by Alex Pruteanu
Something is weird.
I wake up sitting at a table outside. In a courtyard. There is a glass of water, a coffee, a pack of menthols, and a book. I know this book. I have read it. Some other time.
It’s written by that guy who got eviscerated on national television by that talk show host after she found out the book was fiction. They murdered him. All of them got their turn. Hung before millions of angry viewers.
They cut him up savagely and made him crawl on his knees and lick the floor. I like that guy. He came back later and blew them all out of the water. Even the New York Times kissed his feet. Second acts can sometimes redeem you. Sometimes sink you even further. Final acts always play out the same way, though.
Twenty or thirty feet away from my table there is a little girl. She’s maybe 6. Cute with long hair. She’s standing in the middle of this courtyard and does the splits. Over and over, she does the splits. She gets up. Does the splits. Gets up. Does the splits.
A man with tattoos and a grey goatee. A large, grotesque man who is morphing and shape shifting and oozing bile from his porous, leather skin.
I don’t say anything. The girl does the splits. Gets up. Splits. She smiles.
I don’t say anything.
Slick! You’re sitting at my table.
Splits. And up. And splits.
You’re at my table chief.
I don’t say anything. The little girl does her move over and over. There is smooth jazz on the speakers. Outside, in this courtyard.
Are you deaf? You’re sitting at my table.
I feel unstable. I can’t talk to him. Can’t get up. The book on the table has a frayed cover. In the corner, I have written my full name in sloppy penmanship. Kilroy was here!
YOU’RE AT MY GODDAMN TABLE!
In information theory, entropy represents the potential for disorder in a system. When a system has more degrees of freedom and more constituents, there are more possible states for it to occupy.
I feel myself being lifted under the arms by the tattoos. He ejects me from the chair onto the slate tile. I can’t move. Can’t get up. I hear him light a cigarette. Thumbs through the book.
The child laughs. Splits. Pages turn with impunity.
Then he explodes in phlegmatic boffola. Convulsions. Followed by coughs.
You’re lucky. I could’ve kicked your sorry ass.
On the tiny speakers, in the courtyard: Najee. Kenny-G. David Sanborn, all in succession. Only the sound is muffled and warped—a savage genre of musak.
Kicked it from here to China.
Nine minutes and fifty-six seconds pass.
I am still face down on the slate rock breathing in ferrous-tasting blood. I choke on it as it drips into the windpipe. Tattoos is inhaling tobacco. Bronchial tubes are contracting. The little girl does her trick. Over and over. And over.
Something is weird.
Since immigrating from Romania in 1979, I’ve worked as a day laborer, a film projectionist, a music store clerk, a journalist/news writer for the U.S. Information Agency (Voice of America English Broadcasts), a TV Director for MSNBC and CNBC, and a freelance writer. Currently I am the Managing Editor of an education assessment software system at North Carolina State University. I am also a staff writer for The Lit Pub. Around all of that I manage to swing some hard bop jazz from time to time on an old Premier 5-piece kit.
I’ve published fiction in Pank, BRICKrhetoric, Camroc Press Review, Short, Fast, and Deadly, Trainwrite, Airplane Reading, The Legendary, Subtle Fiction, Girls With Insurance, Trick With a Knife, Amphibi.us, Slingshot Litareview, Specter Literary Magazine, Thunderclap Press, The Monarch Review, Connotation Press, F Magazine, and Merida Magazine. I am the author of the novella “Short Lean Cuts,” available as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is now available from Amazon Publishers on Amazon
Currently working on a novel tentatively called “Tramby Quirke.” I am the author of the novella “Short Lean Cuts.” Ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, paperback at Amazon.