Tidbits from Gary

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bliss of the Numb

"Bliss of the Numb"
a short story
Gary Baker, January and April 2016

"Look, kid, its like this," the man in white crossed his arms and leaned back, "whats in here" he hit his chest suddenly with a closed fist "aint nothin but sissy bullshit, and nothin more." The younger of the two perked his lips to one side and looked away quietly as the older man went on.

"See, some will tell you its natural to let go of this sissy shit where the world can see, you follow?" He took a drag of his coffee, black and thick as molasses, before leaning back once more to watch his companion from across the wire table. "I met writers who did that and you know what it got them besides weaknesses the world could see?" 

There was a long silence between them as the older man waited. Eventually the younger glanced back over and shrugged. "Does it even matter?"

"Ha!" The elder exclaimed. "Now you're getting it!" He followed the younger man's gaze out across the void and let his eyes also linger there. "Anyway, all I'm sayin is that what you're feelin right now? Don't even try to talk about it. Hold that shit in, kid. Ain't anyone want to hear about it, and thats for damn sure."

The younger man looked to his companion with a sudden scowl, "this is why there are alcoholics in the world. Because of people like you who think it helps to hide what we feel."

"You've got a point, kid," the old man grunted. "But I'd much rather be an alcoholic for life than a sissy bitch any day of the week."

The scowl turned to a glare, then to a look of a man unsure. He turned again to look away from his elder, his back to the other people who'd come out and about once more. He shrugged "it's your move."

Without looking, the man in white reached over and shifted a pawn to take the younger man's rook. From there he sat back and grunted. "Now whats on your mind, Echo?"

Echo, the younger of the two, shot the old man a wicked glance. "Nothing that concerns you, old man. I thought you made that clear already."

The old man smiled. "Now thats what I'm talking about. You jus' keep whats up here-" he pointed to his temple with one hand while drawing up his coffee with the other "-up here and nowhere else." He took a long drink from his steaming mug, then shrugged as he finally pulled it away, "any time you start to be a wuss-ass just tell yourself 'out of your head', now, hear?"

The old man had a point, or so Echo was starting to believe. For far too long he, himself, had been opening up his every daydream, fantasy, and all else to the only person in his life who would truly listen... even when she clearly shut her ears to it by her own annoyances personified. Echo knew what he had been telling her was wrong to say out loud, that every time he told her of some fanatical daydream involving just another pretty pair of eyes she had been thinking he wanted to leave her for something better, but that wasn't his intent at all.

"I just wanted her to know what was going on in my head," Echo sighed.

"Hey!" The old man shot, "Pansy!" Again he leaned over the chessboard and snapped his fingers, "Lookit me, you bitch-ass!" Finally Echo pulled out of his depressed space-out and looked to his angered companion. "What. Did I. Just say? Eh?"

Echo opened his mouth to respond and was shut down midway through his first syllable.

"No! I'm talkin', Wuss-Ass, don't interrupt. I said 'any time you start to be a-' what?" He paused for a moment, as though prompting the young man. "Start to be a what, kid?"

"A bitch," Echo answered.

"Very funny, but thats not what I said. I said 'any time you start to be a wuss-ass, you jus' tell yourself...?" Again he prompted his chess partner. "What?"

"Get out of my head!" Echo yelled.

Suddenly, blinking his eyes, Echo became all-too aware that he was sitting at a park bench alone, with people all around him. They watched him sit in the shade of the public park's namesake sycamore tree as though he were tricked out on drugs, as though he were more of a junkie than an emotional-wreck. Quickly he shot his hand to his bag sitting beside him, then threw himself into a brisk walk along the cobbled pathway leading back to the road.

Even as he practically tore out of earshot, Echo knew the moms who'd been staring at him while their kids played Pirates on the jungle-gym were already talking among themselves about how bad this side of town was getting these days. He knew they would point to the various political rifts in society and claim it was all to blame on this person or that policy. Who cared what they talked about, though? Why would Echo feel the need to seek understanding by them?

With his bag firmly thrown over his shoulder, the young man strode out to the edge of the parkway. It was high time he focused. It was high time he re-purposed this farce of a life he was living. Maybe the old man was right. Maybe Echo just needed to let the anger wash over him, to let the wuss-ass sadness be overcome by enraged alcoholism and stoicism. Life was nothing but suffering these days, but that didn't mean he had to bow down and accept the pain without agents to numb it.