WordTech Communications, 2008
$17.00 (Cover illustration by Mike Sleadd)
Jake’s in some kind of too late mid-life crisis, not that he thinks in those terms, though he’s consumed by a feeling of unease, really a subtle and growing disease, whose diagnosis is not obvious to any of his friends, or health care workers, two types he’s strenuously avoided these last months. It could quickly turn deadly, not that there was really any hopeful prognosis, and too easily, cynically, summed up behind his back by “sooner or later.”
He turns into the satellite bank’s parking lot, the afternoon a perfection of blue?there’s nothing to see with his head tilted back into a falling-up sky. On days like this, emergency rooms are crowded with a rush of vertigo cases: sand grains blown off the beaches of patients’ inner ears, all who want to leave the planet, be transported, seduced into the infinite, eternal, ethereal, out-of-body, out-of-mind, out-of-this-stinking-place, head-for-the-hills, head-for-the-stars, take-the-money-and-run . . . wait he’s stopped, the only dented, wheel-well rusted, right rear-taillight-missing, no hub caps, car in the lot, that looks half like an abandoned osprey nest. When he opens the door, he’s taking flight, moving out onto a limb of sidewalk, and he almost raises his arms to begin flapping.
Jake enters through the double-tinted glass doors, hands in his pockets, there to check his balance, walk the tightrope of accounting, slip past the noose of overdrafts, make a small deposit. The silent TV mounted in one ceiling corner displays the enclosed captions of CNN, morning’s stale coffee sits in a silver urn beside the stacked peak of Styrofoam cups. A bowl of Jolly Rogers by the only open teller’s window, and in her practiced, mellifluous voice she says, “How can I help you?” and he can’t remember, he’s a fledgling falling from a nest, a jettisoned rocket booster tumbling through space, an aging man in a too quickly aging moment.
She asks again, and rather than opening his wallet and signing the check, he says in a meek monotone, “Give me all your money,” and pulling off his sweat-stained baseball cap to use as a pathetic receptacle, the teller dutifully, awkwardly stuffs the hat and hands it back. He flies out as slowly as he walked in. He’s sitting in the car, staring up through the dirty windshield at a single stringy cloud that’s cracked the sky, when three police cars careen past, lights flashing. They run into the bank, guns drawn.
Having completed their reports, dusted for fingerprints, reviewed the video cameras, they have no leads. Jake’s still nesting in his car when the police leave the bank. It’s not clear to him, the money spilled across the passenger seat, wrapped in small bundles like green dominoes, if he’s dead or just the soul of a bird in flight.
How Tables Learn to Talk
Jake can tell you what and maybe why he pulled back the covers and got up, sitting for a moment on the edge of the bed, taking one conscious breath then another, inflating the body back to life, left hand feeling for glasses on the night stand, chin on chest keeping his head from falling to the floor.
It was around 2 a.m. when the table startled itself awake, realizing it was no longer in the kitchen and hadn’t been for hours. With wooden legs and a lumbering Frankenstein gait, it must have sleepwalked into the living room. Paralyzed with fear, it couldn’t make it back to surround itself with chairs and so became a ventriloquist, shouting through the woman standing next to it, Stella in a night shirt and naked from the waist down.
It must be moved now, not before breakfast, not after showering, not before leaving for work, but now in the moonlight slipping across the newly waxed floor, dry with shadows. Tables are so hysterical when they wake in the wrong room.