by Eddie Lando
Submission for Writer's Cramp
|It was light out. That was one measure of time. But it could have been 10am or 4pm for all I knew. An overcast sky masked the location of the sun, a would-have-been useful clue. I checked my wrist for my watch, and all I saw was the untanned imprint of where it was normally strapped between my hand and my forearm. It could only have been stolen.
The country was on lockdown, so I couldn’t tell if it was a weekday or a weekend since there was never hustle and bustle. I rolled out of bed to find my phone plugged into the wall, to finally sanitize my mind of the burning desire to know the date and time. But I flipped it over and it had been cracked to bits. So much so that it wouldn’t even turn on. What the hell?
I went to the kitchen to check the clock on the electric stove. The power was out. That eliminated the microwave and the TV as a source of time as well. I ran to my office to find a calendar. I pushed aside papers on my desk and there it was. But every date on every page had been scribbled over with a Sharpie. Time was lost and I was losing control of this day. If I ever had it.
I ran outside in my bathrobe. Thank God. My neighbor was sweeping his porch. He was an old man who lived alone. If there was ever an update, like a power outage, he’d let me know when I pulled up on my bike, home from work. I meandered across the street and approached him. He was taken aback by my bedtime garb. I grabbed his shoulders and shook him.
“What time is it?!”
He was scared and poked me away with his broom.
“I can’t help you, son. Not today, anyway.”
My neighbor backpeddled into his house.
“Just tell me what today is!”
“It’s the day you went to jail for touching people when you weren’t supposed to. I’m calling the police.”
Shit. I raced back across the street. They would be here any minute, and I couldn’t let them search the house. They’d find it for sure.
I pushed through the door and went straight for the boarded-up fireplace where it was hidden. I removed the plywood and found - nothing. It was gone. Just a dirty, handwritten note. And my watch, also smashed to bits.
The only day is today, John, the message read.
Paranoia consumed me. I tore apart the house looking for it, and for no good reason, because it was absolutely gone. And there was a knock at the door.
"Police!" I heard from a voice muffled under a face mask. That was it.
The moments I saw an empty fireplace, heard the knock at the door, and felt the cold concrete bench on the jail cell, all blended together. There was only now and that it was missing. At least I was out of the house, albeit in another quarantine.
Across the room in the holding center of the police station, the attending officer grabbed a pen and jotted down my name. He logged the date. 5/3/2020.