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A Simple Ghost Story

I told the man in the hotel room, “Save your children from what we want to do with them. The only separation we see is that between you and yours.” He shrugged and asked me to reiterate. While I drank the bitter dark coffee and re-established my thought and tried to represent my phrase in a manner he would understand. I asked him, “Have you ever fought your eventual fate?” He took a minute and told me it seemed he was doing that every day. I sipped my coffee.

We sat in silence for a moment. The man asked me to follow him outside. He requested a single cigarette. I found I should comply. He told me he was an old trucker that was a ghost trapped in a highway side hotel room he would frequent on speed binges through the small town I was caught in. My trapping was a simple overnight stop, my car had broken down and some others had sent me to this room. His trapping seemed to go quite a ways into the past.

The first conversation between us was about how we were going to get super high that night. “It would be awesome,” he said, “and we can even find prostitutes.” This was on the condition that I had the money. He usually just watched, but could tell me of a place just around the corner near the railway tracks. I mentioned that I was not in the hotel room to do drugs and party for the night. He seemed a little taken aback. He tried to influence me to do much harm to my mind and body. I decided his influence could do me no harm. I had just happened to find my way to his home. I then told the ghost, “I might be just who you asked for.” The invisible man seemed frightened and cried out to be saved, though he was very afraid.

We talked for a while. He was lying about everything with an assumption that I was simply curious. When he told me, “I been here fifty years because of my mother,” I replied that it was not just a single body that had led the man to this fate. He had drunk to stop his thoughts for far too long and eventually he became harmful to others. His consciousness had caused so much harm throughout his existence that it was now in a cycle of destruction. He claimed he was trying to press needles into arms that he couldn’t find. I don't think he meant to mention this to me but this is a common trait of ghosts based around the self-destructive world of substance abuse.

His incarnations had simply never learned that he would one day be harmed for hurting himself and others. He had been told many times that drinking to forget was only creating an eventual spinning and trapped ghost that may be found in a hotel room on the side of a highway. He asked me for drugs. I told him we have to find his last requests. He took the paper and told me he was not literate and that writing was for “sissies.” I told him I would fill out the applicable paperwork.

He began to read things he would like me to do for him. I told his that I would not play his requests as he wished. I picked up my fiddle and played for about 20 minutes for him. He claimed the fiddle hurt his mind and grabbed the bow from my hand twice. I put the fiddle in the case. I asked him what he would like to eat. He simply asked for a burger from the place across the street. This request was complied with, as I was hungry. He asked for alcohol to drink with it. Later, he also requested potato chips. This request was denied, simply on moral grounds against this strange spirit.

When we found ourselves back in the hotel room the ghost asked for the alcohol again. His request was again denied. He asked me to find him drugs. He wanted me to join in the partaking of crystal methamphetamine. I refused. I pulled a pipe out and took some hash from a bag. He asked me, “Is that drugs?” I told him I suppose many in the world consider hash a drug. He asked me for some. I complied.

Our conversation continued until he pulled a knife out of his pocket and pressed it against my neck to scare me. I told him in turn that he couldn’t hurt me. He told me that he didn’t know me so he would have no trouble hurting me. I asked him to try and he quickly pulled away. He swung the knife at me quickly and stabbed me directly in the eye. The knife was pulled away and he stabbed my twice more in the head. I allowed him to see the damage of his actions and he tried to smoke more hash. I moved to the table and allowed him to. I then showed him that he was unable to harm me.

This scared the ghost. He asked who I was. I told him, “You’re a ghost, pal.” He laughed and told me to get out of his friends room. His buddy would be back soon and would not be happy with some loser in his room. I told him I had paid sixty-five dollars for the room. He told me I had to sleep on the floor. I told him “There is no way I am sleeping of the floor, man, I’ve slept on the floor for the last three nights.” He cursed at me and I began to become intrigued.

I had noticed that he was influencing drug use and mayhem in the room he lived. He was dancing like a gangster (for lack of a better expression) and telling me how great this night would be with all our crack-cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and grass. He also claimed to have other drugs for me to use. He was not happy when I explained I was sent, basically to save or capture his soul. He asked me for credentials, beginning with “So, are you famous?” I replied, “I suppose, but I’m cooler than a fame will ever bring me.” He asked to smoke hash. I reminded him that he had tried to kill me to steal my stuff and that he should be honest with me. I also reminded him that there are limited numbers of last requests, so he should choose them wisely. He once again asked for drugs. I called Azrael to deliver whatever drugs the ghost needed to get him through. I asked him if he would like another cigarette. He said he had not had one in fifty years. By this point I was not sure if he had been trapped that long.

Once the drugs arrived he became agitated and violent. I asked him for the God's truth, claiming I already knew it. When I reached for a book he claimed that he did not want to read the contract, and that was it. "I kind of knew this was coming," he claimed. He had been trapped for a long time in his world, causing all sorts of harm and making friends who would join him in the hotel room and do drugs all night with him. I asked what these friends looked like. He told me they were his friends from the distant past. I explained they were probably not his friends. They were simply stopping for the night, in the dirty hotel room and doing drugs. They may have possibly never known the ghost was present. This angered him, then I noticed he was crying.

I them gave him arms and a simple half cut body. He saw his body and realized he had been a ghost. I told him that I was here to help him. He asked once again if I were famous. I told him, “I suppose I am.” I asked again for an honest answer and then said, “I already know the answers about you, sir. I have looked into them, pretend.” He laughed rather arrogantly and put his knife to my throat. “You know, I can kill you. I can kill you right here, right now and hide your body, nobody will find you.” With this remark I reminded him that he had tried that. He tried once again swinging his fist at me before slashing with the knife.

I took the knife from him and sat down. I pushed a contract towards him and he smiled. “I knew we were getting to this,” he said. He signed the contract quickly. I again told him I was simply playing last requests. He smiled and asked for another cigarette. I told the ghost that these were nearing the end of his requests. I asked him what kind of transportation he would enjoy to pass into the next world. He requested his friend’s semi-truck.

I told him that my employees were picked to wait for ghosts simply because they did not like to wait. I was very clear about this.

I found a crystal in my bag and pulled a few gargoyles out of it to find the demons trapping this mans body. They pulled the soul into the crystal and danced around making jokes. The man sat wrapped in my overcoat, thanking me for capturing demons inside him. It was then that I explained I had simply taken his ghost. The demons inside him were himself, and of his making. I told him what would come next. He would have to follow me to the highway to meet my friends, coachmen who do not like to wait. The air became cold and I asked him to leave my jacket. I pulled him, using the crystal and took away what he thought was his body.

We moved down stairs and outside the hotel room. He asked for his last cigarette and I refused. I am running out, I said. I then lit a cigarette in front of the ghost and told him once again, “Do not make these men wait. The interview was two questions, ‘Do you like to wait?’ and ‘Would you like tea?’” He replied that he assumed they must have gotten the job because they don’t like to wait. I told him to get into my black carriage. I showed him the two stallions pulling it. They were also black.

We traveled a road he claimed he had never seen. We passed through the town and country until we reached a simple crossroads. I marked the spot on the dirt road with my mind. I told him to get out of my carriage. “The other carriage is waiting, sir. And these are the men do not like to wait.” He sat in horror and implied that he knew what was going on. I implied back, “You shouldn’t have destroyed your own creator.”

The men had to wait. They waited quite a while and changed the vehicle from semi-truck to carriage to Cadillac all on through to the school bus. They then came as the express bus service and then back finally as the semi truck the semi truck. The semi was no longer his friend’s semi. He noted to me that the drivers were all the same two people. I told him, “And, sir, they do not like waiting.” He gingerly laughed and decided, “I think you maybe knew all about me, huh?” I told him that I had mentioned that a few times. I told him that the semi was going to leave. “My coachmen do not like waiting.”

A course of music rang out. There were 8 fiddles and a full band dancing around us. I played his final request, which was simply any fiddle tune. Other players of stringed instruments danced around us. We stood at the abandoned crossroads. I now wore a black and white suit and smoked a cigarette in front of him. He smiled and stated that he finally was getting his wish. I told him he misunderstood and that he should not be one of the forsaken in the end. His final wish was to forsake the true and good. I told him again it was not the way he claimed things were to him. He again told me he would forsake all that was good. I whistled to the air.

The ghost was not willing to enter the waiting coaches on his own free will. The black semi-truck that was reminiscent of his friend's came and went without the spirit. Next was a Cadillac which also left without the man entering. The coachmen came a third time with a bright yellow school bus and I explained that they were again here to take him to his eternity. He told me that he understood, he was just trying to make my life difficult. The bus left and a pale gray motorcycle with a sidecar came next. It also left without a passenger.

The final vehicle that appeared at the crossroads we stood at was a black carriage. It was much like the one I had driven him to the crossroads in. He waved and moved across the road. I waved and he stepped up the stair and into the back seat. The man in the front turned to him. The ghost let out a terrified scream and tried to escape. He was unable to move. The carriage took off down the road and I was left in the hotel room on the side of the highway.
My car had simply broken down.


Its a teaming vacation for us, I think. We have worked hard to create a greater good for all to see. A memo has been passed and it is not a joke. Love behind what is meant for me. Either sentence could be true, yet only one is. Perhaps you can pick the truth:
I was alienated by a funeral involving mutual friends. I once spent three weeks wondering if I had received a note from a woman or if I had dreamed it.
The trouble with the eager, these days, is how they seem to simple folk. Folk since have written of many a tale involving those two rumors. The terror of the unknown coupled with the luxury and comfort of today's western world have been turned into a strange apathy. It is a denial of all magical with the claim that it does not exist.
I think more people must only remember this existence. This state of consciousness is one that we are kept in for a long time. This does not mean there is no past lives. It just means you are yet to die. Those who do not stay in the world are sent elsewhere. I'm sure this is sorted on a piece by piece basis. Each death causing a new life somewhere, with that consciousness sent to that other reality. Like finding oddities near highways, these are the days of their lives.


Short Broad Hallway

Ernie tried to remember who had given him the key. It was the only thing he held in his hand. He was now trapped inside a strange room and was hoping to find a way out, through one of the six doors. The room was wholly whitewashed including the six doors. The handles were curved and should pull down with the key. He stood in the middle with three doors on either side of the room he was trapped in. It was rectangular with a painting hanging on either narrow side.

The paintings were both the same. They were small-framed watercolors of the ocean with a sailboat making its way towards shore. The doors were lined on the other walls and numbered one through six. He stood in a daze trying to remember the events that led him to his trapping in this strange room. He walked towards door five and put his ear against it.

He heard a motor running on the other side. He shook the handle and found it was locked. He was afraid to try the key but had very little excuse not to. He pulled the key out of his pocket and pressed it into the keyhole. It fit perfectly and he turned the knob. The door swung open and he looked inside.

There was a small room with a large fan pushing air towards him. The air was cold and his hair began to flail around his ears. He looked through the dark room, using the light from the main hall. He searched for an exit but found nothing. The door stayed open and he fought through the wind into the room. The bricks surrounding the fan were old and the mortar was beginning to chip off the walls.

There was very little else in the room. He found two wires, a red one and a green one and picked them up. They were rather short, maybe five inches. He put them in his pocket. He searched the room for anything else and found nothing but the fan and motor. He tried to switch the fan off but could not find a way to do this. The motor was loud and the wind from the fan was unnerving. He decided to try his luck with another door.

He shut the door with some force, leaning against it from the main hallway. The door finally shut and he tried to open it again. The handle was stuck. It had locked itself once again automatically. He could still hear the roar of the fan but found it was not so bothersome with the door shut.

He stood confused for a moment. He tried to retrace his actions before waking up in this strange hallway. He remembered waking up that morning late for work. He had no time to eat his usual breakfast. He wished he had eaten the cereal and grapefruit at this point. He was hungry and now trapped in a strange puzzle. He rubbed his stomach and decided the best thing to do would be to not think about his hunger.

That morning he rushed down the street and missed his bus. He decided to call a taxi to make it to work. He worked in a cubicle, typing numbers into a computer eight hours a day for a five-figure salary. He remembered the cab ride was a heart-pounding race through the cities rush hour traffic. He arrived about four blocks from his office and decided to walk the rest of the way. His thoughts became cluttered quickly after this.

He stood in the hallway looking at the other five doors. The key that someone had given him was in his hand. He held the key, which was tied to a six-inch piece of white string. He let the key fall and caught it with the string. He swung the string around his hand and let it fall toward the ground. He held the key with his right hand and walked towards the door numbered three.

The third door was the only door with a painted number on it, the rest had metal numbers screwed on them with three screws. It was painted rather colorfully on a small piece of wood attached to the door with a simple nail. He pushed the key inside the door and opened it. The room was quite a bit bigger than the room behind the door numbered five. He found a small doorstop on the ground and pressed it beneath the door in the hallway.

There was a white light switch in this room and he clicked it on. The walls were unfinished with apparent framing around the sides of the room. Behind the wall frames were the same sort of red bricks he found in the room with the large fan. Hanging off the framing in the room were a variety of red and green puppets. They were various kinds of soft plush animals that could be manipulated to act rather funnily.

This moment terrified Ernie for a moment. He waited before he looked at the puppets further. There were eight on either side of the room. They hung from the framing with their hands or by fishing line. In the center of the room at the back he saw a regular human looking ventriloquist dummy. It sat motionless on a chest. The chest was wooden with metal trimmings that seemed to be bronze. There was a screwdriver on the chest as well.

Not regularly being a man of much adventure, Ernie was quite worried about his new place in the world. He walked into the strange, puppet filled room and moved the ventriloquist dummy to the side of the chest and placed it on the ground. He tried to open the chest and it seemed locked. He pulled the key out of his pocket and tried to open the chest with his only key. It opened and he lifted the lid.

Inside the chest he found two cassette tapes. They were numbered one and two, but otherwise the chest was empty. He looked about the room and noticed the fourth puppet on his left was holding a small tape deck. The fourth puppet on his right was holding a pair of batteries. Ernie felt very scared and took the batteries from the puppet on his right and placed them in the tape deck from his left. He took the screwdriver and tapes and pulled himself into the hallway and shut door number three.

He looked about the hallway and noticed he now had a small wooden bench beneath one of the paintings at the end of the hallway. He looked towards it and began to walk slowly over to the painting. He set up the tape deck and pressed the first tape into it. The tape played a quick punk anthem and then switched to a recent pop-music hit song by a woman dancer. He kept listening and found the entire tape was simply music. He enjoyed the variety and selection of the tape. It was short so rather quickly it needed turned. The other side held a variety of music as well.

Ernie now possessed a screwdriver and two wires as well as his key. The music was an entertaining background noise but offered no help in how to leave the hallway. He looked at the painting at the end above the recently placed bench and it seemed the old sailboat was further out into the ocean. The sailboat was the same size, but some islands had moved further into the distance.

He lifted the painting and found nothing behind it. He dropped it with a thud and noticed the waves had become rather larger. The boat was now fighting to stay afloat. He watched in strange fascination as the boat struggled with these waves he seemed to have created. The boat quickly righted and continued sailing. The ocean quelled and the scene became peaceful once again. The tape with music quickly ran out.

He looked at the tape deck and reached towards the bench. He sat on the wooden surface and pulled the first tape out. The cassette came out with a fight and the black tape from inside it was pulled out of the casing. He attempted to fix it with his screwdriver but the tape was thrown violently out of the casing and spread along his lap and the bench.

He placed the other tape inside the cassette player and the first tape vanished. It seemed as if it melted into the floor. The casing was still sitting on the bench but the black tape was being pulled into the floor. It vanished rather quickly and Ernie placed the tape deck on the bench and decided to listen to this tape more carefully. The first, he thought, must have been a distraction. The second one may have more information.

The tape began to play and the first side had very little information Ernie could understand. It began with the definition of history, found from a dictionary; “History,” it said, “–noun, 1. The branch of knowledge dealing with past events. 2. A continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account; chronicle: a history of France; a medical history of the patient. 3. The record of past events and times, esp. in connection with the human race. 4. A drama representing historical events: Shakespeare's comedies, histories, and tragedies.”

The tape was silent after this. About three minutes later the tape spoke again. It became a soft voice stating the simple phrase “Grandfather, diplomat, post office, time.” This phrase repeated itself a number of times getting louder. The soft voice became old and gritty. The gravelly voice became louder and stated the same thing continuously. It began to fade and fell silent rather quickly. It was followed by an old orchestra’s song from the renaissance played only on three violins.

The tape ran out and Ernie sat silently. He tried to remember how he had found himself in this situation. He looked at the floor and noticed it was no longer plainly decorated. He could not remember what it was before, but it was now green marble tiles. He looked at the far wall and the boat in the painting was reaching a port. He looked at his key and tried to remember who gave it to him.

He remembered getting out of the cab and seeing a food stand opening. He asked the man for some breakfast but the man claimed he could not feed him yet as he was not ready. Ernie strolled hungry down the block passing a very regular city day. The cars and taxis honked their horns and stalled each other’s movement. The street was crowded and the sidewalks seemed to be congested as well. He made his way to the next block and found another food stand just opening.

He asked for something and was again refused. The old fat woman wearing a flowered dress spoke loudly. She swung her purse at him and hit him in the shoulder. He stood in disbelief, he recalled. He asked once more for food and she yelled at him to keep moving. He felt he should as well. He walked down the street and tripped over a brick on the sidewalk. He regained his composure and stood on the corner waiting for his light to change. He soon snapped back into the hallway he found himself now.

Ernie decided the only thing action he could take would be to open another door. He opened the door numbered two. The number was written as it is spelled using letters. The number fell to the ground as he placed the key inside the hole. It shattered on the ground and vanished into the marble tile floor. He watched as the two tiles it touched became black and white. The rest of the tiles soon followed suit, becoming alternating black and white. This happened rather quickly as Ernie opened the door numbered two.

The door led into a small closet. The closet had many racks rising high above Ernie’s reach. On two sides of the closet the racks all had leather sandals. The sandals looked as if they were new, even unfinished. Many of the sandals were missing their latchets. He found these straps and the pieces meant to secure them on the third side of the closet. This was the wall to his left as he stood in the doorway.

He took a pair of sandals in his hand and they grew to his size of feet. He grabbed the leather straps and the fastening pieces and placed them on the leather sandals. He took his screwdriver and secured the strap onto the unfinished shoe. After tightening the first latch he noticed the rest of the sandals became latched as well. He brought his new shoes into the hallway and sat on the wooden bench. He looked across the way and saw a small round window where the painting once was.

He knew now what the game was. He just needed to perform the tasks as he was asked. He opened the door labeled five once again and attached the wires to the engine with his screwdriver. This shorted the fuse on the fan and the fan sputtered and stopped. The breaker had been blown by his actions. He walked into the hallway to see the change in the strange room. On the bench stood a small gnome.

Ernie was a bit taken aback by his small new partner. The gnome reached behind him and pulled two puppets out from behind his tiny back. The puppets were about the same size as him, one was green and one was red. The gnome began to act out a scene from the movie Citizen Kane. “It was something,” the gnome stated once he had finished, “That was meant to entertain you, sir.” Ernie looked at the small gnome in disbelief. He spoke softly, “How do I get back to the normal world?”

The gnome looked at Ernie and laughed asking, “Why in the name of life would you want to go back to that world?” Ernie smiled, “It was just so normal. Everything was the same as it always was.” The gnome cracked up, “Ernie, pal, I’m here to let you out. But we chose you because you never have seen the true world. You laugh at the TV but never at good jokes. You never see the irony in life. You never take your life by the short strings, right?” The gnome then switched the hands the puppets were on quickly.

The green puppet began to talk in a high-strung voice, “Pal, you need to find the right way out. Shutting off the wind isn’t it. The moving of the boat, finally on shore I guess we’ve made it out through the ocean.” The red puppet chimed in, “You’re so over-dramatic. You never let us speak through the heart. We’ve made it to port now Ernie, now we need off of our ship. How do we do that?”

Ernie looked at his key on a string. He spoke to the gnome, “By unlocking more doors?” The red puppet spoke up, “I asked to that, not the gnome!” Ernie laughed and took the key in his hand. “Maybe door number four?” The gnome shouted out, “Dear God, no! You are very lucky you never opened door number four. That could have taken away everything you ever held dear, sir.” The red puppet said to the green one, “Yeah that could have been a good show.”

Ernie asked the red puppet, “What’s behind number four?” The red puppet smiled and said, “That’s where the lovely maiden resides. She’s old and fat and stinks. She is not dressed and wants to kiss. She smokes three packs a day in that room and she cannot find the handle to leave the room. She decorated her only home in hair and spit. It is not a nice scene inside that room.”

Ernie looked at the puppets. He felt thankful he was in some company now. The gnome looked at the fourth door and said to Ernie, “You know, he’s telling the truth. That room is not for the weak of heart. There would have been little you could have done had you opened that door. I think you’ve been making the right decisions thus far.” Ernie nodded, “I was simply going with my instinct.” The gnome smiled, “That’s the right way to do anything, ain’t it.”

“What is my action from here?” Ernie asked. The gnome looked at the green puppet. The puppet moved his eyes and looked at door number one, “Well, number one is the way you came. Would you like to go back?” He then laughed. Ernie ran towards the first door and the red puppet chimed in, “That’s a lie Ernie.” Ernie stopped. “It’s a good way to get to the ocean, though.” Ernie turned the key in the door and noticed the room was nearly the size of the main hallway.

He looked at the ground and found another doorstop. He placed it in front of the door and stepped though the landing. He fell two steps down and noticed a vacuum. The red machine had a note attached to it. He read the small torn piece of lined white paper and it said, “Clean the sand.” He placed the piece in his pocket and sand began to fall from the ceiling. The floor was filled with sand and the vacuum began to hum. The sand was sucked through the hose and filled the machine rather quickly.

Ernie drug the sand filled vacuum into the main hallway and it sputtered and spat sand out the hose. The vacuum tipped on its side and the sand fell on the tiles. Ernie tried to vacuum the sand and found the noise reverberated through the hallway very loudly. It shook his head and he shut the machine off quickly. He looked at the sand and it spelled “the number six.” He closed the first door and looked at the red puppet. The gnome sat laughing and said, “Try number six, friend.”

Ernie shut the door. It closed with a thud. He looked at the gnome, who was putting the puppets into a large duffle back. The vacuum began to shake again; the noise was much too loud to take. It shook the room, his head, the bench and the painting. The window at the far end of the room began to crack. The marble floor began to shake. Ernie kicked the vacuum and it shut off. He took the screwdriver to the motor and immobilized the machine. The gnome looked at him, “You do have a way, don’t you, pal.”

The vacuum shook in the hallway still, but the motor was humming a high squeal instead of the room-shattering wail it sang before. He took the key and opened the room numbered one again. He threw the vacuum deep into the sand that was now rather deep and shaped like dunes. The vacuum sucked the sand and spat it out the other end but now sucked softly and sounded much nicer. Ernie shut the door and felt it was locked once again. The gnome looked at him, “This is a good idea for both of us.”

Ernie noticed the painting behind the bench was much bigger and painted with a lot more talent that the original painting. He pointed this out to the gnome who stated, “You should be used to this stuff by now, kid. Life is like this I suppose. Now try the one numbering six, you are nearly finding your way out here kid.” Ernie looked at the gnome. “Am I just entertaining you? Or am I in a coma? What is this?” The gnome looked at him and said, “I can’t explain, I started here like you. Now I can get out. Moving around. Its like a game, I suppose.”

Ernie asked the gnome, “You were like me once too?” The gnome nodded, “Yes, I once got trapped in this same hallway. I had to see the world differently. You aren’t dead. You aren’t in a coma. You just hadn’t seen what life is. Magic is real, I believe that is still the message.” Ernie could not see the magic in his situation. He mentioned this to the gnome. The gnome replied, “Nah, not this situation, it’s just meant to confuse you so the maker can laugh. It’s her idea of a good time.”

Ernie took the key and opened the door numbered six. The door swung open and a bright light shone through. Ernie cried to the gnome, “You said I wasn’t dead!” The gnome rushed over and shut off the lamp. “Just one of them bright lights, right. Now climb the ladder and you can get to work. You were looking for breakfast, right?” The gnome handed Ernie a bagel with egg and meat on it. There was a nice layer of freshly slice cheese and pepper, just like he liked it. Ernie held on to the bagel and climber the short ladder. At the top he pushed a hatch and began to pull himself through. Light was shining and he heard a number of horns honking.

A car came to a skidding stop and way wailing at him, the driver yelled, “What are you a freaking nut! Get out of the way! What the hell you doing coming out of there at seven in the morning!” Ernie was looking both directions and found he was standing in the middle of the road. The man continued to yell, “I could have killed you! You freaking bum! Get off the road, you maniac!” The cars were backed up and honking at him and he sat with a breakfast bagel in hand. He quickly dashed towards the sidewalk. The old woman was finished setting up her stand.

He bit his breakfast and she smiled at him. “That will be four seventy-five, sir. Do you want a coffee for another two bucks?” Ernie looked at the lady and looked at his suit. It was spotless and pressed. He took another bite of the bagel. “Sir, four seventy-five for the bagel.” Ernie stood saying nothing. He stared at the lady for a moment and asked her for the coffee as well. He handed her a ten-dollar bill and asked for no change. She gave him the coffee and he dressed it as his usual. He continued his walk to work in a daze.

Viewpoint of a Short-CIrcuited Iron

“Iron!” The cats growled. They were hungry, mangy and matted. They fought amongst themselves as I sat resting against a brick with the bottom half of a broom and two thirds of a rake. “I have no food,” I said, “I don’t look for it like you.” The tomcat cursed at me, “No, Iron, tell our kittens your story, would you please?” I looked at the tomcat, a cat that would rarely speak nicely to anyone. “Well, you did ask like that,” I said. With this, I began with a shout.

“Criminal!” She screamed towards the closed door. She seemed to over-react, I thought. I was dropped on the cloth-covered table and she stomped towards the only entryway. I sat and glanced out the window seeing a picturesque winter evening. The snow fell lightly towards the white world. There was a layer of frost from the fog that morning and the window was beginning to trace tiny fractals of ice up the panes. She opened the door and stood looking at a large man with a beard.

She looked him up and down and he asked, “Why the scream, dear?” She smiled and touched his arm, “The damned iron just short circuited.” He laughed, smiling at the reaction of his loving wife and asked, “But your OK, no shock?” She looked him straight in the eye. “I may need a new one, I suppose. Throw it in the trash with the rest, the truck comes tomorrow.” He walked into the room and lifted me up by my old black handle. He brought me downstairs and through their house to the garage. He lifted the lid of the trash bin and set me on top.

I sat in that bin all night in the dark. I sat and thought of better days, when I had worked perfectly. Why couldn’t they repair me? No use, I thought. It was simply time to replace me. I’m sure if you asked them they could list reasons why a new iron would be a much better way to spend their money. I’m sure the price of a repair on a seven-year-old iron like myself is not equal to my worth. Money better spent on one of the new irons, with all the unnecessary dials and that.

The bin was pulled out to the end of the driveway on a busy street the next morning. The vehicles moved past the house carefully as it was very cold and the road had a layer of ice on it. Quite quickly after I had arrived at the street a large truck came and stopped next to the corner. I heard the bins next to me emptied into the side of the truck. The man then grabbed my bin. He pulled the lid off and poured the contents into truck. I sat surrounded by wrappers with an old coffeepot to my left.

The coffeepot looked at me. I looked at the coffeepot. After a few exchanged glances and a moment of silence the coffeepot smiled and extended his handle. “Jake’s my name,” he said in a friendly manner. I looked at him and realized I didn’t have a name. I couldn’t think of a response for Jake. I knew I had to respond with something. “Is it your time too?” I asked, somewhat knowing the answer.

Jake laughed. “I suppose it may be. My people left the burner on over a weekend and I plum cracked myself up the backside. I can’t tell you were my other half is. I’m trying not to think about that. Why you in here?” I told Jake, “I’m not fully sure. I was working fine one minute and the next there was a large spark of light, some fuzzy noises and I just quit. I’m not a doctor, I’m an iron.” Jake smiled, “Seems like a short-circuit. It’s a waste to throw a perfectly good appliance out like this.”

“I wish I could have argued,” I said. I felt hopeless and I’m sure Jake had picked up on that. “I got a plan, stranger. It’ll get us out of this place. You’ve heard of where we are headed, right. It is where the crows rule. They are worse than the humans. Crows and big mean old ranked metal irons, cast-iron coffeepots, all that. When appliances get there, well, sir, there ain’t no coming back.” I nodded, “I’ve heard of that place too, I was afraid we were headed there.” “Yes, sir. It is where we are going, but I have a plan.”

He pulled out a wrapper with a map sketched on it. “All we need to do, and I’m saying all we need to do, is get out of this truck.” I looked at him and asked, “How do we do that?” He laughed and started climbing, reaching towards the light with his handle. I sat for a second and began to pull myself towards Jake. We climbed and climbed, missing four stops. At the fifth stop we were near the top. I started to jump and Jake grabbed me, “No, you can’t jump while we are stopped! They’ll just throw us back in, I’ve seen it before, son.”

The truck began to move, so I jumped off the side. My power cable was ripped from my body. A sharp pain tore through my side. I looked up and saw it hanging off the side of the truck. Jake came tumbling soon after. The hatch was lifting but we made it past the side. I hit the ground with a thud. I stood up and dusted myself off and looked around. Jake fell slightly to my left and hit the ground and simply shattered. It may have been the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen near this alley. His glass was in pieces and only his handle and brim remained. He waved at me, “At least I tried to live…” He said, and faded off.

I was on the street, so I climbed to the sidewalk. I jutted through unnoticing passersby. Dancing through their legs I reach the side of a building. I pulled up tight to the building knowing that I had to run or be found. I ran down the block and found a nice alley. It was this alley, to be sure and that is why I have never left. I walked slowly down the middle, glancing with horror and deep thankfulness at the garbage bins to either side. I tried to yell to those inside, “Jump out! When you are there, jump out!” They would understand soon enough.

I kept walking and looking above me, the building drove high into the sky. It was like nothing I had ever seen. Snow covered the ground and began to fall from the sky. I pulled my tired body into a corner and sat silently for a while. The snow began to cover my metal surface and the plastic became very cold. I shivered and reached for a small wrapper to cover myself up with. I had been sitting in this position for a very long time when I heard a rat coming at me from my left.

The rat tapped me on the shoulder and startled me. I swung at him and he jumped back. The rat paused and snarled. He looked me dead in the eyes and said “Look, pal you need to listen to me quick-like. This is my area, back up little broken kid.” I looked him in the eye and said, “I want no trouble, I just jumped for my life from a truck and I’m just looking for a place to sit for a minute.” The rat stated flatly, “This isn’t it, keep moving.” I rose and pulled the wrapper off me. I moved down the alley and the rat laughed.

I moved further down the cold alley, passing more garbage bins and eventually finding a nice cinderblock. I climbed atop it and sat down once again. I needed to make a plan. I had nowhere to go and it was the dead of winter, I was cold and would die if it were possible. I had heard of hypothermia and was afraid I would catch my death of a cold. This thought was stifled by the realization that I had no real body. I felt a bit safer in my condition.

I sat atop that cinderblock all night, keeping vigilant watch for the rats and things that would cause me trouble. I had nothing of value and was truly useless, as my cord had been ripped off in the garbage truck. It was painful but I was glad it would not hinder my journey. The next morning two rats being chased out of a doorway by a small Chinese man woke me from my slumber. I was covered with a thin layer of snow and a wrapper I used to stay warm. The Chinese man glanced at me and walked towards the cider block. He brushed the snow off me and picked me up.

He examined me for a while and noted I was of no use, not because he knew I had short-circuited but because he noticed I had no power cord. He placed me back on the cinder block and left me there. I brushed the rest of the snow off the top of the surface as soon as he turned his back. He walked inside the doorway and shut the door with a thud. I climbed off the cinder block and began to briskly move back towards the other end of the alley.

I hadn’t made it far when I was approached by one of the rats that were shooed out of the Chinese man’s doorway. The rat came to me and I was noticeable scared. He looked at me and said, “Hey man, don’t worry. We’re all in this together, right.” I said to him, “Look man, I’ll keep moving if this is your territory.” “No man, look, it’s like I said before. Here, have some bread.” I took the small piece from the rat and tried to find a way to eat it. I couldn’t find the hole that he had to chew with.

He looked at me and said, “Oh, you aren’t a being like us, are you? One of them inanimate objects, hey? I know just the place you’ve got to go. Give me that bread back.” I handed him the piece of bread and he motioned for me to move down the alley with him. “I have your back, kid. Remember to be careful. This is the gritty street, down on this level. I wish one day to be one of them big things, you know that sort. We all live off their leavings. Like that guy chasing me out of his building. One of them.” I laughed, “Yeah, I know the type.”

We walked quite a while making very little conversation and he ate both pieces of his bread. I looked around and saw the alley did not change at all. Another dumpster was usually followed by a few cinder blocks. Once in a while there was on old plastic chair. The rat stopped by one of these chairs and reached in to a large metal pot and grabbed a handful of cigarette butts. He lit these with a large orange lighter he had hidden behind the landing near the chair. “Ever try these, man?” He asked as he smoked the butt. I said to him, “I don’t have a hole to do that either, I don’t think. You’re using the same one.”

The rat smoked his cigarette and laughed to himself. “I love this stuff, makes me feel like a big man. They say it stunts your growth though. I say it adds to the growth of you personality. Your voice changes, becomes older sounding. Like a cool, refreshing hit of this stuff. I don’t know what it is, but the French have a word for that.” He put the end of the cigarette out in the snow and we marched on again.

After a few more bricks and cinder blocks we arrived at a large hole in the wall. There was a board over it, but a gap in the board was just large enough for a broken old iron like myself to fit through. It was dark inside and kind of murky. The damp was nice; it was much warmer than being cold and wet in the snow. We traveled briskly down the tight corridor. The rat would turn every few steps to see if I was still behind him. He glanced and acted surprised nearly every time I was still behind him.

He stopped and moved a board to the side. There was a light behind it. “Here it is, partner.” The rat told me, “End of my line.” I was not sure where he had brought me but thanked him for it. He replied “A good deed a day seems to help keep me fed.” I thanked him again and he scurried down the path the way we came. I glanced into the light and saw little. I moved the board and slid through.

A calculator greeted me. He was missing three buttons on the number pad and the screen had been scratched rather badly. He bumped into me and apologized. “Who is this here?” he asked. I spoke softly, “I’m just an old beaten iron, trying to find a new lease on life.” He moved towards a desk lamp, grabbed his body and asked, “Who is that?” The lamp looked at me and said to the calculator, “I ain’t ever seen this cat. Who are you?” I was ready for some questioning so replied softly again, “I’m just an old beaten iron.” The lamp looked at me and said, “Look, Ernie here, with the numbers, he’s good at math but rather blind. Me, David, I hold the light, still. I’m just always on. You can’t try to turn my light off. Its been done. My bulb is burnt, but I feel it. I’m sure you do too. You, Iron, you must have something right.”

“I don’t know,” I said to the lamp, “I jumped from a truck, they sent me away because I was broken.” “Just like the rest of us, nearly all of us anyway,” the lamp said. The calculator said to me quickly, “Look you got something in you. You are here now. That means you have a certain joy of life. A thirst for adventure, right?”

I looked at the broken old tools in the room. There were many, including an old chess set they seemed to be fighting amongst themselves, a small TV that was missing both dials and was telling a group of dishes a story and a bottom of a rake that was found rather recently with his friend a bent up old metal dustpan. “Well,” I told the calculator, “I think I may have found the place I was looking for.” The lamp joyously bounced up and down, “That’s the spirit! Welcome to our home.”

I stayed at their shelter for the winter and made many friends there with rather similar stories. Many of the beat-up appliances were just trying to avoid the dump like myself. I shared the story of Jake the coffeepot with the friends I made and they claimed not many glass-based products make it out in the gritty world there is. They were not surprised he broke on impact with the cement. It seemed a common tale around these parts. The products were all making use of their existences after they were discarded, and they were all very happy to not be fighting the fight at the junkyards we had heard about through myths. It seemed everyone here was in this act together and at some point we would all have to move on.

In the spring, when the snow melted we all moved briefly outside. This move was brought to an abrupt end when fellows from inside, some bigger items, were thrown back into dumpsters one night. We became scared and now, as we all finally know better we only come outside during the day. This world is an uncertain one, we never know who may be thrown back in a dumpster and brought to the wrecking yard.

This warning is not so much for you, children. We are not the same beings. The worst you can fear is a fight with other cats or maybe staying off the road. The humans care for what they call “living things.” If the humans find you, they take you and feed you. They cuddle and try and help you. In our world they try to destroy us. Sending us to a lot outside humanity where we are pushed and buried amongst each other. I have heard tales of irons and such coming back from there. It is a horrid existence still. Feel lucky you are a cat. You can run and jump and play. Your shape does not hinder you. You are free to do much more than us. You all are lucky to be cats. Myself, I am an iron.