As you say.
The door is currently: Open.Well done, kittens.
"It doesn’t matter." He looked at his hands. "Before any of this was here, it was just an ocean. Then one day he decides to throw some dirt in the mix. He makes some mud and bakes it over a flame to make a man. He breathes into that man and creates life. That’s how this goes. But one day we figured out how to make that flame, and decided we had this whole life thing figured out for ourselves, thank you very much. Ever since then we’ve done nothing but bake our own clay armies, choosing to wave away how little we know about breathing life into things.”
"As you say," the man said.
"We can’t change that."
"Perhaps not." The man slid the box he had brought across the diner table, and opened it. "Take these."
The box was full of keys, each tied to a paper tag with a string.
"What am I supposed to do with these?"
"Nothing more than take them."
The waitress was coming over. He closed the lid to the box.
"Well well. New faces," she said. "Hello, gentlemen. To what do we owe the pleasure?"
"My friend and I have always wanted to stop in here on our way through," the man said, "and something about the place on this trip called to us, I guess."
"Well I’m not too fond of guessing, but I guess I’m fond of that one," she said.
Classic diner waitress talk. She was good at it. He wondered how long she had been practicing this brand of sass. He tried to read her name tag, but missed it as she turned to look at him. He looked at his hands in a panic, cursing the placement of that name tag.
"Well. Let me bring you boys some menus," she said. He could hear her smile in her words.
He looked up and attempted a thanks, but didn’t have time between her wink at him and her departure.
"Gentlemen to boys," the man said. "Back we go. If we stay here long enough, we just might get a look at that ocean."
I remember a storm once on Valentine’s Day.
I was in a field, watching the lightning rod atop a house, wondering when it would be that rod’s turn to stand at this end of Thunder Road.
Though one’s gaze may keep the water in the pot from boiling, I can testify that it does not provide the same protection to the water in the sky.
I have heard people compare falling in love to being hit by lightning. From what I have seen of both, I would have to agree.
“I have no gifts to bring pa rum pum pum PUMM. I have no gifts to bring pa rum pum pum PUMMM. I have no gifts to bring pa rum pum pum PUMMMM.” Simon was singing today. He sang to Miss Alice. He sang to the mailbox as he looked for his “adventures.” Now he was singing to the canned corn as he made sure they all looked at him.
“I have a big fat ring on my bigfat THUMMMMB.” He laughed at that one, and remembered what Mr. Blue said about noises.
“SORRY MISTER BLUE!” he yelled into the canned corn.
He sniffed the air.
He turned to his left. Nobody.
He turned to his right. There she is.
There was a lady at the end of the aisle. She was looking at the green beans. She was holding a lot of bread.
“That is a lot of bread.” He smiled and pointed at the bread.
“Is it?” She smiled. But not the best kind.
“I have no bread to bring on my bigfat HEADDDD,” he sang. He laughed harder at that one, and thought about the ladies in one of his adventures that carried food on their heads.
She looked scared now. He broke it again.
“Sorry. That’s a lot of bread. Sorry.”
She smiled the almost worst kind, and walked away.
He always broke it.
“I have no gifts to bring…” he whispered to the corn.
When he was finished with the cans, he looked at his watch. Mickey was pointing at the dot after the 5 with his broken arm.
Before not after, Simon.
“OH NO I HAVE TO GO OH NO OH NO” he yelled as he ran across the front of the store and through the front door.
There were boys out there throwing things at the wall. He thought about going the other way, but Mickey was pointing at late, and the other way was a bad way.
He ran toward them. And sang. “I HAVE NO GIFTS TO BRING PA RUM PUM PUMM PUMM. I HAVE NO GIFTS TO BRING PA RUM PUM PUMM PUMM.”
He took a breath as he ran past them. Just long enough to hear a laugh and a “RETAR—”
“I HAVE NO GIFTS TO BRING PA RUM PUM PUMM PUMMM PUMMMM PUMMMMMMMM PUMMMMMMMMMMM.” He had his hands to his ears now. And was running his best.
He made it around the corner and down Miss Alice’s road. He was breathing hard. He dropped a hand to his pocket. It was still there. And the boys were gone.
He looked at his watch. He looked toward Miss Alice’s house.
And he saw.
Across the street, a man leaned against a light post. He was looking at Simon.
No no no no no no no.
Simon closed his eyes, covered his ears, and yelled.
“YOU GET AWAY MISTER BLACK. YOU GET AWAY AND YOU NEVER COME BACK. YOU! GET! AWAY! AND! YOU! NEVER! COME! BACK!”
“Simon! Simon!” Miss Alice. She was running toward him.
Simon pointed at the light post.
Miss Alice looked at the light post.
Simon looked at the light post.
The light flickered on.
And Mr. Black was gone.
Q:Is it strange that this story makes me feel lonely?
If it is, then no one is stranger than me.
When she was sure the riders were past the east gate, Ellie lifted her head and looked toward the house. The short fat one they left at the front door was digging around in his pockets. The tall one in the barn was still out of view.
She watched the former continue his search, and though she couldn’t see his face from her branch in the oak, she could see he was upset. His hands moved from pocket to pocket, in and out. He was panicking.
She heard him curse, and he stepped from the porch, hands still plunging and patting. "The hell are my cards…"
He was angry.
He turned toward the barn, and she looked to the front door of the house. It was open just a few inches, and Michael was peeking through the opening. She could tell it was him by his 5-year-old silhouette against the setting sun coming through the kitchen windows behind him. And she could see the bar of light coming through the open door getting wider as he slowly opened it more.
She rolled over the branch and fell to the ground into the grass. And shrieked on the way down.
The short fat one stopped and turned to look.
"Who’s that?" He was startled.
Ellie lay still, clearly exposed in the short grass.
"A girl…" His gun was out now. He was coming to her. He was excited.
Ellie closed her eyes.
"Well hello there, young lady." He was nearly to her. "Hey. Little girl." He was panting.
Ellie held her breath, and closed her eyes tighter.
"Well that’s just cute. A little possum. I like that. But ain’t nobody ever died then kept breathing and crunching up their eyes like that, sweetheart. And you don’t see me don’t mean I don’t see you. What do you say you stand up and let me have a look at you?" He smelled like sweat.
Ellie opened her eyes.
The short fat one smiled with teeth that looked like river rocks that hadn’t been wet long enough to be smooth. “Yes sir. That’s what I figured. A little possum. What’s your name, little possum? And I said stand up.” He was staring.
Ellie stood, looking at the ground that made up the three steps between her and the short fat one. “El— Eleanor. Sir. Eleanor. I’m sorry. I’m thirteen. I’m Eleanor.”
"As you said. You ain’t too bright, are you, El— Eleanor?" He smelled like fire.
Eleanor shook her head. Eleanor looked at the ground.
"Well that’s just fine. Pretty ones don’t need to be smart ones. Ain’t that right?" He was anxious.
Eleanor nodded. Eleanor looked at the ground.
"Yes sir." He holstered his gun and reached for his handkerchief.
He was stupid.
"Now how about you look at me." His shadow was wiping the sweat from its face vigorously.
Eleanor raised her head toward the house.
Ellie saw Michael on the porch.
Elizabeth looked at the short fat man, and took the first of those three steps. And the second.
The third step landed in the short fat one’s crotch. Her hand went to his gun as he fell, and she swung her hip around away from him, which lead her chest, which lead her arm, which lead her hand, which lead his gun in a wide arc to the back of his head.
He was out, and Elizabeth was running toward the porch, looking at the barn.
A voice came from nowhere. From everywhere. "Where’s your friend?"
The barn and house and Michael were gone. Now there was a mailbox. A group of teenagers. Parked cars. A pane of glass.
He turned from the window.
"I’m sorry?" He looked up at Tina.
"Oh no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I’ll call ahead next time and let you know I’m coming to your table." She smiled.
He smiled back. “I was somewhere else.”
"Where is your friend? Is what I was asking."
He looked out the window again. Then at the empty seat across from him in the booth. “It looks as though he’s not coming.” He sounded tired. But looked relieved.
"Sorry. Do you want to… keep waiting?"
"…I don’t think I should."
She looked at him, and wondered. “Well then, any time you want to drop in and order nothing would be just fine by me. Just leave the appropriate tip.” She smiled and turned to the counter.
"I’ll see you next time, then?" She was walking to the back, half-shouting over her shoulder.
She talks to people she can’t see.
He smiled. “Yes. You will.”