And it was still there in his pocket and he took it out and he breathed on it and he stared at it and he ran his finger down its gleaming

edge and he pictured all of the things that he could or would or couldn’t or wouldn’t do with it and that and that alone brought a smile to his lips that hadn’t been there for days or weeks or months or years now and it was like a shock to his system to move his face in that unfamiliar way and so he kept on petting it as if it was a chubby bunny cradled in his arms and he kept smiling too because it was just the involuntary action that his body took in this particular and unique and absolute time in a dying man’s life.

And the first thing that he pictured when he laid back was ringing the doorbell to a house somewhere in the middle of this nightmare of a suburban laid out city and watching the fat woman who answered the door glare and roll her eyes and say without him even saying a word first look man I’m not interested in anything alright I’ve got two kids in here who need lunch and you’re just going to have to look for some other kind of sucker and that would be the point where without saying a word still he would take the thing out of his pocket and wave it in her face like it was cotton candy or a shiny baseball card and she would say look mister I don’t want any trouble because that was what they always said in the movies in his head.

And as she backed away from him he’d worm his way in the door and shut it behind him and lock it behind him and see the two little kids in booster seats at the kitchen table that was mostly gleaming white and barren for now of food and he would see the mac and cheese cooking on the stove and he would see that it was beginning to burn and so he’d order the lady with her hands above her head to serve the goddamn shit before it was worthless and she would do that with a wooden spoon and shaking hands and the kind of nerves that go with that kind of thing inherently.

And the kids would be there too looking at him but not raising their hands yet because they were too young still for those Hollywood kind of images and this would be about as Hollywood as it was going to get and so they would just stare and stare and he would have to tell the lady to put the pot back on the stove and turn the heat down to low and maybe make herself a bowl too and sit with her kids and eat the goddamn mac and cheese because food doesn’t just grow on trees and you need it too so eat it goddamn it don’t be a dick and waste all this shit when other people in this world are dying and decaying and starving and losing it like he was at that very moment.

And he was there still too holding the thing from his pocket and occasionally showing it slowly back and forth like it was a kite that would catch a breeze in the locked and quiet house and fly away to the moon with a little mouse in a little basket underneath who would build a land for himself up there and plant a little mouse flag in the moon dirt and proclaim it the land of mice forever and ever and other than waving that thing back and forth he would just watch them eat their mac and cheese and keep reminding them with his eyes that he was in charge now and it was best that they eat until they puke or until the stuff in each of their bowls was gone because he’d already told them once about not wasting food and they could see now that he was the kind of guy who meant it very sincerely too.

And in his mind and laying on the bed in his half wet clothes fondling the thing like some sort of idol worshipping idol worshipper he knew that the scene would end with him watching them eat the rest of what they had and him getting up very slowly and without saying a word still and without telling them why and while cautiously unlocking the door and opening the door and walking out the door and putting the thing back in his pocket and hidden as he turned to walk down the driveway and down the street and over a block or two as quickly as he could without looking like he was hurrying so that he could blend in with the other people of the world by the time the cops were called and were using their scanners and were wearing their nightsticks and their radios and were keeping a watch out for a thin man with an unshaven face who had just done that kind of a thing to that kind of a family in this kind of a world like he was in.

And it went on from there to another scene where he was on the bus again and rocking back and forth again and seeing ghosts in his head again and watching the people come and go like waves like waves and finally at this stop or another again pull that thing from his pocket and show it up to all of them and everyone even the big black lady bus driver herself would stop and stare and wait for him to explain what it was that he wanted them to do because ultimately when something like that happened like how he had pulled a thing out of his pocket like he had just now he was then the guy calling the shots so they would all just wait in nervous or collected or barely breathing breaths waiting for him to call out or do this or do that or just stare back at them like he was just then.

The bus driver she might say alright man take it easy man we don’t want any trouble man and then she’d ask what he wanted or something like saying hey man take it easy man we don’t want any trouble man she’d say what is it you want just tell us what you want and we can get on with this and he’d just look at her in the meanest nastiest harshest look his growing old face could muster and then she would shut up then and there like he could never do with his wife or his daughter or his mother or his father or himself when he was standing in line at a counter somewhere and knew that the instant he opened his mouth he would make a fool of himself and lose himself and even though most of them would try and stop themselves they would still giggle or chuckle or break a little so that he knew he’d done it again and yet there was nothing he could do about it anyway.

The people on this bus would be still then like the driver was still then and no one would want to say anything else because she had already tried and it had already failed and most of them there would think that he was looking even more mad then when it started with him waving the thing from his pocket in front of all of them in turn sometimes close to their faces and sometimes far away and loose but to them all in turn so that they wanted to look at the grated floor of the bus or out the window at oblivious people or down the street where they thought they were headed but now realized they may never get to because this crazy idiot man was in front of them with his thing and it was all surreal and lost and insane and bending around them like how light refracts into rainbows on misty saturated days.

But like the kids with the mom and the mac and cheese in the suburban household he would want and did want and could only want nothing more than standing there on that bus stopped in the middle of the street in the middle of its route at the center of what was now his universe and looking them all in their devious and changing and sometimes welling up eyes and see that he had the power now and that he had the control and that he was the guy in charge of it all and once he felt that feeling he would probably or most likely move slowly towards the door and nod when he was there at the bus driver who would respond by pulling the mechanical arm that would open the mechanical door and then he would go backwards carefully down the stairs and out onto the street and by the time the thing was away again in his pocket the bus was moving on and down the street and he was going the opposite direction again blending in and bending in as now the world moved on at its normal without him pace.

And these were the visions he had while laying on his back again and laying on his bed again and still holding the thing and still smiling although now he was realizing what he should have realized before and that was that he never committed and that he almost never could commit and that even in his daydreams or visions of the future or imaginings that he wandered through he could kill or maim or hurt or tear asunder but instead he always just stared and stood and looked and waited and then walked away and that was what he was now realizing and seeing as it was exactly like his real life except that in the daydreams and visions and imaginings of his brain he was now holding that shiny thing from his pocket and not just his empty hands or empty head or empty mouth or empty heart.

J. A. Tyler has recent work in Pindeldyboz, Feathertale Review, Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, and Lamination Colony. His debut novella is forthcoming from Ghost Road Press in 2009. He is also founding editor of the online literary review Mud Luscious. Find more at www.aboutjatyler.com

© 2008 Underground Voices