Thursday, December 31, 2009


Fireworks have been going off intermittantly all day, so this was sort of inspired by those sounds. It's a bit gloomy, but I hope you enjoy it.



As if the door were made of jello it swayed inward. In the middle of the room Andrew McCall watched. He stood tall, at six foot nine, and played basketball in high school despite being ungainly and poorly coordinated. His coach used to glower at Andrew's every trip and scuff and fumble but was reluctant to pull his player, afraid to lose the sheer intimidation that height inflicted on the opposing teams.

Andrew's life was filled with disappointments. Disappointments he set on others and disappointments others set on him. "You're smart," said his mother, even though he was actually slightly below average and didn't much enjoy learning or have any ambition to do so. "You're strong," said his father, even though in reality he suffered from asthma and a rare heart condition, and the circumference of his upper arm was only eleven inches when he reached his full height. His early sparks of dreams and ambitions were dampened by the ambitions his parents laid on him and the relentless scolding he received every day that he failed. By the time he was seven his last internal ember grew cold.

In his teens his parents gave up altogether, realizing he showed no signs of becoming the man they wanted him to be. It was a comfortable detente for Andrew. He often lay on his bed in his spare time, staring at the peeling lead paint on the ceiling, and thinking about nothing, as if the future did not exist in the way that most people build it in their minds; as if the present was divided up into slides in a projector, each one illuminated for a time, static, then replaced by a new present. It was as if he could just turn himself off for awhile.

In the world, as an adult, he was a ghost. He formed few friendships and no deep ones. Whenever he walked down the street the people around him would not move for him; he was unnoticed, almost invisible. They looked somewhat small to him. Every building was made for them, not him. He was in a different space, one that butted up perpendicular to their space and time.

He shuffled through some non-notable occupations. He bagged groceries at a supermarket where the fluorescent lights blinked out their own morse code to each other. They bleached the floors in bluish light and made the shoppers look sallow and unslept. The music was a mash made to dull and calm the mind designed to relax shoppers enough to buy more high-profit, high-carb items in the center aisles of the store. Andrew didn't mind the music. He passed many hours without memory of anything he bagged. He earned average evaluations from his shift manager, an older woman with frizzy hair and corns on her feet.

In his next job he washed the windows of stripmall stores, frozen yogurt dives, porn shops, nail salons, dog groomers, western wear outfitters, seasonal tax return experts, pizza parlors, military recruitment centers, nutritional supplement stores and the odd arcade. He was hired because he was tall and could easily reach the far top corners of the windows. He liked the vibrations the squeegee made against the glass. He liked watching the water drip down.

For a time he was unemployed. He collected unemployment and lay on the couch in front of the TV all day but watched nothing. He just stared at the dark gray screen and blinked occasionally.

On a Friday his father kicked him out of the house. His mother looked forlorn but didn't protest.

On a Saturday his passed the military recruitment center. He paused and looked at the glass. He remembered washing it. He licked his finger and ran it down the window and savored the vibrations and snags. The recruiter, alone for hours and bored, mistook this as a sign of interest, that Andrew was contemplating serving his country. The recruiter sauntered out and smiled. A half hour later Andrew had signed away the next two years of his life. It was something to do.

Andrew's platoon was filled with boys younger than him, boys with ambitions and places to be, someday, once they got out of the desert. They almost universally dreamed of a day they could call sleep sleep, not rack. They dreamed of hot showers, junk food, girls gone wild, alcohol soaked adventures. Some dreamed of college and future families and Peace on Earth, sometime. Some dreamed of fiery, painful deaths, with their own blood running out and coagulating in sand, of feral dogs feasting on their corpses, of being dragged awkwardly by the hands of enemy children through piss-saturated rubbly streets until all appendages rotted off. These dreams were pushed under but never drowned by bravura talk, horseplay, cards, and abstract arguments of faraway politics.

Andrew still didn't dream. When he was at rest he stared at the sky or at the ceiling, depending on his location. When he was on the move he watched his feet or a fixed point in the distance. He rarely looked around. This unnerved his mates. Once he watched a cockcroach crawl in and out of the festering abscesses of a dead child in an alleyway for three hours until a fellow soldier slapped him across the face for doing so.

By the time the door swayed inward, his platoon had long ago given him up for dead. An oddity that breathed and took up space, but who had little bearing on their lives. As the wood in the door began to pull apart, something stirred in Andrew. He spread his arms and legs instinctively. Splinters broke off and shot towards him. Metal shrapnel from the bomb followed. Bits of organs and flesh from the bomber came third, as their aerodynamics slowed their progress in comparison. Wood dust exploded into the room. Everything struck Andrew. He felt nothing. The men behind him, three members of his platoon, suffered only minor scrapes and some perforated eardrums.


Anonymous said...

Hi - I am certainly glad to discover this. cool job!

TheBard said...

Amazing work. You are a very gifted writer.