Quot;disorderquot; and 7.., p.2
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       "Disorder" and 7 Other Flashes of Character, p.2

           J. Timothy King
 
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wasn’t ready yet to progress to the next stage of this experiment. And I let them take the beaver away. I’m glad I restrained myself, because if I hadn’t, who knows what would have happened to those people in real life, the ones with the sad task of disposing of the dead whale?

  But now I’m ready to futz with the future. In fact, I already have. Last night, I created my own dream, carefully designed, nothing dangerous, but specific enough that I can tell whether or not the experiment worked. I dreamed a man who had inherited a million dollars, and he walked up to a lady sitting on a park bench with her young son nearby. And he whipped out a thousand-dollar bill and gave it to her, just like that.

  Remember, the actual meaning of the dream is symbolic, because the dream is a metaphor. But I take it to mean that something extraordinarily good will have happened to someone, and he (or she) will share part of his good fortune with those around him.

  So now, I ask you whether anything like that happened to you, or around you. If so, you’ll have confirmed the theory that I indeed can change the future through lucid dreaming.

  C’mon. Someone. At least one of you must have had a stroke of good fortune today.

  Abigail White

  She never imagined that this would be the defining moment of her life.

  Born Abigail Little, she had grown up with platinum blonde hair and deep brown eyes. As a teenager, she obsessed about her appearance and social behavior. She was smart and pretty, funny and good-natured. She was the girl every boy wanted to kiss and every other girl wanted to be.

  As an adult, she married and mothered. Crow’s feet etched their way around her eyes, and though still potentially attractive, looks mattered progressively less to her. She bought nice clothes for her children; sweats and sneakers for herself. Her hair became frizzy and wiry. She put all her energy into her family, all her time into her home.

  When the kids were old enough for school, she took a job as groundskeeper at a local amusement park. She was always cleaning up someone else’s mess, but she didn’t mind. In fact, it was an honor, for she knew the story of the broken window. It has been said a building can be vacant for years without becoming dilapidated, until even a single window gets broken; and then the whole building will become uninhabitable within days. Abigail knew that just one piece of trash, and her entire world would begin to disintegrate.

  It was this passion she threw into her work. As a result, she was late one day. She was late picking up the kids from their after-school program. She got bawled out. Actually, the woman was very nice to this overworked mother. But Abigail couldn’t see it any other way. She had failed her duty.

  It was then she realized, she was being controlled by circumstances. She had lost the excitement, her passion for life, her passion for her own life. She lived for everyone else, where she had once lived for herself.

  The next day, she blew off work. She got in the car and drove across the state. Then she walked into the First Bank of Everytown, U.S.A., she walked up to a teller, pulled out her gun, and demanded they fill the satchel with cash.

  An Indelible Design

  I recline in one of the big comfy chairs in the corner at the local Internet café, reading a novel, immersed in conflict, challenge, adventure. She curls up in the other chair, across from mine, her feet tucked under her legs, and stares out the window. The sight pulls me from my book.

  Quiet, pretty, young, she rarely smiles, even when serving customers their coffee and muffins. Each morning, I make it a point to grin long and broad, with “please” and “thanks.” But in return I rarely receive more than a rote, “Café Americano, two sixty-five.”

  Then, at about 10 o’clock, she takes a break, to sit and stare. The sun peeks around the edge of a cloud overhead, now gleaming through her tender blue eyes and warming her luxurious, dark hair. Her face softens, and my heart melts, and I wonder what she thinks about.

  At that moment, she raises her hand to her chin, and the sleeve of her black uniform slides down enough to reveal pieces of blue and red scribbled into her arm.

  “What’s your tattoo?” I ask.

  I myself have never mustered the will and courage to subject myself to the tattooist’s needle.

  A frown etches its way across her face. “Nothing,” she mutters, her eyes still transfixed on the outside scene.

  I shrug my eyebrows, as if to shrug off the hurt I feel. I return to the joyful fantasy of my book— Or rather, I am just about to return to it, when the girl silently unbuttons her sleeve, rolls it up, holds out her wrist, revealing a half a butterfly, its intricate wings painted in dazzling blue. The half-butterfly sits on the stem of a rose blossom, deep green and red.

  “Wow,” I say. “That’s really beautiful.” Then, “Why only half a butterfly?” “The other half— flew away,” she says, returns to her window view, her frown now more pronounced than ever.

  “I’m sorry,” I say.

  “Not your fault,” she mumbles.

  I try pull my eyes from hers. And fail.

  I imagine her smiling, laughing, bonding with friends, close to her loved ones. Her desolate sadness stabs through my gut.

  I could argue with her. True, it’s not my fault that her best friend died, or moved away, or whatever happened. But I can still feel sorry. I’m allowed to feel sorry, not just with pity, but out of human kindness. In some societies, the community would rally around, sit, mourn with her. How can I sit here next to her and feel nothing? Or worse, feel only discomfort and dread, wanting only to escape from her presence, back into the safety of my novel.

  But arguing with would accomplish nothing.

  She sees me staring, I’m sure. If I were she, if our positions were reversed, I’d notice her staring. I’d wonder what kind of kook she was. I’d worry what kind of mess I’d gotten myself into.

  “I hope,” I squeak— I swallow. “I hope that you can hang out with some friends after your shift, at least.”

  She grunts.

  “I wish there were something I could do,” I admit.

  She glares at me. “Well, there isn’t. Haley was the only real friend I had. And now she’s gone. She was the only one who knew how to love everyone as they were. There will never be another person like her, ever. So don’t even try!”

  She runs to the ladies room, and I can feel numerous pairs of eyes throwing glances in our direction.

  I gulp down the rest of my now-tepid coffee, place the cup and saucer in the dish-return. Carrying my book, I stroll toward the exit, already having decided to return tomorrow morning to see how she’s getting along.

  Just A Bite of Coffee and Ice Cream

  Her great claim to fame was that she failed Freshman English Lit. Twice.

  How is it even possible to fail English Lit? Think about it. This is a course that has no real requirements, save that you show up and say something. Yes, you’re supposed to read the novel that everyone else is also reading. But lesser students had squeaked by on the Cliff Notes, or even outright faking it.

  Even so, she managed to fail English Lit. Twice. And so ended her college career. She promptly moved back in with her parents. She discussed the situation with them only in sketches. Her father asked her what she was going to do now. She replied that she didn’t know, which was the truth. He quietly accepted her answer. He didn’t seem upset. He seemed a little worried.

  She took a service-industry job at a local ice-cream-and-coffee place, promptly proving her klutziness. She was constantly getting ice-cream flavors mixed up, or putting half-and-half in a customer’s coffee instead of milk. When her boss asked her to wipe down the counter, she promptly sprayed cleaning fluid all over the lemon sorbet. This made him none too happy and earned her a sharp rebuke. She couldn’t even pour a fruit smoothy without fucking it up— spilled it all over the floor.

  As she is returning from the back with a mop and pail, the last customer of the morning rush walks out. The place is empty except for Dawn, her coworker, who says, “Don’t worry about him. He’s
an ass.”

  “Who?”

  “Samson.” That’s her boss.

  “He gives everyone a hard time,” Dawn says. “I think he’s trying to compensate for other inadequacies.” Dawn makes a humping motion with her hips.

  The girl turns her attention to the puddle of strawberry-red liquid with melting chunks on the floor and begins to sop up what she can with the mop.

  Dawn continues. “He even once scolded Tom... the owner. Have you met him?” The girl shakes her head, no.

  “Big guy, dark hair... Anyhow, you’ll meet him eventually. Pretty easy going. You’ll like him. Anyhow, Samson chews him out, right in front of a customer.” Takes a moment to grin. “I’ve never seen Tom’s face turn that color before. He takes Samson into the back for a private chat. That was actually kinda fun.”

  A pause, with the slurp of the mop occasionally interrupting the adult-contemporary playing in the background.

  “Has he made a pass at you yet?” Dawn asks.

  No, he hasn’t. She’s not even worthy enough to be sexually harassed.

  “My first day here, he pinches my ass and starts flicking his tongue at me. Says it’s a demonstration of his ah-bil-ah-TAYz.”

  Dawn so flawlessly imitates Samson’s inflection, when he’s trying to sound cool, that the girl can’t help but giggle. She stops her mopping for a moment and turns to Dawn. Soberly, “Did you report him?”

  “No. I actually kind of like holding it over him.” Then Dawn changes her tone.
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