ART LITERATURE ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY STAFF PERFORMING ARTS TOUCHSTONE
ALYSSA SHERWOOD | Fiction 676 MILES FROM THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE
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 He sits with his back facing the Saturn Ions, facing the used Jeep Cherokees, facing all the chaos cruising up and down North Surf Drive. Sand from the beach coats his pants as he sits, legs and fingers sprawled out, his finger resting on a stranger’s smoked cigarette butt. A cool breeze from the North Atlantic Ocean stings his eyes. He can’t bring himself to close them. The brilliant sun slowly sinks into the ocean as a plastic bag with a yellow smiley face rolls like a tumble weed across the sand. Somehow, he made it. Somehow, he made it all the way to Hollywood, Florida. He had read the book enough times to know that he was staring out at the Bermuda Triangle. The book was hidden behind a row of self-help books, but somehow he had found it. Its tattered pages and ripped cover had clearly slipped through inspection. He kept the book stowed away in his quarters where no one could find it. At night, he read about the yacht that aimlessly floats, driven by ghosts. He read about a plane consumed by a strange fog. He read about the freighter that disappeared with not so much as a ripple. This strange place, he thought; a place to go to disappear. He is thankful that he had learned how to read. Though he doesn’t know who to thank for it. Himself, most likely. While the other guys at the correctional center occupied their time with roughing up new kids or trading cigarettes for pornos in the courtyard, he read. He got lost in other worlds in that library. It was always quiet and empty. He knew now that if he swam 676 miles due east, he would disappear. The picture was crooked. The top right corner of the frame was cracked. It was a picture that was obviously donated. It was donated by a hotel that was getting updated. Management of the new hotel, that had wiped dozens of mom and pop motels off the map, donated the worn picture of a beach sunset to the Jackson County correctional center in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. It was their way of saying we support our community even though we put most of it out of business, even though this picture isn’t something we would put in our own houses, even though this picture will make the inmates miss their freedom more than they already do; we support you all. The picture was the last thing he saw before he walked out. It was a warm, June, Wednesday afternoon. The facility wasn’t surrounded by cement walls. There wasn’t an alarm system. Security guards didn’t continuously stand monitoring the facility while holding batons and assault rifles. In fact, the only security officers were a heavy set woman named Cheryle who had a partial mustache or Gary who never wore a belt to hold up his pants. He regularly checked in with the two officers to see if he had missed any phone calls. He never had any, but he always checked. On that Wednesday, he noticed Cheryle was not sitting in her usual desk chair. She had probably been out back smoking. He waited for a while and then turned to leave, but noticed the unattended door and the sun shining in through the finger smudged window. It wouldn’t be hard, he had thought. No one would even know. He stepped closer to the door and reached for the handle. He pushed the door slightly open first before he slipped completely through it and walked out. A woman wearing a bright pink t-shirt and mini shorts blocks his view. Her thick thighs move up and down with every heavy step she takes through the sand and cigarette butts. His heart races as he whips his body into a crouching position. He keeps his eyes peeled on the bright woman’s back and notices the fat rolls she managed to squeeze into her tight shirt. She didn’t even acknowledge him, though. She isn’t looking for him. She’s just jogging. He wonders how many people are looking for him. He’s hundreds of miles from home, though. Where would they start? He keeps watching the woman. She stops, grabbing both her sides while staring up at the sky. She wasn’t moving all that fast, but her breathing is heavy. Too heavy. Like today she woke up and said, “Time for change!” She grabbed her tennies and started running. Before he occupied a bed at the correctional center, he lived in a compact apartment right above the laundromat on Main Street. He hated the apartment, especially when people brought their yapping dogs to keep them company while their Levis and bras dried. But, the space was sufficient. The rent was cheap, when he paid it that was. His landlord, Glenda, never enforced rent money. As long as her renters paid her in something, anything, she called it good. Her favorite check was written in sex, but she also accepted Coors Lite and Lark cigarettes. Her great uncle, who performed under-table, physician assistant suicides out in Montana, fell down a flight of stairs and eventually died leaving her a hefty inheritance, but not before he laid on the basement floor for almost two weeks. Poor guy could have used a taste of his own medicine. Every first Monday of the month, he would hear a knock at the door. He always knew when it was her. She knocked the rhythm of Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits. Glenda would stand in the door frame wearing a top that screamed at the seams. She was always eager to see him, because he almost never had rent money to give her. “Hey sweety, have my rent?” “Uh. Shit, Glenda.” He didn’t have anything to give her. No beer. No cigarettes. “That’s no problem, sweets. Say, what are you doing right now?” She asked, eyeing his naked chest. She followed him closely to his humid bedroom, acting like this was something she had never done before and she was appalled they were about to do such a thing. Before she bounced on his bed, making the springs cry out, she violently tore off her clothes and sprawled out on his bed. They never tried anything new, and she always demanded he be on top. He never particularly enjoyed the sex, though any sex was good. Sometimes he would pretend they were together. Like they were an actual couple who would have sex without closing the blinds, take a shower together, and then go share a milkshake. And he would come home to dinner on the table with her in an apron. But then, he would look down and see her face and remember that she was pretending too. “Wow,” she would say, out of breath while staring up at the ceiling. She made up some story of where she needed to be; “I’ve got to run. My girlfriend and I are going to a Zumba class. You know, bikini season and all.” She scrambled to find her clothes and left. From his window that faced the parking lot, he watched her slide into her 1990, purple, Pontiac grand prix. She was still in ear shot. If he opened the window, he could have call out her name. He could have told her he loved her, or he could have told her he thought he loved her. That might’ve started an fight, though. He liked not paying rent. When her keys entered the ignition, she rolled all for windows down and threw on her big bug sunglasses. He reached for a joint in the top drawer of his nightstand. It was some new weed he had gotten from a high school drop-out, his dealer. After several minutes of letting the effects sink in, he was floating. He kept floating. At first, he floated around the living room and then into his kitchen. The fridge was empty. He was hungry. He floated down the stair case, past the parked vehicles, past the born again Christian gospel hall, past the vacuum cleaner repair shop, and past the hair salon that was really just a house. He floated seven blocks south and all the way to Hardees. He floated around the line dividers and to the cashier, a lanky boy with greasy hair and red acne covering his face. He floated, weaving around straw wrappers and ketchup spills. He floated right into a booth behind two local police officers. Slowly, he unwrapped his double cheeseburger, carefully chewing the bite of processed meat and grease. A glare of sunlight hit the side of his face. He saw it. Glenda’s purple Pontiac. It was hers alright. It had to be. Her car door swung open, and he couldn’t believe it, Glenda, in Daisy Duke shorts and a plaid crop top stepped out. He stopped chewing. She looked about fifty pounds lighter than the last time he had seen her which was not enough time to complete a transformation like that. He put the burger down, and continued to chew the pieces still left in his mouth. He needed to get a better look. He crawled, on all fours, onto the table and then placed both hands flat against the glass. She leaned against her purple hood staring at him through the window. She looked like she wanted him bad. No, like she needed him bad. It was Glenda all right, but what the hell was wrong with her. Her clothes, the look in her eyes; it was all wrong. “Sir?” A voice cut in from behind him. He turned. It was the officer who had smiled. He was still smiling, but now it looked more like a smirk. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to get off the table.” He got down. The officer bent over just enough to get a good look at his face. He knew something was off. He probably smelt it. “Sir, are you on any sort of drug right now?” He asked. “Yeah,” he said. The word was out of his mouth before his brain comprehended what the question was. “I’m going to have to ask you to step outside with me, sir,” the officer said, as he moved to the side so he could slide out of the booth. His life was a Johnny Cash tune. Except it was the afternoon instead of early morning, except that he was caught with pot instead of cocaine, except that he hadn’t shot his wife down or anyone else. He wouldn’t spend the next 99 years in the Folsom pen. Instead, the verdict read that he would pay a triple digit fine and spend a few months in the Jackson county correctional center where the doors were guarded by Cheryl and Gary. People are always naming things after presidents. Babies, counties, roads. All the roads here are named after presidents. Harrison, Van Burren, Jackson, Monroe. He’s been walking these streets for a long time. He thinks of what he knows about presidents. Of course Lincoln freed the slaves. Kennedy was assonated by someone from the grassy knoll. He remembers reading that Jimmy Carter spotted a UFO once. And that Trumans’ middle initial S doesn’t mean anything. His parents thought and thought about a good middle name, but nothing in the end, they decided on one letter that was meaningless. Sitting in a booth next to a foggy window, he keeps his hood up in attempts to hide his face in a run-down 24/7 breakfast joint about a mile south from the beach. The lights make everything look yellow. A couple sits on stools, sipping coffees in dirty mugs. Another man sits in a booth on the opposite end talking to himself, reciting astrology facts. He asks the cute waitress, whose name tag read: KATRINA, for a Mountain Dew. “Just a Mountain Dew?” She asks and then winks. “It’ll just be a sec.” “He’s a real dirt bag,” a distant voice states. But, he thinks he recognizes the voice. It sounds the same as the voice that would ask him for rent money the first Monday of every month. It sounds like the same voice that yelled “yes!” followed by his name in bed. Her voice came from a box TV mounted above the bar. The woman is a local of Hollywood and her interview was pre-recorded, probably had been playing most of the day. He doesn’t know her name. It isn’t Glenda. He doesn’t know who she is talking about. She isn’t talking about him. Why isn’t anyone talking about him? He rubs his face with his hands. When he lifts them from his eyes, he sees the grainy-footage of his escape. It happened in broad daylight, but it looked dark. Like the lost footage of bigfoot. What was he expecting would’ve happened? Did he think panic would ensue? Did he think Wisconsin citizens would take caution for weeks? That they would bring their pets inside? That they would take their keys out of their vehicles instead of leaving them in the ignition? That they would actually lock their doors at night? Did he think he’d be public enemy number one? “Hey Sweety, can I get you anything else?” Katrina asks, setting the plastic cup of Mountain Dew down in front of him. He’s still staring at the TV screen. “Oh, that woman.” Katrina says, staring at the screen as well. “She’s been bitching all week. She’s some Everglades activist or something. She thinks the oil spill from the Gulf is polluting the swamps. If she could hear herself talk. They’re swamps. The only thing in them are those damn crocs and they’re nothing to fuss about. Those swamps should be filled in if you ask me. Sweety?” She asks again. “Everything alright?” He digs a five dollar bill out of his pocket, places it on the table, and leaves. Before making it out of Wisconsin, he trudged through a forest just outside of Janesville. A boy, fourteen maybe sixteen years old sat on a fallen oak tree, smoking a joint. He stood motionless and the boy sat as if nothing was out of the ordinary. They stared at each other for a few seconds. “Hey,” the boy said, voice squeaky. He was probably closer to fourteen. “Hey,” he said, not moving whatsoever. “Want a hit?” The boy asked, holding the joint out, voice squeaking at the word “hit.” He sat next to the boy on the tree and took the joint from his fingers. He inhaled and internally rejoiced by the familiar feeling. “Why are you out here?” He asked the boy. “Just walking,” he said. “You?” He passes the joint back to the boy. “Some asshole bought all my parent’s land and is going to turn it into a sand mine. I like these woods. I can hide here.” These were nice woods, he had thought. What a shame. “Where are you headed?” The boy asked. “Nowhere. Just disappearing is all.” “Why?” He could have made up a reason why. He could have said that his dad was a real asshole. That when he was eight and he’d ask him for help pronouncing a new word, his dad would tell him to “fuck off.” He could have said that the love of his life didn’t love him. That she used him. That she loved someone else. He could have said all that, but he didn’t. He handed the boy back his joint. He left the boy smoking his joint on the fallen oak without another word. Just a smile.
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