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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.
And then he started to walk slowly. One foot grudgingly followed the other. Loose black emulsion coated pebbles on the course asphalt rolled under his mud-coated white tennis shoes as he refused to take the effort involved in lifting a foot completely away from the ground. Knees stayed bent, his back curved, head hung, his eyes half open saw only the tips of his shoes and a few feet of street. His hands rested in the stretched out pockets of aged blue jeans. Old, thin wrinkled skin covered hands dug in deep so that his fingers felt the holes left from the days he had possessed keys. He stumbled once, caught himself, and continued as a center white stripe came into his limited view. One foot slid on thick paint without acknowledgment, without discerning what the change in color might suggest. A horn mounted inside the engine compartment of a small late model white car demonstrated the Doppler Effect as the car first pushed air and then pulled air and dust around him without any noticeable affect or effect. He moved, his goal in the movement unknown even to himself, but no less important, his every thought, all his strength focused on dragging the next foot into position. He paused long enough to take a breath. He coughed. He slid another foot forward and reached the starting edge of another thick expanse of white paint.
A car, coming from the opposite direction slowed and then came to a stop on the two lane, almost traffic free road, and “Are you alright” the voice was female, young, and concerned.
A flash of recognition, like lights inside his head, and then it was gone, all that remained was the blacktop and the white paint under one tennis shoe.
“Should I call someone?” she was still concerned and there was no part of her that could leave him alone. She talked, she explained, she led him slowly, she pulled, and tugged, and lifted until he sat belted into a once, moments before, perfectly clean bucket seat.
But he was still alone. His right knee lifted inside his wrinkled jeans and then this left, his half opened eyes watched the tips of muddy, white, tennis shoes.
“What’s this Angie?” The very white girl in a very tiny white bikini asks as she nudges the large, purple, lump of goo with her sandaled foot.
“I’ve never seen anything like it Sally,” replies Angie’s friend, a beautiful, five-foot tall one hundred pound product of Mexico City. “Don’t touch it!” she warns her friend. “I think it moved!”
My dream comes to an abrupt end. My center orifice tightens and the sensing dangle strings around the circumference of my brain oval stand out straight.
“Guank soo intome. Com saybot?” I vibrate out of my speaking tube. The taller human stops pushing on my ovelbee with it’s foot and steps back a couple feet.
“It’s alive,” says Sally as she jumps back
“Its making weird noises,” says Angie as she takes a position of safety behind her braver friend. “Get a stick. Poke it with a stick.” Angie looks around Sally’s shoulder to seen what the living lump of goo will do next. She is prepared to run.
I cannot understand why they choose to ignore my question so I ask again, “Guank soo intome. Com saybot?” and then I remember to speak in English. “Do not hurt me. I am friendly.” The smaller of the two human girls falls flat on her back and seems to be asleep.
“Is someone in there?” the tall girl asks as she resumes pushing on my ovelbee with her foot.
“There is only me,” I say, wondering if this will explain anything. “Please quit pushing on my ovelbee, it is not proper.” She pulls her foot away and kneels down to get a better look at me.
“You are all purple and look like a lump of goo,” she says as thought this is something to be concerned about.
“You are very white and have almost no hair at all,” I respond with my center orifice almost all the way open, trying to make her aware of her rudeness. It doesn’t seem to work.
“Where are you from?” she asks. Her friend wakes up and pushes herself into a sitting position.
“Who are you talking too?” Angie asks Sally. She sees me and flattens onto the sand once more, sound asleep.
“I’m not from around here,” I answer, not wanting to take the time to get out the star charts. “I need some help getting away from this shore. The sand is much to hot for my points.” At this point two things happened: I extended my slenders, so she can see my points and Angie wakes-up. I rose to my full height of four feet two inches and Angie once more pushes herself up and rests on her elbows. When Angie sees my purple self held aloft by my four pointed spindles she lets out a quiet yelp and makes the choice to go back to sleep. “Your friend should get more rest,” I suggest. Sally looks at her friend laying flat on the soft sand and nods in the affirmative.
“We can walk in the shade of the pier up to the road. I can get something to cover your Points? out of the back of mycar.” She looks over at her friend who seemed to be coming to for the third time. Sally bends down beside her friend, ready to suggest she find a better place to sleep. As Angie starts to wake up Sally keeps herself between the two of us.
“Angie, Angie,” Sally pushes on her shoulder, trying to wake her, “Angie.” Angie opens her eyes and tries to get another look at me. “No, Angie, look at me! It’s some kind monster but he’s all right – he’s friendly.” I’m not a monster, but it seems to help Angie stay awake, so I say nothing. Sally helps Angie to her feet and we start making our way in the shade of the pier. The sand is not hot but it still seems to be rubbing away some of my fur. It doesn’t really hurt. Angie seems to be pretending I do not exist so I help her out by keeping my silence. As the sand becomes drier my points sunk deeper and I walk slower until a last we make it to the dark, low, last ten feet of the pier.
“Let me see one of your points,” Sally reaches over, grabbs one of my slenders, and takes a long look and my front right point. “Stay here, I’ll be right back,” and without waiting for a reply she runs off with Angie. I pull in my slenders and plop down on the sand. After what seems to be an hour Sally returns. She has covered her self with light blue cloth and looks much better. Blue is very close to purple.
“Here,” Sally says. She hands me a plastic bag filled with long woven cotton tubes, tube socks, three dozen is written on the plastic bag. “I couldn’t find anything in the car so we went to Target,” she said. I look around for the we. “Angie went home, she needed some time to think,” Sally says answering my unspoken question. I turned my attention to the socks. I pulled one out and looked it over. “Pull them on over your points and pull them up your…”
“Slenders,” I said answering her unspoken question.
“Put several on each slender until you think it is enough to protect your points,” she says with obvious pride in her new vocabulary. I pull five tube socks onto each of my four slenders, even in the sand I can tell they are going to provide a comfortable alternative.