It’s morning. I rise. I grab a handful of my clothes and depart the darkness of my abode. The handful smells of ashtrays and last night’s three-too-many, but I smirk with the roll of the drums and we start this day with a yummy taste of disappointment.
Like every day.
I wish I could have been too much for the people I’ve known, but the door beckons and outside I go with the wind, a stench of my yesterday following, socks drifting through my fingers towards the ground and I drift also.
The sidewalk threatens to eat me and my shoes are trapdoors to the places I’m going to end up going. Going and going through the muck and grime and into the water of the ever-running river of life, filled with the bobbing heads of a thousand pointless people in their drowning contentment.
I stumble by the house next door and notice a leafblower unattended and I feel the need to take it and make it mine. There’s some mysterious reason for me to do this, but I think there’s something more to this yard work than the wholesale slaughter of thousands and thousands of living things for the sake of a Yard of the Month sign.
I should stop by the funeral home and pick up Ms. Harrison’s urn – the granite vase full of her late husband’s remains, the remains of her very long day. It’s only a few blocks away and I can pop in for a quickie with my favorite corpse artist.
I should have stopped seeing this bitch ages ago, but you get used to that feeling of certain body parts wrapped around your certain body parts – the familiarity of a perfectly made burrito that you never seem to be able to buy anymore. I Thank God I don’t have to pay for these fleeting moments of sexual bliss. The morbidity of it all is beyond my acknowledgement, but I cherish the moment when we stumble high into the unused chapel during a long service. We sway and buck against each other with the rhythm of the droning organ. Sometimes I can’t even tell if it is her crying or some poor soul mourning over an empty shell of the person they used to know.
The irony is too wicked for me to linger on. Which one of us is the empty shell of a person, I have no idea.
I sprint past the Morrison house and dodge having to speak with the old biddy that inhabits the mass of cobwebs that once housed the greatest family in this small fucked up town. I drop a shit-stained towel in her yard for my own comfort.
The funeral home is bustling with activity and I get the glare from Henry, the part-time director. He’s got the look of a pig in a box. He wants you to think that he belongs where he is, but we all know better. Henry belongs in the casket, he’s dead inside. He’s just repeating the same old shit every day – bereavement, tears, cheap flowers, and outrageously priced caskets for a fucking worm-feast to spend eternity in.
I dodge him and the stupid family he’s attending, so willing to put all their money into a service that’s as pointless as making sure a corpse gets a three-course meal before it goes into the oven.
Sara and I used to joke about the people we’d have sex in front of and on top of – these useless bags of what used to be life. She’s got those glasses and that look of being the fucked up chick that everyone knows better than to get involved with except the people that get off on that shit … the glasses and the standoffishness, not the corpse-painting nympho shit.
I don’t mind it either way.
She’s not here this morning anyway. I dump my laundry into the pile of cheap-shit clothes we really put on the bodies before they go into the ground. You don’t really think we’d let those expensive suits and jewelry go into the ground do you?
That’s what I do, I sort the fakes out according to colors and styles so they look just enough like the real shit that we can get away with it. Sara sells the stuff out of the little store she runs with my other love interest, the impenetrable Melina. Melina sits on a stool behind a nearly broken glass case with an old cash register from the 70s blocking every customer’s view of her nearly perfect breasts pushing out her faded Tubeway Army t-shirt just enough to suggest that there’s something unholy and beautiful underneath that cloth that you’ll never get to.
I’ve seen them once, and only because Sara got behind her and lifted her shirt up. Sara’s got breasts like those tension balls, fun to squeeze into different shapes, but no real form to speak of on their own. Not that I mind. I hardly ever take her shirt off anymore. She hardly takes my pants all the way off.
I see Ms. Harrison’s urn and snatch it up. The keys to the body boat most people call a suburban are on the embalming table and I swipe them. Henry just stares dumbly at me as I drive off with the corpse he’s supposed to be burying in an hour.
“I’ll be back in thirty minutes!” I scream out the window at him. I think he says something back, but I don’t give a shit.
I take the first three corners nice and easy, but on the fourth I purposefully hit the curb and cut the wheel. For a second I’m on two wheels, but the fucking corpse doesn’t roll. Jake, our old driver, is the only one I’ve seen flip a corpse that way. Too bad he flipped his ass right off the old Gully Lake Bridge a few months back. They couldn’t tell which lifeless hunk of bloated flesh was his when they finally found the old ambulance he used to drive.
At Ms. Harrison’s I pull two wheels up into her yard and jump out the passenger door with a fiercely urgent look on my face. I’ve got the urn under my arm. Her yard is meticulously perfect. She carts her broken old body out her door every day and picks up every leaf in her yard, summer to winter to spring to fall. It’s like she’s afraid they’re eventually going to weasel into her house one day and smother her with that wet dampness.
She answers the doors quickly frowning at both my parking job and the shit-streak-looking trails of mud I’ve tracked up her sidewalk.
“It’ll take me all day to clean that walk,” she says right off. “You should be more courteous.”
I just smile.
“Here’s the old man,” I say. She’s appalled. She’s also a freaked out OCD-type germaphobe, so what I do next is quite possibly the closest I could ever coming to killing the poor woman.
I pop off the top and sneeze a spring day’s worth of snot into her face. A cloud of ash and bone erupts from the urn and coats us.
I think she screams, but anyway, she’s down quick and twitching. I pour the rest of the ashes on her and reach into the house to turn one of the figurines on the small table beside her door a little past perpendicular with the other assorted crap she’s got piled there. If the realization she’s got her dead husband in her eyes and nose and throat doesn’t freak her out, the figurine out of place will.
My day is done, I think. I feel like returning to the room I live in, but I get the urge to do something else. I want to act on all the things my previous night has brought to my attention. I want to be who I realized I am last night.
I am the most important person in the least important speck of the universe.
It’s been a good day so far. On a scale that ranges from rabid badgers falling from the sky to angry elder gods flaying my skin off, this day ranks right up there with ants finally rising up against humankind. And I for one would welcome their socialist ways, their quick justice, their tenacious service to their queen.
I leave the elder Ms. Harrison on the floor of the entryway to her house and skip down her muddy sidewalk. I find myself humming a tune I don’t recognize and that disturbs me a bit, like what if this tune has been secretly transmitted into my brain without me knowing it – maybe it has set up residence across from my brain’s database of hummable tunes and is polluting my cranium with subliminal advertising.
It’s not a bad tune after all.
One of the two tires I’ve ridden up into Ms. Harrison’s yard has blown open a fairly good sized ant nest. The panicked and angry workers struggle to relocate the newly born while attacking the giant rubber invader. I watch entranced for a moment, but soon I begin to hear Ms. Harrison stirring from her shock – probably about to call for help, the bitch.
I just now realize the gravity of what I’ve done. The suburban advertises the Hobbs-Crocker-Marsh Funeral Home in painfully contrasting white on black. It won’t be long before I catch shit from Dr. Hobbs. I probably will be terminated.
No more chapel sex with Sara. No more free suits.
I’ll probably even have to invest in a washer and dryer.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter. After what happened last night, nothing matters that has any connection to who I was the day before.
Jumping into the driver’s seat of the body boat I catch a glimpse of the late gentleman in the back. My attempt to flip the corpse has resulted in him slipping out of the casket and now he lays crumpled stiffly like a scarecrow made of sticks instead of hay.
I key the ignition and floor the accelerator, tossing hundreds of angry ants into oblivion and digging a nice big nasty rut in Ms. Harrison’s yard. I visualize what event is rolling down from the future to collide with the present and it’s so sick that I nearly vomit as I giggle thinking about it. In a few short seconds I’m at 45 miles an hour – then 55 – then 65.
There’s a fat curb coming up fast and its so thick that you could land a plane on it. Throwing on more acceleration I prepare to cut the wheel and face death.
I see the gauge read 80 just as I hit the curb and cut the wheel.
For a second I think it’s not going to flip, but the one front wheel still on the road loses its grip and I see the pavement come rushing at my open window to fast for me to brace myself. Again and again I see it coming just before my face is pressed against pavement – pavement – grass – sidewalk – the roof of a car – and then I’m hanging upside down, my face broken and bloody from trauma.
I have to be quick to make this work. I unbuckle my seatbelt and fall from my seat into a pile of pain. Ignoring it with good spirits, I wiggle out of the window. I only take a moment to survey the destruction I’ve caused. It looks to me like I managed to flip the body boat a total of six times before ending up in someone’s yard next to a Volvo I’ve crushed. Not bad for a day.
Snapping out of my self-congratulatory debriefing I rip open the back door of the boat and grab hold of the corpse in the suit. With my last ounce of strength I pull him from the wreckage just as people are starting to notice.
“My God! Someone help us!” I scream. “He’s not breathing! Help! Call an ambulance!”
I look around in a feigned panic more to ascertain who my hero is going to be than to dramatize the situation. I see him almost immediately.
Late thirties, early forties, he’s been jogging. Pasty and sweaty you can tell he hasn’t been at the exercise game long. I assume he’s just hit that brick wall of mid-life bachelorhood. Too old to keep up with the game, but too young to realize it’s too late. Yes, this guy is going to be my hero today.
A crowd has started to gather and I make the motions of checking the corpse’s pulse.
“Does anyone know CPR?” I shout.
Come on hero, it’s your moment.
“I do,” he says and jogs his semi-fat ass over to the scene of the accident.
“Thank God,” I say. “He’s my boss. I can’t imagine losing him. You have to help him.”
Still faking panic and shock – and I’m a bit surprised no one’s concerned about me and my face. Possible death always gets top billing though. Those goose-neckers that make the traffic jams worse at auto accidents aren’t looking on with concern, they want the blood and guts. They want to see the newly dead – they’re breaking their necks to catch a glimpse of the soul evacuation. The light from heaven, the fire from hell.
The fool doesn’t even bother to check the body, he just starts pumping away at the guy’s chest. I should probably get ready to run, but this is going to be too good to give up front row seats for.
In that glorious moment when he stops pumping and grabs for the guys head I realize that this idiot does not know CPR at all. The fool presses his entire mouth over that of the corpse and blows mightily. The resulting sound is like a wet fart as the corpse’s mouth repels the air. The jogger pulls his head away and attempts to pry the corpse’s lips apart. A few people have already realized the truth, but this dumb shit catches it in waves. I can clearly see the levels of recognition, from sewn eyes to sewn mouth to ice cold skin.
I’m already sprinting away, my monster grin catching gnats in the wind. There’s blood running into my eyes and nose and mouth and I drink it down like wine. All this stems from last night’s revelation. This glorious moment is brought to by a five second epiphany … a whisper from one human to another. A second’s glance at the man behind the curtain.
Last night …
I hear sirens in the distance and they create a strange cacophony when blended with the wind blowing against my face as I run full sprint. My face is still bloody, but I feel the tingling of the slow healing process starting. I’m sure I’ll be fine.
Up ahead of me, a small city bus crosses an intersection. If I hurry I can catch it and ride it back to the funeral home where my sentencing awaits.
I catch up to the bus as its brake lights dim and the driver gives it gas to pull away from the bus stop. Screaming and banging on the side of the bus, I convince the driver to wait. Out of breath and bloody I climb aboard. The driver, an older African-American gentleman, frowns at me as he takes my money.
“You need an ambulance, not this fuckin’ bus,” he coughs at me. The guy looks and sounds like he eats lit cigarettes for breakfast. “Unless you’re going eastways, you best get out and call 9-1-1.”
“I’m fine,” I say and collapse into a seat.
“Suit yourself … “ he mumbles something after this that sounds like: crazy ass white boy muthafucka.
There are three other people on the bus staring at me. Two old ladies hold their week’s worth of groceries in their laps, celery jutting from the tops of their sacks. A smart looking man in his sixties sits at the back of the bus reading a newspaper. He looks at me over the tops of his glasses which sit halfway down his nose.
Thinking back to last night, I know what I have to do.
“Sir,” I say to the man, “You need to get off of this bus right now.”
The man ignores me and turns his gaze back to his newspaper. I stand and shuffle back a few rows before sitting down to stare at him again. “Seriously, sir,” I say, “You need to exit this bus immediately.”
The man still keeps his gaze away and mumbles something.
“I’m sorry, what?” I ask.
“Leave them passengers alone!” I hear from the front. “And keep your damn seat.” The bus is picking up speed down one of the major thoroughfares.
Again I stand and move back in the bus until I’m in the row directly in front of the man.
“Sir,” I say, “If you don’t get off this bus right now, you are going to die.” I hear the women squeak and turn to see the driver glaring at me through the rear-view mirror.
“If you don’t stand up right now and march to the front of this bus and ask to be let out,” I continue, “I’m going to grab you and throw you out … do you understand?”
“Please,” the man says, still not looking at me. “Take my money. Just don’t hurt me.”
I laugh and grab the man roughly. To my amazement he’s light and easy to carry.
From the front of the bus I hear: “Put that man down, you crazy ass! Leave them people alone!”
Once I get the now-blubbering man up to the front of the bus I politely say to the driver, “Please, could you stop the bus so this man can get out?”
“Sit your crazy ass back down before I stuff my fist into your face,” he screams at me. “I ain’t stopping this bus for shit. I’m behind schedule and on fuckin’ probation, ain’t no way you gonna cause me to lose my job.”
Calmly, I kick the release on the door and pull the handle. In one swift seamless motion I set the man down and kick him out of the bus at 30 miles an hour. The man rolls well enough that I think he survives. Immediately, the bus tires scream as they lock up and I’m already out the door and running again.
I can hear the driver screaming after me, but I know I’ve gotten away. A few blocks away is my next stop. I can’t wait to see Melina. I have a feeling that today I will finally have the chance to hold her in my arms and feel those wonderful tits against me.
And here she is.
I haven’t known Melina long but Sara has known her since they were kids. What little information I’ve gleaned from my close personal relationship with Sara has been mostly epic dramatization of their long and blustery existence as lovers. This is the kind of thing most men would love to hear from their partners, I’m sure. In my case, I feel cheated.
In theory, I am supposed to be attracted to this girl behind the old cash register. I can clearly see that this is why she has appeared in my life in this way – she is here to tempt me and ruin me. In truth, I hate this woman.
Her lack of knowledge of music and music culture astonishes me and contributes to my overall negative perception of her. She lies in the category of those who can sing the lyrics of a song but have no concept of the music behind it. She’s wearing a Tubeway Army shirt today.
“Gary Numan is a fag,” I say.
“Thom Yorke is a mongoloid,” she retorts without looking up from an art magazine. I bite my lip in anger at her blasphemy, but alas I must save this girl.
Melina and I share only hatred of one another. I feel she is a vapid waste of space, she feels that I am a pseudo-intellectual creep who uses words to confuse people.
“If I had your brains, I’d eat them.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” she queries, still eyeing her pop art and glorified graffiti. I don’t know what I meant and I am caught off guard a bit. So I just say something randomly, hoping it fits.
“Because you’re a zombie – if I had your brains, I’d be a zombie and all I’d eat would be brains – but I’m such a self-glorifying bitch I’d refuse to eat other people’s brains and I’d eat my own.”
This finally raises those brown eyes from the magazine and she stares at me. I can’t see her tits, but I know they’re back there somewhere behind the old cash register. In just a few moments, I will breach that no-man’s-land, that wasteland where few souls of the opposite sex have tread. Soon, she’ll be in my arms, her breath against my neck, our legs awkwardly entangled, our chests heaving, lungs gasping.
“Sara’s not here. So fuck off. And go to a fucking hospital.”
The cash register sits on the only sturdy and wooden part of the glass case Melina sits behind. If I try to leap over the glass part, I could very well end up in the hospital. The damned cash register is in my way if I go over the wood. I realize I could just walk around the case, but I have very little time to do this right. I realize that I don’t have time to be considering things like this.
In as swift a motion as my scrawniness allows, I plant my hands on the wood and vault my legs sideways over the glass. For a brief instant, I think I have enough momentum to clear it. My hip comes down first and with a dull crack, the top pane of the case splinters. With a sloppy breakdancing move I windmill my legs to shift my balance off the glass. In doing this I kick Melina directly in the face.
The glass shatters as I manage to clear myself of it and the irony of Melina’s shattered nose is lost to me as I wrap my arms around her. Screaming, she elbows me and manages to squirm so that her back is to my chest. I wrap my arms tighter around her and I’m not even considering how close my hands are to her breasts.
There’s barely enough time.
With all the force I can muster, I bend my knees and propel us backward, parallel to the broken case and away from the window.
Before we’ve even hit the ground I hear the Grand Marquis hit the window. I don’t see it pass by us, but I know it’s taken out the cash register. A large portion of the display case is torn from the ground and slams against us with almost the velocity of the car. I can hear Melina scream and out of the corner of my eye I see the bumper of the Grand Marquis disappear into the office.
We lay there a moment, the sound of tinkling glass all that is left. She’s in my arms, her breath against my neck, our legs awkwardly entangled, our chests heaving, lungs gasping.
A few moments pass, and our breathing dies down a bit. I can hear people walking in through the window, crunching broken glass.
“You can take your hands off my breasts now.”
The moment is too climactic.
“The moment is too climactic,” I say.
There’s silence a moment, but she doesn’t pull away from me.
She turns to look at me now, my hands sliding away from her.
“You knew that was going to happen … and you saved me.”
All I can do is nod.
“What the fuck are you?” she asks.
“I saved five people today,” I explain. The glass is catching rays of sunlight and shattering them against the ceiling in rainbows of Sesame Street toddler psychedelia. The Grand Marquis’s radio is droning a garbled rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”. A dead roach lies in the bodily rictus of death under a rack of clothes and my fallibility slaps me like a freight train.
“They didn’t realize I was saving them, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t save everyone.”
Melina’s still staring at me, and tears are starting to dribble down her haughty cheeks. I know she’s thinking she almost died and I saved her. I can see her thoughts – twisted thoughts about how filthy she feels being rescued by someone she sees as less than a zero drowning.
“An old woman would have been robbed and killed today, but I gave her a mild heart attack instead. The thieves avoided the house because of the police presence. I saved a jogger from a massive heart attack from overexertion, but I made him make out with a corpse instead. His visit to the emergency room for shock brought attention to his heart issue. I pushed a guy off a bus before his stop where he would have been caught in the crossfire of gang violence and shot to death. I got a bus driver fired – he then went to bar and later today will pass out in a dumpster instead of going to his home which will be destroyed in a gas line explosion.”
Melina’s now staring at the blood pooling beneath us. I know it’s mine and I know I’m dying. My femoral artery has been sliced open by a piece of glass and all the city’s emergency response units are tied up with the chaos I’ve created elsewhere.
In one last act of chaos, I stick my palm in the pool of my own blood.
“I loved you, Gary Numan,” I say, and put a bloody palm print on Melina’s shirt, right on her left breast.
Observers will say I squeezed a bit.
But I know I died.