The Continuing Adventures of Sparky & His Guardian Friggin Angel, Chapter 2, by Marc D Regan

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Chapter 2

 

Dwayne:

When I left in Sis’s car, I knew the friggin planets’d aligned.

Okay, so that astro-projectile never crossed my mental field’a dreams.

But I was thinkin’ lucky ducky. Drummin’ on that steerin’ wheel while I hatched my egghead plan. Outta the radio Willie Nelson was singin’ “On the Road Again” like a testes-tangled road warrior. Lucky not cause Sis’s ride was a prize or I felt good about burnin’ my one and only siblin’—even if she was my half-sis and, since my mom died, we’d never lived in the same shack—but due to the fact that Dwayno was a man with a mission: Sparkola or Bust.

‘Til that El Torpedo door slammed and the ignition fired, however, I was pretty goddamn forlorn. All that “Gettin’ Better” shit I’d been singin’ weren’t nothin’ but ugly glugs in Beelzebub’s clogged shitter without Spark around. The landlord callin’ was top dog in suckland. Askin’ questions like who’s this? and when will “Randy” be back? The guy wanted rent.

Rent Sparky never friggin paid.

Bottom line, homelessness ain’t fun. Less fun’s jail (let’s just say I’ve felt those walls’a desperation and ain’t never goin’ back—not if I got a say in it). So when some razorblade-voice slumlord I never met’s cuttin’ questions in my already reelin’ brain—I figured borrowin’ Sis’s El Torpedo for an outta town zoom was my best (or only) option. I’d get gone till I could find Spark, grab him by the hood and drag the kid home. Him and his burn victim government check.

Hittin’ interstate tar inspired hope. I didn’t know I’d find Spark, even with his highlighted road atlas, so mine was a mission’a faith, but with a shrunk-down Clarence on my shoulder like a parrot squawkin’ hourly reminders of my guardian friggin angel gig that gas pedal felt important under my toes. Add the engine’s click-tickin’ like Alex Van Halen’s sticks on “Hot for Teacher” and it all seemed possible: I’d rescue my burn victim Gilligan wee-wee-wee all the way home, and the rest’d be happy-ever-after horse hockey.

Big goddamn mistake.

‘Cause now a couple days after I find the walkin’ dude (and scare the crap outta him), it’s abundantly fuckin’ clear that this Hoofin’ for Heaven’s the wrong way on a four-friggin’-lane freeway. This Highway to Heaven crap might’a worked like a free pass for Michael Landon (who is dead now) and it might still be ringin’ the bells for angelic nightie-wearin’ doughboys like Clarence, who’re earnin’ their wings, but for me it ain’t. All I’m earnin’s burst blisters, achin’ legs, and one helluva sunburn. All to say, that hope and faith business—just about now I’m sayin’ forget it.

Thus, fed-the-fuck-up, on the side’a the interstate, I goes: “Spark. Enough. Where the hell we goin?”

All I know’s that we’re days past that Motel friggin 6 and no sign’a hot showers or clean sheets’re loomin’ on the gray horizon.

Just picture it: a pair friggin grubby-growin’-grubbier clowns clod-hoppin’ the sidelines’a I-95 in southeast Connecticut. One in some grim reaper blue hoodie and the other—taller and less determined but still with the happy-go-lucky bounce in his step that old Gloom-and-Doom beside him, or more accurately about an eighth of a mile ahead’a him, lacks—with a spare t-shirt tied on his noggin, both growin’ skinnier by the day. A grim sight it is.

Hopeless. Pointless. Directionless.

And add to the sour stew the factoid’a Spark’s habit’a pretendin’ he’s deaf.

The visual: one step slappin’ dead grass in front’a the last, march-march-march. Trudge-trudge-trudge. An occasional sip sucked from Grim Reaper’s water bottle—which Clarence knows ain’t gettin’ shared with me. Hood directed straight ahead. A goddamn Robert Kirkman zombie, that’s Spark. Sunburns? Hell, they don’t worry him—he’s already melted! Plus the sun ain’t penetratin’ his super hoodie Fortress’a Solitude. And there’s the good-natured bringin’-up-the-rear guy pleadin’ for sanity (and I ain’t never been described as particularly sane). You can’t hear the roar’a steady traffic nearly swallowein’ the pleas and you can’t taste the chokin’ exhaust or smell the BO comin’ off’a these clowns, but you surely can imaginate the visualities…right?

I’d like to know what the hell happened to the quality time we shared? Hangin’ like only roomies can? All that Robert Bly blather about male bondin’—just a pile’a poo? Cause the kid acts like he don’t even friggin know me.

Cut to it: Seven o’clock in the early and I jump him, from behind, on the shoulder’a I-95. Me swingin’ from his Godzilla-sized backpack, him hollerin’: Hey! Get off me, Dwayne! First time he says my name all day.

But him sayin’ it now don’t matter—I ride him like the stubborn goddamn mule he is.

Until, that is, Connecticut black-n-whites cloud us in dust and badged Neanderthals’ve got me and Spark’re in cuffs.

Bombs

Sparky:

Although the commuter traffic, even this early, is steady and provides a deafening din, Dwayne’s voice reaches me: “Hey, Spark.” He pronounces it Spahk.

As far as I’m concerned, his calls are just another brick in the wall of noise. A brick I pay no mind. Or I try to ignore him.

The river of thoughts, though, is endless, forceful, and while I can blow off his voice, his actual words (my name), I can’t stop the rush of thoughts he provokes:

There is a first for everything—a first unaided ride on a 2-wheeler, the first day of school, that first kiss—

Right, left. Right, left.

—losing your virginity, first introductions, first day of a relationship—

Step, step. Go around the 12-pack box of empties someone tossed here on the interstate shoulder.

—and then, after each first comes the rest.

“Hey! Spark! You deaf?”

Of whichever phase of your life. A beginning, a middle, an end. Over and over, round and round. Example: my sixteenth birthday. It began with me waking to Dad—

A passing big rig blasts its horn.

—yup, honking a party horn from my bedroom doorway and it ended with medics trying to save my life. Or my face. Doctors trying to salvage whatever they could.

“Hey! Dead boy walking!”

Truth is, I don’t remember how that day ended; perhaps I never regained consciousness. Or I died. Because what I woke to that day, or the next afternoon, it wasn’t life…not my life.

But Life, it’s linear. Dawn runs to noon and after, until night snuffs light, and the cycle repeats. I imagine a giant somersaulting his days away, a fat old line being drawn—a line we call life. Birth leads to death. You begin to finish—like when you read a book, a chapter, a sentence: there’s a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. It’s life. Understandable, measurable. Safe.

Of course, along the way there are exceptions. Like Dwayne U. Handy. Each new minute with that stalking sociopath is a first. A spank-on-the-ass-and-you-scream-your-newborn-lungs- out beginning. He’s unpredictable, irrational, insane. The only constant with him is drama—dark fucking drama.

Example: Dwayne jumping me this morning as I tried to ignore him, as we made our line along I-95, which dammed my river of thoughts and landed us here.

And still he vies for my attention: “Hey! Spark!”

Now, a couple long hours after our tussle on the side of the clotted artery of Interstate 95, after, first, the random commuter’s intervention, his 911 call, and then, after we were cuffed and brought here, Dwayne is visible through the open door of this low security interrogation room they’ve got me in. He’s across the hall, framed by the doorway of his interrogation room, seated in his molded plastic chair with chrome legs, a chair exactly like mine. He’s still wearing the handcuffs, as am I. Were it not for my oversized hooded sweatshirt—and my scarred, misshapen and virtually hairless head beneath—he might be my reflection.

Douse his brainless skull in flammables, set him aflame, and then the mirror image would be complete, says the evil voice in my head.

I’m presently almost pissed enough to perform such a soul annihilating, unforgivable act. Just hearing him…I must have ground an eighth of an inch off my molars since we were apprehended. Dwayne won’t fucking shut up.

“What?” My attempted whisper proves less successful than Dwayne’s last several. This is ironic because although I employed every fiber of my will to be quiet, to control my volume—so as not to summon the uniforms back sooner than necessary—he has emitted, repeatedly and with (it seems) no real effort, the perfect hushed holler.

“Pretty fucked in the head, huh,” he says in his hushed caterwaul, now that he’s won a response. His show of teeth makes him look downright joyous, as if being handcuffed in a police barracks is the adventure of his life, but his attention darts in other directions. Obvious to me is that this is fucked in the head. I turn my head, close my eyes.

I didn’t want this, any of it. My choice was, and is, wordless walking—alone. Impossible with Dwayne shadowing me.

I’m your guardian friggin angel, he says.

More proof of mental instability, delusion. Some sort of psychosis would be my guess.

Yes, I was wasted one night and did laugh about his guardian angel claim. So I signed his little contract—jotted on a napkin or some shit—thus agreeing to allow him to pester me with his crap. But, guardian friggin angel—who says that? Who presumes to be that?

I’ve got enough on my back. Hell, I’m carrying all I have left, which isn’t lightweight but it’s nothing when compared—

“Spark. I’ve got an idea.”

An idea. God. Neither of us would be here, wearing handcuffs, if Dwayne hadn’t:

  • gone apeshit on me on the side of the interstate (for ignoring him);
  • started bullshitting the state cops—about me.

In retrospect I see that I probably shouldn’t have resisted when Dwayne attacked me, and before that I shouldn’t have ignored him. But when he jumped on my back like he did, blinding me with his paws on my hood, and when my knees buckled and we both went down, I saw fire. I landed meaty blows. How many I don’t know. I’d gone blind. Rage does that to me. And when that Lincoln or Buick or whatever it was barreled off of 95 and that beefy businessman leaped out, crowing for us to quit fighting, boys, well, I was rolling. Dwayne became every knucklehead who’s jumped me since I left Anderson.

And since Dwayne’s more lip than fist, I battered him. I have hazy memories of his calls for me to stop, then his cries, and finally moans, and I recall the sight of a fat man panting into a cell phone, but it wasn’t until those Connecticut State cops were on me, their gym-pumped arms locked around my leaner limbs, that the fight left me. Pinned, eating roadside grime, I was stalled enough to feel that, rather than Dwayne, I’d been beating myself. The ache I felt wasn’t physical. Sweaty shame oozed from my pores. I’d bloodied a guy who insisted he was my guardian angel, a guy who said it like he owed me some debt and wouldn’t surrender my side until it was paid in full. For a moment I saw clearly—though I didn’t understand what I was seeing.

I remember imagining these troopers (four, a second cruiser had arrived in a dusty cloud) ripping back my hood and gawking in horror. Then I thought: If I apologize—to Dwayne—that might shoo these cops. Then we can talk, I thought, me and Dwayne, really talk, and we’ll come to some kind of understanding. But these thoughts were white-water rapid, hardly formed, and all it took obliterate them was:

“It’s not his fault officer. This sad excuse, well, he escaped from the mental hospital, over in Blehtington”—this town name was spit quickly, jumbled to near gibberish, mimicking a comic technique used by one of Dwayne’s heroes, Chevy Chase, in that Caddy Shack movie (though I saw nothing comical in this, a situation I found less funny with Dwayne’s every bullshit word)—“and my charge is to bring the freak back. A’course, I don’t mean any’a this in a bad way, my trainin’s to pity the pathetic, officers. But…he’s nothin’ but your basic moronic. Got maimed as a child.” And then, rather than a cop, Dwayne gripped my hood and made the four brutes gasp.

If he’d buttoned his flapping yap then, we might have been allowed our freedom to hike on, but Dwayne, being a true motor mouth, could not quit yammering lies (and in that inflated hillbilly drawl!) that soon had the cops glancing at each other, glaring at us. Culminating with metal cuffs biting our wrists (don’t they use plastic now?) as we were ushered into the rear seat of a cop car.

“So, Spark,” Dwayne whispers now from across the police station hallway, “My idea.” A pause for effect. “First, my thought’s that it’s time to skedaddle.”

Wherever he’s going with this, if his “idea” is overheard by the uniforms, we won’t be going anywhere. My molars begin to grind.

“Cause, Spark, thing is, only our wrists’re cuffed. And in front of us.” Demonstrating the obvious, he lifts this coupled wrists. “And…we can still walk. Right?”

“Dwayne. Quiet.”

“Walk right the fuck outta here.”

“Shh.”

“But we need a distraction.”

“Dwayne, why don’t we just see how this plays out—”

“And, Spark, I thought these might help.” Dwayne raises his bound arms and between the fingers of his left hand is a book of matches.

“What? Dwayne—”

“And presto Dwayno…” Surprisingly adept at handcuff chicanery, he tears loose a match with one finger-thumb combination, scratches it against the striker of the matchbook, held in the other hand’s pinching digits, and flings it. “They got lots’a friggin papers in here.” A new match ignites and lands in a box of disheveled paper. Amazingly, magically, miraculously really, each tossed match stays lit. Soon orange flames dance—and multiply quickly. Additional matches fly until Dwayne’s surroundings are inferno-like.

“Should be gettin’ loud any minute,” he says, loping across the hall, his cuff-conjoined grasp jerking me to my feet, from the room, and down the hallway. “In the can, Spark!”

We dart into the cop shop Men’s Room, and as the door shuts, a keen—sudden, piercing, unnerving—sounds. The fire alarm.

Voices and pounding steps pass the restroom we occupy.

“That’s our friggin cue, Sparkola.” A peek into the hall, now empty, and we dash. “An exit’s up here,” Dwayne shouts. “Prob’ly kick off another alarm, openin it, but it’s now or never!”

We slam through the exit door. Destination unknown, we are simply escaping the burning building. Dwayne laughs words at me: “Not that that ‘now or never’ crap helped Elvis…but you and me, Spark, we ain’t so-called kings that turned to Las Vegas marshmallows!” More laughter. “And we ain’t fuckin dead, right?”

“Not yet.”

Now serious fugitives, we move to backyards, because behind houses we’ll be (we hope) less likely to be seen. Since it’s still before noon, the unspoken hope is that most of the folks who live in these houses are elsewhere—at work or out running errands. But our getaway is fraught with obstacles: Fences and hedges aren’t simple barriers when you’re handcuffed—those too tall to step over, I blindly dive over, tuck and roll. Dogs charge us—

And we both belly-flop—hard—in a the middle of a neglected lawn.

“Whoa, dudes…my trip wire…it worked!”

Groaning, we roll off of our faces and onto our backs, and standing over us, palms on knees, eyes opened wide, is a porky, scruff-faced kid—maybe twenty—with a full head of wild curls, gaping at us.

As this yard lacks a fence or any separation from neighbors, we’d taken the governors off and were booking full throttle when we hit the heavy cord I now see strung between posts.

“You guys fuckin flew!”

Dwayne’s on his feet, looking ready to resume flight.

“What’s with the jewelry?” says the kid.

I can see an idea forming behind Dwayne’s eyes, and it ignites his grin. “Mafioso dudes,” answers the spontaneous liar. “They, I dunno, man, musta thought we were two other guys.”

“Shit,” says the kid.

“A black suit trio—big, mean and ugly—they friggin brutalized us into their car, way back in…well, north’a here.” Dwayne has adopted the linguistic lilt the kid favors. “And they drove us”—Dwayne waves an arc in the air—“somewhere. Near here. And Spark”—he suggests me with his chin—“he boots the biggest don in the family jewel stash, and we ran.”

“Fuck,” says the kid.

“Thing is,” Dwayne goes on, “we need to get these off—”

“Gotcha.” The kid grins.

Bombs

Dwayne:

Friggin’ dude looks like a human hedgehog, eyes gleamin’ like Rasputin’s goat-cheesy great nephew or some shit, and with barely a word—after near killin’ us with a backyard booby trap—he throws open the doors’a some outbuilding, and there, before my wonderin eyes appears conspiracy theory heaven. Or hell. Newspaper and magazine cutouts paper the walls, the friggin’ ceiling, and five goddamn workbench-type deals, a couple with computer bullshit and the others with tools. A trillion friggin’ tools.

Once us three bozos’re in Conspiracy Palace, Hedgehog Mulder shoves the heavy-duty reinforced doors back to their world-keep-the-fuck-out position, and he pauses, like bein’ in here drains him’a focus, like he’s tangled in James Bond meets X-Files spy network threads, and to untangle him, I goes: “Got a hacksaw or some metal meltin acid or plastic explosives?” I jangle the cuffs in front’a his glazed over stare.

“Yeah,” he says, like he’s just wakin’ up or maybe thinks I’m pokin’ fun at his weirdo sci-fi barn and his wacko sci-fi brain, which I basically am, and diggin’ in the jumble, he finds what looks like rose pruners but’re actually hardcore chain-cutters, and presto-paranoid-braino, me and Spark’s free. “You want these?” he says, busted cuffs danglin’ from his hand.

“Our Christmas gift to you,” I says.

“You know,” he goes, his forehead getting’ all puckery, “I’m not stupid.” Now he looks kinda menacin, like he’s sprouted a couple extra inches and his blubber’s turned to bouncer bulk.

Meanwhile, Spark’s still in the hood, scar tissue cocooned in blue. Not utterin’ a syllable. Leavin’ it to me. And I ain’t no Theodore Cleaver.

Spark’s lack’a helpfulness basically ticks me off. His shyness over his freakish face and his clammin’ up when the opposite would relieve his guardian friggin angel’s Everest’a stress’s nothin’ new, but these tendencies at times rub-me-wrong into doin’ things that’ll reveal him for the ex-sports-star-turned-freak-with-gnawed-Bubble-Yum-facial-features bozo he is.

Like yankin’ off the blue cocoon. Tellin’ cops he’s a mental case escapee.

But before I can punish my “charge’s” silence, Hedgehog goes: “The state seal.”

“Matin’ seals?”

“The cuffs. They’re imprinted with the state seal.”

Sparky finally speaks up: “We’re sort of fugitives. From the state police.” His words’re kinda muffled but understandable.

At that friggin moment, though it was probly happenin’ the whole goddamn time, our three heads crane in unison to better hear the insane asylum’s wailin’ cat ladies. Or actual alley cats in the act. But that ain’t it. Really, it’s a Norman Tabby-cackle choir’a sirens: Fire engines, cops, FBI—take your friggin’ pick.

“Okay. I don’t wanna know,” says Hedgehog Mulder. “But you gotta leave—now!” He starts for the steel doors but stops. “Wait. Guys.” Squinty-eyein’ us, he says: “You’re gonna need new IDs. And, well, I’ve got this friend. I can make the call, get the yarn rolling, but you’ll hafta go to him…you really can’t stay here. The best route…”

Bombs

Sparky:

Per the kid’s instructions, we run not through backyards, as we had been, but run straight back and cross the street behind his yard. We bolt by a house, and then woods. We slip between trees and more trees and soon we’re deep in a forest—not huge, but it beats suburbia in cuffs.

“Haha! Great fuckin escape! Spark! How about this day?” Dwayne drops to a mattress of decaying life. Body stretched straight, linked fingers cradling his shaggy skull, he grins skyward.

“And now—what? Huh, Dwayne? What?” I’m not feeling nearly as enthused yet relaxed as my guardian friggin angel on the ground beside my sneakers. Stress has me stamping frantic circles on the dead leaves; long fallen sticks break under my pointless march. “We can’t go back to I-95. Fuck, Dwayne, we can’t go anywhere.” I catch Dwayne’s stupid glazed gaze. “Burning a State Police Barracks must be some sort of capital offense.”

Dwayne sits up, his ass cushioned by years of surrendered foliage, and his back, it rests against a smooth tree trunk. Nature’s masseuse. Dappled shade covers us, making recent events dreamlike, improbable—but nothin’ to friggin’ worry about—which is just another of Dwayne’s lies. Those sirens, they’re real. The surreal U-turn events have taken today, they happened.

“Spark, think. All that friggin’ baloney only matters if they fuckin’ catch us and—”

“And if someone dies as a result of that fire? Has already died?” I touch my scars. “Or, worse, lives!”

“Spark, you’re gonna give yourself a stroke. Your burn tissue’s friggin’ purple! All we gotta worry about’s IDs, a ride.” A brief pause. “And no more friggin discussions. The hoofin’ and huffin’s history.” Dwayne springs to his feet, obviously fueled by the adrenaline rush of a decision. “Wait here,” he says, jogging off into the forest.

Bombs

Dwayne:

Truth is, I got no idea what I’m doin’. But I’m doin’ somethin’. Cause old Dwayno, he’s a doer. Sparkola’s a derailed train. So I dodge trees and busted branches, stumps and badger dens till the thicket thins and I huff and puff up a grungy side’a town street. I’ve come pretty goddamn far and I’m worried about time and other logisticals, and truth be told, I consider leavin’ Spark and his conniptions in those Connecticut woods. Seriously. Plus the runnin’s made me thirsty.

Which’s when a friggin bar materializes. The very same glory hole in the wall dive bar Hedgehog Mulder, with his Lone Gunmen lab, instructed us on. But this ain’t a regular lowlife tavern. It’s a door in a grungy connected-buildin’ block, its dead neon sayin’: Rollin Rock! Iffy as Lucy holdin’ the ball for Charlie Brown, but I figure I’m here. Bells jinglin’, spine tinglin’, I snatch a bar stool.

“Bud in a bottle,” I says. And the clank’a glass on the gouged bar top’s goddamn sweet. Ghg-ghg-ghg and the empty bottle rings hollow on the bar. A sweeter friggin sound. But not as sweet as me sayin’: “And another.”

Barkeep’s the man with the ID makin’ plan, so I nod him over. “I, ah, got sent here…”

“Yeah?” says this guy with a shaved lid and a goatee-type deal. He clanks a fresh Bud.

“Yeah,” I say, thinkin’. Hedgehog told us his name, but I didn’t friggin’ retain it. I decide to improvise. “Okay. Here’s the thing. I got a bad memory, took a few head blows as a kid, but I was sent here. To talk to…is it Joe?”

“Hm,” says the guy who’s not tall but’s solid with pea soup eyes that don’t reach out and snatch me by the shirt collar but that got a friendly twinkle—and some bent metal too—he adds: “Whatcha need?”

Keepin my voice hushed: “Falsifried IDs.”

Joe the barkeep/ID forger cracks a grin at that but says nada.

I fill the empty with: “A hedgehog-lookalike with Rasputin eyes and a backyard X-Files lab sent me.”

“Truman,” Joe says.

“Huh?” I picture Jim Carrey in that movie and almost expect him to spring from behind some friggin’ curtain, jokes firin’ outta his weirdo rubber mask face—

“Truman,” Joe says again. “Okay. Follow me.”

I do. Till we’re in this one room gimp restroom and the door’s locked. The red rooster’s squirmin’ in my jeans, wantin’ to escape this scene that turn mean. Like a rape situation, ‘cept Joe’s short and don’t look like the type, so I go: “What we—”

Joe don’t wanna hear it though, cause he goes: “Strip.”

“The fuck?”

“What’s your name?”

“Dwayne.” And decidin’ on a fittin’ alias: “Dwayne Handsome.”

“Okay, Dwayne Handscum. You wired?”

“Wired?”

“See, I need to be sure you’re not.”

Catchin’ his possibly shifty and surely drafty drift, I shed my friggin’ shirt.

“Pants, too. Come on. This’s no game.”

Since I left my undies under my bed in my dad’s house—like twelve fuckin’ years ago—I get newborn nude for this forty-somethin’ stranger.

“Get dressed,” he says, scribblin’ ink on a scrap’a paper. “We meet at midnight. Here.” He presses the paper scrap into my hand. “And no offence, Dwayne Handcum, but there’s gonna be another strip search.”

“It’s not just me.”

“Huh?” Joe barks laughter. “Don’t flatter yourself. Any ID gets to go through this. And, anyway, you’re not my type. I go for the python motherfuckers, you’re more of an earthworm.” Joe erupts with more seal-soundin’ guffaws. “The look on your face! Christ in a casket!” With a smirk he shows me his weddin’ ring.

I’m offended. Not by the ring but by the earthworm comment and the infuriatin’ me bein’ a corpse inference. First, he’s never seen the anaconda in action and, second, I may be a guardian friggin’ angel, but I ain’t Christ—dead or alive. And his laughter, it’s like chewin’ aluminum foil.

But none’a that matters.

“It’s not just me. My friend needs a new identity too. And, just so you got your facts in a row, he had a vicious run-in with flammables and his good-looks got melted off’a his skull.”

“Scars? On his face?”

“No face. Only scars.”

“That’s alright. Just be there. Twelve, sharp.”

Outta the gimp can, after gettin’ nude while some clown I never met before watched, I need another cold one, and a shot, which Joe supplies.

“Hey, friend,” says a voice. A guy, kinda shaggy kinked-out hair, big pale green peepers and gapped front teeth, David Letterman style. Dark skinned, but not too dark. Like maybe he’s part white. His hand comes my way and I take it. “Sam’s the name.”

Bombs

Sparky:

Nature calms me. The sweet stink of decay and the intoxicating aroma of bloom—often discernible in a single moment, mingling, shooting sensual tingles into the brain. Lying on the forest floor, facing the treetops, eyes closed. Listening, listening. Birds converse in countless avian languages. Air currents push through foliage. Limbs groan and creak as the canopy rustles. Like a river a breeze is coming, here, fading, and gone. Delicious sounds. And eyes open, I see: trunks jut from the ever-evolving forest floor, and reach skyward. Some trees thick with accrued seasons, while others are still young, skinny saplings. And, when it’s all put together—the forest as a sum of its parts—it’s wondrous, a glimpse of Eden. That benevolent sun has thawed many sport-stiffened muscles and it allows shadow-cluttered minds to clear.

Most likely, my love of nature is the fruit of time I spent in it. Roof and walls shed like a cumbersome, unnecessary parka. Lungs drinking fresh air. Hiking, camping, swimming. Skiing, skating. Running. Training, always training—even when I wasn’t.

Technology has never been important to me. I’ve always resisted it, rejected it, and such an attitude becomes ingrained. Of course some technology is unavoidable: schools computers; cameras and the way they capture fluid moments, make them static; and movies provide ideas, a glimpse at the larger world, time spent with others. Music going digital. The world going digital, though, it’s repellent to me. My injury and the last four or five years have enabled me to let go of my extreme distain. Really, technology saved my life, for better or worse. But I watch the world squinting at ever-smaller screens, checking and rechecking for updates—and I want none of it.

I own no smart phone, no iPod, and I have no email address.

Since I was young, I’ve identified with soaring birds, speedy cats, wise-eyed wolves. Mankind complicates things, causes imbalance, decline, ruin. Homo sapiens: a species too clever; paving a path to extinction.

Today, however, I’m alive and nature fills my nose, my ears. Dwayne took the craziness with him. My eyes shut.

***

“Sparkola. Rise and friggin shine!” Dwayne peers into my hood. He snatches me by the shoulders and sits me up.

“Dwayne…”

“Meet Sammy. Sammy, meet the burn victim.”

A turn of my head and my hood frames a short, cheery-looking guy.

His hand shoots at me. “Yeah, man, I’m Sam.”

“Sammy’s en friggin route to the fat old apple.”

“Huh?” My brain is sleep-foggy.

“I live in Manhattan,” Sam says, pale green eyes glowing, or seem to—set in his mocha-toned skin.

“Sammy here’s our chauffer,” says Dwayne. “NYC here we come!”

“And the other thing?” I say.

“We meet the dude at midnight.”

 

Marc ReganAbout the author: In a previous life Marc D. Regan zigzagged the U.S. in search of reason. He then got involved in a collective of musical misfits that blew up P.A.s and created soundtracks in various basements. Today, he lives and writes fiction in remote northern California. His work (writing and two dimensional art) has appeared in Microfiction Monday Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine and other publications. His story “Appearances” will be included in Bird’s Thumb Magazine’s February 2015 issue. He has been a Finalist for Glimmer Train contests, twice.

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