By Casey Henry.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been in the tower. He recalled that his wife had probably left the TV on at home, that the buzzing of the atonal message system was probably now drawing the neighbours’ attention or at least some good Samaritan or passerby. He noticed that the people below, outside the window, far from looking like ants, actually looked almost too-exactly like humans. The humans developers would draw in the windows of unsold high rises that you pass by on the freeway, the outlines seeming to be a composite of various bodies and shapes, a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. In fact, from far above, he couldn’t help but attach stories to their movements. He flashed on a dinner party — maybe this was in a dream — where he had apparently said something terrible but couldn’t remember what, and everyone at the table had immediately gotten up and moved away from him. He imagined the small figures moving away in a similar fashion. It was infuriating. He put the stock of the rifle on the polished stucco, something passing through it. Something bad now good. He felt better.
He didn’t have a radio. Even if he could actually think of a good reason to have one, he had never really considered himself a “radio man.” The idea of sitting there in the dark listening to another man’s voice seemed foolish. At least have a damn image in front of you. You couldn’t even imagine how the man’s face was moving when he said certain things. This was also a pet peeve of his, when you couldn’t detect the tone or intent behind someone’s words. It was like they were trying to trick you. Like when his wife sent him a text message and it said something like “sounds fine” and he couldn’t tell if it was said in a snotty, typical bitchy way, or a normal, calm way like “yea, sure, alright.” It infuriated him. This also happened in person occasionally as well. When at work, after “accidentally” (as he said in his “official” report) dropping a short stack of 2x4s on Mike Richardson, the motherfucker who had said something about his “mommy” packing him a lunch that Laurie had made the night before because it looked so put together and was in a brown paper bag as opposed to a tin box, he was told he would have to go to a dumbass head shrinker if he wanted to keep his job. When he went he always used to just make up words coming out of this old, goat-like Jew’s mouth as he was talking. He was normally just saying things like the old crusty sicko he was, asking him about his mother or some bullshit, what his hatred of lotion might mean (he once said his wife sometimes felt “slimy”), so instead he just sat there imagining things for the doctor to be saying like “I know I only got this job so I could have people look at me and pretend I’m important and it’s only because my mom never let me wipe my bottom wah wah I’m old and put a few framed pieces of paper on the wall behind me so people can think I’m hot shit even though if you looked close enough it’s just from some online bullshit or whatever and wah wah listen to me, tell me your problems I know I’ll understand I’m sure, wah.” After they couldn’t get him to talk for about five sessions they just gave up on it and the old guy signed the fucking form anyways. Amateurs.
Life was precious, was what he had heard at the sermon last Sunday. He didn’t normally go, the pews made his ass hurt, but Laurie had asked and he knew he’d be dealing with her little twisted curled up mouth sitting in disappointment for a few weeks if he didn’t, so he did. Place was near empty, the ceilings so huge and tall that when there were only about ten or fifteen people there it looked abandoned. But the guy was saying, the preacher that is, the guy up there in the starched linens, that life is precious, that life is precious wherever you can find it. Even a leaf, a plant, a rock, a convict on death row, they were all precious. Yeah and he thought that was a load of horseshit until a few nights later, when he was driving home from the bar and had had, yea, maybe a few too many or just something too strong because the barman was always fucking with him and giving him scotch when he asked for whiskey and shit like that, and realised as he was driving that he was sort of nodding off, suddenly waking up and seeing that he was about to run over a hiker who had tried to cross the road too close in front of the car and he swerved, sort of blacking out until he got back on the road, not thinking about it and not wanting to go back, thinking maybe there was a girlfriend or daughter or something as well and he better not check the bumper. It scared him and he only drank about three or four beers before driving home after that. Precious he didn’t know but an inconvenience he didn’t particularly want to deal with certainly.
A buzzing was coming up. There hadn’t been a buzzing like this, he thought, his neck feeling cool against the marble, really just cool, since the hot Texas nights when he was a kid, the chirpings sounding like buzzsaws, like a wall of plastic shuffling at high speed. This one was longer and loping though, coming in and out weeeeo ooohhhh weeoohhh, and he thought, well, oh well, there’s some music now so that’s alright, that’s just fine. He was tired now and he realised the handful of whatever he had stolen off his wife’s nightstand was probably making him drowsy, that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to take it without knowing. He realised that if he held his breath for a few moments there was something like going underwater, or the game you played as teenagers where you held your breath and banged your head against a wall until it didn’t hurt, it just sort of felt like someone was dunking you. He was getting cold. He put his hand to his shoulder, as if an invisible bullet were pulling in cold there. He dug around in his pocket and closed his fingers around a collection of similarly cold metal. In a moment of dumb joy he threw them out the window behind, just for laughs you know, thinking about maybe the other hikers and joggers below and students and stuff y’know being all “scared” or whatever then the metal rains down like confetti making a happy noise on the car hoods and they’d all relax a little. He’d never get his pension now, he thought, the noise weeeoohhhh coming up again, it was all going to the fucking feds damn, never even get to sleep in that boat house he wanted.
It’s a funny thing being about to be caught, he thought. Because right now, right here, right at this exact moment, he was free. Totally free. He could do whatever he wanted. Blow his brains out if he wanted to. That’s another thing, the fucking feds and Jews and everyone just wanted you to act exactly as they wanted and if you didn’t you were fucked. A man couldn’t even blow his own brains out in this country without it being a crime. Your ass was owned from the second they put your name on the damn birth certificate. Well at least there was a bit of freedom in the last days if only you could make it so you were living in the last days. Well, oh well, hehe, he thought, sometimes you have to speed it up, the good lord does fall asleep occasionally and you got to Wake. His. Ass. Up. Otherwise things might never change. He thought about Martin Luther King and him coming out on that balcony in that scummy hotel in Tennessee and not knowing what’s coming, not seeing the guy in the bomber jacket ducking through the weeds, just coming out for a newspaper or something. What was the headline on that? Prolly someone selling a lamp, an old pair of jeans, or something, and they didn’t know their jeans would get so famous when they were on the newspaper old MLK got shot with. But that’s just the thing, you don’t know you’re about to be made a big fuckin deal of, the headlines kinda only temporary or changeable like that, and he thought, if he just played his cards right, he’d maybe get fucked not in the huge historical way but just the regular way one could only hope for.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Casey Henry is currently a PhD candidate in English at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He has had plays performed in New York City, and written for periodicals like The Huffington Post and LA Weekly.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, March 8th, 2013.