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Living on the Edge

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MOST PEOPLE WOULD have said that I was a lucky man. I had it all: a beautiful wife a well adjusted honor roll student of a son a sprawling house in the country and a spacious magnificently decorated high rise in the city (the interior of which was designed by the finest decorator Manhattan could muster from its spiritually dead bosom). My home is now a stationary quarter with no fifty-six inch plasma screen TV, no exotic fish aquarium the size of a small swimming pool, and no more trips to Europe or summer stays at Lake Tahoe. There’s just me and a large shard of glass which has now become as much a part of my body as any of my functioning organs. If I were to be moved in any extreme direction in order to extract my body from the plate glass lodged halfway through my abdomen and just a hair’s length away from the aorta (as the finest doctors had put it to me when it happened), the artery would be severed, causing not only massive blood loss but an instantly fatal staunch of blood to my heart.

So how did I get here? What happened that caused me to be looking out the front window of America’s most popular department store, impaled on a piece of glass that could cause my very death? What started the chain of events that lead me to now be hooked to various medical apparatuses?  For instance, I have a feeding tube because I can no longer properly digest solid food as part of the glass crushed my intestines against itself.  Several IVs keep my blood circulating and a special seating device keeps my body immobile and my head propped up. The specific events can be pinpointed one year ago today.

It was Black Friday. I was an ad executive for one of the largest marketing firms in the world. The morning was brisk and surprisingly sunny, the perfect day for shopping. I had arrived at the entrance of Daisy’s department store, the ultimate in shopping experience, with every possible material possession imaginable, everything from home decor to lawn tools and clothes of every style to suit a variety of tastes.

This Christmas was all about Mo Mo the monkey. A purple, furry little monkey that talked and danced. Actually, the annoying little shit couldn’t do much but say a few uplifting words, move its head around awkwardly and walk maybe two or three steps before falling on its fur covered mechanical ass. It was a cheaply designed, cheaply manufactured toy built for mass production on such a large scale as to be ready for distribution anytime. It was cost efficient. I had created a wide ad blitz saturating all of Americas TVs, leaving little “junior” with the idea that he must have this stupid monkey or he would be left out. And one thing children do not want to be is left out of the group, something that becomes a much more dangerous concept as the child becomes an adult, particularly adults with power.

I had arrived one hour before store opening; maybe one hundred people had assembled. By about a quarter past 7:00am, the crowd had doubled and the restlessness was palpable. As a gimmick to whet the insatiable appetite of the crowd, I had come up with the idea that a dozen free Mo Mo dolls would be handed out. This would be, I failed to realize, an error in judgment. The chaos and horror that ensued would leave me pissing in a catheter and defecating in a colostomy bag, neither of which give me much joy, I must say.

I first threw two dolls into the crowd. A dip in the middle of the crowd could be seen as dozens went down to retrieve the toy. Shouting and violent thrusting ensued as several people had grabbed the doll by each furry little limb. The poor thing was being yanked back and forth, to and fro, with no way to give its opinion on the matter. One large woman about twenty-six or twenty-seven years old began screaming, verbally assaulting the little nine year old boy who had a firm grasp on the doll’s left leg. “You little shit, I had him first. You’re too old for dolls!” she shouted, slapping at his hand and pulling at the same time.

“You’re a fat cow!” he replied, giving all seventy pounds of his weight in a twisted sort of tug-of-war. Another woman of about seventy had a hold of the right leg of the doll. She was a spunky old lady with a stubbornness born in those who have lived a lengthy life. “This is my grandson’s, and so help me God, I’ll pepper spray you if you give me half a chance you little brat,” she said, grabbing her purse with her free hand and smacking it against the little boy’s head. But he was persistent. The tug-of-war became so intense that eventually the little limbs tore off and the doll fell to the ground. This seemed to trigger the dolls “on switch” and its eyes opened, its head moved back and forth, and in a high-pitched, throaty voice it began to speak. “Hi there, it’s me, your buddy Mo Mo. Let’s be friends!” It continued moving its limbless body, save one arm, in a grotesque show, opening and closing its large, white eyes. A grin seemed to be plastered on its furry, purple face. It all seemed obscene.  “Look what you’ve done you little monster,” screamed the large woman.

“Please ladies and gentlemen,” I implored, “If you will only be patient, the store will open in ten minutes. You’ll be able to shop at your heart’s content. There’s plenty for all.” My plea fell on deaf ears. Soon several people lunged at the box of Mo Mo dolls and quickly flung them in the air. Again, a dip could be seen among the crowd grabbing for the sacred jewel of the season. In the pandemonium, I was knocked backward and onto my ass, hitting full force against a metal border separating the large glass panels at the front of the store. I shook my head in a daze. The security detail was four men with tasers and no clear idea how to handle such situations.  They simply stood aside so as to not be swept up in the maelstrom. The mob now pressed against the store windows and pounded their fists, shaking the door handles violently.  “Open these doors!” they began to shout.

I stood up and backed away a bit, realizing that there was no taming this madness. I began to feel a nudging at my side. It was the encroachment of the mob, as each body being pushed had a domino affect and I was at the very end of the line. I tried to push people away, but the pressure that came back at me was harder and harder. Finally, with one forceful push, I let all my weight slam against the person in front of me, who in turn crashed into an already agitated man with dark hair and a stern face. With a violence I had never seen before, he came charging at me full force from a distance of about fifteen feet, lowering his shoulders and like a linebacker, plowed into me with a force so intense that my vision, breath, and balance gave way.

I was launched into the department store window. I don’t remember what happened immediately afterward. I must’ve blacked out.

I was on a sunbathed porch, my beautiful wife in a polka-dotted sundress sitting by my side on a porch swing. We sipped martinis and watched our adventurous son play king Arthur. He’d strapped a long piece of cardboard to his chest with a design of a cross in red marker. He swung a pointed stick in the air, jabbing at some invisible dragon or evil knight. The little suburban street was clean, full of vibrant spring life. Neighbors were mowing lawns or fixing classic cars in their driveways. But something didn’t feel right. Something gnawed at me, nothing physically discernable, just a feeling of uneasiness. This is not the world. This never was the world. I looked over at my wife in confusion. She was looking away, her head tilted slightly upward. She looked unhappy. I closed my eyes and tried to assuage a sudden feeling of anxiety. I realized then that my wife had never been happy. I was never really happy. There was little between us but our son, and that is only enough to keep a couple together for so long until a complete breakdown of the whole scene, a going through the motions until one day those motions on such a straight path are knocked off kilter, sending the axis of this unreal world into mayhem.

I opened my eyes and saw what was a beautiful world melt into a nightmare. It was still sunny, the sky still a radiant blue. But the feeling of dread crept not only in my bones, but the very air that I breathed. My son was nowhere to be found. My wife had vanished. I was struck now with panic. I tried to grasp the handle of the swinging bench, but I was so shaken that I couldn’t grip it enough to lift my shaking legs off my seat. With a quick determination, my heart stuck to my throat, I leapt up, raced off of the porch and into the street.

I saw Dave, my neighbor across the street, half under his 68' Jaguar XKE, as he always was, fixing this or that or just touching up his “baby,” as he called it. I felt some relief. I knew I wasn’t crazy. I took a few deep breaths and calmly approached. “Dave,” I began, “ Dave, buddy, what’s going on?” I stood right above him now, and he stopped whatever he was doing and slid out from underneath the car.

“What is it look like I’m doing Steve? Just a little fine tuning.” What I saw not only confounded me, but horrified me in a way that is indescribable. It was Dave, alright, in the flesh. But it was the tools he was using that made me gasp. He extended his hand toward me and I shrunk back. “What the hells gotten into you? It’s like you’ve never seen the XTP Organichine tool frame before,” he said, walking slowly towards me. His hand was larger than it should’ve been, with tools for fingers. Not just any tools, but tools that looked like flesh, five tools jutting out of this organically freakish hand. “Don’t you remember, Steve.  This here is the model you marketed as the new and best in machine repair excellence. In fact, it was your company that test marketed it in this area. I was the first one, Steve. You know how they say ‘the kinks are always present when the product first comes out?’ Well, now I can’t switch this out with a real hand because of complications. Try picking up your kid with a Goddamned hand that could puncture his organs!” I turned quickly and ran back to my house. I searched the backyard for my son. As I turned to go back into the house, I saw him. I shook with terror, before me stood my son. Half of his head was a Mo Mo face, one arm was a furry, purple thing that moved erratically, and he dragged one furry, stuffed leg along like an invalid. As he approached me, I collapsed to the ground, covering my head with my arms.

When I awoke, faces appeared above me. It was night. Doctors and paramedics shuffled around me, consulting one another. I peered around and saw what appeared to be some twisted, unreal version of a Civil War zone. There were stuffed animal arms and legs strewn across the parking lot. Decapitated Mo Mo monkey heads all over the place. It was clear they were now pumping morphine into me to keep the pain at bay. They told me what happened. I had landed on a large shard of glass too close to the aorta, and any slight movement could sever the artery and kill me on sight. I went back to sleep.

And here I am, one year later.  A new pane of glass has been replaced in front of me along with more floor space so that now I am on display. In fact, when the owner of the store realized that this situation could be a detriment to his business, someone, somewhere, gave him the idea to use me to their advantage. I am now a living model, a living advertisement for whatever new brand of clothing or accessory can adorned me to sell the product. I am the ultimate marketing gimmick. I myself could not have conjured anything more profitable and brilliant.

The management of the store had the idea to dress me in Santa clothes. I have a red cap on my head with a large, white ball on top. A string of blue and red Christmas lights wrap around each of my legs individually, winding around my arms and the rest of my body.

A big white box with the words ‘Dear Santa’ written in large green letters was placed in front of me with the owner telling me to hold it tightly for children to drop their toy wishes into it.  Several hours ago a little boy, maybe the age of five or six, walked over and dropped a letter into the box. He was sucking on a fudgesicle, half of which was smeared on his face. His mom called to him and he ran past me, the fudgesicle dropping into the fake, fluffy white beard strapped on my face. It hung there like a turd waiting to drop off the rim of a toilet.

It’s Black Friday, and the crowd is bigger than ever. Just a few moments ago I saw my wife and son pass by, heads hung low in shame without even the slightest acknowledgment of my presence. She was walking by holding another man’s hand. I ducked my head low in humiliation, my colostomy bag slowly filling up with the waste that is my life.?

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I've already gotten comments from people that your short story is dark.... I didn't realize that before but I guess it is. Have you ever written an optimistic work?

Joshua Hennen
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