by Alan Davies
An exmination of looking...even when we know we shouldn't.
Don't Look Ethel
Jim sat shivering in the cold damp corner of an abandoned building he’d ducked into. His heart was slamming in his chest. The smell of copper and cold sweat assaulted his senses. He thought he could taste blood in his mouth. He must have a busted lip.
How in God’s name had he gotten himself into this? Stupid thought really, since he knew how. He’d looked. Worse still, he’d known better. Like driving up to an accident scene when you’re squeamish about blood, and looking anyway, the driver with a bloody forehead, and is that a body covered up? Ugh, blood!
He listened, straining to hear them above his damn heart’s slamming. He actually let out a giggle and stifled anymore into his torn $3,000.00 Ralph Lauren suit coat. He’d thought ridiculously of the song The Streak by Ray Steven’s …” I hollered over t' Ethel, I said, "Don'tlook, Ethel!" But it's too late, she'd already been incensed.”
It was too late. It wasn’t funny like that song. He’d looked.
He was shivering less now, felt his hearing ability returning. He now could hear sounds of the harbor and the cars on the overpass not far from these warehouses.
His car was back there. They could find his car. But that would be later. For now there were a hundred cars still in the valet lot.
He’d been shot at! Incredible! All his life he’d avoided conflict. Always remaining neutral, no serious opinions, even if he had them, he kept them to himself.
Wait, wait, were those foot falls?
Nah, something else.
He still tasted blood and then remembered the elbow he’d taken in the face about ten blocks away. The guy whose elbow his face glanced off had called, “Watch it jerk-wad!” He’d kept running.
He reached into the inside pocket of his coat and felt around for a handkerchief, none, but there was a business card. He pulled it out and held it up into the shaft of orange light that shone through a small triangular hole in the otherwise darkly painted window panes. He chuckled again. What was this urge to giggle? It was his card: James I. Mason, Certified Public Accountant, Alder, Feldman & Mason. Boston, MA etc. etc.
Maybe now it should say, James I. Mason, dead man walking.
He had to pee. Suddenly the need to pee set upon his groin so strongly it burned. It was like he was some little kid who drank too many colas and waited until the last minute while watching his favorite cartoon, then runs to the bathroom, only to find his big sisters in there with the door locked, blow drying her hair.
No sister, and he was 45 years old, all he had to do was stand up and go over behind that stack of pallets and pee.
He shimmied up the filthy wall corner and heard his bum knee snap. Shit! He heard something! He pressed himself against the wall.
Someone was close. The footfalls were…oh, damn, Ok, it’s just some kids. He heard the laughter and banter of some city kids passing by, “You got no game…you’re weaker than my grandma…”
He made his way over to the stacks of pallets, his hands shaking still, he managed to grab hold of himself and pee. Who knew it could feel so good! Geez, did it stink! It burnt his eyes, or maybe that was the sweat dripping off his brow. Did fear piss smell worse than regular? He knew anxiety made your perspiration rank. In fact a detective told him that he could smell when a suspect was lying. This wasn’t meant as a euphemism but a statement of fact he’d said, “Liars stink like skunks…unless they’re sociopaths, they don’t give a fu#*.”
He looked around. Should he return to the corner? Squat down gain and listen for them? How long? Till morning?
He had to stay here for at least an hour or so. Then they’d have to have gone back to their club.
He had to get his car though. He had to get it before it was alone, unclaimed, sticking out like a sore thumb.
He decided to go sit for another hour, maybe in a darker spot, but on some boxes or something.
His glasses…no wonder he couldn’t see. It wasn’t just the darkness of the warehouse he’d lost his glasses! It took this long to notice. He’d worn glasses since he was 10.
He found a small stack of pallets and sat down on them.
He’d looked. He’d known better. He heard the begging whimpers of the man. He knew they were in the alley just over his right shoulder. He could have kept walking. He should have kept walking.
It was Joey “The Ring’s” guys and some poor stupid bastard who got on Joey’s bad side.
"Shit, he thought", "I’m on Joey’s bad side now."
He waited; actually falling into a fitful sleep. He awoke with a start and looked at his watch. It was nearly 3 a.m. His car could be alone now.
He had to get it before it was alone, the only car.
He pushed his way through the loosened plywood that had been nailed over the broken door. No one anywhere. It was quiet.
He began walking and suddenly he heard, “There he is!”
He started to run, but his legs were so stiff they didn’t respond.
He was pinned against the wall, a knife to his throat. Three of Joey “The Ring’s” thugs had him trapped.
“Good bye you nosey bastard!”
He felt the knife push against his throat and break the skin. He felt his blood gushing out and he giggled.
“Crazy bastards laughing!”
Of course he was; “Don’t look Jim, he thought, but it was too late…”