And I Will Step to You
Flash Fiction Contest runner-up
In the mid-Eighties I lost my job with the typesetter. I got kicked out of my tiny apartment near 15th and Quaker. Through a quick liquidation of assets, including my car, I reduced my life to fit in a wallet and a hiker’s backpack. I hit the street.
After some time and adjustment, the shock and disarray settled. Between job applications, guerrilla self-cleanings in public restrooms, and careful purchases of food, I opened up to deeper possibilities of the organic me. I rediscovered a talent that had been, except for a few scattered occasions in my youth, forgotten. It, the talent, had a distinctive history of either flattering people or pissing them off: I was a great mimic. If you said one word, or a complete sentence, or if you held forth on something or other, I could replicate you. If you were fifty or five, male or female, it didn’t matter. In pitch, volume, inflection, and timbre, I could nail you to the wall. Instantly, after hearing you just once.
A guy yelled at me for bumping into him on the Main Mall. I shot his predictable response right back to him, in his precise tone: “Hey, buddy, what the fuck!” He froze at this rendering of himself. I can still see the color drain from his face, his eyes fixed like those of someone being hypnotized.
I didn’t think much of this strange talent. The idea of being someone else for a moment was too pointed (read: dying of thirst while adrift on a lifeboat), too cheap to mention. But I bumped into a couple of others on purpose, just for the sake of doing it. Perfect, both times. “Watch it, freak scum!” “Excuse you, bug nuts!”
Busking: illegal then. Still is, though recently the city council made some noise about changing that. Will Mock You for Food.
Standing next to my old Folgers can, I did okay. I never set a price; people threw in whatever they wanted to. On a good day I could pull in as much as sixty dollars, and my subjects got the service of having their minds blown, their egos stroked.
I’m sure you don’t remember my name. Why would you? Same with the person who had it worse than me and walloped my brains in with something blunt as I slept under the old Boston Avenue pedestrian bridge. My obit was short. They never found my killer. That bridge burned down, and they did something else with it. I’m still there, my talent intact, even in death.
Maybe you’ll be the one who learns my story and says my name while standing there. That’s when I’ll stop playing everyone’s words back to them. I’ll step inside that circle of bricks with you, and we’ll be together. At the Center. You’ll know just whose Universe everybody’s talking about, because at that moment, it will become Ours.
For more from the inaugural TTV and Nimrod International Journal Flash Fiction Contest, click here.