“Did you ever feel as though a part of you is missing?” Elsie asked in an abstract manner.
“What do you mean?” Dr. Glassner responded, adjusting her horn-rimmed glasses.
“I mean that sometimes, I feel unfinished. I can’t quite explain it”
“How long have you been feeling this way?”
“I don’t really know. I think I’ve always felt it. And the feeling became stronger after I left West Virginia, after I married Terrance in 1988. My mother was against our coming to Chicago, but Terrance knew that in order to carve out a future, he was not going to make it in Farmington.”
“Maybe you’re missing your parents?” the doctor suggested.
“No, I don’t think it’s that. I speak to my mom twice a week. My dad’s been gone since I was small. I see my mom every summer for three weeks. The kids used to come with me.”
She always thought silhouette was the prettiest word, the way the light sort of flashed around the blackened letters in her head with a nimble sort of elegance. Then she became a silhouette, just another hollow figure dancing under streetlights, slipping in and out of carefully unlocked locks and chiming into a symphony of car door slams.
I lowered my sensory receptors and closed my eyes. For as cramped as the five by five steel elevator was, it may as well have been a garbage compactor. The man beside me had eaten hummus for lunch, I knew it, and the women at the front sighed in tandem with each passing floor. The rest of the elevator’s occupants annoyed me as well, albeit in subtler ways.
When the doors opened on my floor, I squeezed passed the woman as she jabbed at the “close” button until the doors did so automatically. I waited until the elevator had continued on its way before going in. I used the moment to take a cleansing breath, something I had learned from Organics. It was something I found myself doing more and more these days.
I walked quickly through the halls of the forty-second floor, and found Dr. Maxwell sitting in his leather-bound chair. He waved me in. Taking a seat at a similar chair opposite him, I watched as my therapist opened his notebook and wrote the date at the top of the current page. He reeked of tobacco, a fact that concerned me more than it should.
When Mendel Schlossman retired after forty-two years as an accountant at Hampermass, Ludnick, and Bernstein, the firm threw him a surprise party that almost killed him. Twenty employees, plus his wife, sprung up from behind the bar at the Tiki Tavern and Dance Bar and yelled “Surprise!” as loud as we could. Mr. S. grabbed his chest like he was having a heart attack, but he was only joking. The surprise wasn’t what almost killed him.
I was a junior bookkeeper and Chair of Special Events. We’d been handling Tiki’s books and I knew business was bad. This gave me leverage to negotiate a good price. There was food they were actually going to throw away that I got for pennies on the dollar. Frank, the owner, told me we’d get an even bigger break if he could set up some blackjack and craps tables. I jumped at the offer, not knowing that he wanted to play for real money, and mistakenly believing that Charlie Minsky from payroll had his gambling addiction under control.
Perhaps I put too much trust in Frank, who, I learned after his arrest, had never worked in food service before opening up TTDB (and had served two years for bookmaking). Looking back, I can see where the whole operation seemed a bit shady. When one waiter chased another with a knife, yelling, “I’m going to carve you like a pig!” I assumed it was part of the entertainment, like some form of Kabu-Tiki Theater. Now I’m not so sure.
It’s so unfair. I love you so much. You were the first boy I kissed and now they’re making me move away from you. Please promise to meet me at the second bridge on June 10th, ten years from now. We’ll both be 25 and we can see how we turned out.
Bill read the note for the umpteenth time since Jake had given it to him. He had agreed to meet this girl, actually a woman since she would be twenty-five now, and he was as nervous as bridegroom. Not that he’d ever been a bridegroom.
“What if she doesn’t show?” he thought. “What if she gets mad at me that Jake sent me and didn’t come himself? What if she’s really cool and we hit it off and..….., no, don’t start that fantasy stuff; remember, you’re just the messenger here. Jake’s a friend but he sure ropes me into some weird stuff sometimes.”
I saw a dead man last night. He was on the side of the road, laid flat, blood in a pool around his head: he’d come off his motorbike. His helmet was fifteen feet or so further down the road, and his bike lay on the pavement away from him. It was the loneliest sight I think I’ve ever seen.
When I got home I took my shoes off and put my bag on the kitchen table. I didn’t have any food in the fridge, so I went to the drawer beside the sink and looked through some delivery menus before settling on a curry. I phoned and ordered, and they gave me a rough delivery time. Then I poured myself a beer, flicked the TV on, and sat down on the couch.
Breathing on top of his tiny lungs, Ecestil rushed through the tall grass surrounding him from all sides.
I wish I could fly. The panicked thought flittered through his mind for the umpteenth time. His broken right wing a useless appendage, an added weight hampering his mindless flight, he wiggled his left wing, hoping against hope it might prove strong enough to get him airborne. He gained an inch, only to drop back down, stumbling, almost falling. He struggled to regain his balance and hurried on, shrieking as a huge shadow appeared above him. He darted left, just as a gargantuan foot struck the ground he’d just vacated. Veering to the right, he narrowly avoided being crushed by its twin. Help. Someone help me.
So when I went out last week to check the mail, I found a sphynx hiding under the porch. Its feathers were streaked with mud. I think it was hit by a car. It smelled like wet leaves, its eyes glowing red in the cobwebby darkness.
I said, “Tell me my future.”
And it was all, “Shut up and go get me some milk.”
So I got my dad’s robot arm, the one he got after his back surgery and I reached under the porch and clamped it around the sphynx’s neck and dragged it into the house. It yowled like a tomcat and peed on the hallway rug. It kept trying to get me with its claws. But once I shoved it in Daisy’s crate, it stopped and just stared. Its eyes were like changing colors and I thought it was really weird, so I texted Lexie and Kara:
Ever since the Marriage (Banning) Act of 2035, which annulled every existing marriage and outlawed the celebration of weddings, successive governments have striven to rid society of this feudal, sexist, homophobic institution. At first there was public resistance to the move and so the Weddings Prevention Squad (WPS) was set up to patrol the streets and break up subversive weddings.
During the 2050s, local councils were privatised and most registry offices sold off; religion was outlawed and all churches and mosques demolished. These bold measures should finally have killed off marriage but in fact it was merely driven underground. Weddings were held in woodland glades, disused warehouses and far corners of multi-storey car parks. The WPS grew into a massive organisation with listening stations monitoring telecommunications and social media, and armed vehicles driven by crack troops for stamping out illegal weddings.
This city is not called the city of gold for nothing. It’s all about gold here. In the beginning it was some machinery in the depths, breaking rocks and tunnelling through it. You will be amazed how far human beings would go in the drive for gold.
Now it is gold with many faces, sought in different places in the city; as it is now, you either get the gold or have something golden.
The golden doesn’t have to be under the soil, but it could be. Gold doesn’t have to be that thing that makes you sweat and makes you dirty like mineworkers.
You could do an elephant-size work and get an ant-sized reward, you could learn from the miners and the perils of the dark depths, you could learn from those who sit in the air conditioned offices and wait for the gold.
This city makes you dream, which is a good thing because dreams come true; this is also a city where your dreams could turn nightmares.
You could one day take a stock of your life and wonder why the hell you left your village. Maybe you would have been better in Qunu, or KwaKwa, or Bushbuckridge, or wherever your village is.