My bar tab’s getting too high.
Tag Archives: Fiction
[A spotlight comes up on a man sitting at a desk in the middle of an otherwise empty stage so that it appears to be the only real thing in a pool of blackness.]
DEATH: Number 51,672.
NUMBER 51,672: Here! [She walks into the light to face the desk.]
DEATH: Good morning, and welcome to the underworld. Please, place your number in the slot. Here are your new identity cards. Hold onto them. You will need them later. This is Than. [Than enters the light.] Follow him to Sorting.
NUMBER 51,672: I’m… where am I going?
DEATH: That will be determined in Sorting. Thank you, good luck, and have a nice day!
THAN: This way please. [Than and Number 51,672 exit.]
DEATH: 51,673. … 51,673.
BERNARD: I… that’s my number, but…
DEATH: Good morning, and welcome to the underworld. Please, place your number in the slot. Here are your new-
BERNARD: -No. I’m not – you don’t… I’m not supposed to be here.
DEATH: [Aside] Not another one. How do they get through Psych? [To Bernard] I’m sorry, Sir. It seems you jumped ahead or were not properly processed. Than will see that you get to Psych for a proper briefing. Please, place your number in the slot. You can get another from Haz after.
BERNARD: But… I… [He looks down at the number.] I didn’t get this from Haz… I don’t know any Haz. I got it at the deli counter.
DEATH: …the deli counter…?
BERNARD: Yes, I was going to get ham slices… you know, for sandwiches?… I picked a number, and then I was here.
THAN: [Aside] Sir, the time continuum.
DEATH: [Aside] They told me they fixed it!
THAN: [Aside] Sir, I know you love that movie, but do you really think that quoting it is appropriate at-
DEATH: [Aside] Than! They told me that it wouldn’t happen unless the deli had the same numbers… [To Bernard] You really picked number 51,673 at a deli?
BERNARD: Yes, sir. Frid’s Deli on Third.
THAN: I don’t see… Wait. There it is. I’ve pulled it up, sir, and… they have identical markers. It would seem they have never bothered to reset and sort.
BERNARD: The machine broke straight-off, but we don’t mind. Most people think it’s funny.
THAN: Sir, should we check with-
DEATH: -Why bother? Put him back on the waiting list. [Than leads Bernard into the shadows.] He’ll be back soon enough. [The lights begin to fade.] Number 51,674.
[The lights come up on a counter on the other side of the stage.]
DELI WORKER: Number 51,673.
BERNARD: Here. I’d like some of the Boar’s Head honeybaked ham, please. And some of that cake, too. We should celebrate.
DELI WORKER: But you… you… this morning…
BERNARD: [Grinning] What’s Frid’s favorite? I’d like to buy him a present.
LITTLE GIRL: Let go! [She strains to pull a toy plane off the ground.] Let go! It’s mine! [There’s no reply. She yanks on the plane, and suddenly, the plane moves across the floor away from her. Its sudden movement makes her fall backwards.] Ow! Mooo-oooom!
[We hear the sound of rushing footsteps as the little girl cries. The door bursts open, and a woman rushes in.]
MOM: What happened? Are you hurt? [She rushes to the little girl, and seeing no injuries, pulls her close.] What’s wrong, sweetie?
LITTLE GIRL: Mooom, she…[sniff] w-wouldn’t let…[sniff] m-me p-play with my…[sniff] my plaa-aa-aane!
MOM: What? Why not?
LITTLE GIRL: She… [sniff] she says girls [sniff] caaan’t.
MOM: Well, that’s not very smart. [The little girl jumps and stares up at her mom. Simultaneously, the plane moves with a hard thunk.] You can throw all the tantrums you want. It won’t change the fact that girls can play with planes just fine. [The plane clanks again, and the mom looks levelly at the air above it.] And anyone who steals a little girl’s toy is just plain mean. [There’s silence except for the girl’s sniffles. The mom gets up and easily picks up the plane.] Here you go, honey. Play all you want.
She watched the rosy glow of dawn with unblinking eyes, frozen stiff like the hardened blood that decorated her throat in blackened lace.
“This won’t do.”
Soft hands reached over her shoulder and removed the delicate teacup, hours cold yet still warm by comparison.
“I’ll get you a fresh cup.”
It runs through the blood
And beats with your heart.
In the background while you work,
In the foreground when you shirk:
It’s the band in the back of your head –
It’s the subliminal mind’s leading role.
Like noise overflowing the walls
From a party down deep in your soul.
Christmas shopping when afraid of crowds.
Never had going to sleep sounded so good.
As Cassy walked into the house and shed her coat and boots, she pictured going straight to bed, collapsing face-first into a pillow, and sleeping until morning. Oh, that sounded amazing. The idea sent a last-ditch burst of energy through her, and she was on her way there when she saw the clock. 8 pm.
Pausing, she frowned. Some, small, childish part of her rebelled at the idea of going to bed that early. The little spurt of energy faded like a taunting memory as the cogs of her brain locked and stuttered. She hesitated for what could have been minutes or hours, caught up in the fog. Then, her eyes locked on a book.
Perfect. She would read for an hour and then go to bed. Relieved to be done with thinking, she walked to the bookshelf and grabbed an old favorite. The simple act of sinking into the comfortable chair felt like heaven. When she opened the book, she sank into the story just as easily. The familiar words and well-loved characters pulled her through the fog until it was a dim memory. Only the story existed for her as she raced with the characters through danger and conflict until at last, all was resolved.
With one last sigh of pleasure, she closed the book and looked at the clock.
OLD MAN: Yeah, I know you hate that picture. You’ve told me so since the day I put it up. [There is silence as the old man moves toward a stairway.] No, I ain’t gonna take it down. You can save your breath and stop askin’ me. [Silence again as the man pauses by the picture as if listening.] Well, I like it, and it’s my house. [He reaches the base of the stairs.] What the- [Grunts and straining sounds can be heard.] You stop that! [More strain.] You let me up the stairs right now, or so help me, I-
WOMAN: Dad? What’s the matter?
OLD MAN: [Glaring at the air in front of him.] Nothing’s the matter.
WOMAN: But… you were shouting. Do you need help up the stairs?
OLD MAN: I’m fine. Go back in the other room and watch your show.
OLD MAN: Now, it’s my house. If I want to shout a bit, I can. You go leave me to it.
After giving him one last worried glance, she leaves.
WOMAN: He said he was fine.
MAN: He didn’t sound fine. If he’s having trouble with the stairs-
WOMAN: His doctor said he’s healthy as a horse!
MAN: But what about his mind? You heard him just now. It might be time.
WOMAN: He’d hate to leave this house…
The old man’s glare at the air hardens.
OLD MAN: [In a whisper] You ever try anything like that again, and I’ll burn this house down before I take down that picture.
The lights go down as the old man easily climbs the stairs.