You or me

A short piece, September 16, 2020

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It is far riskier to live than to be dead. I will die, so I may as well behave as if I never will. Life is made miserable by the well-intended and mal-intended alike. Both similar in their impositions on life, though one may have the self in mind while the other follows their ego.

In the quest for all our somethings, we choose to be seen by what we do for ourselves or by what we do for others. I want to consider the other but not at the expense of self. I want to consider the self but not at the expense of the other.

Existentialism lacking altruism or altruism lacking existentialism. A panacea for existence does not exist.

And so, remember, I wrote this under a yellow porch light, slapping at mosquitoes, coughing up smoke from wild fires and thinking of me or you, or me.

Delirium Tremens

A short piece about the experience of alcohol consumption from 2014.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Fade up on a moment of clarity. Enter SELF.

SELF
It occurs to me the faith I will
need as one by one my brain cells
are killed in action. How many
neural connections do I require
before I divorce completely from
all logic and reason?


A shadow is cast over self. Enter EGO.

EGO
Will I transform into a carnivorous
vegetable reminiscent of a 1950’s
horror film: eating only everything
that comes close to my drooling
mouth?
(beat)
It’s only fitting that a man with
the caliber of a water pistol be
the recipient of a horrible, slow,
embarrassing death.

SELF
Is it actually dying or more of a
shift in existence?

Stars bounce around the periphery, disappearing before the
eyes rack focus. I, we cough.

SELF (CONT’D)
Sober now, my eyes, ears, nose,
tongue, and nerve endings sharpen
focus. I sense the rawness of
reality manifesting on my lower
legs. A bought of eczema, just
begging a handful of jagged
fingernails to claw, scratch, and
tear it off.
(Down on knees)
Just a minuscule drop of relief. A
small taste please.

I, we wheeze.

EGO
Sobriety, the stoic’s drunkenness.
It all still feels fake.

BACK TO:

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
I am visiting the set of my favorite TV show for the first
time. The dissected apartment disillusions me. A RED GLOW
bounces off my face in harmony with the electronic HUM and
CLICK of flashing signs marked ‘applause.’

3 OMITTED
thru
1346


1347 INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT (CONTINUOUS)
I wake up rubbing my temple. GOD, an octogenarian with a full
head of white hair, exits the building. However, its
SCREECHING echoes still crash around my head.

GOD
(Sniveling)
My son did not commit suicide. You
killed him.

I step out into the light. Blinking like an old projector, I
take in the images at increasing frame rates.

24 FRAMES PER SECOND
I lick my lips.

30 FRAMES PER SECOND
The corners of my mouth defy gravity.

60 FRAMES PER SECOND
Through cracked lips, an unfamiliar voice squeezes out a
SUBTITLE:

ID
(Submerged)
I’m out in society.

Familiar voices respond.

SELF
Is this me?

EGO
Or some other beast entirely?

I wipe SMOKE out of my eyes. The angst making a meal of my
LIVER, LUNGS, SPINE, and ever more fragile GREY MATTER.

SELF
The only advice I have been willing
to flood me has been vice.
Acceptance needs to seep in.
Drained dry and clean of my old mentor.

SELF (CONT’D)
It has to.

The echoes of my ego still reverberate in the walls of my
skull. Spiraling down my spine, giving us CHILLS, SPASMS,
and NAUSEA while gripping a toilet bowl.

I, we stick to the script.

ID
I’m okay.

The new mantra begins to sink in like an unused snip of 8MM FILM in a tar pit (slowly).

EGO
I’m okay.

ZOOM IN
One thousand raised pink SLASHES from wrist to armpit.

SELF
I’m okay.

FLASHBACK
BLOOD drips, spelling out a phrase on the floor:
“Blood: I”M OKAY.”

An ellipsis SPLATTERS on the linoleum behind the mantra:
“BLOOD: …”
I inhale.

INT. EMPTY SHELL OF A MAN – QUITTING TIME
The partiers arrive. The bouncer lifts the rope, introducing
4,000 queer chemicals to the pulmonary party. They work the
room and make acquaintances with the rest of the body.

Reluctant to leave at last call, the SMOKE stumbles out
leaving sticky SCUFF-MARKS on the dance floor.
(On judgement day I’ll
still most likely say…)

GOD
I’m okay.

SELF
I’m okay.

CUT TO:

Beam, Appeal, Oven

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I cry hard, like something is forcing itself out of me. Its wrinkled hands prying my jaws open from the inside, sending out a beam of aching sound, like wind chopped by the blades of a mill. Grunts and groans, the acoustics of pain are beautiful.

Plea’s to higher powers only expand the shadow over me. Nothing comes down, nothing hugs me, nothing screams in my ear the comfort of an existence lived any other way than alone. Let us look up, in the holy scripture, the book of 2nd bullshit and find out what lies lick our ears and send us life preservers with no rope attached to dry land.

Half-baked illusions equate to disillusions. Heaping helpings of please and thank you’s, excuse me’s and handshakes do not replace a single realization that we are and will always be entirely alone. Living in ovens, separated from the rest of the kitchen, getting weaker and weaker until we finally fall asleep in the warmth of wires glowing red. To become a meal, an example for some fresh batch of lives, popped into the oven.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Detective Sykes, Murder, of course by Furman Newby III

Murder, of course

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
3,856 words

“So, why’d you do it?” Detective Sykes leaned over the metal table and stared at the murderer. Well, he had still to confess but all video surveillance and eye-witness testimony was pretty damning. Sykes looked at the two-way mirror, knowing his partner was on the other side. He asked again, “Why did you do it, Percy?”

“I do not know. He seemed like a pretentious prick. Or is it pompous? I do not know.” Percy answered. Sykes noticed he had responded genuinely puzzled, as if he were answering a different question, like “why’d you flip the guy off?” Or “Why’d everyone boo when the guy walked in?”

Down at the coroner’s office a medical examiner was inspecting the body of the victim. At the scene of the crime, the unlucky had on black jeans so tight the EMT’s had to cut them off. A short-sleeve button-up shirt with a famous cartoon mouse and round-rimmed spectacles, pieces of which were still mushed into the carne asada that was now his face.

Sykes thought about this face being cleaned up. The Diener picking out teeth, shards of glass, and chunks of carrot from the skull turned bowl now holding onto the pulp of the man’s features.

Blinking rapidly, Sykes prodded Percy for more information.

“Did you know the guy you killed before you saw him at Trader Joe’s?”

“I did not know him. I did not want to. He had been at parties and other events where the same crowd was. He always seemed uninterested in me and my wife.”

“What do you mean disinterested?”

“Well after a while, you see someone enough, you eventually introduce yourself, or at least give a knowing nod, you know?”

“So, he snubbed you. Is that why you killed him?”

“I do not really know. I do know that after a while of seeing him, my blood pressure would rise, he would consume my thoughts and, well, he just became more stress than he was worth.”

Just like that, thought Sykes, kill a man because you didn’t like his face? Sykes pressed Percy.

“You said he consumed your thoughts, with what did he fill your mind?”

“At first, just thoughts of telling him off—-well, no, actually, the first thought was of just walking up and asking why he did not say anything to me or my wife.”

“Why didn’t you ask?”

“Because the thought directly after that was, well what if he apologizes, maybe even profusely and then I have to deal with him walking up to me at every party. I would never be sure if he was genuine or not, knowing that I had once confronted him about not acknowledging me.”

“Do you always have such a hard time with social mores, social norms?”

“Yes, I do.” Percy said, as if answering the question, “do you have two eyes?”

Sykes leaned back off the table, he crossed his arms and cocked his head. He’d personally processed 27 murders in the last year alone, a comparatively slow year, but still. This guy sitting in front of him was genuinely puzzling. No passion, just annoyance.

“So that’s why you killed him, because you thought he’d never be a genuine friend?”

“No. Most people fall into that category.” Said Percy.

“What category?”

“People who would never be my genuine friend.”

“So, why’d you kill him?”

“I do not know, I just wanted him to end.”

Sykes could see that the conversation was getting him nowhere. He looked at the two-way mirror and scratched his ear. A signal to his partner that he was coming out. Sykes looked back at Percy, then started for the door.

“Why do you need to know why?” asked Percy as Sykes reached for the door knob. Percy continued.

“I mean you already know I did it. You have my confession; you have camera footage and you have a whole store full of people who will say I murdered him. Send me to prison, I’m hungry.”

Sykes stopped. “Hungry for what?”

“Hungry for blood!” Percy twisted his face and curled his fingers into claws. “I am kidding, no I am just hungry for food. I mean a burger would be nice, but I will start getting used to prison food. I am just regular old hungry, that is all.”

Sykes was starting to feel his blood pressure rise. Percy’s nonchalance and sarcasm were tapping at the mercury thermometer sticking in the area of Sykes’ brain in charge of temperament.

“Also, it is boring in here.” Added Percy. Sykes paused and took a step backwards into the room. He rolled his tongue between his top row of teeth and top lip, pressing it against the roof of his mouth before he spoke.

“Would you say this was pre-meditated?”

Percy didn’t answer right way. Sykes asked again.

“Did you plan this out and think it through before doing it?”

“No, I know what pre-meditated means. I am just trying to understand if you are truly asking me if I planned to kill him in the middle of a store full of people by beating his face in with a larger than average carrot. Is that what you think I planned?”

Sykes didn’t want to get further away from the point. So, he tried again.

“Had you ever thought about killing him before that day in the grocery store?”

            Percy furrowed his brow and used his bottom teeth to pull his upper lip into his mouth before answering.

“Sure, I thought about it. Little day dreams here and there but nothing like a step-by-step plan. I mean obviously that is not how it went down.” Percy paused then looked at the two-way glass, he pointed between the glass and Sykes.

“Are you telling me that as cops you guys never think about killing anyone? You know for the betterment of humanity, to serve and protect, any of that stuff?”

Sykes took a quick breath, it made him sound exasperated.

“Percy, we’re asking the questions. But I’ll answer one you asked earlier. Why are we asking you? Because we want to be able to give his family some sort of reason for their loved one’s death. No matter how unreasonable.”

            “Why? You imagine a satisfactory scenario in that conversation? Okay.” Percy raised his arms as far as the handcuffs would let him, but the gesture he made still looked grandiose. “I did it for the betterment of humanity! So that my son and his sons and their sons would never have to lay eyes on such a smug, pretentious asshole as he was.” Percy’s chains clanked on the table as he put his hands down.

“Is that good? Can I eat now?”

Sykes pulled the chair back from the table and sat down.

“I’ll bring you food if you tell me what I want to know. No sarcasm, no bullshit, tell me why you really killed him, and I will bring you a burger.”

“A Tommy’s burger.”

“A burger.”

“Fine, but you are not going to like the answer because you have not liked the answer so far. It is not going to change. I did not like him, and I saw him in the store, he did not acknowledge me one too many times and I saw red. I guess it is what people call a crime of passion.”

Sykes wiped his hand over his mouth. “A crime of passion is a lover coming home to find their partner in bed with another person and then killing one or both of them. A person taking revenge. Usually they know the victim, or the victim has done something. This guy you murdered was an acquaintance to you. Am I wrong?”

Percy slowly tilted his head left and then right before answering. “I did not know him intimately, but I saw him enough to where he was more than an acquaintance.”

“So, what was he to you?”

            Percy squinted and looked up as if the answer was on the wall behind Sykes. He sucked air through his teeth.

“I would say he was more of a nuisance. I read something once. I think it is from the bible.”

“Oh, you’re religious?” Sykes glanced at the two-way mirror, as if to see his partners expression.

“No, I just read something once about god saying you are either cold or hot but if you are lukewarm, I spit you out of my mouth.”

“So that’s what you did, you spit him out of your mouth.”

“Something like that. I guess god had his criteria, or standards or boundaries, whatever you want to call them. So, I guess I have found that I have my own criteria.”

“And what criteria is that?” Sykes had his arms crossed on the table and he was leaning forward. Percy raised an eyebrow and frowned. He swayed his head side to side slightly.

“Maybe it was just him, I do not know. Who decided that certain drugs were illegal? I was not involved in that.”

“You murdered a man. Are you saying you think you are God?”

“No. And how do you know what God is?”

“I don’t, but I guess the idea of God is that he makes all final judgement about life and death, right and wrong. Do you think you have that right? That power?”

“No.”

“But at the very least, you think you did the right thing?”

“Who is to say, in my own little existence, that I did not do the right thing. Are you god?”

“You live in a society and therefore you live by a social contract of written and unwritten rules.”

“I did not write them. To me, every birth is a revolution. A life is uncontrolled by the law’s others have created, though definitely others try to impose those laws. My current situation is a perfect example of that.” Percy made to motion with both hands around the room, his chains prevented it. “We have the right to exist however we wish.”

“But there are consequences, you may very well spend the rest of your life in jail.”

“So what? How is that different than your life now?”

“I’m not a prisoner. I’m free to move and do things as I please. I haven’t killed anyone.”

“You are being a prisoner right now. You think your freedom is about being able to move anywhere and touch anything, but your thought is restricting you.”

“I think I’m understanding why you killed him.”

“Because I could. Because my mind is uncontrolled by your legislature and other nonsense. You can lock me in a casket or put me in a field, but my mind is free.”

“You’re batshit. You’re rocketing way past Pluto with no sign of slowing down.”

“See, your mind is so tangled, officer, tangled up with the things others have told you, with the laws you choose to serve and protect, with tales of morality that either end with eternal damnation or eternal paradise. These are prisons because they shape a mind before it has a chance to shape itself.”

“So, you’re not religious. You don’t believe in god?” asked Sykes.

Percy smiled.

“You are still doing it. I either am or am not religious to you. There is either god or no god to you, but have you ever thought that is such a narrow existence?”

“So, what do you believe in?”

Percy shrugged and lifted his hands before letting them drop on the table.

“There is no point. You will write me off as crazy, if you have not already. You just want to know so you can tell your buddies this story later. Just lock me up in your prison and let us be done with this.”

Sykes smiled.

“You’re right, but why don’t you humor me. I’ll order you that burger from Tommy’s.”

Now Percy smiled. “See I cannot even escape myself.” He sat looking at the table.

“So?” said Sykes.

“I believe a virus infects us. It is a simple virus that plagues the brain and does not allow it to see things as they are, but rather forces the mind to create meaning.”

“Meaning?”

“Yes. I believe a virus of meaning infects us all. This entire conversation you have been wondering why I killed him, and you will probably always wonder why on some level. That is a symptom of the virus. You cannot simply accept that I killed him. You, his family, his friends, must know why.”

Sykes raised his eyebrows and looked straight at Percy.

“You never wonder why about anything?”

“Of course, I do.”

“So, you’re infected with the virus of meaning?”

“Of course, I am. Unlike you, I am simply aware of it.”

Sykes continued with his eyebrows raised. Percy finally shrugged his shoulders and went on.

“Because I know about the virus. Because I recognize I am infected, I recognize a flaw, much in the same way an alcoholic knows they cannot drink without control. If they do, the knowledge of their abuse of it taints all drinking experiences thereafter.”

“So how does that work for your virus?”

“Well, though I cannot prove a virus exists, I believe it does because no one has exhibited any evidence to the contrary. Everyone has to know why and even if they never audibly ask the question, the question gnaws away at their mind.”

“What’s wrong with questions?”

“Nothing, they are meaningless but symptomatic of the virus of which I am speaking.”

“You’ve asked me a few questions in the time you’ve been in this room.”

“I am sure I have; I am only human.”

“So, questions are meaningless?”

“There is a view, a popular view, that questions and inquiry lead to a path of understanding and enlightenment, but I think the opposite is true.”

“What?”

“Questions lead to doubt and confusion.”

“How so?”

“The more you know about something, the more that thing opens up to you, forcing you to recognize a whole world of information that you had no idea existed. That trail of information splinters off into an infinite number of paths. Like holding a flashlight straight down at your feet when it is pitch black. You might ask what you are standing on? Or, where you are? That question leads you to slowly lift your flashlight to reveal more information until you see as far as your eyes or the landscape allows but it is not enough. You may have answered your initial questions but now you wonder ‘what is behind those rocks?’ ‘what is behind me?’ ‘Where am I in the grand scheme of things?’ or ‘why am I here?’

“It’s part of human nature to ask questions.”

“Yes.” Percy pointed at Sykes “Yes but that nature is flawed, or as eternal optimists might say, there is room for improvement.”

“As people get older, they get wiser.” Sykes heard himself. Now Percy raised his eyebrows and stared at Sykes as if giving him the opportunity to correct himself. Sykes, out of pride or spite or maybe curiosity, remained silent. Percy responded.

“They do not. We do not because of the infinite paths of questions. The older we get the more questions we have. Our initial questions have to do with more practical things such as how to survive, what to eat, even how to treat others. But we get older and start becoming fixated on questions that either have no answers or yield yet more questions. An infinite loop of questions. For example, why did I kill him?”

“Why did you kill him?” Sykes asked.

Percy sighed and slouched back in his chair.

“I am trying to tell you that there is no why. You, his family and friends are upset because I took a question, an infinite possibility of questions and turned it into a statement. Instead of ‘what is he up to?’ now it is ‘here lies Shawn.’ That is, it. The only relief you or anyone else will get is when your own statement is written, here lies officer Sykes.”

Sykes wasn’t sure whether to take Percy’s last comment as a threat or not. He was more curious at the contradiction sitting in front of him. He asked.

“Earlier you pointed out that it was narrow of me to think dichotomously, god or no god. Now you’re saying that a living person is a question and a dead person is a statement.

“Did I say that?”

“Isn’t that too simplistic for your ideology? Isn’t it contradictory to your theory? You’re either this or that?”

“Yes. Our very questioning nature, or rather the virus, makes us hypocrites. We cannot retain all information all the time, so when presented with some information in a particular situation, we change. We adapt.”

            “Okay, enough. I’m tired of hearing this pseudo-philosophical crap. I’m going to order that Tommy’s burger and start processing you.” Sykes stood up and walked to the door. Percy stared at the wall; his hands folded on the table. He seemed to be concentrating.

“Okay.” He said.

            Sykes walked out of the room and into the cold hallway of the station. The lights buzzed and the drinking fountain hummed. For a moment he forgot about their conversation, as if getting up too fast had pushed it all out of his head. He walked a few steps to his right and entered the viewing room, where his partner watched Percy. His partner, a mustached, mousy man with just enough spine to drive a patrol car, but not enough to conduct the interrogations, asked.

“What do you think he was talking about? Some sort of cult? New age religious thing?”

“I don’t know,” said Sykes. “It’s not important why. We know he did it. Order the man a burger and I’ll start working his file.” Sykes grabbed a folder. He sat down at a desk facing the two-way mirror. His partner stepped into the hallway to call Tommy’s and order ahead.

Sykes heard banging and looked up to see Percy pounding on the table, both palms flat, the chain bouncing along with his hands. The expression on Percy’s face looked more like a snarling baboon than the calm man to whom he was just speaking.

Sykes stood and walked over to the interrogation room. As he was unlocking the door, Percy began yelling.

“Whyyyy? Whyyyyyy? Everybody wants to know why but I am not going to tell them. Fuck you Sykes. Fuck you man behind the mirror.”

Sykes stood at the door. He twisted the knob and walked in. Percy looked at Sykes and stopped pounding.

“How about that burger, sport?” Percy grinned.

“What was all that yelling?”

“I needed to vent. Blow off some steam as they say. You ever do that? Being a Cop is a stressful job.”

Sykes walked back out of the room and shut the door. He could hear Percy chuckling. The burger couldn’t arrive fast enough. He sat down and began rifling through the stack of paperwork. He looked up to see Percy staring at him or at least staring into the one-way mirror.

“Sykes do you ever get scared?” said Percy. “Do you have a wife? How often do you apologize to her or your girlfriend? Do you have kids? How old are they? What are their names and ages? Where do you live?”

Percy now widened his eyes and began tilting his head side to side. Something in his voice made his questions sound like mockery.

“What is your favorite food? What is your favorite color? Are your parents alive? Are they divorced? What did they do?”

            Sykes saw no signs of this stopping. He stood up and walked back out to the hallway. From the hall he heard Percy’s muffled voice. Unlocking the door, he stepped in.

Percy sang to the tune of Miss America theme song.

“There he is, Mr. America.”

“Your burger is coming Percy. You’ll eat and then be on your way, let’s just keep this easy, for both of us.”

            Percy smiled wide. “I am just trying to construct you Sykes. I am building my image of you. It is easier if you answer my questions.”

“No.” Said Sykes, quietly.

“Then I will have to use my fabulous imagination.” Percy announced the last two words as if announcing the title of a children’s TV show.

“Okay.” Sykes responded, walking back out and shut the door. He walked back to the table. Percy started up again.

“I did it. Here is my confession.” Percy was now staring up at the CCTV camera in the corner of the room.

“I pummeled his face in with a carrot, if you can believe that. At Trader Joe’s, they have these big ‘ol carrots. I grabbed one in my left-hand and the man’s collar in my right. Then I started beating him into the wine aisle. He asked me why I was doing it, of course, no one is immune to the virus Officer Sykes, but I didn’t answer because I was focusing all my energy into my carrot holding arm.”

Percy sniffed.

“I did it for self-preservation. He was eating away at a part of my mind and now I find that there is some relief. I have scratched an itch and feel relieved. You know, I probably just proved my theory. Perhaps that itch was the virus of meaning eating away and now it is, well it will probably take on a different form.”

Percy went on. Sykes did his best to focus on the paperwork though he read sentences over and over a few times. A photo of the victim before the crime was usually paperclipped to the reports. Sykes couldn’t find it.

“Ah, my burger!”

Sykes looked up at the sound of Percy’s sudden delight. Through the two-way mirror, he saw his partner walk into the interrogation room.

“Thank you,” said Percy. “I did not think it would really happen. Do they serve burgers in prison? Are they like sad McDonald’s burgers or do they have all the fixings? Do you like burgers, Officer Sykes’ partner?”

His partner set the bag in Percy’s reach and walked back out of the room, closing the door behind him. Sykes watched as Percy carefully unwrapped the burger and slowly smoothed down the corners of the paper.

Sykes was so lost in thought, staring at Percy, he hadn’t noticed that his partner had walked into his own room. and set down a burger in front of him.

 “I got you a burger with cheese.”  Sykes was startled out of his daze. His partner set down the burgers.

“Oh, and the front desk handed me this on my way in.” Sykes took the folder his partner held out to him. The smell of burgers telling his mind to wrap this up so he could eat.

He flipped open the cardstock and a photo fell out. Sykes picked it up and saw the image of a scrawny male, mid-thirties, Caucasian wearing a Mickey Mouse print t-shirt and small round spectacles. The victim before his murder, almost exactly as Percy had described.

Squinting his eyes, Sykes thought ‘he does have one of those faces.’

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Railway, Mountainous, Short

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

In the Yukon there is a train that runs through the mountains. How the builders of this railway constructed those hundreds of miles of perfectly parallel lines through rocky, mountainous terrain, is a wonder every bit as spectacular as the views from the cars.

My grandfather loved that trip. We took a boat from Seattle to Alaska and floated around the last frontier. He was all smiles, a grin that covered his teeth but ran ear to ear.

On the train we rode during a day trip, he bought a hat as a souvenir. He wore that hat almost everyday until he went to the hospital for the last time.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about him now but I do know that I often think about him during times when I have a lot on my mind.

All my life I’ve been compared to my grandfather. The same short, stocky build. The same generally mild temperament but with a rare temper.

I think about where I am in life and the things I’ve gone through to get here. Normally I compare them to my grandfathers life and the things he went through.

None of it was remotely the same but somehow we’re similar.

The question I have for myself now is what am I thinking about that has me going through this exercise.

Maybe there is no reason. Maybe it’s year seven and all my cells have completely changed, I’m a different person. Maybe it’s just bed time.

Whatever reason, I know I’m thinking about my grandpa, wearing that velcro strap hat with “Alaska” written on the crown of the cap and he’s smiling.