Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Icecream Man Rings For All Eternity

This is the first installment of a multi-part short story I am working on. I rarely write 3rd person narrative, so this is some practice for me. Enjoy!

* * *

Zaid al-Maliki lay on the floor of his cell, smashing his palms into his ears as if he was trying to crush his skull by sheer force. He wished he could, if it would make Barney the Purple Dinosaur go away.

The American GI's playing cards across the room did not seem to notice him. They were used to the screaming and incessant chanting. Most of the prisoners when they are subjected to "Torture by Sesame Street" (or Metallica, or Barney the Purple Dinosaur) maintain their stoic facade through the first two or three days by attempting to drown themselves in prayer. "Allaabu Akbar...Ash'hadu an laa ilaaha illallaah...Ash'hadu anna Muhammadar-rasulullaah..." Allah was the liferaft in this godless ocean of noise. After a few days, though, that raft begins to leak.

* * *

James Brown would not say he was excited about his first day of work. He was grateful, though; this economy is a dangerous place for a college dropout, let alone people who had secured their piece of paper.

What he was excited about was the prospect of having his own truck, his own schedule, and nobody to tell him what to do. The only other time James had the luxury of working in peace and quiet without having to deal with coworkers droning on about last night's American Idol or supervisors not knowing what to do with themselves was when he was thirteen, delivering newspapers. He would get up at 4:00 a.m. and fold, wrap, and stuff fifty papers in his canvas bag, black and soiled from newsink, and head out into the dark dawn. He loved the feeling of knowing he was the only one awake. It felt like...sovereignty.

The cold sucked. And the rain. But the summer dawns were brilliant. The air had cooled to the perfect temperature and the sky was bleeding faded pink on the horizon. He felt a kind of affinity with the postmen, the ones who walked their route, and even joked in his head that they were "grownup newsboys." Through rain, sleet, or snow, as the saying goes; they both suffered under the same sky. James had in fact taken his civil service test last year, after he had dropped out of Temple after one semester. James figured he could make more money by not spending it on books and classes. Government jobs were pretty secure, too; the Government takes care of its people.

But after five months he still hadn't gotten a call. Living at his parent's home without a job was getting to be a strain, but he didn't have enough money saved to move out. He didn't like the prospect of having to apply for jobs at the sunoco or the manayunk diner like some high school schlep. But he needed a job...

(to be continued.)

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