someday i won’t wake up
and the world will still be there
it won’t laugh at my jokes
or ask me to say a prayer
a cat will sit at a window
a dog will bark on a lawn
a raccoon will eat a pizza crust
but i will be gone
josie was standing in the aisle of the supermarket, looking at the six-packs of candy bars.
she would have liked to steal one, but she knew the supermarket had pretty good security cameras.
an old man came toward her from one end of the aisle, pushing a shopping cart with his arms folded on the handle.
out of the corner of her eye, josie saw an old woman, with a red plastic shopping basket on her arm, approach from the other end.
they were both old, about fifty or a hundred years old. the woman had gray hair and the man was bald and they both had wrinkled faces.
they met about eight feet away from josie and josie could hear their conversation.
“ray davis! is that you?”
“by god - it’s marcia! marcia! how are you, marcia? i hope you are well. my god, this is amazing!”
“you hope i’m well? you have the nerve to ask me that, after the way you broke my heart?”
“no, marcia, i’m sorry. it was you who broke my heart.”
josie could not take any more. her stomach was going to hurt from trying not to break out laughing.
with a last fond glance at the six-packs of reese’s peanut butter cups, she made her way out of the market as quickly as she could without actually running. or walking so fast she might as well be running.
she went to find her friend samantha.
samantha was where she usually was, on the park bench over by the duck pond. and reading one of her dumb books, like she usually was.
samantha was not impressed with josie’s story.
“i don’t see what is so funny about it,” she told josie. “it’s not funny at all. only a goof would think it was funny.”
“you are breaking my heart,” said josie, and laughed at her own joke.
lola, the technician, showed keith, the consultant, a chart.
“look at this guy, will you?”
keith glanced at it. “move him ahead of the others. we don’t want his brains going through his skull and hitting the ceiling.”
a group of twenty citizens had been randomly picked up in the morning and had their i d’s and brains scanned.
after being given a shower and a disinfecting and some muffins and beverages they had been herded into a waiting room where they would be summoned by the technicians and consultants for an examination and then released or retained, as their situation might call for.
“have a seat,” keith told the man lola brought in.
but the man had already taken a seat.
lola closed the door behind her, leaving keith alone with the man.
keith punched in the number on the chart lola had left him, and the citizen’s history and brainscan appeared on the screen.
“what seems to be your problem, lawrence?”
“problem? i haven’t got any problem. i understand why you have these sweeps. believe me, i think you guys do a great job, catching terrorists and child molesters and all, and i am behind you one hundred percent. but i don’t have any problem, and i just want to get back to my job.”
keith looked at the screen, “yes, i see you do indeed have a job. lawrence. i’m impressed. but according to what i also see here, you are one angry man. one very angry man. so something must be bothering you.”
lawrence shrugged. “nothing that wouldn’t bother anybody.”
“oh? and what might that be, that would bother anybody?” keith scrolled on his screen as he spoke. “oh, i see here that you are a football fan. a jets fan, to be exact. is that right?”
“i’m sort of a jets fan. but what i really am is an anti-cheatriots fan!”
“ah,” said keith. “the cheatriots. yes, here at the center we have heard of the cheatriots before.”
“i’ll bet you have! everybody has heard of the cheatriots!” lawrence shouted.
keith looked up. lawrence’s whole attitude had changed. a few seconds ago he had seemed perfectly relaxed - or as relaxed as anybody ever was who was brought to the center - but now he was trembling, and holding on to the sides of his chair as if afraid he might be ejected from it.
“the fucking cheatriots! fucking belichick! fucking pussy-ass tammy brady! did you see that game against the raiders on thursday night! the cheatriots o-line was holding on every play! every play! and their special teams! special treatment teams! and fucking goodell! it’s all a fix!”
“calm down, big fella, calm down.” keith considered hitting the buzzer under his desk to summon a couple of orderlies, but held off. “relax, take a deep breath.”
“fucking goodell, “ lawrence raged on. “goodell and his bullshit fines! it’s all just a smoke screen! why doesn’t he just go down on the sidelines and let brady fuck him in broad daylight, he’s not fooling anybody!”
“lawrence, lawrence,” keith used his best soothing voice. “just relax. relax. it’s going to be all right. we are here for you. we here at the center are here for you.”
lawrence calmed down. he looked frightened, as if he realized his outburst had not helped him if he wanted to be released from the center. “i’m sorry. it’s just - it’s just every time i think about those assholes brady and belichick and what they get away with. they’ve ruined football… they’ve ruined america. i just… and how long has it been going on now? fifty years? a hundred?…”
“you are exciting yourself again, lawrence. calm down. i have something here for you.”
lawrence’s eyes widened. “you are going to give me drugs.”
“no, lawrence, not exactly. you see… in my professional judgment you are too far gone for that.”
“too far gone for drugs! no, no!”
“i have something here, lawrence, far more powerful than any drug. the most powerful thing in the world, in fact.”
“oh?” lawrence was calm now, but looked frightened. “and what might that be?”
“the truth.” keith folded his hands in front of him on the desk. “you see, lawrence, there is no reason to hate tom brady and bill belicheck. and do you know why?”
“because they don’t really exist." keith looked lawrence straight in the eye. "and it isn’t just tom brady and bill belicheck. everybody you see on tv, everybody you see on the news, every so-called celebrity you see on the internet, they are all just actors. oh, and everything you were ever taught in school, everything you were taught about history, about science and religion, about everything, it’s all a lie. i’m just saying. and all the actors you see, they were brought to this planet 10,000 years ago by the masters, and that all play different parts through the years.”
“wow,” said lawrence. “that’s amazing.”
“for example,” keith went on. “the guy playing tom brady now, he was j f k, and before that he was charles lindbergh and before that he was rudolf valentino. and the actor playing belicheck, before that he was stalin, and before that he was ludendorff, and before that he was bismarck, and before that… you get the idea,”
lawrence shook his head. “i never suspected anything like that,” he told keith. “um… can i go now?”
“oh,no, no. i am sorry, lawrence.” keuth shook his head. “you see, now that you know the truth, you can’t very well be released back into the general population, can you?”
“i can’t? then - what happens to me?”
“you will be relocated to another planet.” keith turned back to his screen. “let’s see what we have here. this will just take a second… here we are, planet 353… we can have you on a ship in a few hours. you will like planet 353. nice weather, at least according to this. plenty of things to do. and they will feed you.”
lawrence had an uneventful flight to planet 353. the ship was only half full, and the trip took six hours, including a thirty-five minute stop at some space station. during the flight he was given a tuna sandwich which was kind of dry, some potato chips that he found pleasantly crispy, and a salad that was not too bad.
when they arrived at planet 353, lawrence and five other earthlings were given papers and i d badges and led by a uniformed guide through a door.
outside the spaceport, it was dark night, and the first thing lawrence and the others noticed was that the landscape was filled with some kind of massive construction project.
two enormous edifices of some kind - both towering to the sky - were being built and both were brightly lit up and filled with activity. sparks were liberally flying through the air and falling to the ground or floating up to the dark heavens.
“this is where you guys will be working,” the guide explained. “we have thirty-seven hour days here, and we work a full thirty-seven, with four shifts. you will be assigned shifts after we get you in quarters and assigned bunks.”
“but what are they?” a young woman beside lawrence asked. “what are they building there?”
“what are they?’ the guide repeated. “they are pyramids.” his voice dropped to a reverent tone. “they are still with us - praise the universe - but these two pyramids are being built against the day when they will house the remains of the two greatest human beings who have ever lived. “
“oh?” lawrence asked. “snd who might those be?”
“who do you think?” the guide answered. “tom brady and bill belicheck.”
after the incident with the man with the hat in the railway station, alden no longer knew what to believe or whom to trust.
he decided to miss his train, as he was afraid the man with the hat might be on it.
he knew aunt judith would be worried when he did not show up at the midville station and he decided to give her a call.
after he had a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.
and maybe even a drink.
there was a little marble topped table on the floor of the railway station beside the little bakery counter where alden purchased his coffee and slice of devils cake with white frosting.
the cake was a bit stale but the frosting was quite tasty.
alden was savoring the taste of the frosting and raising his cup of coffee to his lips when a distinguished but harmless looking gentleman approached the table.
the distinguished but harmless looking gentleman had a small tray in his hand. on the tray were a cup of tea and a slice of white cake with strawberry frosting.
although the table alden was sitting at was quite small, it did have two chairs.
“do you mind if i sit here?” the distinguished but harmless gentleman asked alden.
“no, of course not,” alden replied politely.
“do you know,” said the distinguished looking gentleman, when he had set down his tray and made himself comfortable, “i have just had the damnedest experience”.
“you do not say so?” alden responded politely.
“indeed! i was about to board my train for westchester when this fellow with the tallest hat i have ever seen - like something abraham lincoln or woodrow wilson or charles g dawes would wear - appeared out of the shadows and he began berating me in a stentorian voice about the price of gold and the lost kingdom of something or other and rays from outer space and whatnot. i dare say it sounds harmless enough in the telling but in the dim light beside the train it gave me quite a turn. as the follow looked like he was getting on the train and i wanted to avoid him at all costs i decided to wait for the 8:42.”
“why!” cried alden, “the same thing happened to me. except that my tormentor seemed to be referencing the price of grapes rather than gold - of course i may have misheard him. no doubt it was the same fellow - making the rounds of the departing trains.”
“but in that case,” exclaimed the distinguished gentleman with the tea and the cake with strawberry icing, “who knows what train he will actually take? no one is safe!”
at this, they both fell silent, and began sipping their respective beverages.
“fellows like that were not allowed to run loose in our grandfathers’ times, “ the distinguished gentleman finally offered. “they had asylums back then, and made good use of them. my name is bartholomew, by the way, bartholomew parker marston.”
“i am pleased to make your acquaintance,” alden replied. “my name is alden wainwright goodfellow, and i have always expected civilization to do right by me, so long as i do right by it. but now it seems we have fallen upon dark times, when madness is invited to dine with sanity, and showgirls are as good as ambassadors.”
the conversation might have continued in this manner, but was interrupted by the appearance of a slatternly woman with her skirts dragging on the ground, and wearing two hats on her head, one on top of the other.
she pointed directly at alden and bartholomew, and shouted: “aluminum carbide! aluminum carbide! and raisin bran every morning!”
“that settles it,” said bartholomew, as the woman shuffled away, “we are not safe. i ,for one, am not going home tonight. who knows what insanity awaits me there?”
“i think, “ said alden in measured terms, “that perhaps we should get tickets on a westbound train to poughkeepsie or cleveland.”
“that sounds like an excellent idea,” bartholomew agreed.
when they finished their coffee and tea and cake, they made their way to the ticket window and purchased tickets to cleveland.
just as they were about to board the train to cleveland, it occurred to alden that he had forgotten to call aunt judith. but what could he do?
aunt judith, he thought, was perhaps even now being held hostage by the man in the hat.
when they got on the train, alden and batholomew headed straight for the smoking car, which proved to be half empty, and where they found seats across from each other.
as the train was entering albany, bartholomew suddenly whispered to alden, “i think we should get off here. follow me.”
without informing the conductor that they were not going on through to cleveland, they collected their briefcases from the overhead rack and silently exited the train at albany.
alden followed bartholomew from the station into some dimly lit streets filled with pawn shops and second hand clothing stores.
“look here,” bartholomew told alden, “i think it is best that we take on new identities. we should get rid of these clothes which mark us as civilized beings, and obtain some suitable but comfortable rags. i will become muggsy mcclanahan, and you can be butch bancroft, and we will become outlaws. what do you say?”
alden readily assented.
as muggsy and butch, they proceeded to terrorize the midwestern states, until they were killed in a shootout with f b i agents, in a farmhouse outside hutchinson kansas.
he had planned to go on a picnic with his friend bertrand.
but bertrand had left a note under albert’s door explaining that “something had come up” and that he could not go on the picnic.
after some hesitation, albert decided to go on the picnic by himself.
he put his picnic basket on his arm and started down the street.
as you may have suspected, he was greeted by howls of derision and laughter by the people on the street.
“look at that poor slob going on a picnic by himself!”
“hey, bro, you look like you just lost your best friend!”
the laughter and finger pointing continued until albert had almost reached the outskirts of town, and the country road which he would take to get to the woods where he would have his picnic.
on the one hand albert felt humiliated and depressed by the hazing he had endured, but on the other hand he felt relieved that his ordeal was over without his actually having been physically attacked.
also, he was looking forward with real eagerness to consuming the food and beverages in the picnic basket, especially the shrimp salad he had made the night before, and which he would not now have to share with bertrand.
just as albert was almost at the country road, he encountered a young woman walking along the last stretch of highway.
she was rather ordinary looking, but she had a nice smile, albert thought.
unlike the other persons he had met, she did not laugh or point at his picnic basket, but greeted him with her nice smile.
“good heavens,” the young woman exclaimed, “it must have been a singular set of circumstances that led you to go on a picnic by yourself!”
“indeed it was,” albert replied ruefully. “my good friend had planned to accompany me, but at the last minute was called away unexpectedly.”
the young woman’s eyes widened. “good friend, my aunt matilda! he must have been a perfidious rascal indeed, to leave you in the lurch in such manner, though the very heavens fall on him!”
“oh no,’ albert assured her. “i am sure his reason must have been pressing indeed, and that he will explain it all satisfactorily when we meet again.”
“it shows that you have a good heart that you say that,” said the young woman. “my name is cynthia, by the way. what is yours?”
“my name is albert.”
“you seem like a nice person, albert. if it is not too presumptuous of me, i would like to go on your picnic with you, because you seem such a nice person, and a real gentleman.”
“that sounds like a very good idea,” albert replied.
the young woman calling herself cynthia turned and pointed to a line of trees behind her. albert could make out a little house behind them.
“i live there,” cynthia said. “with my grandmother. wait here, and i will go get a bottle of my grandmother’ s homemade strawberry wine. that will make a nice addition to the picnic, and naturally i wish to make a contribution to the picnic and not be some kind of freeloader.”
albert had no objection to make to this, and cynthia departed and came back in short order with the bottle of strawberry wine.
they went on their way into the woods. they came to the spot where albert had planned to have his picnic with bertrand, but cynthia pointed down the forest path and said, “oh, i know a much nicer spot., and it is not much further away.”
albert acquiesced, and they proceeded on their way, albert with the picnic basket, and cynthia with the bottle of strawberry wine.
they arrived at the spot selected by cynthia. albert did not think it looked any nicer than the one he and bertrand had chosen, but he did not say so.
albert spread his blanket on the ground under a chestnut tree.
cynthia found a paper cup in albert’s picnic basket, poured some strawberry wine into it and offered it to albert.
“taste this,” she told albert with her sweet smile. “i am sure you will agree you have never tasted anything quite like it.”
as soon as albert tasted the strawberry wine, he knew that something was wrong.
the world spun around him, he gasped for breath, and collapsed to the ground.
he had been poisoned!
“you poor fool,” cyntha exclaimed. “did not anyone ever teach you not to trust strangers? or to trust anybody at all, for that matter?”
albert quickly expired.
cynthia, who was an old hand at the game, rolled up her sleeves and immediately got to work disposing of albert’s body.
she had a grave already dug a few yards away. it had been filled in with loose earth, and covered with twigs, but it was an easy matter to dig it out again with the shovel she had concealed nearby.
after taking possession of albert’s wallet and watch, and a couple of rings from his fingers, she rolled his body into the grave, filled it in again, tamped it down and covered it with twigs and leaves .
cynthia had a good thing going, waylaying innocent travelers in this way, murdering them and taking their money and valuables.
as it was not a particularly warm day, and she was in excellent health, cynthia was not much tired by her exertions. she sat down and sampled some of the wares in albert’s basket, and found them quite tasty, especially the shrimp salad - which he had prepared with such care - and the deviled eggs.
after taking a last look around to be sure everything was tidy, she returned to her little house with the picnic basket, which contained, besides the shrimp salad and the deviled eggs, a couple of neatly sliced and carefully wrapped tongue sandwiches, a small tin of caviar, a thermos of hot chocolate, two bottles of evian water, and four small cream tarts.
cynthia did not really share the house with her grandmother, but with two big nasty dogs, who could make short work of any intruder.
and her name was not really cynthia, but doris evans.