Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gimme Fiction: Safety Glass

“At least it was a clean cut,” he said to himself, leisurely scanning the space before him. Shards of broken glass crunched beneath his scuffed black loafers as he transferred his weight from one swollen foot to the other. He held his left hand out before him, palm downward while with the right he pinched at his nose, unsuccessfully stifling the mucous within.

The pollen seemed to get thicker every year and with each passing year it overstayed its welcome by a few more weeks, languidly drifting here and there, feigning the motions of departure but staying on through the already uncomfortable summer months. He could have sworn that only a few years before, once spring had eased its way into summer he had been able to breathe simply and without thought or aggravation, but no more. Maybe he was just idealizing the past. He sniggered at himself. “Been watching way too many daytime talk shows to come up with a phrase like that, pal.”

Beyond the edge of his well-worn shoes, partially mixed with the sprinkles of silvery glass, spatters of blood had welled up in glistening puddles. He stared intently at the blobs, willing them to rumble with unseen life, to converge into a mass of extraterrestrial ooze; but they lay dormant, thinning and drying by the minute, the liquid crimson scabbing to crispy black.

He heard sirens in the distance and though of T.V. cops, quick-witted and hard-boiled with finely manicured fingertips slapping the cuffs on some stereotype hoodlum. They showed the muck on television- the filth and newspaper raggedness of two-room slums- but you could never smell it. That always bugged the hell out of him. It was always helpful to know what a place smelled like.

Shutting his mouth tight, he pressed the tip of his tongue against the roof of his mouth and attempted a sort of suction to pull the mucous from his nose and down through the back of this throat. After a few frustrating tries he gave up, wishing he’d left well enough alone. Now, a phantom formation of phlegm gurgled in his esophagus and he longed for a bottle of soda to clear it out.

Shifting his agitated stance from standing to squatting, he reached out and picked up one of the more sizeable pieces of glass. The edge of the shard was tipped with blood and the dagger feel of the thing in his palm sent a jolt of squeamish electricity to the middle of his vertebrae. It shook him.

“What the hell is a ‘blue-blood’ anyway?” he asked himself as his mind wandered to fight off the inner chill. “Never in my life have I seen blue blood. They say oxygen turns it red, but well, how do they know? Can’t see it without it getting exposed to oxygen, now can they?”

“Concentrate, buddy-boy. Concentrate.” Creakily he resumed his standing position and looked straight ahead. Brown eyes stared back at him. They’d lost their interest, the unblinking eyes, and the whites of them had gone pearly- no, better say milky. Pearly implies hardness and that wouldn’t be right for those eyes. You knew those eyes were made from tissue, malleable and squishy.

He hadn’t meant to think ‘squishy’. In truth, he’d tried not to think it, but it came anyway and then he had images of late night ‘B’ pictures, low in budget but high in laughable gore. Somehow in real life, gore wasn’t nearly so entertaining.

A flutter of a breeze dislodged a section of yellow hair and sent it scampering across the face to which the brown eye belonged. A torn empty paper cup clip-clopped across the ground beside it. Still the eyes did not blink.

Scratching at the wrinkles embedded in his forehead, he moved forward to circle the woman. Running shoes sheltered her feet and black sweat pants had protected her knees from road rash as he body had crashed to the ground. Perhaps a foot away her sinister waxen looking features were posed in a heart-wrenching yelp of terror.

Coming up close to the severed head he bent once more, leaning in to the bloody opening from which, he imagined, her trachea might have whistled had the breeze grown stronger. “At least it was a clean cut,” he said again, this time aloud.

“Christ almighty! What a way to go,” came a boisterous addendum from a member of the crowd gathered on the too green lawns of the suburban street.

Barely hiding a snarl of contempt for the speaker, he rose a final time, staggering slightly in the effort. As he did, he looked up the street where a few yards away the white truck, Safety Auto Glass lacquered to its side, sat like its driver, simpering and small in the wake of the accident.

He shook his head, sniffled and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Funny thing, the glass coming dislodged and flying backwards like that at just the right speed and at just the right angle,” he thought to himself as he meandered up the street away from the shiny vans of the newshounds.

Without needing to turn around he knew that the body was now swarmed with photographers and forensics kids; and probably a good many bugs, too, some invisible and others merely microscopic. He winced at the vision popping up in his mind and turned for a final scan of the scene.

He sighed heavily, the realization almost more than he could bear. She’d seen it coming.

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