The man came home. Like many do. Tired of his job. His life. The rent due and a bank account barely. A movie on TV and he watched it without watching. Some old black and white thing about a man who came home to a satchel of money in his bedroom because he had robbed a thief.
It didn’t make sense. The man came home like so many come home. From the movies with popcorn in their teeth or from work with dread in their heart. Movies. Life. They don’t make sense. Maybe the man got off at the wrong stop when he left work. Or the movie. Life just the flip side of death.
He didn’t even know what he meant. Movie or job or man on TV who stole money from a thief. A series of events, like most life. Go here. Go over there. Find a job, come home to the microwave, make some popcorn. Watch something on TV.
Life plus death equals existence.
It doesn’t make sense.
And why should it. The man who came home tired of his job learned a long time ago that a job gave him just enough money to survive, have shelter and food in between shifts at a job. There’s a word for that.
We narrators know all the words but sometimes must keep quiet in case the man who came home tired of his job gets the wrong idea and considers revenge. Futile, but he might consider it. Revenge on the system, his job, his life. He might do a rampage when he sees the loop that never breaks out of its cycle. Spins only on the axle of his apartment, work, grocery store, TV, bed, work, grocery store.
Ever cycling into the core where death lives.
That doesn’t make sense, said the man.
Correct. It doesn’t make sense. But death is a living thing too. It crawls in through the window at night. Open or closed doesn’t matter to death. Climbs in our ear and whispers funny little stories of a man stuck on a treadmill.
One time the man came home from work tired of his job as usual and ate a bunch of pills. But they didn’t take. Didn’t invite death in for the last supper. Oh Jesus. In the morning he had a headache and had to run for the bus. At work a woman said you look terrible and he said I feel terrible and she said I’ve got to get back to my cubicle.
An interrupted routine gave the man hope and he left work to look for a thief to rob. But he didn’t know any thieves. He only knew his coworkers and the guy at the grocery store. His family cuddled death under weathered tombstones and he sat on the edge of the world alone. He paid his rent, ate bread from the grocery store. And microwave popcorn. And watched TV without watching. To pass the time until the clock said bed and he went there to grasp the pillow and whisper oh god there must be more than this.
We narrators don’t get union rates. But the man with the tiresome job who watches another man rob a thief on TV is our solemn responsibility. We must care for him. He is only alive because we said so. Continue to say so. Change the words and kill the man. How’s that for power and sacred trust.
The man got up in the morning and said this is the day that I change the story. He walked down to the sidewalk and turned left instead of right. He walked three blocks and entered a liquor store. Give me your money, he said to the guy behind the counter. If I can’t find a thief, I’ll become one. And the guy behind the counter said we don’t have any money because it’s still early and most people don’t start drinking until noon. And the man said okay. I’ll come back later.
It doesn’t make sense. Never did. We narrators try our best to tell everybody to enjoy life and don’t worry about whether you understand it or not, but most people, like the man who went to the liquor store instead of work, don’t listen. They clamp their hands tight on their head and whisper oh god there must be more than this.
After the liquor store, the man walked down to another bus stop for another bus to another part of the city where he didn’t work. When he got there he jumped off and asked the people on the sidewalk where he was and they said lost.
But I’m looking for death, he said.
That’s a strange wish, said a dreadlocked girl.
Not really, said the man. I must confront it.
Two blocks over, said someone and the man walked two blocks over. A sign read Psychiatrist. Close enough. He entered and sat in a chair with his arms floppy folded like dirty laundry and told the psychiatrist he had a dream.
What dream? she asked.
A gigantic plate of glass at least a foot thick falls from a construction site, he said. It bounces once or twice and then flattens me beneath it where I can see translucent sky.
That sounds scary.
But then a giant hand lifts the glass away and I’m transported to a room with god drinking a cup of tea.
That doesn’t make sense, said the doctor psychiatrist.
But what does it mean?
It means we all die one day.
The man stood up. I’m not paying for that, he said. And walked out.
In the street they were installing an enormous window in a ten story building with a giant crane. If that falls on me I’ll die, said the man and a construction guy said that’s right, better get out of here. But the man said I think I’ll wait and see how it goes. Maybe this would be the final window that death crawls through.
That doesn’t make sense, said the construction guy.
No it doesn’t, said the man. But maybe death, like truth, would finally set him free. Let him open a vast window and jump into the arms of god just in time for tea.
It didn’t need to make sense. It only needed to break the loop of life and death into a thousand rainbowed chunks of glass that he could then scatter into an endless sky. Life didn’t have to have meaning. It only needed to be a little more cherished than death.
Well, another cheery piece of lifeslice Dear Reader
Thank you for reading Dynamic Creed. This story is my contribution to the Soaring Twenties Social Club Symposium, a monthly set-theme opportunity for STSC writers. The topic this time around is Death. Isn’t that fun?
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Love this one. I feel it. Excellent work.
To say the story is brilliant would be a judgment
To say the protagonist now hides in the folds of my mind would be narcissistic
To say I have a good relationship with death would be a lie
To say I cherish the story more than death could be true
So instead, I will respectfully echo back the phrases that ricochet inside me
Life plus death equals existence
a bank account barely
watched it without watching
come home to the microwave
popcorn in their teeth
death is a living thing too
cuddled death under weathered tombstones
until the clock said bed
the final window that death crawls through
A sign read Psychiatrist. Close enough.
I’m not paying for that
Life didn’t have to have meaning
It only needed to be a little more cherished than death