by Tom Fillion
This is heaven. Everything in alabaster white. These people he sees, they’re angels. All of sudden, he thrashes about. He yells, kicks, and screams every obscenity he knows. It’s not heaven, hell, or Byzantium. They’re not angels. It’s the night shift. St. Christopher’s.
“Let me go. Motherfuckers. I hate you. If I could get up, man, I’d break you in half. Yes. You. You right there. Bastards. Let me go. You wouldn’t say that if I weren’t tied down.”
He can’t talk. He said it all with his eyes. They say things but he doesn’t hear them. His arms and legs are tethered, tied down, with leather straps, cinched tight like a saddle on a horse that doesn’t want to be ridden. Indigestible tubes run down his nose and throat. He can’t swallow. He can’t breathe. The people in white enter, ask questions, then leave. He is twentieth century emergency room poetry, an unrhymed, broken couplet, a T.S. Eliot patient, a self-etherized love song upon a table, laid up against the night sky of a bad dream. Billy, you’re going to survive they tell him. He blames them all. Bastards.
Things are opaque, but he remembers calling Carol. She wasn’t home. She was never home. They had met in a bar weeks before. He had the reefer she wanted so they left to smoke it and, hopefully do what is difficult in the front seat of a Volkswagen for people as tall as them.
She was lanky and thin and studying nutrition, or how to abstain from it. He couldn’t tell. She was never home. She was always out somewhere in her lavender convertible with its bad tires and bucket seats, looking for someone who had pot she could smoke.
He put the phone down after calling her, realizing it was going to be another night in the chapel perilous of himself, preparing for the knighthood and chivalry of loneliness. Things would fly at him from all directions in the darkness. He would be Sir Gawain and slay the Green Knight, the axe dripping pea-green blood from the severed head that never died.
Maybe Fred was home. Yeah. He’d go see Fred with eyes in search of a three-piece suit of corporate armor. But he didn’t want to go see Fred because Fred was always trying to be affirmative and positive like a Dale Carnegie graduate with nothing to celebrate. Fred had read every book available on psycho-cybernetics, on the servo-mechanism of the mind, on how to shape it like a potter at a wheel, and fool even himself into believing in himself. Fred was now Psycho-Cybernetics Incarnate, and his cousin, Jock, the hairdresser with the lotions, creams, rinses, tints, and all that, were extremely, well, in a word, boring. Loneliness was better. Loneliness was like attending the state fair compared to being with the two cousins. Where was Carol? Damn her.
He remembered their faces. He made remarks about faggots when Jock was primping and clucking around the room in front of him. Jock with the layered hair and the tight ass was hysterical because his parents didn’t understand his passion for cremes, rinses, and lotions.
Naïve, Billy thought later. How could you be so fucking dumb and not see the obvious? Oh yeah. He didn’t know. Jock was queevo, gay, and onomatopoeiac. Fred told him later it wasn’t nice to say such things in front of a gay, and it made Jock extremely uncomfortable. He didn’t even remember saying it. Fred was telling him this with his cybernetic feedback jargon and gleaming his hazel eyes at him, and telling him there was an opening at the donut maker where Fred worked from two in the morning until seven. It was like the night shift at St. Christopher’s only with donuts.
“Would you be interested?” Fred asked.
Billy explained about the college degree that didn’t qualify him to make donuts in the middle of the night in the donut palace where the air was sweet and heavy laying over the dark machinery, and flour streaked the concrete floor, and big black cookers were filled with greasy oil, cremes, and rinses, and fried flour and sick sweet death, and bags of flour and donut mix were stacked against a wall.
He needed a job but making donuts with Fred in the a.m. night, well, Fred said he was sure to get his three piece salesman’s suit soon so he would be gone, and Billy would be left making donuts by himself, he would be the donuteer, but Fred was looking at him strangely, almost like a cousin.
He did it again. How could he be so naïve?
Billy didn’t want to be Fred’s donut. How come he was so dumb and had a college degree, he thought? Fred and Jock were kissing cousins, and Billy didn’t want to be relative. Both of them were crème-filled donuts, and Carol wasn’t home. He didn’t even know her anyway except her lips on his Zigzag papers that he sometimes scribbled love poems on to an invisible goddess that would never love him.
He had a Green Knight embedded in his chest which still wasn’t impressively large after years of baseball, basketball, weightlifting, and protein shakes to fortify his manhood. There was no more room for the pain of what he wasn’t. He no longer wanted to be Sir Gawain in pursuit of the Green Knight in the chapel perilous of himself. But maybe Fred was home. Maybe he changed and was more natural and at ease and not such a robot personality because Billy had to talk to somebody about the fact there wasn’t anyone to talk with unless you were selling something or yourself and, honestly, he just wanted to be free of all this forever, Carol in her lavender convertible and Fred and his cousin. Deep down inside there was this kid, yes, a kid, a Green Knight that would never die, no matter what, who was still galloping on his horse, Apache, riding like hell, bareback on his cherry brown hide, holding onto the leather reins and Apache’s black mane, and they were burning up the ground, Apache springing when he hit his flanks, his legs tucked behind Apache’s shoulders, and he didn’t care about anything and it didn’t matter if he fell or not. Jimmy and Brad and Tookie and Debbie with all their freckles and southern accents were riding their horses, Midnight, Poncho, Buckskin, and Juliet, and they were all his friends, in front of him, behind him, and they were all riding, riding, riding, and that was all that mattered in the rodeo of life, that smooth, even gallop of timeless youth to the all night drive-in movie theatre, sneaking over the back fence, and Brad and he rode Apache to church on Sundays, down behind the old railroad tracks, where they tied Apache’s leather reins on a green branch that would never die outside the church, and Apache, nuzzling the ground, would always wait for them to return.
A blurry nametag in white came in to reassure him, Billy, you’re lucky. You didn’t kill yourself this time. He would survive with T.S. Eliot, J. Alfred Prufrock, and the other broken, unrhymed love songs. Bastards.
Tom Fillion is a graduate of the University of South Florida. He teaches mathematics and coaches golf and tennis at a Tampa public high school. His short stories have appeared in many online publications including Word Riot and Storyglossia . For a complete list please visit: dreammechanic.blogspot.com .