Mass Confusion

Gloria traced the rough texture of the bricks, the abrasive particles of sand and grit catching the tender skin of her fingertips. A concavity caught her attention, and she paused, cocking her head in curiosity. She scratched at the small hole, widening it, and flakes of mortar tumbled to the ground at her feet, littering her shoelaces with their crystalline dandruff.

She reached the bottom quickly enough, and lost interest when nothing of note appeared. She continued on her way, meandering back and forth across the sidewalk, never stepping on a crack for fear of breaking her mother’s back.

***

Cedric leaned against the street sign catty-corner to Gloria’s wandering dance, and he watched her with bright eyes. Such a girl would likely have some interesting stories to tell, he thought. His mind made up, he crossed the street, Gloria in his crosshairs.

***

Gloria froze, her sneaker toe millimeters from a large insect blundering its way across her path. She squatted and squinted at the poor thing–a beetle, she judged. She reached out a hand to touch it, and like that, it spread its wings and disappeared into the bright blue sky without a trace. Gloria smiled broadly, unperturbed that her plans had been so swiftly shattered by such an insignificant creature.

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She stood back up and prepared to continue on her way, but a man blocked her.

***

Cedric knew that with his fighter’s build, he could bed intimidating, but he had spent years perfecting his kindly and disarming smile. He used that smile on Gloria, to an unexpected effect.

She screamed.

***

“And that’s how your mother and I met, kids.”


Neurological Reassurances

Kenneth looked around, confused. He didn’t remember leaving his apartment and coming to the train station, and yet, somehow, here he was. Am I waiting on a train? he asked himself. He didn’t answer. Nor did the beetle trundling busily across the bench next to him. With no answer forthcoming, Kenneth began to check his pockets for a ticket stub or some sort of itinerary.

Nothing besides the regular stuff in his wallet, the few paper bills, the too-many over-limit credit cards, and the small annual school photograph of his niece. No tokens in his pocket, and not even spare change. He wondered if he’d given his change to a bum begging on the street. Kenneth hoped so: that was exactly the sort of thing he would have done had he been in his right mind.

It was as if a wizard had waved a magic wand and transported him bodily to this bench at the station. Kenneth looked down at his feet and noticed that his left shoe was untied. He leaned forward and picked up the ends of the lace and tied them securely.

The idea came to him that his family had never told him what happened to his uncle Leroy; it was possible that Leroy had some medical reason for disappearing and never coming back. But it was all so vague, memories of a four-year-old locked away from Kenneth’s now-thirty-year-old brain. Maybe there was some family history of fugue state that Kenneth was unaware of.

He shrugged that off and checked his watch. His watch told him that he must have left his work at the law firm early, or that he’d lost more than a few hours. He couldn’t come up with a single reasonable reason for him to be sitting on a bench at the train station at 2:47PM on a Thursday afternoon.

No; there was a reason. The senior partners had all gone to the city for a conference. Kenneth snickered a bit at that: the senior partners never actually attended conferences. They were only excuses to whore and gamble, not even head across town to catch a Broadway show, as Kenneth would love to do, given the opportunity.

The point being, Kenneth could have skipped out on work today, no problem. He wouldn’t even have needed to make an excuse to anyone. His heavy heart began to lift. It didn’t really matter how he got here, did it? And he’d always wanted to travel the world. What was that old quote, something about every journey starting with the smallest step?

He could take a train to the airport and fly to Egypt, see the pyramids as he’d always longer to do. Fly to Peru and climb Machu Picchu. Fly to Australia and hike the Bibbulmun Track.

The day was growing brighter every minute. Kenneth stood up and stretched his arms above his head, arching his back before he headed to the ticket kiosk.

c19

Not 900 words. Perhaps I should have gone with fifty words per cube. Well, it depends on the cube, obviously. Cubes here.