A plain day, in-between things, no events to mark it, nothing assigned to it. When you walk outside and cannot tell if it is hot or cold or if you should leave town or stay. I sat for a while, like sitting in a void or one of those sensory chambers the dopers used to go into during the sixties.
“There’s only one way out,” he waited for a reply, hoping he was wrong. No one replied.
“On three?” still thinking an alternative might present itself before the deadline.
“On three or where four should be?” at last a friend who understood the need for procrastination.
“On three, right as we say three. He had thought that would be easy enough to understand,” he sounded impatient but he was anything but.
“Don’t get in a huff,” added the procrastinating friend. “Just didn’t want to be standing here all alone waiting for where four should be and everyone left on three, that’s all.”
‘“There, you just said it, “on three,”’ this guy was really starting to bug. “How hard could it be?”
“Just making sure, don’t get dandruff all over your shirt.”
“Just an expression.”
‘“No it’s not, you just made it up and it doesn’t make a lick of sense,” he was thinking, “this guy needs to shut up and soon.”’
“Hey, look over there!”
“Another way!” all the tension just drained away. “Okay guys, follow me.”
“It seems like we’ve been here a long time.”
“How long you think?”
“Maybe more. What time is it?”
“Twelve thirty-five, twelve thirty-six now.”
“I’m sure we sat down before noon.”
“Well, it is their lunch rush. Here he comes! No, he’s just taking them their bread.”
“They came in before us!”
“That was those people over there, they just look the same. See she has that weird purple bag you liked so much.”
“Well it’s been at least thirty minutes, we should go.”
“What do we have at home?”
“Left over pizza.”
I love left over pizza, warm it up until it’s like a cracker and the cheese is all toasted. Is there enough for both of us?”
“Almost half a pizza I think but there’s some potato salad that’s starting to sound good. Let’s go.”
“Sorry that took so long. How can I get you people started?”
“How’s the fish?”
It had been a long time since he had seen another human, and the last few he had seen had been scared, jumpy things, more like wild animals than people. The last people, mostly men, had jumped out of corners or from under burned out cars as he approached, their eyes wide, heads moving rapidly from side to side, screaming words he did not understand. He wondered if his turn would come. Not today. Today was a beautiful day. A breeze blew from the west, coolness was in the air, fall was coming. He had not seen another person for a long time. He looked toward the small fireplace in the front room of his home. He noticed, once more the clutter on the floor and the writing on the walls. He had not seen another human for a long, long time. He decided. First he swept the trash out the door and let it spread across the front yard. He borrowed a rusty red wagon from his next-door neighbors and went into town shopping for paint, patch and tools. The paint store remained almost intact; the looting had taken different directions. “Five gallons of your lime green interior,” he said aloud to the paint store.
“What’s that?” he listened.
“No the one without primer please,” he answered the paint store. He pulled the top off of a five gallon bucket of white paint and dripped a little green color, a little black and just a dash of yellow into it and stirred until it became the desired color.
“There you go sir,” he said to himself.
“Will you need brushes and rollers?” he nodded
“And some patch, “ he said as he loaded the materials into the rusty red wagon.
“Yes, please,” he answered as he loaded a sack of fast drying joint compound onto the rusty wagon.
“I’m in a hurry,” he added to reveal his need for the fast drying kind. And then he hurried out of what had once been a glass door but was now just an aluminum frame.
“Thank-you!” he shouted into the empty shop as he and the wagon exited to the street.
The work took very little time. After years of fighting to keep himself from cleaning up the mess in the front room it turned out not to be such a big mess after all. By the end of the day he had not only cleaned, patched and painted, he had shopped at the neighborhood houses and up graded his furniture, placed a small carpet on the mopped floor, and hung a picture he was sure was worth a good bit of money. Last, he rubbed the spray paint from the screen of the flat screen TV. He sat on his sofa and watched the blank screen for a while, picturing various sit-coms he had watched, he even laughed at some of the jokes. He remembered the last news show and clicked the clicker at the screen, he had remembered enough for one day. As night came he lit the wood he had placed into the fireplace. He knew the chance he was taking by putting a plume of smoke into the sky, but he hadn’t seen another person in a really long time. It wasn’t quite cold enough yet for a fire so he opened the front door and slid up a window. He lay on the carpet in front of the fire and pretended life outside hadn’t changed. He pictured a couple sitting in front of their TV, holding hands, children being sent off to their beds, giggling under the covers, an old man reading a thick book in the light of a single bulb. He fell to sleep lying there on the carpet with the door wide open, the light from the fire sending a glow out into the dark streets.
Most of the time being a Super Kid is something I enjoy: the look of surprise when the little guy in the crowd is the one with the right answer, the honest thanks from people who have escaped danger or had their problem solved, even a little bit of hero worship can be fun – for awhile, but being in the spotlight, being singled out, having people expect you to solve their problems gets old. After a big splash of superness I find it is best to lay low for awhile, let the rumors die down, don’t do anything that might create a snowball effect and build an image I would really rather not have.
I have a four-foot long, one-inch thick, bare branch from a walnut tree in my hand. I poke at the dirt with the stick every third step so that if anyone sees me they will know I am on a hike. But the odds are against any one seeing me. Our town is a mile away. I’ve been walking on a path made by cows for half an hour. Once in a while I do have to be careful to step over things the cows have left behind but other than that there are few decisions to make. I’ve decided to put one foot in front of the other and that seems to be working out well. A lizard runs across the path and startles me. I wave my stick at him but he’s long gone. I hate snakes and try to make enough noise to let any snakes know I’m coming. It must be working. I haven’t seen a snake yet. A tree sits on the edge of the path. Six black cows rest lying on the ground in the shade of the tree. They watch me as I approach wondering if they will be required to move or not. Under their long eyelashes their big brown eyes follow my every step. One of the cows starts to stand and then decides it’s just too much trouble and returns to chewing cud. I have to step over the legs of one cow to get to the trunk of the tree but she doesn’t seem to mind. I find myself a place to sit in the highest branch that can support my weight and watch the cloudless blue sky.
“And this is just the beginning! Picture a four story tall Ferris wheel over there and a park for toddlers to play next to it, and past that oak tree a whole line of places to eat!”
“But it’s just a broken down old house. Is it safe to live in there? Are we going to live here?”
“I haven’t seen the inside, they said people were living there, squatters or something, they said they moved out. See that spot over there behind that old car body? Picture a swimming pool that just kind of spreads all over that depression, with lounge chairs and shaded patios, drinks delivered to tables!”
“First, you haven’t seen inside the house? I can’t believe you spent our life savings on a house you haven’t seen inside!” and then softening a little, “we own all that land beyond the junked car?”
“Well, the old car marks the boundary of the house lot but I’m sure we could get that land for almost nothing!”
“How about the oak tree?”
“Well, no, not the oak tree, just the lot the house sits on, about five feet on each side. The back yard is huge, about fifty feet by seventy-five feet,” some of the excitement had gone out of his voice and his eyes no longer bugged with enthusiasm. “We could fix up the house some?” he asked, unsure.
“Let’s have a look inside,” she intended to make the best of this, no matter how bad it was.
“Yeah, I bet we could knock out some walls and make a great room out of the living room, you know, if it doesn’t have one already.”
“And maybe patch that big hole in the roof?”
“First thing, as soon as we get moved in!” the sparkle was back in his eyes. “We could get those roof tiles that are solar cells and get off the grid…”