REVENGE, A LITTLE
At first, everyone thinks it is the sun. But when the clock strikes several times, and it does not move, and the earth turns and it should grow dark, and the sky orange and violent, and it has not moved, it is noticed. It is a bright disc in the sky and it does not move for thirteen days. Schoolteachers and grandparents have trouble sleeping, with all the light. They buy blinds and shutters from Home Depot and from Wal Mart, and screw them to the walls, but the light gets in anyway. It is everywhere. Mr. Petersen who watches the bank vault all night laughs, and says, ‘Get used to it.’ Mr. Petersen calls them cowards, the schoolteachers.
For thirteen days the sky is bright and does not change, and people forget when they are supposed to eat. They prepare tunafish sandwiches at midnight, and drink chilled white port at nine in the morning. Couples make love instead of breakfast. The mailmen all buy watches. There are no clouds for thirteen days. The weather reporter stands in front of a blue screen and says, ‘Sunny.’ He looks very tired, and the makeup beneath his eyes is powdery and thick.
On the fourteenth day, the disc moves. Kai sees it out the kitchen window, and he points and exclaims, ‘It is moving!’ Everyone rushes outside to look. It is twelve o’clock noon. The big clock in the middle of town points up, to heaven, and chimes. Neighbors stand next to each other, looking up, with their hands shielding their eyes like visors. The disc slides down the sky, and touches the mountains in the distance, and then no one can see what happens, because it is too bright to look at. Mr. Petersen comes out of his house, with shampoo in his hair, and says, ‘Go back to bed.’
The sky turns dark blue, and then black, and the stars come out. People look at their watches, scratch their heads, count on their fingers. They wear courderoys, Spanish aprons, evening gowns, smoking jackets. All of the streetlights come on, clicking and humming, one after the other. It is five after twelve.
The people look at the horizon, and wonder about the disc. Neighbors shake hands, and smile, and say, ‘How do you,’ and ‘Very well.’ They compliment one another’s denim skirts, and lawn furniture, and smiling children. The children play in the street and shout commands. They are like books, thumbed-through and French.
Kai’s mother invites Mr. Petersen to have dinner with them. ‘It’s noon,’ says Mr. Petersen. Kai’s mother says, ‘So?’
Everyone goes inside, holding hands. Far away, the mountains are on fire, and it is spreading to the hills, and the forests, and the town. Thick black smoke tumbles into the thick black sky. The fire will not touch these townspeople, though, it cannot touch them, although it is almost here. They drink pink lemonade and joke about the law. Their jobs are small, and effortless, and benign. They smile in electric light.
The news report is on. It is almost time.
TODAY IN A BACK ALLEY A MAN
Today in a back alley a man in an old brown hat offered to give me super powers. He held his hands out, palms up, to say Trust me, his eyes open wide, his hair unwashed, hanging greasy from under his hat, and a woman in a black skirt walked by the alley, her heels making a sound on the sidewalk: pock. The man called himself Sally, and talked about his parents, their house in Spain, their pet pig. He did not stand up. He said, ‘I need some money for the train.’ He said, ‘This is so embarrassing.’ My hands were in my pockets, held in fists, and I stood with my side to him. Around us were white brick walls, black plastic trash cans, old bottles, hamburger wrappers, a Christian fish, gravel, puddles, unrecognizable piles of unrecognizable things. I was on the way to the store.
‘Sorry, man,’ I said. I always say, ‘Sorry, man,’ I will always say, ‘Sorry, man,’ and I will make empty gestures to my pockets. Old men in alleys will eye me, will shake loose coffee cups, will sleep in red sleeping bags by shopping carts and sheets of cardboard, will tell me stories and say, ‘Hey.’
‘I will give you super powers,’ said Sally. Is Sally a man’s name? Maybe it is short for Salvador.
‘Sorry, man,’ I said.
Here are super powers that I would like to have:
• Invisibility. At parties, on trains, when my roommate comes home with a scowl, when I am in back alleys. Some people would use it to watch women bathe, and maybe I would do that too, sometimes. I could creep into their homes, follow them to their bathrooms, and stand silently in the steam. Maybe I would sing, or clean the fog from the mirrors for them. Maybe I would sit down and imagine talks we might have.
• Flight. When I was younger I would dream. In my dreams I would fly, would soar above my friends, would run fast and bound and slowly catch the air and circle in the sky and look down and say, ‘Here I am, flying.’ In my dreams I would never save people, or escape people. I would only fly, and land atop tall things: Trees, a school, my father. It was not much use, in my dreams, this flight.
• Strength. I cannot think of anything I would do with strength.
Later today when I walked through the alley again I saw that Sally wasn’t there. There were instead two kids, playing, pushing one another and screaming, smiling, calling one another by their names. They both had dark curling hair. They ran in circles, and shoved, and did not notice me, or did not respond if they did. When I walked past them their father called them sharply and said, ‘Didn’t you see that man there?’
‘It’s okay,’ I said.
The father held both hands out, palms up, and said, ‘Sorry, man.’
It is okay.
Tim Coe‘s work has previously appeared in Word Riot, Pindeldyboz, Fail Better, and elsewhere. He lives in Chicago with his wife Evangeline.