The Fiction

You’re Fuckin’ Right, You’re Fuckin’ Right

From the Halloween, 2008, issue 

(No. 21)

Art by Ian Phillips
Ian Phillips

Someone stood on my hand in the night. They mustn’t have seen me. Which is good. They might have thought I was a heavy bag or a balled-up carpet. I don’t go out of my way to hide myself in the day, but I do look for places out of the sun. Sunken stairwells I like. Recesses. Spots that are not open. Wind goes elsewhere if your walls are all touching you. But last night, someone found me. Didn’t find me, actually. Stepped on me. My hand. Pressure on the fingers, splaying them as I slept. Dreamed of being stepped on. So now that night has fallen I am going to move. I lift and leap to the roof of a shed in the alley, then I drop to the narrow curb running against the grass here. I can move silently and rapidly on surfaces that are four inches wide. My feet can grab and release the ground fast when they know what to expect. Up a fire escape. One arm and hand over, and I am up four flights in three moves then I’m using the momentum to fly up to the flat roof. The pebbly surface means I run instead of jump, but I’m still a blur and then I’m on the front, four floors up. I don’t look to see who’s in there. A man is standing by the entrance to a hallway. I push off the wall with my feet and move clean through his back with the balled fist. His spine hits the floor like dice. A woman in purple is going to turn, but I lop one of her arms off and keep going. The blood is loud as it lands. Kitchen empty, I think. Then gone. The apartment hall is great. Both feet halfway up opposing walls, and knees don’t even have to pump. Just the spring at the ankle and I’m like water in a hose. Stairwell down but I don’t remember. Then the street, which I hate, one older man is just a momentary wetness on my chest and left arm, then two teenage girls sort of pop like bubbles and leave a young red wind underfoot. Then the recycling box and halfway up a lamppost onto the side of a building above pizza. A man in the window. Can’t not stop, so I make the glass tiny and stop beside him for a moment. Don’t know if he sees but I get one hand on his jaw and the other on top and turn it upward. I remove the centre and see the door is cracked. So go. I drop some of the middle of his head and because I’m in a hurry it gets bent around the door frame before something else happens to it. Didn’t notice the dog, so I take one step back and one forward to drive the chest apart. Feel a little like I’m wasting my time with things that don’t matter. Three at the elevator who saw the dog go down and don’t see me come around off the corner, and because three together is not going to happen again for almost a minute I watch where I put things. His hands up into her back and out pointing down into his eyes. The fingers are hard and sharp at this speed so they scoop in and are bested by the back of the skull. Hard to know exactly how that ends, but I get a little spasm in my own finger. Could be anything. Probably pass. Gone already. The street again feels like I’ve been here all night and so, onto a streetcar, two steps, then a car, foot goes through and feel somebody up around it. Light suction as I get out. Red light. Jump to orange. And a hall. Big hall. Music. Land on the third floor but keep going. Don’t know what but this is just the way it has to go. Hard to say and do at the same time. Two shoulders. Use somebody’s hand to stand and it goes out. Chest. Three run. I think there is a sense that I am here. Decide to try a slap and four vertebrae go under a scalp so worth it again and this time the whole shoulder comes off and for a moment looks like you could cook it. Unexpected that it’s its own side event and have to look back to see. It turns an old woman’s stomach into its cloth. He’s yelling so I do my feet in a quick circle to take out just eyes. Only eyes with tips of feet. Feel good and use the circle as a way of going straight up. You never go straight up and I smear a caged light on the wall. Make it up far enough to reach a beam and dive, waiting for my feet to grab and that is a very, very advantageous way to pull so the beam comes free at the end I left and I have enough going that I can just hold on as I go through the concrete wall. The beam falls but I am going so fast that I have no idea. Dark, which I like, and people, probably thousands under. The move is amazing. I go probably six hundred feet without having to do anything. I should do anything and I hit the far side hard and fall. Don’t like falling and it makes me mad. And slow. I make a mess. I pull a throat clear out and onto somebody so bad that the throat is part of his head before he dies. Still mad, I push a girl into what might be her boyfriend and her arm is bagged by his left lung. Keeps going cause I’m stuck until I feel better. I punch, which I rarely do, and her face caves like bubble wrap. Try this: put two shoulders into each other so pressure makes the stomach fizz out between the legs. Slap, slap, slap...eyes and teeth in a braid, then a tongue, as if it’s happy to be doing this forever. It goes forever. I feel stupid. Like a bomb. So I move. Just feet to floor but I pump hard and feel people slip over me like hot food. Hold the last person at the door and under me they are a temporary sled. I lie on this wet person and go down the hall. The ground comes up through them pretty quick so I tap the friction and that sends me up through a tall window above the main entrance. Streetcar. I go too far and, luckily, into an alley and some papers there and a red light and another fire escape at the end that I bend going up, as it turns out, twenty-three storeys. My steam takes me a few dozen more feet into open air, then down. Gravity, in spite of what you may think, slows me down, I am pushing against a second force that is terrible lazy and stubborn. I swing in at the fifteenth floor and divide a dog, a man, and three children into 3,989,793 pieces. Each one is cone-shaped for one very impressive second then recombine as muck. I check my watch and realize I need to be somewhere.

It is built by Camerer Cuss and Company, in London. The face is what I expect, Roman numerals on the hour markers and a complete non-numerated minute track. It is framed in a hinged brass bezel that sits snugly in a wood bezel. Beneath this I see less. The pendulum assembly with its fusee stop and tension spring. I am aware of the mighty and gold lenticular bob. The case has an inspection door on the side and at the bottom behind the bob, a hatch. The key is there too, the winding and the bottom door key, which are often missing from these old mechanicals. It has been wound and the time is correct, though who knows how she keeps it. It’s easy enough to bend over when the attention’s elsewhere and push a hand. I don’t know if it’s working and this upsets me unreasonably. I could ask, but I will be told either that it works perfectly or that it is as it is. Its gong could have an ugly sound and no matter where you mount it you will hear this. It might need winding constantly and slip when you try. It may be something I will neglect, regret. Sitting on the wall like a shadow. It might be a last straw of some kind. I might be acquiring my last straw and not even know it. But if it is that, is it the best of all the straws? Isn’t the last straw the one that makes a burden impossible, which, finally, is what a burden should be? I look twelve or so inches past it to a shallow sheet-metal case. Homemade. The green paint is chipped and scratched. Rust orange and two circular black marks and a heavy diagonal smear that may be a burn scar. The clasp on the side is loose. I flip the lid. Four or five screwdrivers. Each form a different set. Translucent handles. Green. Red. The Phillips has a messy burred tip. There’s an old slip of wood. A level. I close the case lightly, more lightly than anyone has in years. An ashtray with a clear glass plate circled by a heavy replica of a snow tire. Ten hacksaw blades. An old Palm Pilot. It looks as big as a box spring. The stylus missing. There are pickaxes under the table. None of this stuff, at least nothing at this table, is going to help me. I push the pointer fingers on either hand down on the table edge so my hands bend in at the wrists. Sandra is probably watching me. After eight years together it has come to this. Money. It’s all there is in the end. The terrible dying baby in the hall. Your chest streaked with rage. The hour before you eat. The hour before you sleep. Sandra is back there somewhere, watching. She knows I’m wrong. I know I’m wrong. What we need is a gas stove. That would help hydro bills. We need a vacuum cleaner. Sandra is four tables over holding a tall glass. She’s holding it up in the light. There are windows lining the top of the arena walls and sunlight stands like an inverted pyramid. I think she looked at me, then away quickly. She is saying, Don’t look at me.

Don’t look at me.

The crowd is making its way to the northeast. A short man with a straw hat stands saying nothing while they move on him. He holds a black microphone wrapped in a light blue hanky. He has a cruel face and he is impatiently watching a young man rearrange boxes.

Here we have here we have here we have the main event ladies and boys and boys and girls the main event here we go. We’re gonna do boxes, everything in the box, you bid on the box and take the box the first box, here, we start some handy things for handy men, some tools hammer and flashlight and things you can take home and take a look. Two dollars two dollars the man in suspenders three, do I hear three for the box with the hammer, do I have three? Once it’s gonna be yours, yeah you. Once, twice, and that’s your box for three and one the next box we have some...turn these around so I can see, we have a box of canning equipment get it all at once the whole kit starts at two and do I hear two, and two, everything you need to start canning all in a box there’s two the lady in the red raincoat that’s for this box here. Move the box, move it. That’s two, two dollars come on folks that’s a fine box of canning accessories going for two do I hear three three, three dollars for the, going once for two, twice for two, and sold to the lovely lady in the red. She’s gonna have homemade jams and jellies. Next box folks next box. There’s some. What is that? What is that? Looks like a mix box. We’ll start at one buck for the mix box one buck...anybody gotta buck for this box right here? Right here right here, a box of mixed things. Different stuff only a buck a single dollar. Take a look if ya want, take a look one dollar and a dollar and a dollar dollaree. Moving on...to the back here. Move! Move! Move back! We have some things from the kitchen, the kitchen lotsa beauties for the kitchen and we start with the kitchen with the stove, this stove it’s a gas stove heats great cooks great all the parts are there the parts the parts are all there, I used to have one just like this...self-cleaning no muss no fuss gas oven folks and in here there should be a rotisserie, no siree no rotisserie, that’s fine we start the bid at fifty dollars fifty dollar fifty dollar fifty dollaree...right there do I hear seventy-five? Seventy-five for this working gas stove she’s a beaut, seventy-five, seventy-five, seventy-five! Young man not payin’ attention down here did you say seventy-five? Young man with the hand there says seventy-five go eighty, go eighty go eighty. Eighty to grandpa out with the grandkids wants to make Thanksgiving dinner the ways it wants to be. Go one hundred dollars, go one hundred go one hundredee this is a beaut folks. Had one myself. Cleans itself and heats instantaneously. One hundred. The young man with the hand. Do I hear one-twenty, gramps? One-twenty? Mr. Handy wants it for the wife. Here she comes. Do I hear one-thirty? One-thirty? One-thirty, one-thirty, one-thirty going once. Gramps likes the price. One-forty, one-forty, one-forty. Mr. Handy impresses the wife. Going once going twice, and sold to Mr. Handy.

My face is burnt now. It was like being on fire. He has such hard, hard eyes and he won’t stop. Blow that hanky. Cough on that mic. I take a step toward my new stove and look up. The auctioneer sees me sideways through lids that, I swear, are sliding laterally across his yellow eyes. He lets me reach the oven, then points. I am to stay. I smile stupidly and turn like a game-show blond. Sandra has left. I am alone now. It didn’t matter what we bought here today, I was going to be alone. Had I not bought the stove she would still be here. To fight one last time. Things going bad has been our theme for a long time. She’s happy now. It’s weird standing here in front of these grim bargain hunters, feeling the woolly breath of the auctioneer on me. He’s a cattle man; he eases livestock through the bottleneck. I’m a pigeon. A crow. A mouse lying backwards on a post. The three older women in the front row brush the bins and sniff at me. A boy in a yellow cap steals a stubby knife then chews his food at me. I try to make a sad face so someone will cry, but no one does. I lean my head back. The highest roof I have ever seen. Shooting metal rafters and wide ribs of steel turn above me. I expect to see the moon here, trapped and rootless, in the night sky near a nest. It’s not that I wanted Sandra to stay, it’s that I knew that when she left I would want to die. A pale red cable is woven through the rafters in chaotic lines.

“Wanna rotisserie? ”

“Sorry? ”

“I gotta rotisserie for this. Wannit? ”

The auctioneer’s teeth are bark brown. He spits.

“No charge.” He piles his shoulders and turns.

“O.K.”

He turns back, surprised. He blinks for a moment as if he’s never laid eyes on me.

“O.K.”

He turns away to the boy that helps him. “I’m takin’ lunch and gonna run this guy over to my place.”

The kid looks at me, then nods obediently. The auctioneer omits details and does not like questions.

In the parking lot, I walk beside him and he doesn’t seem to like this. He slows and speeds up to make me look awkward doing the same. He turns abruptly down a row of parked cars and I’m forced to step in a puddle. He stops in front of an old red pickup. The bed is ringed by warped wood rails pulled together by heavy wire. I look back to the arena. It is small now and far away. He notices this and disapproves.

“Where’s your car? ”

I go to answer.

“Get in.”

The door moves as if it’s breaking and it closes as if it can’t. The seat is a red that has faded to pink, and the cab smells like uncooked meat. I sit waiting. I have given up and he starts the engine.

We bounce along in silence. I notice his hands. Swollen and dry, and the wheel glides through his palms. Such soft, quiet hands. Like his throat. Pink and petal-smooth.

We hit a pothole and I hear his teeth clap. They are false and he must keep them loose in there. I think for a moment that I should put on my seat belt. We pull up a long mud driveway but there is no house, just a wide, low garage. He reaches down and I think he’s looking for a parking brake, but he brings up a tire iron.

When he hits me across the cheek I can see the side of his house peeking out from behind the garage. Some trees at the edge are keeping the snow on the ground. I flip to the door and see a purple curtain fall halfway across the windshield. He hits my nose with something and I think, “That’s right, that’s how to stop me.” It’s not so much that I am hurt, it’s that he has suddenly switched me off. My legs and my arms are turning in directions without me.

Oh white Christmas! Oh mama mia! Oh!

Tony Burgess lives in Stayner, Ontario. His novel Pontypool Changes Everything (ECW, 1998), was turned into a film directed by Bruce MacDonald. Last updated winter, 2012–2013.
    More by this contributor
  • Evidence Winter, 2012–2013

    (No. 29)

Previous in this issue
Next in this issue