I’ll come right to the point, since we have so little precious time left: I hate you with a passion. I want you dead. I can hardly forgive myself for coming here after all these years. But you’re the only remaining connection to my dead son, so here I am. On your doorstep. In the flesh. Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Flesh. Sins of the flesh. Thoughts of men coupling. I can hardly get myself around the mechanics of it.
My skin revolts. My gorge rises. My eyes go blind. This is not the purpose of a man’s body. This is not the reason I sired a son. I brought him on earth to cure cancer, to make me proud, to sire my grandsons, and because I didn’t know anything better to do and I wanted to sleep with his mother. …
The crowd hovering around the entrance to the Hospital for the Incurable seemed slight at first. The hospital was the cornerstone of the city of Le Frères du Plume. Many of its citizens derived their livelihood from being directly employed by, or providing needed services to, the one hundred-twenty year-old institution.
Placards posted along the street proclaimed the hanging of Old Grimes. I thought that impossible. Old Grimes had been hung a month ago. Wasn’t he dead and forgotten? But there it was, a rare rehanging, and I hadn’t noticed the announcements at all.…
If I’d put together that the wormy son of a bitch scarcely met Al’s description of the buyer, probably didn’t have a nickel to his name, and likely was, in truth, a vagrant junkie, maybe I wouldn’t have come to in the basement of an abandoned department store, ass going numb on cold linoleum, arms twisted and bound around a support beam. Maybe I wouldn’t have Louisville Slugger tattooed to my scalp, the sickening crack of wood against bone still thundering in my ears. And maybe things wouldn’t have turned into a total clusterfuck. Too many maybes, I know, I know, I conceded to her. Her silence belied her disappointment. Yeah, big surprise, I growled some more, another goddamned wrong turn. She remained cool, though, impassive. She’d heard this rant too many times already, possibly.…
Finkelstein put his hand on Jerry’s shoulder.
“That’s all I can tell you.”
Jerry could barely button the buttons on his shirt. His fingers felt like hot dogs and the buttons felt as small as tic tacs. He had come to trust the doctor and had begun to believe he could maybe fix it. Finkelstein snapped the metal clipboard closed and looked at him with big, sad eyes. He hated this part. He always hated this part.
“I’m sorry, Jerry.”
Jerry bumped into the wall on his way out of the examination room and two nurses saw it. He looked at them sheepishly, then realized that embarrassment, along with a whole host of other things, was something he wouldn’t be bothered with much longer.
What was it, anyway? Embarrassment seemed suddenly so abstract, so arbitrary. Why feel one thing when you can just as easily feel another? Great, he thought, wish I’d had that revelation sometime during my twenty years of therapy. Well, it’s never too late, he chuckled, as he turned up his collar and stepped out onto Prince Street.
Then, he stopped. Well, actually it is, bubbie. It is too late.
He jiggled the ice around in his glass, tried to tune out the band, and attempted to recall exactly what Finkelstein said.…
On Friday, the crowd stopped by the most vulnerable place. A library. An orchard. A school.
The people in the crowd raided bakeries because they’d never baked bread. Shot at rotten houses because they’d never had to live in filth. Every experience they didn’t get, they annihilated for the humans to come.
Then the caravan trudged onward. The nurses on duty cursed as they removed broken glass from bleeding bodies.
They had marched for the same number of days as the age of their oldest walker. 83.
I traveled with the crowd for 9 Fridays. On the 10th, the crowd schemed to raid every treehouse in a suburb where white picket fences got hosed with an unlimited supply of potable water. Where roads extended into dead ends and every pothole was the cause for an evening’s complaint.
I grew up in a place like that. Then I left for a college more isolated than my town. All while I dreamed to see more.
When the crowd swept through the candy aisle, I joined. My father said, “Don’t go.”
I said nothing when I slammed through his door. Behind me, my mother cried.
Some memorable members of the crowd were: Henry, who squeezed his legs close at the table to pick dirt from under his toenails.…