The Sock God
And the next day he reorganized his sock drawer. Really. He was that bored. He had done everything he could think of for months and months and months to keep his mind engaged. Among which, he’d begun half a dozen household improvement projects, half of which he’d have to hire a professional to come in and fix once social isolation was relaxed, and the other half just looked crappy. He’d resurrected his old watercolor hobby; the results looked crappy. He’d built an expensive Lego model of a vintage Mustang. It looked crappy (there were a bunch of pieces left over he couldn’t figure out what to do with). He engaged in gourmet cooking. It tasted crappy. He’d watched all his old DVD’s and BluRay’s. Twice. A few of them thrice. He cleaned the house top to bottom but that just made him grumpy. It was cold outside, now, and trying to snow today and the air was so dry all the moisture had been sucked out of his head from his sinuses up through his brain. He fantasized that cannibals would break into his home, crack open his skull and discover his brain had been dried into a raisin, and invent some new bran-flakes breakfast cereal into which it would be crumbled and eaten with cold milk. One day while surfing the Internet he stumbled upon a picture of a sock drawer into which a wooden grid like a honeycomb of XXXX’s had neatly created a well-organized space, and he thought to himself, “I want that!” He found some plastic ones online and when they were delivered he couldn’t wait to get to the categorization process. He’d laid awake the night before and calculated how to go about things. There were four XXXX grids and they were thin enough he reasoned he could get three of them into his drawer. He could have one for the thick winter socks and another for the thin summer socks and another that would be sort of a mix and he could trade out which was on top with each season. He could have a section for each category: a corner for the little half socks he wore with tennis shoes and next to it the calf-length socks he wore when he was actually doing something athletic for which the tennis shoes were designed. A section for the Bombas hiking socks. A section for the dress socks, black separated from grey separated from blue. A section for the socks he wore with jeans. A section for the wild pattern socks he wore with sandals partly as a joke on all the women who told him socks with sandals wasn’t sexy. He lay there in the night and he thought about individual pair of socks that didn’t fit neatly into a particular category; they would have their own corner. Why did he have those ones? Where did they come from? What was their purpose? How did they make sense of their existence? Did they intend to be different? Did they enjoy being different? How would they adapt to sitting alone in their own little pocket of the XXXX? Would they have preferred the world all mixed together without the organized segregation of the XXXX? Was he, himself, a sock? He was, after all, isolated in a little pocket. He couldn’t think of any other category of sock like him. Was he the kind of sock worn with sandals? Was his purpose not sexy? Did he even have a purpose? Was he on the bottom honeycomb of XXXX’s out of season? When was he in season? He began to see himself in his drawer of socks. He began to see himself shuffling himself along with all the other socks. He was both god and minion. The instigator of his own fate, and also the victim of it.
Liang supposed it wasn’t much of a job for all the degrees he’d earned, but at least he was working. It was a start. He’d established compensations for his poor attitude. After his implant gently woke him, sensed by his alpha waves that he was awake, he’d programed it to begin flooding his conscious with subliminal messages: “I’m so glad I work for the U.N.; I’m so happy I’m helping feed people; I love working”. And so on, up to the point in which those same alpha waves suggested an improved level of contentment (not that some days he didn’t shut it off early so he could enjoy his bad mood).
He stepped into the bathroom and his 16’ by 20’ apartment began to quietly reconfigure itself; the bedroom set quietly withdrew, like an old-style Murphy bed but quite different due to the materials, and, as the glass wall leading to the small balcony went opaque, an enclosed shower, wardrobes and dressing area emerged. He stepped into the shower and the commode withdrew as the sink expanded and the toiletries cabinet opened. He stepped out of the shower and it folded away, the kitchen folded out, the coffee maker and oven began prepping breakfast. He finished dressing and the wardrobe switched out for a table and chairs, but as the glass wall became polarized and transparent again, giving him a view of Shanghai’s Pudong district, he decided to take breakfast on the balcony. His implant reminded him of his first meeting in 40 minutes. He enjoyed the late summer fresh air as he ate, then stepped back into the apartment wishing he’d set the oven for a chocolate muffin instead of the raspberry scone he’d nibbled at. The dining table had been replaced by a desk. The kitchen had withdrawn into only the coffee bar, and the commode was back. He ordered up a second latte and as his implant interfaced with his computer and connected him with his meeting. Liang slipped on his goggles so he could see them. His view divided into four screens, smallest on the lower right where the translation program ran and would monitor the conversation and decipher anything not related in English. Liang was the second participant on, along with his counterpart from Mexico City. Next came one of the American representative from Nashville where distribution to the hard-hit central regions was headquartered. Finally the director of the World Food Program from United Nations headquarters in Dubai.
The director said, “Welcome to yet another meeting of the ‘Feed America Initiative’.
Liang offered a greeting, as they all did.
“Let’s pick up where we left off,” the director began. “Mexico, I’m starting with you, since you’ve been dealing with the most urgent issues”.
The Mexico City official colored; Liang found that surprising as he’d supposed she’d be used to the criticism by now, not that it was her fault. The Mexican economy was booming (both legal and illegal). Shipments to America, which had to go through Mexico because American west coast ports had been devastated by earthquakes, were routinely hijacked. She said, “I’ve met again with security officials who assured me they are establishing new measures. If it means anything, they succeeded two days ago in rescuing the shipment received on 11 September and it is currently being convoyed north under guard.” They all knew the ‘under guard’ part meant nothing, and that the shipment would likely be hijacked again.
“How much of the shipment was received,” the Nashville representative wanted to know. There was just a tinge of frantic tone in his voice. There usually was.
“About half,” Mexico said.
“About 40 percent.”
“So,” Nashville commented, “Closer to one-third.” The American situation gave him good reason for scrutiny. The Pacific coast was in chaos. The near west, from Arizona and New Mexico north to Montana, was out of water. The warming planet has shifted the grain belt much farther north, and the entire Midwest from Kansas north and east as far as Ohio had become a desert. The south was socially and political unstable due to repeated nationalism insurrections and the Atlantic had degenerated, for all practical purposes, into a series of city-states that could not sustain themselves. And most of New York City, of course, including the old United Nations building, was under water.
“Shanghai,” the director asked, “What have you got for me.” Shanghai was the collection point for aid from China, Korea, and southeast Asia, and Liang was responsible for coordinating its distribution.
Liang said, “I have one shipment already halfway to Manzanillo, and three more are in various stages of preparation, but as long as the situation at the Mexican ports remains so hazardous I would argue against sending them to that destination.”
The director said, “I tend to agree; this has gone on long enough.” Canada’s west coast was little better off than America’s, and with the Panama Canal closed the director’s decision meant there was no recourse but for a long trip west, through the Indonesian straits and around Africa to somewhere on the Atlantic coast.
Nashville said, “Forget about Baltimore.”
“Already forgotten,” the director said. “My discussions with Canada have been promising, either Saint John or Montreal. We will reconvene five days; that should give me and them time to make arrangements. Make it 9 a.m. my time, please. Shanghai cease further shipments to Manzanillo. Mexico, I’d like you to attend also to discuss the shipment that’s already halfway there. Thank you, everybody.”
Goggles went black. Liang removed them and discovered that his latte had gone cold. He set his implant to prepare calls to his warehouses; he’d determined to get a new shipment in the water towards Canada quickly, with the specific port identified after the upcoming meeting, and he directed his implant to schedule that meeting for five days hence, 5 a.m. GMT, 1 p.m. Shanghai time, Friday, September 27, 2193.
The Obsolete Hat
Trixie B. sat on her deck with the stub of her right leg, amputated below the knee four months prior due to diabetes complications, propped up on another chair as she finished her second banana daiquiri of the afternoon and watched the young men hired by the condo association mow and trim the yard. The young, mostly shirtless men worked fast, professionally, and by sheer luck Trixie and her roommate Lana R. had already been on the deck enjoying a pleasant summer afternoon, not as hot as yesterday, lovely puffy clouds dancing across the blue sky, when they arrived. The efficiency of the young men would ensure the beefcake show would not last long. Lana was just returning with a new round of daiquiri’s which Trixie was certain would be extra heavy on the rum and not quite properly mixed with the rest of the ingredients as Lana had seemed to concoct them awfully fast. A fair number of friends and relatives suspected the two women were lesbians when they moved in together after both their husbands died, but that wasn’t remotely true, a fact illustrated by Lana who, after putting the milky drinks onto the glass table, said, “Figured out how we can slam that yet?”
The propensity of the two of them to go salty when discussing men was infamous; they went out of their way to lay it on, especially when in the company of others, which confused Trixie as to why anyone would conclude they were lesbians unless it were perceived as overcompensating. Trixie told her, “Thought I’d just sit here and let my aura attract them.”
Lana said, “Let me sit down and recross my legs a couple times and see if that helps.”
“How could they pass up two fat old ladies with three legs?”
Lana looked at her. “Three feet. We got four thighs. Pull your shorts higher.”
Trixie was focusing on one particular young man, his sweaty bronze skin shimmering under pieces of freshly mowed grass. She was focusing on him because she remembered him. A little over a dozen years ago he’d been her student. “Do you remember the Basengame kid?” she asked Lana.
It was as junior high teachers that Trixie and Lana had recognized kindred spirits in each other. With both their husbands gone, it had just made sense to combine their retirement resources under the same roof. Lana asked, “The one who got caught dropping crackers down the back of the younger kid’s pants?”
Trixie said, “No, the younger one. The one who was so smart.”
“Yeah, I do.”
She studied him. He looked up and saw them just then. Trixie waved at him. He seemed to recognize her. Lana said, “Yeah, I believe I see it. What would he be now? Twenty-five?”
“More like twenty-eight.”
“Two questions, then. First, he was so smart what the hell is he doing mowing yards for living?”
“Couldn’t tell you.”
“And second, why is he wearing that hat?”
“Turns out maybe he wasn’t so smart,” Trixie suggested.
Trixie felt her toes wiggle in the summer breeze – toes on the foot that was no longer there. Phantom pain. She’d been having sensations of one kind or another since her amputation, and she found them unnerving, as though she were part ghost. She knew, of course, that the removal of her leg had not removed the synapses in her brain that expected the leg to be there. The new reality made those pieces of grey matter obsolete. But because of it, she knew exactly what had happened to young Basengame as he now strolled towards them wearing that sweat stained red hat with the asinine political slogan, the yard work having been completed. A rapidly changing world had amputated the reality his synapses expected to be there, and he had failed to establish new ones. For all practical purposes he was more functionally disabled than she was. “Hi, Mrs. B,” he said happily. “You look relaxed.”
She knew Lana was floating on too much rum to let it rest. Lana said, “Where’d you get that idiotic hat? Pull it from a shithouse?”
The smile young Basengame began the conversation with immediately evaporated; no doubt not the first time since the failed election his hat had been ridiculed. “I like this hat,” he defended himself.
“Then you’ve got your head up your ass,” Lana told him. “You also believe bigfoot and aliens are trying to bang us to make hybrid babies, dumbass?”
Young Basengame thrust his chin out to show he wouldn’t be pushed around. “He’s a great man who saved America!”
“He’s a criminal who tried to take down democracy for his own profit and he should be in prison.”
Young Basengame glanced at Trixie as if looking for help. She said, “Sorry, kid, I’ve got no sympathy for you.”
He turned his back on them and walked away. “I’m not a kid, old lady,” he shouted over his shoulder. The other young men on the yard crew watched him return as they packed up their equipment and he told them something they couldn’t make out. Then they left.
“Well,” Trixie said, “That went well.”
Lana sipped her daiquiri. “Knock that hat off and staple his mouth shut and I’d still slam him.”
Trixie smiled at her. But between them passed the same thought about the young man who had passed through their classrooms, who had absorbed their lessons, who they remembered as so smart; the dull dread that they had failed.
Pipe Organ Serenade
The boy was brought into the chapel in a wheelchair and situated beside the second row next to where his father and little brother would sit. ‘Boy’, the preacher thought. ‘How can I still call this man a boy?’ Might have been when he left two years ago, having successfully lied about his age to get into the army a little early. He was clearly a boy no longer.
He thought the boy’s – man’s – eyes seemed bright with recognition and could track the preacher as he walked items to and from the pulpit preparing for services. But the angry scar across his head, the depression in his skull as though a piece had been blasted out, the shriveled body, all suggested whatever spark remained did not extend beyond his mind. He didn’t seem unhappy, the preacher thought, then wondered how that could be. Clearly, the preacher concluded as he went about his business while watching him from the corner of his eye, the man retained his perceptions and his self-awareness. But any ability to express his thoughts were gone. Any movements of his extremities to communicate had been taken. All but those eyes, bright green and expressive as a pipe organ and radiating serenity.
The day had seemed so filled with the promise of easy contentment when the preacher climbed into his Model-T that morning, oblivious to the man’s existence. He’d constructed a simple sermon based on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that was little more than extension of other sermons he’d given a hundred times. The drive over country roads to his little church that backed against the woods had been pleasant and gloriously bathed by a kind summer sun. His modest congregation had been through well enough over the past couple years, first with Great War casualties and then those taken by the Spanish flu, the man’s mother having been one of those just a few months back. He’d said words over a half dozen for the former and just shy of a full dozen for the latter. But those traumas had seemed to have played themselves out. He felt the congregation needed simple, gentle forgiveness then sent home feeling good about themselves, cloistered from the harsh world beyond their little valley. It was, he was sure, a time for healing. No place now for fire, brimstone, judgement, or dogma. Should be that way all the time, he thought to himself as he drove along, bouncing over the road so enjoyably.
Then the preacher learned that the man had returned home from an army hospital just days before. He wasn’t sure how much the man’s family had known of his condition before he got there or if they even knew he was coming. No one had reached out to him for guidance – the mother would have, but the father was not so outgoing. There they sat now in the second row, the man in his wheelchair on the side, the father looking bleary-eyed, the little brother looking as always that he’d rather be fishing, the empty space where their mother had sat, and the empty space next to that where the man had sat before the war violently repositioned him. The congregation filed hesitantly in, the man and his family a clear illustration that they were not cloistered safe from the world and could not be any longer. They did not live in an isolated valley. There was no escape. The preacher took position at the pulpit as they settled themselves and looked to him for insight. The man in the wheelchair only looked at him with that deep, peaceful serenity as if heaven itself were flowing through him.
And the preacher thought, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, what the holy hell do I tell these people now?!’ And he wondered what might remotely bring context to the pain of these past couple years. What words could he offer that might provide even the slightest shield against the world? The choir behind him began their opening hymn and he looked to his notes, knowing that every song he had selected, every prayer he had scripted, every word of his sermon was wrong. Like the man in the wheelchair, he felt he had lost all ability to express his thoughts, or even to coalesce thoughts at all.
Then he looked to the wheelchair bound man himself, hoping to find an answer in his expressive eyes. And in fact, deep and abiding, the love he needed to find was there waiting for him.
Six Days In Oblivion
Monday. He woke 7ish with a headache and dehydration, classic hangover. He gulped coffee and chewed a croissant and made art while listening to old music. He did that all day; didn’t see or talk to anyone. In the evening he left his cluttered loft and walked a block to the neighborhood tavern, where he sat on a bar stool and drank beer. He had supper there and watched and listened to the happy, animated, laughing patrons, most of whom he recognized and who recognized him. He hardly talked to anybody except the bartender, but he never did. A guitarist strummed music in the corner. After several hours he returned home and drank whiskey until he fell asleep.
Tuesday. He woke 7ish with a headache and dehydration. He gulped coffee and chewed a croissant. He made art and listened to old music, today jazz rather than yesterday’s classical. He thought to himself what a cultured and eclectic person he was, listening to varied forms of music. At 2p his agent arrived to collect several of his art pieces. The agent had hoped for a specific work the artist was doing on commission. He told his agent to return on Friday and he’d have it. His agent asked how he was doing, what with everything going on. He just shrugged. He wondered what the hell his agent was talking about. In the evening he walked to the neighborhood tavern and sat on a bar stool and drank beer and had supper and watched and listened to the patrons, who he thought seemed less happy and animated and laughing than yesterday, and the guitarist seemed to be playing moodier stuff. The bartender was keeping to himself. After several hours he returned home and drank whiskey until he fell asleep.
Wednesday. He woke 7ish with a headache and dehydration and gulped coffee and chewed a croissant and made art and listened to old blues music. He did that alone all day, then walked to the tavern and sat on his stool with beers and supper, but there was no guitarist. No music playing at all and there were fewer people and they just sort of sat around quietly. He felt annoyed with them. A stern man in a black coat and hood came in and sat alone in a corner and watched everyone even less discreetly than he did. He decided he didn’t like the man. The bartender seemed nervous. After several hours he returned home and drank whiskey until he fell asleep.
Thursday. He woke 7ish with a headache and dehydration and gulped coffee and chewed a croissant and made art and listened to old rock music. After making art all day and finishing the work his agent wanted he walked to the tavern and sat on his stool. The bartender gave him a beer and told him there was no supper except pretzels because the cook had not come to work and again there was no music. And again there were fewer, quieter patrons. The stern man in the black coat and hood returned and this time had two other stern associates with him. They sat for a few minutes, then rose and approached one of the patrons, the stern man standing in front of his table and the two others on either side. “No,” the patron said. “No, I haven’t done anything.” But the two on either side each grabbed an arm each and lifted him, and they left. He returned home and drank whiskey until he fell asleep.
Friday. He awoke as usual and made art all day. He placed the work his agent wanted against the wall, but the agent never arrived to collect it. He kept waiting and delayed leaving for the tavern. He was annoyed, but more confused; his agent was never late. The bartender silently set a beer and a bowl of pretzels in front of him and there was still no music. The stern man and his two stern associates entered, and this time walked straight to the bar, moving behind it to the bartender who backed frightened against the counter and rattled bottles. Each associate took and arm and left with the bartender in tow, but the stern man in the black coat and hood took a seat in the corner and watched. The waitress moved behind the bar, but there were hardly any patrons to attend to and those who were there sat quietly. He looked quizzically to the waitress, who said nothing, then he returned home and drank whiskey until he fell asleep.
Saturday. He slept a little later but still awoke with a headache and dehydration, and did not make art. He spent the day reading novels and relaxing but was distracted by the disruptions he’d witnessed and felt annoyed by that. He still expected his agent to pop up, but he never did. In the evening he walked to the tavern and sat on his stool and the waitress placed a beer in front of him and told him there were no more pretzels, and there was still no music, and hardly any patrons. He hunched over his beer, and then two more, and then the one after those he felt a tap on his shoulder, and he turned expecting his agent had finally showed up. Instead he stared into the face of the stern man and his associates, each of whom placed a hand under his arms, and it dawned on him that, for whatever reason, they were there for him.
Our fair city was graced on January 2nd with a perfect snow – just enough to be pretty, not enough to get in the way. It melted as soon as it hit pavement but stuck to the trees and the foliage. Snow also threatened the following day but succeeded only in filling the air with moisture particles that reflected the available light. The world seemed to glow. Zero wind and temperatures just above freezing. A perfect photographer’s day.
Today I’m beginning a series of about a dozen works captured on that day, each with very little applied from the photo artist’s toolkit, each work in black and white (I still like to call it ‘noir’). It’s as near to straight photography as I get, hell and gone from the abstract work I’ve been doing. All were captured with my Nikon1 V3 using a superb 1Nikkor 18.5 lens.
I’ve always found January and February to be creative deserts. Once in a while, the universe grooves an easy fast ball your way. It would be rude not to say ‘thank you’ and smack it into the bleachers.
* * *
The child sat low, behind the pilot in the cockpit of the starfighter, half asleep and oblivious. Dropping smoothly out of light speed the craft skirted the edge of an asteroid belt, then just as expected the first raiders appeared, and the pilot plunged the starfighter into it.
Raiders were faster but with the move into the belt had to quickly reverse thrust. Advantage went to the pilot who knew where he was going. He fired off lasers to the left, then to the right, then back to the left again as he danced around tumbling space rocks. He positioned the starfighter behind a large one where the raiders could only wait for him to leave its shadow. When he did it was a quick shoot down a narrow corridor the pilot knew would circumvent a choke point where more raiders would be waiting; so quick a turn made in the shadow of the big asteroid that what few raiders saw it, missed it. The starfighter cruised free of them for the moment.
But this part was tricky. The pilot could be quick but due to the narrowness of the corridor also had to be extremely cautious. A spinning boulder or even another raider might pull in front of him at any moment. The child seemed to become more alert now, sensitive to the perils. The pilot steered left into a new, even narrower passageway, then right, then left again, then finally emerging into the clear with just the slightest yield to assure himself he wouldn’t move straight into something. He opened the throttle now. The raiders had been slowed by their own bottleneck. The pilot could see them closing but knew they would be too late, and sure enough he hung the starfighter right, under the umbrella of the planetary defenses and coasted into its atmosphere.
Then everything changed. The pilot’s grip on the controls eased. He could feel the starfighter’s connection to the ground as movement slowed and became measured; the starfighter itself morphed into a more sedate configuration, the cockpit surrounded by glass, the controls simplified. The child rustled behind him, gathering her possessions in anticipation of leaving the craft. And finally the pilot moved carefully into the drop off lane and neatly stopped, just up from the yellow school busses and the throng of teenagers mulling their way towards the building.
“Here you go, kid,” he said to his daughter.
“Thanks, dad,” she said, unbuckling in the backseat.
“Got your horn?” he asked because more than once she’d left her coronet in the car, her ambivalence for playing it overriding her memory to take it.
“Yes, dad,” she held it up, annoyed with his question, “And my backpack, and my lunch, and look,” she announced sarcastically, “I even got completely dressed and put my head on straight!”
“Ok, ok,” he said. “Mom will pick you up after band practice. I’ll see you tonight. Have a good day, I love you.”
The ‘love’ part always softened her a little. He hoped it wasn’t because he didn’t say it enough.
“Thanks, Dad.” She climbed from the sedan and closed the door. Of course, at fourteen, the ‘love’ part was less likely to come in the other direction.
He watched her join the stream of classmates into the building, used his laser – now his turn signal – before pulling away from the drop zone, slipping past the busses and the other parents. As he moved out of and away from the school zone everything changed back; his focus sharpened, the sedan re-morphed into a starfighter, he punched the rockets and roared back into his imagination.
Tea On The Porch
Every cycle around went faster. Every cycle, he burned off more fuel. Less fuel propelled him forward with greater urgency towards the inevitable. If he didn’t break. If he didn’t completely wear down.
Every cycle clicked off like a clock moving faster. Like calendar pages flipping. Twelve turns, each proceeded by ritual shifts effected at exactly the right moment. Unless … unless … NOW! He flicked the paddle shifter that split second later sending him deeper into the corner, breaking that little bit later, and got his nose there before his competitor who had no choice but to let him through. The competitor would attempt an undercut and take the inside on the next turn, but he knew that and blocked accordingly, and once past that turn the competitor could not keep up. But pushing had cost him. He felt himself slip just that little bit closer to too much. The wear, if not his competitors, was catching up.
“2.6 seconds back,” came The Voice in his earpiece. “Nine laps remaining. Plenty of time”
He said, “Left front is nearly gone.”
“Leader is worse off. You’re faster,” and then the motivational psychology, “Take it too him.”
‘I have been,’ he thought, ‘every time around’. Twelve turns, open throttle down twelve straights. Faster, faster, that little bit faster than everyone else. ‘Plenty of time’, he replayed The Voice’s statement in his mind. ‘To do what? One more pass? One more race?’ Flying down the back straight. Hard around the last hairpin, barely staying within track limits; a slip would have put him in the gravel. Blasting along the front straight and across the start/finish to turn one, perfect downshift, perfect breaking, perfect turn-in, perfect acceleration out. Rhythmic. Hypnotic. His perceptions wide, absorbing the peripherals as they rapidly came and went like seasons, each section its own environment, colors, sensations as relevant to the nature of each turn on the circuit. The roars of the engine, the wind, the tires against the track, the crowd and the helicopters whirling above with their cameras tracking his every move, all of it muffled to a whisper by his thick helmet. Gliding past as smoothly as taking tea on the front porch.
“2.2 seconds,” The Voice broke his concentration. ‘The Voice’ was not in rhythm. It came according to someone else’s priorities, as confining for his mind as the track limits. His entire existence confined to a narrow and predetermined path.
Turn five, another left hander, followed quickly by turn six back to the right; slip … slip … the wear was increasing. ‘Focus’, he thought. The Leader had taken tires six laps earlier than he had; that meant he should be six laps fresher. Six laps less wear. But there were now seven laps to go. “1.7 seconds,” came The Voice. But he knew he was going to have to ease off through the turns or wear down too soon. The Voice could not make that decision form him.
After the start/finish, “1.5 seconds; you’re slowing.” The Voice would be worried now, its context not perfectly synced to his own. Another start/finish took him to 5 laps remaining. “1.2 seconds. Now’s the time to go after him.” He knew if he could get to under 1 second the Leader’s tow would create an aerodynamic vacuum that would suck him closer. By turn ten and entering the back straight he felt that tow grab him. He could see the Leader slipping around even worse than he was, taking the turns even more cautiously.
“3 laps to go,” at the start/finish line, “and .4 seconds behind. You’re on him. Make it happen.”
Now the stalking began. Catching was easy. Passing, like comedy, was harder. He began matching the Leader’s movements around the circuit, shift for shift, break for break, looking for moments the pace was a tick slower than his own, like a pick pocket seeking an opening, a weakness. Twelve turns. Then another twelve turns. Over and over and over. Tick. Tick. Tick.
“Last lap,” The Voice came once more as he sailed across the start/finish, the roar of the engines echoing between the crowded, cheering grandstands made surreal and hushed in the reality of his dense helmet. He tried not to think of it as the ‘last’. What was the point of ending? Twelve more turns around one more circuit. The inevitable would take care of itself. Shift and accelerate. Shift and accelerate. Seasons streaking peripherally by. Rhythm. One more pass … NOW!
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.