Just a Second
The boy, John, sat beneath the aged, black-barked mesquite tree and pressed his knees together to keep from pissing himself. Burning cramps tore into his bladder as he fought with determination to stem the flow of hot urine. Tears streamed down his dirt-smudged face and carved miniature riverbeds through the powdered clay. He spied a tiny black ant crawling up his tattered shin and flicked it away. Bloodied eyes sought the thing in the sand, looking yet to snub its life. “Six legs and three body parts of thin plastic,” he thought, “they kinda smell like…crushed ants”…acrid taste when he licked his fingers. More ants scurried about smelling the stink of one of their own dead. He picked-up another and used his pocket knife to slice off its head. The ant’s jaws’ opening and closing stopped a few seconds after the legs ceased in their final crawl into the dark unknown. Mesquite pods lay around the boy, snapping in the heat, revealing black-brown beans. Sweat mingled with tears, angry teeth grated enamel, fillings, and stolen raisins. Beating wings, doves and pigeons fleeing his thrown rocks, splinters and chunks of limestone, lava, and scat.
In the house, the drunken man looked absently at the marks that John’s teeth had left on his knuckles. The sodden eyes twitched unsteadily as one red gash blurred into three and then one and then two. He shook his head violently and shoved his curled fist in front of his eyes and used his other hand to steady the shifting one so that he might better analyze the damage. “Lil’l fucker,” he slurred. “Lil’l FUCK! Where’r you? Where’r you, godDAMit?”
Nobody knows what’s going on. Nobody can do anything. There is nobody. Fat bastard beats his face every day…kicks his ass. Fucking ribs are torn from their moorings and his goddam wrist must be broken again. He cried in a pain that echoed off his thoughts of murder and death. What he wouldn’t do to kill that fucker! Damn pickle bucket cut his cheek today. The coffee-can is gone. An evil beats in his head like a foul pulse coming from a putrescent heart. He can only see a haze as he wonders if it can be stopped in time. A scourge is teeming on an unknown edge as he contemplates faraway sounds. The dirt smells like rust, metallic blood, ocher. Hate.
Anger breathed into itself, a prominent, forceful being whose dictates reigned. None other stirred or dared to resist its call. He spoke as king in his court, an unruly sovereign who spread grief and malice with every uttering; strife. No thought but for the self.
Seconds and minutes wound into each other as he listened to the bean-pods snap in the heat and…he wondered where he would be if he could crawl inside the tick of a passing second. How far inside a second could he crawl if one of them would stand still and allow him inside? And in that small space, where would he get in? “Is there some kind of door or a squiggly mirror kind of thing that I’d have to step through to get inside? And is it really a ‘tick’?” he thought. Was there some real thing that kept one second separate from another one?
Would anyone care to look for him? If they discovered what he’d done, they’d have to rewind all the hours and minutes and seconds that had passed around him and then find the one second that he crawled into. Then they’d have to figure out how to open it like he did. And once they were inside, they’d stumble around in its eternal dark, searching blindly for the clues of his passing.
The boy, John, slowly drove the knife blade into his wrist, piercing skin and vein and tendon and scraping sideways against the bone, he pressed down and in and pulled up and sideways along…eyes closed and jaws clamped shut, squinting against the pain and rush and then. “Let me go,” he thought. “All I need is the right second, and I’ll be gone.” One passed, and then another, and another…. His aching bladder relaxed as those and his seconds and minutes passed…and his urine flowed hot and fast and slow and gone and darkened his pants and soaked the dust and dirt and shadows…. “Just let me in,” he whispered, “Please…just let me in….”
The ants’ tiny feet were red and sticky and caught the dust and sand as they walked to and fro under the shade of the ancient, black-barked Mesquite tree…among the heat-burst bean pods…as the sun beat down on the splinters and chunks of limestone, lava, and scat. The pigeons and doves returned and then…skittering, bobbing…wings flapping and away and back…and settling the dust and the ants walking to and fro….