m not sure what he was doing, but the second and fourth cube were at least a quarter of an inch out of line. I didn’t tell him. I don’t think he would’ve heard anyway. I left him go. Besides. I had a lot to do. Bob will be fine in his chair. He’s got bags of those cubes.
I need lumber. I could just call the lumber yard and have it delivered, but they won’t pick the right pieces. I need ten eight foot pieces and fourteen ten foot pieces. I can’t wait. The lumber yard is down by the river. It’s within walking distance. It’s a few miles away. Lumber. I’m goingggg to geeeettt lumbeeerrr. I’m singingggg aboutttttt lummbeer. It’s lumber day. Things are under. Things are under way!
The only problem with going to the lumber yard is dealing with all the guys who work at the lumber yard. It’s a commotion down there, which I enjoy, but all the guys can really get in the way of things. I don’t really know how anyone works around so many people without killing someone. When I get there I have to speak with the manager right away, so that I can get enough space so that nobody else speaks to me. I hope he understands. He needs to understand and he needs to understand in a very short amount of time, because picking this lumber could very easily take all day. A lot goes into the picking of these timbers and I need him to understand that I cant be disturbed by any of his workers or any of their fantastic machines. I’ll pull the lumber myself, put it in a pile and then one of his machines can come and pick it up, put it on a truck and then they can take it to my house, then drop it on the ground, then I’ll pull the wood into my house and get to work. It’s important that I’m not bothered.
It’s a long walk from my house to the lumber yard. It’s a nice day though. I’ve made this walk in the dead of winter. That’s not nearly as enjoyable. Less singing. Significantly less singing.
In order to get nearly anywhere I have to walk past the Aramingo Deli. I just refer to it as the deli. It’s the best deli in town and as luck would have it: it’s just around the corner. Lucky for me. Lucky for them. It’s amazing and I love it.
I love this deli because they have great sandwiches. I found out that this deli has great sandwiches because my exwife went to highschool with the owner. She and he went to highschool around the corner. They grew up together. Whenever I get a sandwich, Tony Aramingo, the owner of the deli will often tell me a story about my exwife and something they did together in the past. Maybe tell me a story about something they did together with their old group of friends. Maybe tell me how they used to date and isn’t that something. And no it’s not, I’d just like a deli sandwich please. And a half a pound of cheese. For Bob. Rubi Bob likes cheese sandwiches and I like to make Rubi Bob cheese sandwiches. So I get cheese and bread for the sandwiches. Please give me my order so I can leave, so I can leave and go around the corner and feed me and feed bob and get back to work. Please give me the sandwiches.
The windows are bright today. He must be busy. He’s a fat, loud man and I hope he doesn’t see me walk by. I’ve got too much going on today to deal with that fat man, despite his delicious deli sandwiches. He’s busy. Thank god he’s busy. Don’t let him ruin Lumber day. It’s not often I get to go outside. It’s not often I get to go to the lumber yard and pick out perfect specimens of lumber which were borne from perfect specimens of trees, which were cut down months ago in some remote and wonderful part of the world just for me. They were planted at a tree farm, or grew naturally. If they grew naturally, it makes the experience all the more remarkable. Thousands of years of history go falling back, falling back into quiet nothingness, watching great trees bare seeds, seeds take root, saplings are formed, those saplings weather all the tortures of the elements. Winds and rain beat at a thin little tree, shoving it as far as it will bend, it has to hold. It has to hold. Don’t snap little sapling, my floors are bent and need you to fix them, ancient sapling. Ancient sapling who grows to a large tree, and bears seed and has his own sapling, and so goes the cycle again. Incessant motion speeds through time making it ok for me to wake up today, walk by Rubicks Bob, past the Aramingo Deli, and into my shoes right this instant. Streams of incidents, smashing and pushing the next along, just so this day exists for me. All right there stretching out in front of me. Amazing. Amazing and beautiful.
That thought carries me past the deli, and for just a moment I see fat Tony Aramingo working the meat slicing machine. For just a moment, he sees me too and smirks one of his fat little smirks. I shouldn’t tease him about his weight, if I worked in his shop, I’d be just as fat. His sandwiches are so good. If I could spend more time in there I would. I’d be four hundred pounds. I know I’d be four hundred pounds. If I worked there, everything would align itself and I would put on a dangerous amount of weight, and I’d die of a heart attack in the bathroom. Bob would be devastated. Actually, he’d probably be more devastated about not being able to use the bathroom.
Nobody would ever even find out if I died in my bathroom because I put on a lot of weight from working at The Deli. Then went home from the deli and went to the bathroom. Then I’d have to grab my chest. Then I’d scream, or gasp. Then I’d fall over. I might even hit my head on that old newspaper on the toilet that I never read. Then I’d die. Then Bob would have to use the bathroom after a while. He’d find my dead body. He’d scream a bit. Then he’d probably use the bathroom and then his brain would run through a remarkable amount of numbers and computations. He does that when he’s upset. Then whenever that finished he’d probably leave and go to the Toy Store and buy a few cubes. Then he’d go to his apartment. Leaving my body to it’s own devices. Bob doesn’t talk to anyone, especially in a situation like that where he’d be frantic. Nobody would find me for weeks. Nobody would look for me. Nobody would care much. Maybe Tony Aramingo. It would cut into his profits and his fun.
But that’s exactly how that would go. It’s all lined up. If I were to get a job at Tony Aramingo’s I would die within two years of my first day on the job.

The lumber yard is owned and operated by a man named Jack. I’ve dealt with him enough times that he should understand what I need by now. He’s a busy guy but he should remember me. I don’t come there often, and I certainly don’t look like most of his customers. I don’t look like I’m in construction or anything like that. Besides. I’m very awkward and guys like that tend to hate me. I don’t talk loud enough. He works by machinery and saws all day. It’s a tough conversation just due to the dynamic of it, but on top of that I’m uncomfortable talking to people. I get stuck.
The lumber yard is a massive place. It’s just on the river and it’s enclosed in chain link fence and barbed wire. There’s a security guard at the gate and I’m not sure why. I don’t know why the need to guard lumber so tightly, but then I don’t know anything about the lumber business. There’s probably a whole string of reasons why. It seems to be working for them whatever the reason, business seems to be going well.
There’s a large entry gate into the yard. It’s so that trucks and such can go through. The road is unpaved, it’s a gravel lot and it’s muddy. I didn’t wear proper shoes. I don’t have proper shoes. I only have one pair of shoes. They’re black shoes. They have white laces. I like black and I like white. I don’t like mud. I’m going to need new laces after today. I hadn’t thought of that before I came down. It’s not a big deal. I’ll think of the lumber. Think of the lumber. Progress. Progress.
The yard is a flurry of motion. There are men everywhere. The majority of them are wearing flannel shirts, brown boots and leather gloves. Men are walking places with piles of lumber on their shoulders. Men are driving fork lifts. Men are yelling at other men to pick up lumber, or drive a fork lift closer to them. It’s a flurry of motion. If it were all for a similar purpose it would be the greatest place in the world. But the motion is uninhibited and uncontrolled. Men are walking to wherever they want at any random point. Any sound, any situation can set them off in a different direction. Lots of yelling. If all this were streamlined I don’t think I’d ever leave. If all of this were streamlined I would never leave. That’s all there is to it.
I need to talk to the security guard. I have to. If I don’t talk to him, I wont get to see Jack the owner operator who inherited the business from his father. His father who inherited the business from his father. Presumably the business will run downward to Jacks son, Jack’s sapling, Bruce. Who is a nice guy and who works in the office. But first, before all that, I need to figure out how I’m going to talk to the security guard who is a large, imposing man. He’s going to talk loudly, and curtly and he’s not going to like me and it’s going to be frightening. Just breathe just breathe. Do it.
“Excuse me.” I must have said it too low because he didn’t hear me at all. He didn’t even look at me. For a moment I think, that’s it. That’s the end of the day. Everything led downhill to this moment and it didn’t work, so get out of here and go home. Start tomorrow. The first time I came down here it took me six tries to just to get past that gate and into the lumber yard. I just don’t like people. I need to adjust. Subtle tweaks in spacing can make or break any set up. Tip anything the wrong way and you can ruin everything. You knock everything down and you have to go back and start fresh. I’m already almost done with this security guard and I’ve only said two words.
“Excuse me, sir” And then it worked. And then he turned and we’re off and running. Get it over with quick, just be careful you don’t get swept over. It’s important you figure this out. Get it done get it done. The house needs to be fixed. Plans are in motion. Motion this is part of that motion, be careful, don’t go to quick, don’t go to slow, just move steadily. Clack right through.
“Can I help you.” He said. He seems nice, but he’s a bit off. He doesn’t like me already. He’s spooked. He’s going to fall the wrong way and ruin everything. Say something say something quick.
“Jack, please.”
“Do you have an appointment, sir?”
“No, please.”
“He’s a busy man, sir. He might not be able to see you.”
“Please, Please”
“What’s this about?”
“Wood, please.”
“You ok?” this is getting difficult, why cant he just tell me where jack is and then I can get moving. I should be almost on my way to picking out lumber and I don’t want to speak to this man anymore.
“Yes. I need lumber, please. Timbers.”
“Let me see if he’s here.” He turns to use the phone and I can tell he’s sort of afraid of me. Not afraid. That’s not the right word. He doesn’t like me very much. He thinks I’m weird. Everyone thinks I’m weird. I don’t mean to be weird. I just don’t like people very much. That’s all. I like watching the order of things and I don’t get along well with people. I used to get along well with people, but not anymore. Those day’s are done. I don’t like people very much, they’re scary and I just want my wood so I can finish my house so I can start the build and I need to start today or everything is ruined. So many plans. So many plans. Please, please just let me in. It’s so much. It’s so much. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
“Ok. Jack said he knows who you are. You can head in.”
“Oh thank god!” I said it as I was thinking of breathing and it came out in a huff and he looked at me strangely and I rushed right in. I tried to hurry without splashing too much mud on my shoes. It made for a strange walk. Some of the men noticed. I noticed them noticing and tried to walk more normally. Trying to walk normally is more difficult then you would think. I’m thinking that people are looking at me because of the way I’m walking, so I have to try to right my walk and walk more how I walk, but how does anyone walk? How do I walk normally? I never thought of it. I just walk. Now I’m being awkward. More people are looking at me. My shoelaces are brown. I need more time. I need more time.
Oh. No. There’s jack and he’s waiting outside for me.
“Hey.” He’s looking at me strangely. I just need lumber and I’m going to leave. Please let me get what I need. Jack. Please Jack. Jack Sapling. This wood was put here for me thousands of years ago and now it’s here or me. And now I’m here to pick it up and I need it and please don’t get in my way it’s important you don’t get in my way. I need the wood for the house so I can start. Please please please.
“Look” he said. “If you want lumber, you can get it here, but you can’t be here all day like last time. You took up entirely too much space last time and this is a business and I’ve got a lot to do. If you can get in there, pick out what you need for whatever it is you need it for, but it’s got to be quick and it’s got to be now.”
”If not,” he said “you have to get your lumber someplace else. I don’t have the patience for you today.” He remembered me from the last time I was here. He remembers me and he doesn’t like me because last time I took too long because the timber wasn’t right and I needed it to be perfect. I took a long time because it needs to be right, and he doesn’t understand and I made him mad. And I’ve ruined it now and I don’t know what to do.
“Do you understand?”
“Yes but...”
“No buts, pal. Just get to it and get it done and get out of here.”
Hurry. Hurry. Motion and quickness. You can do this. You’ve done this enough times in the past to get this done as quickly as you can. Focus. Focus on the task. There are so many things in the way. Business has boomed for Jack. He’s doing too well, there’s too much commotion. Get it done. Go.
The logs are organized on giant shelves. There are hundreds of the types that I need. I need to get lucky and find the perfect ones as quickly as possible. I don’t know how that’s possible. There are a lot of things to considers. Knots are signs of weakness, little holes in the wood. But they’re ok and I like them. I just don’t like a lot of them. A few is fine, any more than a few are no good. They’re garbage instantly. That’s easy. That’s an easy way to cut the number of possible selections down quickly. I should’ve brought Bob. He counts quickly. I don’t.
There are too many to deal with. I need a few knots, not too many. And they need to be square, perfectly square. Otherwise they’re useless to me. Especially the tops. If the tops aren’t perfectly flat, then they’re ineffective as leveling devices. The floor must be level otherwise the routes become muddled. I can’t force the routes, the routes have to go wherever they must go. I can’t dodge lumps and bumps in my flooring. It’s my fucking floor, its mine to fix. I need it level. I don’t have time for this. All of history has led to these pieces of wood being laid out before me. Everything every move in the planet has dictated that these wood be mine to choose from. And Jack is ruining everything. There are too many, too many.
The selecting is impossible. It’s frantic and hurried. Pull them. Just pull them. No. I need to look, figure it out. Figure it out. How can you get this done. Just pick, c’mon. You’re wasting time. Move.
I attacked the stack of lumber. I jumped up on top of one pile, and just took each piece with one hand and threw it behind me as I sorted. Straight behind me. Just sorting as fast as I possibly could, and not really thinking about what was behind me. I shut down most of my brain and just set to throwing these timbers down behind me. Just trying to get a quick glance at each piece before moving on to the next. I was making a bit of a mess, but I didn’t have time to worry about that. They probably pay someone to come out and clean the grounds when people start throwing logs around. I’ll bet it happens all the time.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Jack was running up, keep sorting. He’s going to throw you out, quick quick. Keep sorting. The timbers were making “Bong bong bong” noises as they clattered on the ground and bumped into other pieces of wood. It was a good sound, but not very soothing. It’s not really important if he throws you out, there’s another lumber yard a few blocks away. But we need to get sorted. Get started.
“I’m trying to be fast, I’m sorry.” The words left my mouth and went across the yard and bounced right off Jacks angry head like he didn’t even hear me.
“I said, what the fuck are you doing.” Make it work, tell him what’s going on.
“I’m trying to be fast, I’m sorry.” I said back to him. I’m praying he heard that, he looks like he’d want to hit me if I don’t answer the right way. And he could, they’d have no way of knowing he hit me. Even if He wound up beating the hell out of me, there’s enough people here to cover it up and he’ll get away fine. He could kill me. All his worker bees could bury me right below all these saplings and nobody would ever know. Bob, would just live in my apartment going about his day like nothing ever happened. Like he never met me in the first place. He’d probably be better off, but I don’t know who would fix him sandwiches. No time to worry about that.
“Fast? What the fuck are you throwing everything all over the place for? You’re going to kill somebody!” He’s mad. Tell him about the dominos. Let him know why you need them. At the very least tell him something.
“I need to find good pieces.” I said. That was enough.
“What’s wrong with these?”
“Too many knots or the sides aren’t level.”
“I can’t have too many knots. I can’t have too many knots because it spoils the wood. If the wood is spoiled the wood is weak, and if the wood is weak it wont– it wont be able to help me. I just need the wood. The wood was put here for me. The wood existed from forever ago and it grew up and found me and now it’s here for me and I need to take it now but I have to find it first please. I need to find it so I can use it for what it’s for. You didn’t stop me last time. I was slower last time but you didn’t stop me. You didn’t stop me because you weren’t as busy. You weren’t as busy because your business wasn’t as strong. Your business wasn’t as strong because you weren’t as busy --.”
“Shut up! Christ. C’mon. Get your shit. Let’s go.” He’s angry. I don’t know why he’s angry. I haven’t done anything wrong. ‘M going to pay. It’s not like I’m not going to pay.
“I have money” I said
“I’ve got money too. Fuck your money. Get your shit, let’s go.”
“Please, I’ll just take these. Please. I’ll make it work. Please. Please. Please.” I grabbed him. I didn’t mean to but I did, he was walking away and he was literally dragging me through the mud.
“C’mon man. Don’t do this.”
“Please, please.” I begged him. I was so close to getting started, even closer to being finished. “I’ve been coming here for years, please just let me go.”
“Ok, all right. Get offa me. Christ man. What the fuck is with you.” He was standing over me. I was sitting in the mud.
“I don’t know. I don’t know anymore. Can I buy –“
”Yeah, fine. C’mon man, get out of the mud. You all right?”
“I think so. “Ten eight and 14 ten. Please.” He helped me up. I was crying. I didn’t realize I was crying. It’s been a while since I’d cried. I had a better reason the last time. This was ridiculous. But it’s important. Jack should not have pushed me like that. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just needed everything to work out perfectly. Now I have to work with these misshapen timbers. I don’t know if it’s going to work anymore. All this planning. All this planning. All this planning.
“I’ll get your wood. You still at the same address?”
“No I moved. I moved because I had to move. I had to move because –“
”Stop. I remember this game. Just tell me where you’re at.”
I told him. He said there would be a delivery tomorrow. I hope it gets there early like he said. I hope.
I left the lumber yard after I finalized the delivery and paid for everything. Lumber is more expensive than you think. It’s all right. I have the money for a little while longer. Everything is almost done anyway.
On the way back I walked by The Deli. I hoped Tony wouldn’t be outside. He’s outside a lot when I walk by. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for why that is, but I don’t know any of them. I just have to think “it’s one of those things.” And I hate thinking that. I’ll have to work out why he almost always manages to be out front when I walk by. It’s probably just because he’s always outside and I walk by a lot. Probably just a probability thing. I should ask Bob when I get home, presuming Bob is still at my house. But, I’m pretty sure he is. He had all his cubes with him today and I know he doesn’t have anything to do. More than likely he’s at my house solving cube after cube after cube, it’s only been a few hours.
Tony is outside. Tony is outside because he’s hosing down the pavement. He’s hosing down the pavement because it makes him look like he’s doing something even though he’s doing nothing at all. There is no reason in the world to hose down a pavement. Not that I’m aware of. If it didn’t mean speaking to Tony Aramingo, I would ask Tony Aramingo why he hosed down the sidewalk.
Tony is a fat man with a hose. He usually wears whites. Deli garb. When a man works at a deli, he’s usually covered in bits of lunchmeat. Blood really. He’s covered in blood. Not Tony. Tony was scott clean. Tony was always scot clean. He made sure he never did an ounce of work, but reaped all the benefits. There’s a kid here, he works here for extra money for school. He works for extra money because his folks cant afford to send him to school. I overheard him talking about it while waiting for a hoagie one day. He’s a nice kid. At the end of the day he’s always covered over in evidence of his day at work. Sweat, dirt, sandwich bits. He works hard. Tony hoses the sidewalk. Just keeps everything outside looking clean. That’s Tony Aramingo. He was outside on my way back from the lumber yard.
“Yo!” He said. He was hosing my way. It was too late to cross the street. For most of the way back I was going through patterns in my head. Things to do, ways to place all the dominos. Would I have enough? Probably not. I’d need to get to the store and get another big order. Patterns. Hearts. Stars. Figure eights. Lanes and twists. One at a time. A steady hand and a pure, focused mind. Each black figure floating towards the finish line. Each shape divine and different. We’re running now. Look at the black shapes. They’re going to keep going, flowing together.
It’s easy for me to fall into these thoughts and it speeds the walk along. My shoes make good sounds on the pavement. The faster I walk the faster it blurs the faster I walk the faster it goes. I lose concentration. I sort of go away. Sometimes I wind up far past my house. Once I came around at a red light sixteen blocks from my house. It took about an hour to walk back. I must’ve just soothed down into the sounds for an hour. But it wasn’t wasted time. A lot of planning got done on that trip. Today was one of those days. I could’ve walked to the other side of the earth if Tony Aramingo and his hose hadn’t come along. I should have crossed the street. If I had been thinking of the double shift line instead of the double wrap around, I probably would’ve crossed the street. But I wasn’t, and now I had to live with that choice. I was thinking of the double shift, I wouldve been across the street and I could’ve avoided this whole problem. Now I have to deal with this fat idiot and his hose. Though. His hose is fascinating. Water is entrancing. Fluid. Like Dominos.
“Where you goin in such a hurry.”
“Home.” I was still walking fast. I was walking faster and faster as I got closer and closer. I was trying to match the sound of my shoes to the sound of the water. Both were splatting against the pavement. My shoes were still mushy and wet from the mud. The faster I walked the closer I got to reaching a harmonic rhythm with the water. Just keep it up. Don’t listen to this idiot. He’s going to ruin your whole day. Just keep walking past. Just try to get by.
I’m going to have to cross that river of water eventually. I can wash all the mud off my shoes. That would be helpful, but I should just jump over it and keep going. I don’t want to splash the water and ruin the sound. I need to get home. I should tell bob about my day, about all the commotion at the lumber yard. He’d like the lumber yard I don’t know why I’ve never taken him down there. Lots of stacks of rectangles.
“Home huh?” I hate this man.
“Yes. I’m headed home because I left because I had to go to the lumber yard because I needed lumber but there was a situation where Jack was yelling at me because I was making a mess. I was making a mess because I was in a hurry. I was in a hurry because the last time, I was there too long for Jack. Jack got the lumber yard from his father. Who got it from his father...”
“Right. Right. Lumber. Ya gotta have lumber.” What’s the point of talking? Why would anyone waste their time saying things like this man just let fly out of his mouth. Nobody gained anything from what he just said. I don’t even know what is going on. “You want a sandwich?”
Damn. I did. I did want a sandwich. One of those ones where he puts the olive oil on the roll before he puts the lunch meat on there, then bakes the whole thing so the olive oil works into the roll. Oh. Oh damn. I do want a sandwich. Damn.
“I would like a sandwich, yes. I’m hungry because I was at the lumber yard earlier and there was a lot of commotion and it made me hungry. There was a lot of commotion because–“
”Yeah, right. Lumber. I’ll fix you somethin nice.” He brought me into the store. I wasn’t expecting to go into the store today. My feet were muddy. I was going to tell him but then I’d wind up telling him about why they were muddy and I’d be back into the lumber story again. It’s hard for me not to tell the whole story all the time. If he asked me why my feet were muddy, and I just said “mud.” it wouldn’t be much of an explanation, would it? Of course there was mud at some point. That much is clear, but then when do you stop? When do you stop telling him about why your feet were muddy? The lumber? The floor? The dominos? The house before this? The event? High school? It goes back and back and back. When does it end?
“You want provo?” he means provolone. Of course I do. I nod. I don’t want to tell him why I want provolone.
“Yeah, we’ll get you fixed up.” he says. He’s looking at me now. He always sort of stares at you. It makes a person uncomfortable. I think he likes that, gives him a little feeling of power before he starts in on you. Or at the very least that’s what he does before he talks to me. Every time. Every single time. “You know I was with Elaine before you right?”
I nodded. I did know that. He always told me. He always told me right after he asked if I wanted provolone. If nothing else, I admired the consistency of the event. It was always the same. It moved the same way. I liked that about it. I liked that and provolone cheese and olive oil. He’s going to talk about the springtime dance. And then he’s going to talk about make out point. And then he’s going to tell me half of the story so that my imagination runs away with me and I try to figure out exactly what happened that night. He figures I’ll assume the worst and then feel bad all day. That’s how he works. That’s how his mind works. One by one by one.
“You know I took her to the Springtime dance one time right?” I nodded. He took my Elaine to the Springtime Dance. She didn’t have a good time. She told me so. She said that he just walked around and talked to his friends the whole time, while she sat and drank punch on the far side of the room. When they danced he stepped on her feet and his breath smelled like he’d been drinking. She wasn’t sure if he had been, but she was always a bit naive. He had been. He brought a flask of Jack Daniels in his inside pocket.
“Man. I was banged up that night. I brought a flask of Jack Daniels in that inside pocket. You know the ones in the suits?” I nodded. I did. I’ve worn suits. I had a black one that I wore from time to time, on big occasions. My life is slowly running out of big occasions so I get less and less use out of the suit. I had a few chances to wear the suit in the last year or so, but I was busy on the days of the events, so I stayed at home and worked, but wore the suit while I structured and built.
I like the suit. It’s layered and leveled. The tie got in the way a few times. It started a few lines now and again. It was irritating but challenging. I am very patient.
We’re the only two people in the store. I’m not sure where the kid is. The one who’s usually working his tail off while Tony hoses the street. There aren’t any customers. It’s a strange hour of the day. Most people are at work. Tony is at work. He’s filling a roll with a selection of meats and provolone cheese. He continues. He goes on. And on. “We dance all night. Oh boy. It was a blast.” They only danced for three songs, and when they did, he stepped on her toes and she smelled his breath. That’s all that happened. I know this because she told me. I know it with all my heart because she told me. She wouldn’t lie to me. Never.
“Then afterwards,” This is where it gets hard to be in this store. To be so close to this fat man who is in charge of most of my eating. I hate this part of the story. But that’s where we are in the conversation and this is where it’s going. He’s going to hit the cliffhanger. He’s purged through all the boring setup that doesn’t really set much up at all, and now he’s going to go for the cliffhanger. Here we go. He’s got that smirk on his face. Just a slow grin that lets out that same smell that she must have smelled that night so long ago that exists so differently for the both of them. Here it goes.
“And then we went up to Look Out Point. But you don’t want to hear about that though. That’s not something you’re interested in. I mean, hellcat. You know what I mean. She was a hellcat that night.” She wasn’t ever a hell cat. She was my wife. I’d tell him so, but I’d run through the entire story and if he interrupted me I don’t know what I would do. I had a dream about it once. I woke up crying. I was thrilled about it. He was terrible. “We get up there and she. Is. Hot. Let me tell you...” He’s touching my food and talking about my wife. Dreams. Put it aside. Think about dominos. Don’t think about him. Don’t think about her. Don’t think of the event. He’s almost through now. He’s at the cliff hanger. He’ll be done. “But I don’t think I need to go on.” He didn’t ever need to go on. He didn’t need to start.
Today must have been different. I don’t know why. He kept talking. He was done making the sandwich, had wrapped it in deli paper, but decided to keep speaking. Luckily enough, he changed topic. But I wish he hadn’t. I wish he just handed me my sandwich and then I could leave and then I could eat this perfect meal and continue with my project.
“You want another sandwich for that buddy of yours?” He meant Bob. Bob always wants a sandwich. I nodded.

“What’s his name again?” I’d never told him in the first place but I guess it was fair to tell him. He had been feeding him for the last few months.
“Bob.” I said.
“No no. You call him something else sometimes. Right? Something goofball.”
“I call him Rubicks’s Bob because he likes Rubick’s Cubes and his name is Bob.” I don’t know how he knew I called him that, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to leave. I needed to get out of here. This conversation has gone on for long enough, and suddenly it’s going on for longer than it usually does and it’s making me uncomfortable. I started to sweat and I’m sure it was noticeable. He was making me sweat and he was enjoying it. That’s what he wanted all along. That’s what he wants every time. He feels like I’m some weak weirdo and he’s a big strong guy and it’s his job to pick on me and my job to be picked on.
“Ahh, that’s right. That’s right.” He’s acting like he knew that. I’m sure that he never did. “What’s he some kinda weirdo.” I started sweating even more. I was swaying back and forth. Fidgeting. He’s getting under my skin and he knows it. I don’t want to tell him anything about Bob. Bob shouldn’t be exposed to this horrible man, even though he makes a delicious sandwich.
“I saw him walk by here a few times with those cubes of his. Pretty impressive stuff.” He did know Bob. And he knew what Bob did. Don’t destroy Bob, you filth. Don’t talk about Bob. Don’t talk about my wife. Don’t talk about Bob. Just make my sandwich and let me leave.
“Yeah, maybe I should have a talk with him one of these days. I try to talk to everybody who walks by the store. Keep the community up, you know.” I know. He talks to everyone. He’s the gossip center of town. He starts every rumor. He digs into everyone’s lives and uses it for his own gain. He turns people against each other. Against me. And always. Always with the cliffhanger anecdotes, leaving you worry for the worst. He knows you know that he’s capable of the worst. Here it comes now. “Yeah, I should have a talk with him. Maybe me and him could work something out....” Cliffhanger comment. What could they possibly have to talk about. I can’t even imagine. I’ll have to think about all the possible strings that could connect Bob and Tony to each other and what they together could connect to that would do anything for Tony. Bob is like me, he’s barely a person half of the time. Tony has been talking to me for fifteen minutes and I haven’t said a word, which is volumes more than what Bob would say.
I’m going to have to tell bob. I’m going to have to do something for Bob.
“It’s a shame me and you never got along. We used to get on ok, right?” I nodded. “Back when you were a little more normal. Right before you killed your wife...” That Tony, always with the cliffhangers.

Chapter Three

I walked as fast as I could back to the house. Clack clack. I concentrated on my shoes. Clack clack. Clack clack. Not his place to bring that up. Not at all. He was there at the Spring Dance. That’s fine. Tell that story, that’s his story to tell and lie about. Not his place to talk about the event. None. Clack clack. Clack!
I got back to my house a few minutes later with sandwiches for me and Bob. I decided to wait to tell him about everything because if I started telling him about how he shouldn’t talk about Tony, I’d have to tell him about Tony and my wife, and then I’d have to tell him about my wife and the event. I can’t deal with that right now, besides, Bob seems to have encased himself in Rubick’s Cubes.
When I left earlier that day he was solving cubes and lining them around his recliner. Over the course of the day, he had built those lines higher and higher. He was still solving cubes, furiously fast. He had created a box out of cubes, it ran completely around the recliner. He’d stacked them up as high as the middle of the chair.
“Bob, what are you doing.”
“Winning.” He says that a lot when you ask him about the cubes. It’s all about winning. I’d never seen him surround himself like this though. Walling himself off like he was. He was incessant, but his walls were starting to get too high for him to reach his bags of cubes. I wasn’t sure how he was going to continue at this point, or how he was going to finish. Or for that matter, what the finish was. What was the end of the game?
“Bag.” He said. Apparently I was the solution to the “how am I going to reach my bag” Puzzle. I grabbed his duffel bag and handed it to him over one of the walls of cubes. The one with all the blue facing out. He took it from me and didn’t say anything else. He just continued stacking and solving, solving and stacking. I let him go. I didn’t even mention the sandwich. It was better I didn’t, I might get caught in a situation where I run through the whole event. And I don’t need to do that right now. Not yet. I’ll tell him later.
“I’m going to go upstairs, Bob. If you need anything come get me.” I said it but it didn’t really mean much. I don’t think he heard a word of it. I briefly wondered how high he would go before he realized it would be impossible to completely enclose himself in the cubes. Or how he would get out.
In order to close the box on himself, he’d have to put a flat row of cubes over the top of the box. It would be physically impossible. Though I’ve seen Bob do some pretty impressive things with a rubicks cube, I don’t know if he can suspend them in mid air. Maybe he could. I don’t have a lot of doubts about it either way.
But eventually he’s going to run out of reach. He’s not tall enough to reach the ceiling even if he stands on the chair. I don’t think he is. Maybe he is. I don’t know. Though I question his ability to keep it structurally sound the whole way up. I know a thing or two about balance and that’s probably going to come over around the 20th level or so. It’ll just start swaying, and then other parts will sway, and then they’ll all sway too much and it’ll all come down. Nothing good lasts forever. Not me, not her, not bob or his hand made, color coordinated prison. I need to go lie down. I hate to do it, but I’m going to eat my sandwich and take a nap.
I should be working on the project. I should be working. Planning is great, but especially now, I just want to sit with my crates of dominos and set to work. Quiet. Organized. Nothing but hours upon hours of steady handed problem solving. No interruptions. I’ll be there in a few days. I don’t need much more. I need to stock up on food. I don’t know if I could handle going back to Aramingo’s. Maybe once or twice. Goddamn those sandwiches. He’d be completely out of my life it weren’t for those sandwiches. The all consuming power of consumption.
But I’ll be free of everything in a few days. Once I start laying the beginning tracks down, everything will fall behind. Fall behind. Fall forward. Forward motion like nothing else. Nobody’s seen anything like it.
It’s important that I lie down for a little while. After I eat the sandwich. I’ll go over plans while I eat the sandwich, but that’ll be it. I can’t go much further until I get the lumber anyway. The unknown lumber. I wonder how that’s going to turn out. It better be close. I need it to work out. I also need to find my saw. I think I may have left it at my last house. I may have left it at the last house because I did such a good job last year of picking out lumber. I barely needed to alter anything. Of course that wound up ruining my whole day today. I should have seen that last time. I should have known that picking out the best lumber last time would start everything down a road that would lead to me hiding in my room while my friend hid from everything downstairs.
I should have known that I wouldve wound up nearly getting tossed out of the lumber yard, then running into that fat jerk, then getting a sandwich and then.... AH! No more. No more. Stop stop.
And then.
And then.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand then he talked about my wife. And then he finished the sandwich and then he got that look in his eyes and then he talked about the event and then I took my sandwiches and I walked home clack clack clack and then I saw bob and he was boxing himself in and I had to help him do it. I helped him cage himself in his cubes and then I went upstairs to eat a sandwich from that fat fuck that fat prick how the fuck fuck fuck fatfuck...

And then.
And then.
And then I blacked out. I fell down deep. Off the edge. Into a pool of water. It was water from his hose. From the clean man outside of the deli. The pool of water was rushing down to the gutter. I was in it. I was cruising along. Clack clack. The scene disappeared around me. The skies and the buildings all melted, replaced by black. Black Black. Two white dots in the distance. They erupted in the middle of all the blackness. Bang bang. I floated down below them. Diagonal spots hovering above me. Snake eyed domino coming to crush me. Clack Clack. Clack clack.
Eyes of a train. Clack clack. Clack clack. I killed her on the train. Clack clack. She’s gone and I’m here. I killed her and she killed me. Come back. Come back. There were too many people. I didn’t mean it. Too many things fell down the wrong way. If I had changed any one thing, she’d be with me. In this house, but it would be full of life, she’d be swirling around where ever she goes. There would be light. If she were still here, I’d be all right. Just fine. Bob would be gone. The floor downstairs would be perfectly level and filled with furniture. This room with her clothing, other rooms filled with children and life. Movement. Forward movement. But she’s not. But she fell. But I pushed her. Clack clack. Clack clack

“ERIC ERIC ERIC ERIC” It woke me. It was from downstairs. It was bob. I was still on the bed. I was half on my pillow, half on a sandwich. The nap and the sandwich ruined each other. Ruined. “ERIC ERIC ERIC ERIC.” My name is Eric. He’s calling for me. I don’t know why. Either he’s trapped, or it fell. One or the other. Maybe it’s both. It fell and he’s trapped underneath. Maybe I should leave him there and eat his sandwich. Shit.

“Hang on. I’ll be right there. I was dreaming. I was sleeping. I napped. I was tired.” Exhausting to have to talk like that. I don’t know why I do it with Bob. I’m not even sur he understands half the things I say anyway. “Eric Eric Eric Eric.”
“I’m coming, Bob. I’m coming.” Moving forward through the hallway towards the stairs, I can hear him crying a little. He’s whimpering. I’m still not sure if he succeeded or not, but whatever happened it made him sad. Whatever happens, it’s probably going to make you sad. It’s just an eventuality. You start off however you want. You’re going to wind up sad. It’s the last brick. Every time.
Rounding the corner and setting foot on the first stair I can already see that I was right. There are cubes everywhere. Rubick’s bob has escaped his prison at least. That’s probably the best of it. But he’s probably furious that the building is either done, or demolished. He probably had his heart set on living inside that cube for the rest of his days. If that’s the way he wanted to go, I would have let him. I would have to make arrangements in the living room, but who am I to tell anybody how to live their lives. Die their deaths.
“I’m here Bob. I came down from upstairs.” I said.
Bob was on the floor. He was resting on his haunches. He was staring and he was crying a lot. More than I thought he’d be. He was grabbing at the cubes. He was just sort of pushing them around, like he decided to bring them near him, and then decided to push them away at the last second. He was just sort of smearing them. Batting them like a cat. I didn’t really know what to do. Bob and I didn’t even know each other all that well. We just share similar obsessions. I almost said psychosis just then. That wouldn’t have been accurate or fair. We just enjoy different things and we enjoy them more than most people. It’s not a crime. Not yet anyway.
“Bob. Bob. Bob. What’s going on Bob.”
Bob just sort of gestured around him like I didn’t see the cubes everywhere and then said nothing. I didn’t know what to do. “What should I do Bob, I don’t know what to do.” He just kept crying and batting the cubes around. Swirling the mess. Each cube running off at random into another cube like atoms smashing. They made a beautiful sound, but I couldn’t hear over Bob’s constant crying. Screaming. Like a child.
“Come on Bob, get in your chair. You shouldn’t sit on the floor, you’ll get sick.” I’m pretty sure it’s not true, but it’s something my mother always told me when I was a child. Most of the time it didn’t make sense. I knew it even then, but it was comforting to know she was looking out for me. She wanted me to get off the floor because I was her child and she wanted me to be safe and probably, just like now, for me to stop screaming.
I picked him up under his armpits and helped him back into his chair. I had to brush a few cubes off the seat in order to set him down. As they clacked on the ground he kicked them and sent them skittering off towards the front door. He looked like he hated them. I knew how he felt. But it didn’t matter. I couldn’t relate that to him. He was just angry that his castle fell. When he was seated his wails slowed somewhat, though he was still clearly upset. I reached down and picked up a cube and scrambled it. He lunged at it and solved it in about ten seconds. His right hand made the first turn. After that I couldn’t tell what he was doing.
“I got you a sandwich, you want a sandwich.” He didn’t answer, he just shook his head and scrambled his cube. I handed him the mystery sandwich. I didn’t see what Tony fixed him. I started “I didn’t see...” But I cut myself off. I didn’t want to get into it again. I just handed him a paper square which presumably hid a sandwich inside. He took it and opened it up. There was a ham and cheese on rye with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. It was cut diagonally and I each half had a frilly toothpick stabbed through the center. One was red and one was green. There was also a piece of paper stabbed through the green one. It rested on the sandwich.
He pulled the green toothpick, looked at the card and put it in his top pocket. Then he started to eat the sandwich. “What’s it say on the card, Bob.” Bob had a mouth full of sandwich meat and didn’t even look up at me. I can’t figure this guy out and he lives in my house. Sometimes he seems like a five year old child, then other times he’s like a grown man. He just looks like an average guy, eating a sandwich, brushing off a ridiculous comment by one of his buddies. He looked at me like I was crazy. His eyes said “What? Like I’m going to tell you? You crazy prick.”
“Bob? Bob what’s on the card, Bob. I bought you the sandwich Bob.” He looked up at me with a mouth full of meat and cheese and said “says not to show you.”
“The card says not to show me?” That fat bastard is slipping notes to my friend and he’s dumb enough to put it in the sandwich I bought, like we weren’t going to eat it together and then writes “don’t tell Eric.” among whatever else is on that card. That takes a lot of guts. Fat, fat guts.
“Yep.” he said. Like he’s a normal person all of a sudden.
“Bob. Show me the card. I paid for the card Bob. Let me see that card.” I was getting angry with Bob. I just picked him up off the floor. He should show me what it says on the card. “Bob I just picked you up off the floor Bob. Show me the card.”
“The card says not to.”
“Fuck that card Bob. I just picked you up off the floor because you were on the floor crying because you woke me up because I was sleeping because I was tired from the day because I had to deal with the fat asshole who gave you that card because he was out front washing the sidewalk for no fucking reason while I walked by because I had to go get lumber for my project because the floors are uneven because....because tell me what’s on the card Bob.” it takes a lot to get me angry, but I made a lunge for him. It didn’t really need to be much of a lunge. I said this “nyahh!” as I lunged!
Bob didn’t even move. He just kept chewing. I guess because the card didn’t say I couldn’t read it, just that he shouldn’t show me.
I read the card. Here’s what it says: “I think me and you could should work something out. You should give me a call. Maybe we can make each other some money.” then it listed his number. I don’t know what it meant really. I just know I don’t want that guy anywhere near Bob. “Bob. Forget this happened. You don’t want to deal with this guy. He’s a bad person. He’s a bad person because...because....because I say so Bob. You understand?”
On the other side of the card was another phone number. It said “This is it, Bob. You and me.” It was a one eight hundred number. I have no idea what it could be for. How could Bob make anyone any money. Also, why don’t I have a phone?
I don’t have a phone because, I don’t like talking to people. I don’t like talking to people because it takes forever and they get annoyed with me and then I feel like a weirdo, then I realize I am a bit of a weirdo and then I feel bad about myself and then I feel like I should go home and lay down.
Oh yeah. That’s why.
I’ve got some things to work out now. I have to find a phone or talk to Tony. I cannot and I will not talk to Tony ever again. Unless it’s a sandwich order. That’s the only way. If he starts talking to me in any other way, I will not speak to him, or I will crush him. One or the other. I’ve got to figure out what this number is for. How Bob could help Tony.
Though, Tony has an angle on everything. I think Tony thinks I’m very crazy, when in fact, I”m just a little crazy. I don’t think that guy ever said a word to me before everything happened. Then, after everything happened, I started coming around a bit more and he would just tell me whatever was on his mind because he’s never really heard me talk. I don’t talk much. I wind up nodding ninety percent of the time I’ve seen him. He thinks I’m fully gone, so he doesn’t have any problems talking to me about whatever is on his mind.
Tony runs that Deli. He doesn’t do much there, but he’s got his feet wet in a few other areas of life. His deli isn’t even how he makes most of his money. He scams a lot of good people out of their money. He knows a lot of the wrong people. He helps a lot of the wrong people wash their money through his deli. He’s not a good person. More than likely he’s spotted a mark in Bob and is going to try to take advantage of him. I cannot, will not allow that to happen. I’ll need to set things in motion so that doesn’t happen. I need a phone.

Chapter Four

Bob finished his sandwich and fell asleep sitting up. He had the wrapping papers and what looked to be half the weight of the sandwich in crumb form all over his chest. The red toothpick was in his mouth. I picked up the paper and the green toothpick, brushed some crumbs off him onto the paper and threw it away. I tried to pull the red toothpick out of his mouth, but he started to stir when I pulled on it. So I stopped. I let him have it. I just hoped he wouldn’t choke. He probably wouldn’t.
I still had the card in my hand. He probably had forgotten all about it by now. He was sleeping and that was that as far as he was concerned. Just to be sure I mixed up forty or so cubes on the floor. Whatever happened, he wouldn’t be able to move until he found all the one’s that were scrambled, then righted them all. I spread them around. Some were solved, some weren’t. Some had just the top face of them untouched. He would have to sort through all of the cubes to figure out which were solved and which weren’t. He’d be there for a while. It would give me time to get to a phone and figure out what was going on.
All of this precaution is probably unnecessary as I’m pretty sure Bob doesn’t really care about that card or what it said. He was probably angry it kept him another few seconds from that sandwich.
There weren’t many places I could go to use a phone. Everyone has a cell phone these days. I don’t have a cell phone because I don’t like talking on the phone because I don’t like talking to people because I talk like this and it makes people hate me. I thought about the problem while I scrambled some cubes on the floor in front of a sleeping Rubicks Bob. A phone would be tricky. I didn’t know any of the neighbors. I was not about to go down to the deli. There were a few other stores within walking distances, but there weren’t any pay phones. I could walk into the store and ask to use the phone, but they wouldn’t let me use it. Why would they let a random man into their store to use the phone, especially one who rarely talks, and when he does, won’t stop talking. It’s a weird person to have floating around your store and it’s probably not a good idea to start a relationship with him.
The train station. I could go to the train station. There are payphones at the train station. I saw the payphones at the train station when I was taking the train to get the blueprints for the house. I was getting the blueprints for the house so that I could measure everything. To be sure. I need to be sure. I need to know what’s on the other end of this phone line. What could Tony want with Rubicks Bob.
I scrambled a few more cubes for good measure, and hid two in the closet. Bob would be counting as he solved the puzzles and he would realize that two were missing. He’d tear the house apart looking for them. He wouldn’t figure everything out until later on when I get home.
Phone. I didn’t get as far as I thought that I would. I shut the door behind me and walked down the stairs to the sidewalk. Across the street there was a woman leaving her house at the same time. I don’t know why. I’d never seen her before. There aren’t many people who live on this block anymore. Especially My side of the block. My side of the block was empty. A series of abandoned row homes that had long since been bought and paid for, sold and moved out of, inhabited and uninhabited over the last few years. She must have been new. I didn’t even know that house was up for sale. I never saw the sign. I would have noticed.
I had to put my head down though. I didn’t need to be bothered right now. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. This day had been ruined already with talking to people. I’ve talked more in the last ten hours than I have in months. It’s been enough and I don’t really need this on top of everything else. I put my head down and walked a little faster for the sidewalk.
“Hello!” Ah shit. No no no. I put my head down further and sped up my walk.
“Hey! Hey!” She’s coming for me. She’s coming for me. No. No. No. Keep walking. Don’t run. That wouldn’t be nice. But don’t rule it out either. If she gets a little closer, maybe run. Think about running. But right now, walk quick like you have to get somewhere quick. And you do. You need to get to the phone as quick as you can.
But she trumped me. She started running first. “Hey! Wait up!” and she started running towards me. I looked over my shoulder and saw her hustling as fast as she could. As soon as she saw me look, she knew there was no way I didn’t know she was talking to me. “Heeeyyy!” She said as she got progressively closer. I was starting to look like one of those goofball sleepwalkers so I decided to make a run for it too. I’m not very fast and I’m wearing dress shoes, so keep that in mind.
I was equal parts frightened and impressed by her ability to run at full speed and yell at the same time. She kept yelling for me to stop, but I couldn’t stop. I needed to get to the train station and I needed to not talk to her even more than that. So I took off. People driving by probably thought it looked a little strange. It’s a sexist country we live in. If the rolls were reversed and I were chasing her, someone would’ve ran me over with a car by now. But she’s chasing after me and nobody seems to care. At least one car full of people was laughing at me.
I was watching them laugh at me when I caught my foot on the curb and I fell onto the ground. I fell onto the ground and I landed on my knee and the skin on my knee tore open, then instinctively my hands went out to stop my fall, the skin on the pats of my hands pulled off. And then I sort of rolled, and in doing so scratched the side of my face on the ground. It had been a bad day.
“Oh my god!” she yelled. I scrambled to get back to my feet but she was on me before I could pull myself together. “Oh my god are you ok? I’m so sorry.”
I was bleeding and wasn’t really all together by the time she came to me. I was a little rattled from the adrenaline. There was blood falling from my hands. I needed to get to a phone. Phone. Phone. “Phone.” I said. She doesn’t know what that means. I don’t really know why I said anything out loud.
“No no. You don’t have to call anybody. I’m not going to hurt you, I just wanted to say hello, then I tried to catch up with you, then you started running and then I wanted to catch up so that I could tell you I wasn’t really chasing you. And this looks really bad. I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you up.”
“No no. I’m ok.” I started to stand up, but I was still a little frazzled. This woman liked to talk so much that she chased me down like a dog. We weren’t going to get along and I still had to get to the phone.
“I don’t want to talk. I have to get to a phone. At the train station.”
“Train station? I”ve got a phone. C’mon. Let me get you cleaned up and you can use my phone.”