Be right back

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
825 words

Bob looked down at the floor. The shoes around him were new and pregnant with the identities of the partiers around him. His own shoes had no slashes or colors or stripes or patterns or loud brand names, only thick black soles and two Velcro straps creased perfectly around his feet. 

He looked up at the faces of the other guests. Nodding, smiling, winking, head-tilting, lip-biting, red cup sipping, arm touching, eye fluttering, eye fucking, and jealousy. Bob noticed it all in those faces. He took a deep breath and downed the rest of his drink. What was he doing there?

Looking around at all the tight-skinned faces, he was beginning to think he had overstayed his welcome. Nobody at the party would catch him slipping out the back. They were all too busy looking up at the sky. Bob had been that way once. Always staring at the clouds, scheming and dreaming. Dreaming of changing the world. The clouds looked the same. Never closer but never further away. He thought about all the things other people had achieved and perfected in his lifetime. The automobile. Telephones. T.V.s. Computers. The internet (apparently people spent all their time in the web, it sounded like a trap to him.) Faster food, faster service, faster payments, more nudity, less danger and sensationalized news. Working, making and consuming distractions. Everything was strange entertainment.

If he had slept for 50 years and woken up on this same day, he would be just as confused, disoriented and unsatisfied. To be honest, he felt cheated. All those promises and hopes for the future yielded nothing but more ignorance and more dependence. Hell, he remembered when a car would still start if you had enough people to push it.

     “Gads.” 

Bob startled himself. He looked around. Nobody spared a glance. The two kids he had met at the bar were now schmoozing at a couple of young ladies across the room. The girls were cute, sure, but they looked as if they would giggle at the news of their parents’ death. For that matter, so did the boys he came with.

He had met them at a bar when they started philosophizing with him. They bought his drinks, so he played along.

     “What do you think about Obama?”

There was no such thing as a free drink. He blew out all his air, pushing out his lips.

     “I’ve been asked that same exact question my whole life, just a different name at the end. Bush, Reagan, Roosevelt, Truman, Bush. The question is old. The name changes, the face changes, they die, soon I’ll be dead and something similarly different will happen.”

The two kids were impressed. Or at least impressionable. They invited Bob to the party, and he went. Maybe it was the free drinks, but Bob remembered when he was like them. He would have believed anything that came out of an old drunks’ mouth. He would have thought ‘boy, this guy’s been through the ringer, he must really know something.’ Now Bob was that old drunk and he knew that nobody knows and that’s the truth. Some are optimistic and others pessimistic. Some believe in god and others don’t. Some pretend and some don’t. Just having a mind is too much. Or maybe it’s not. Only a few wrinkles, a drowning liver and a bald head separated Bob from those boys.

Bob set down his cup and made his way over to them. He stepped up behind the two Romeos and clapped them on the shoulders.

     “You boys need anything?”

They looked at each other and looked back at the girls with wide eyes. Bob was a malignant tumor to them now.

     “I’ll be right back.” He said.

Bob walked off through the crowd and out the door. He looked up at the night sky. No clouds and not a visible star. That was another change. Edison eventually did away with staring up at the stars, now he looks out the window and sees the glow of television sets from every house, apartment, and trailer. He got in his car and lit a cigarette. He had only agreed to come because the party was a couple blocks from his house. The ignition turned over and the gas pedal felt like a pole in a tar pit. He pressed his foot down and the rest was mechanical: Left, stop, go, stop, go, right. Four houses down Bob slipped into the garage and closed it behind him. He put the car in park and cranked back the emergency brake. The window popped out of its crease as he pressed the button down. Leaning back in the driver’s seat, he dragged slowly from his cigarette before dropping it out of the cracked window. He pumped the gas pedal, revving the engine a couple of times. Then held it down at a low RPM, going nowhere. He closed his eyes. Maybe tomorrow or maybe nothing.

end

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