CRACKUP - TOM LARSEN
He wakes with a gasp. They were having dinner in the Carnelian Room, back when he could still bring himself to go there. Denise walked him to the windows and they looked down on the city. The room began to swirl. He reached to steady himself and his hand went through the glass. Like a thin coat of ice then nothing to stop him. Still feels the shift of balance, a blind swipe behind then gone.
He stops drinking. Alcohol was never his problem but you get older, your body changes. OK, maybe it’s a problem, breaking his nose on a bender last summer, but not this kind of problem. He’s always had violent fantasies, but never so many, and never so vivid. What it’s a sign of couldn’t be good. He watches baseball to keep from sleeping. The games pass in a boring row.
At work he has a premonition he’s about to be shot, a sniper in another building drawing a bead even as he pictures it. Looking up he sees the pressroom reflected in the windows, himself perched at the paste-up table. Through the reflection lights from the parking lot stretch then fade to a row of houses long abandoned, a hundred windows aimed his way.
“Stop it,” he tells himself, but the feeling persists. He wouldn’t even hear the shot, just that final thought and lights out. And how you see that sort of thing all the time in the movies, even on television. Heads blown apart, limbs severed, guts slithering, more graphic than the real thing could ever be. Blowback and blood splatter and how it was when he was a kid. The guy grabbed his stomach and slumped to the floor. In the movie of his life his chin snaps back and his skull shatters in a million pieces. Even better, his feet fly up and he back-flips into the gore dappled copy machine.
Smoke break. He takes the elevator, down a long hallway and into the muck. Jesus, like an armpit out here. Stands deep in the corner away from the light, smoking and staring at the Hi Hat Bodega. Countless hours spent staring at it. The slight tilt, structural damage or the weight of the years, who knows. He’s never been in there. Never seen a white person go in or out. And now that he’s looking he notices potted plants on a third floor window ledge, then more plants on more ledges and other things, bottles and toys, a car battery, a hibachi. One drunken stumble, one clunk of a watering can away from going over. He takes the train in when he works days, walks the four block through Chinatown, a thousand ledges at the ready.
“Don’t do this,” he scolds himself. Millions of people walk these streets without incident. Don’t they? Would it even make the papers? Would they bother to tell us?
He sees what can only be a brick on the pavement near the bodega door. Running his eyes up he spots a gap in a row between the third floor windows, a black hole where a brick should be. A brick!
“Cave your fucking head in,” he hears himself mutter. Thinks of how they’d do it in the movies, a loud crunch and a burst of brain matter. Freak accident, out of the blue, countless ways to die and nothing to be done about it. He’s afraid to go in the water. He won’t fly and keeps a defibrillator in the drawer by the bed. And how will he be able to walk to the train station, four blocks, a million crumbling bricks, mortar gone to dust, ledges lined in deadly objects. If he can’t do it he can’t work, the downward spiral, things that prey on the mind, no end to them.
BIO: Tom Larsen has been a fiction writer for fifteen years, his work has appearing in Newsday, New Millennium Writing, Puerto del Sol and Antietam Review. His short story “Lids” was included in Best American Mystery Stories – 2004. His novel FLAWED was released in October. He’s been published here before.
15 hours ago