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Fiction by Brooks Sterritt
Lenny called. He’s an old friend, worthy of trust, is involved in multiple areas of inquiry. We decided to meet at a diner that evening. It takes ten minutes to get there from my house and ten minutes from Lenny's. The diner is the equidistant point.
At five after five I showed up. I looked around the empty parking lot and planned how I would go inside, use the bathroom, find a seat with a view of the door, order coffee, wait.
At five thirty-five I had to discharge urine again because of all the coffee. My cup was empty, but I put a napkin over the top to protect it while I was gone.
Lenny arrived around five fifty.
“I need to implement time management strategies,” he said.
“Don't worry about it,” I said. I didn't ask for specifics.
Before we were able to order, he turned pale, dropped his coffee cup, and slid out of his chair onto the floor.
I said Lenny’s name. “What?” he said. I asked if he was conscious. I told him we needed to go to the hospital.
Another customer helped me support Lenny on the way to my car. I took Lenny to the hospital because I wanted us to be relieved when the doctors found nothing wrong with him. I drove him myself because an ambulance would have been expensive.
At the hospital, Lenny insisted on walking without aid or coercion.
The hospital's intake was swift. I had to wait several hours without reading material before they made a pronouncement.
A synoptic episode, a bout of dizziness, an untraceable blip of the central nervous system—sudden, meaningless, an inconvenience of little consequence.
Lenny offered to drive us back to the diner to get his car. I didn’t see any harm in it, since the possibility of him losing consciousness again was the same as ever. It was nerve-wracking with him behind the wheel, though. He drove for a few minutes then announced, against all logic, a shortcut that deviated from any number of more direct routes. No one was on the road except for a motorcyclist. He wore a loose-fitting purple t-shirt, inflated and rendered non-functional by wind. Sunburn would have been a danger during the day.
The man on the motorcycle wasn’t wearing a helmet. I wasn’t sure whether he slowed down to match our speed or Lenny accelerated to match his, after which I was unsure whether he (the motorcyclist) maintained a speed consistent with ours or if Lenny, etc. The motorcyclist turned his head to look into our vehicle.
I told Lenny to slow down. Lenny said “What?” I mentioned that the man on the motorcycle was behaving strangely. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and looked prepared to do something unpredictable.
Lenny said “I’m late all the time because my internal chronometer is discombobulated.”
When we got back to the diner parking lot, Lenny’s car was gone. The lot was empty.
Instead of the missing car I found myself thinking about the motorcyclist, what his intentions had been. I wondered if he had wanted to do something to us, to tell us something, or if he had been preparing to do something unpredictable.
His unhelmeted head rotating toward us, in my mind.
“Did you ever play the fainting game in school?” Lenny said. I asked him what it was, and he said it involved hyperventilating and falling down for fun.
I thought about two adjacent subway cars ready to depart in opposite directions and the initial moment of uncertainty as to who is moving. I assumed Lenny’s car had been stolen or towed. It was also possible, I considered, that we were in the wrong lot.
Brooks Sterritt lives in Boston and blogs at http://www.magicmonads.com. His work appears or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, Night Train, Barrelhouse, and Wigleaf.
Volume 1, Issue 4
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