Saturday, December 29, 2018

I had terrible heartburn in bed last night and as it has before it scrambled up my mind. The pain came in waves, as usual, but even when it receded I couldn’t think a decent, calming thought. At times I perceived a crazy zigzaggy pattern of meaningless activity in my brain, a web of colored lines like laser beams. I thought I was the character in those old folk songs where you lay down your head but you can’t get your rest. Maybe they had heartburn too.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Streak - 101

You look to the driver side of the cab and you just can’t believe. Sure as fuck it’s Bill. Driving this rig like you read about. He sits easy in his seat, holding the wheel with one hand mostly, squinting a little in the glare of the headlights on the other side. He wears jeans and you realize you’ve never seen him in jeans. He wears a short-sleeved button-down kind of like a bowling shirt and you realize you’ve never seen him in that either. You imagine Big Old Bill bowling and it makes you want to laugh. A man of such importance. In fact you’ve never seen Bill out of a pristine three-piece suit, and you’re not sure you’ve ever seen him off a barstool. Then you realize what Bill was in a previous life: a truck driver. Of course.

“Is this your truck?” you ask. You hear yourself asking. What a dumb question. The question a little boy asks a little boy in a sandbox.

Bill’s shoulders heave a little, like he’s showing a laugh but doesn’t really want to bother.

“Uh, no, Evan, this ain’t my truck,” he declares.

A few seconds pass.

“Is that the only question you have for me, kid?” he asks, looking over at you now, a little twinkle in his eye.

“Whose truck is it?” you find yourself saying. A question stupider than the first.

Bill barks out a little laugh this time.

“Whose truck is it. Whose truck is it. Jesus motherfuckin’ Christ. I rescue you from madmen in the middle of the desert and that’s what you want to know.”

You feel stupid and ashamed, the way Big Bill always had this way to make you feel, but a little worse. On the other hand, did he steal this truck?

“Evan, Evan, Evan. How long have we known each other?”

You want to say years but how many? Two, five? Thirty?

“You know I can obtain a truck,” he continues with a sigh. “When I need a truck, I get a truck. I have friends with trucks. Box trucks. Reefers. Flatbeds. Trucks. Whatever the fuck I want. I can get a truck. If my guy don’t have the truck I want, I go to my next guy.”

Bill stops talking then, letting the silence fall back into place between you. He doesn’t seem to want or expect you to say anything more. What about all those other questions? What could they possibly be? You feel your palms sweating, your heart race. Without a doubt there exists the expectation you should open up your mouth and speak. You fast-forward ten seconds into the future and there you are, turning to Bill in the dark, asking him a question. He factors each word in his mysterious way, tacking it onto the last and judging whether it all makes a goddamned bit of sense or is even worth replying to.

“Bill, I’m scared. What are you doing here? How did you find me? How come I’m not at the All-Star Game? And who are Joe and Matt? I’m pretty sure Joe killed Matt. Or maybe Matt killed Joe. How come I can’t smell nothin’? Is Kyle OK? And why did I get kidnapped? And why did I get kidnapped too?”

“You reminded me,” says Bill, and now he’s fumbling with the radio. There’s a burst of static and then the immediately recognizable sound of a play-by-play man’s voice, slightly officious, slightly folksy, vaguely regional but you don’t know from where.

“... in this remarkable contest. Every available pitcher for both teams has been on the mound and many position players, too. As we enter the top of the twenty-first…”

Bill snaps the radio back off and makes his usual chuckle.

“I’ll be goddamned. It’s still going on.”

You sit in the dark awhile and evaluate what happened. Did Bill hear a word you said? Did you in fact say a word? Maybe it was all in your head. But no, you said something about the All-Star Game and he turned on the radio. So he heard you. But he didn’t listen. Maybe you’re a ghost, your words only count for half. A hollow man. Still is it too much to ask for a question to be answered? A simple human plea to be addressed? It seems to violate the very rules of physics.