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Next to the Last Stool - Short Story by Jim Meirose

Who? Who’s a dead man? That’s all you have to say? The morning washed out down melted. So what time is it anyway? Must have seen the time, but; the time was all stolen gulped down into the drunk. Oh well, go shower, there’s no right and wrong time to shower, if when the shower’s done, the clock can be seen, and says it’s much too early, just towel off dry and go back to bed with one big chore of the day done and gone already even before waking up. Hey. But, the vodka man talks, louder still, loud enough to burst eardrums bloody.

Yes, really; a waste for you all!

Clothing falls off, gone across the floor. Again, no decision was needed to let go the clothes. The clothes just all fell away as if changed to wisps of smoke. Go in the bathroom, step in the shower, after the shower light came on, all commanding, like the drunk.

Can you hold a number in your hand right up to the day you die?

That’s no question to leave the shower for. Plunge the water on with the chrome plated valve. Stand in the cone of water; all dotted line drops dropping all blurry, a sheaf of dotted wet drops falling fast and noisy. The warmth came, the warmth, and the first piss of the day got let go into the tub and the shower powered along faster, faster yet.

—In white bright dark nothing ever moves—

After the shower the dark bedroom came around again, before it could even be noticed, it was there. Stood dry in the dark, not even having felt the savory sweet rub of the soft dry towel rubbing all over everywhere until everything is perfectly clean and dry; that’s gone, never was, and still the sleeper lies blocking the glowing nightclock’s hidden hands that mocked crying out, You will never know the time, because of the silly sleeper. Hah! You will never know the time, because of the silly sleeper. Hah! You will never—

—It is happening every day.

Sure yes, okay, agreed; it’s happening every day; like gripping and dragging the cheap plastic loaded dirty clothes hamper bump bump bump down the stairs every morning. Being up’s not like laying idly asleep. Being up, means find thing after things after thing to do, until it comes time to sleep again. So the kitchen came up, down the stairs, and lit up the words the drunk blurted this time.

Lord, God, how bad he needed a job.

Sure, sure; everybody needs a job, until they die or retire which always seems so far away, but then rushes pop right up in your face. The kitchen’s lit looking like it could be any time at all, and the memories of last night come closer, but; the room’s quite gloomy, this early. Must wake better. How? Oh, coffee. Make, have, and swallow coffee swiftly; and down it flows shockingly hot crying out, You must get ready go out and get to work early; you must hurry before something happens that it’s too early for you to remember; so very very wise and true was this, yes, yes, today no time for toast, but—the voice the words pop the toast anyway—

Do you?

God almighty, what a question, that the answer to is yes so often, that it’s the answer everybody gives, if it’s true or not. All answers must be pleasant answers. So after snapping the coffee maker off, went up to the clothes hung waiting to be put on. Back up in the bedroom, the window shade edges now glow with gentle light. The sleeper’s still sleeping. Wait, what, still don’t really know the time. The glowing hands of the clock, still blocked by the sleeper, still refuse to supply the time. Idiot! Why did you not check the time downstairs? Why do you only think it’s important to know the time, when the only clock in sight is hidden in the dark, behind some sleeper? Never mind, no—knowing the time is very silly. Hurried and hired to dress fast and silent. Time’s not important. What’s important is never wake a sleeper, so push, push, faster, yes; all dressed. All ready, all successful. And since the dog passed six months ago, there’s nothing more to do as far as chores in the early morning house. So go down in and through the kitchen light and leave. Forgetting to look at the clock, of course, but not knowing that because knowing would have prevented forgetting and so such round and round like that—

No doubt she is totally different by now.

Outside it is summer, it’s green, and it’s cool, but by midday it will be totally different, like the man said about whoever she is, it will all be scorching sweat and stench but, you’ll get there you’ll get there, to the big everyday corporate box o’ cubes, so, funny! Huge great bit corporate box o’ cubes, to run to, and stay in, and keep cool, the same all year round. Shit pissed and weighed upstairs this morning too, pops into the warm car about to go to the box; shit was okay, piss all mucho, but weight was totally unacceptable, shouldn’t have had salami or that other thing—the start of the car rushes over though, turning the key, gripping the wheel, turning around, it’s all homes flowing past and then slowly merges all together and it is the Interstate and the speedometer says seventy-five—

Don’t spend it worrying—

Huh? Worrying? Why drink alone at a fucking stinking bar, if you’re not trying to prevent worrying? But that car slid out from under the voice that said more, and more, shit from next stool, but the interstate sign says, turn, so turn, and slow, and brake, and steer, and there’s the box coming, coming up. It has all necessary parking places, and it’s pushing all words said last night away; so, everything is wonderful, beautiful, fabulous and pure—park, shut, zip up the emergency brake even though nobody in real life ever uses it for an emergency. Emergency brake; what an anachronism! Emergencies happen much too fast, why no one could ever—yes what an anachronism, emergency brake! Emergency brake, what an—

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