This month has been energetic in that problems lined up in a queue to keep me occupied. It’s ridiculous.
Of course, I know everyone has their challenges, and they all appear insurmountable at one time or another. Equally, it is rare for a problem to be truly overwhelming. The swamp of problems sits around like a slurry of crap, not inviting to us as all.
But enough about slogging through the moors of life. Today’s blog is different than most of my others. I know there has been a liberal number of subjects for my blog — From recipes to life with a whole herd of children. Today, though, will be a short story.
This story is entitled “The Voice.” I wrote it for a publication that likes stories with enough moral twists to elicit debate about an ethical problem or a prevalent philosophical bend to them. Don’t forget to comment.
By J.W. Bell
I know. I don’t have the money to buy a book. I don’t have any money at all. Never do. It sucks, but it’s true. I’m here because I followed that nebulous feeling that told me to go in. The thing is, it’s crazy. There is this voice …
Again, with the nebulous things?
Sometimes I have to ignore it.
Is life just a collection of vague experiences that I react to? It’s getting to be just that, and I’m not sure how I got here. Uh, this way … became like this.
My eyes were hungry and devoured the room full of books, catching glimpses of titles that intrigued me, The Razor’s Edge, Siddhartha, and even The Fountainhead. The store has great books here.
I would’ve known this place was a bookstore, even with my eyes closed. The delicious smell of them. The aroma of libraries and bookstores, with the sharp bite of the newly printed. Hell, this smell is better than the scent of a new car. When I went to school, I spent whole classes with my nose jabbed into a new book to sniff it. Yeah, teachers probably thought me reading, devouring the wisdom inside, but no, I was content to be an actual moron stuck in an olfactory orgy.
Besides, the voice said …
Oh, and don’t let me forget the dust. There is always dust in bookstores or libraries, too.
“Listen, Buba. You need to go.”
I snapped around to see the asshole running this place with his neatly combed hair, shirt, and tie. My arms shot up to keep him away. “I’m not doing anything wrong!” He could maybe hurt me with his flailing and waving around like that. “Come on, man. I’m not harming anything. I just want to read a little.”
“Out, Buba. We both know you aren’t here to read. You’re here to beg my customers for mone–”
“No, man. I like it here. The books–”
I walked toward the door and pulled the book up for one last sniff, but the prick snatched it away and pushed me in the direction I was going in the first place. My foot caught on something, and I launched forward, flailing around to find something to grab as I flew, but there was just air, and the woman.
“Hey!” Her voice carried both surprise and anger as she fell backward to the glass door, then down.
The next thing I knew, all kinds of shit crashed onto the floor, a few things broke, and I thumped to the ground and on top of the woman’s legs. I tried to apologize with my eyes. But she was busy. Her eyes scolded me, and then she turned them away and tried to burn a hole through the prick of a bookstore manager.
I clambered to my feet and held out my hand to help her. She grasped it and pulled herself up, still trying to melt the asshole. Then she turned to me and gasped, dropping my hand. She moved away like I was Typhoid Mary.
The woman was pretty in an odd sort of way. Her hair was the color of the mouse I saw this morning, brownish gray. Her eyes were blue and would appear deep with hidden secrets if she wasn’t so aggressively pissed. Anyway, her hair stuck out everywhere, like all those women trying to pretend they weren’t losing their hair, thinning away.
I wondered if she was why the voice told me to come in here. It does that kind of shit. I will ask it later.
As I pushed the door open and strolled out, the sun hit my eyes and made me squint, so I put my hand up to shield them.
“Get away from me!” The woman again. I guess she got tired of trying to blister the bookstore manager.
I backed away from her. “What?”
“Get away! You tried to hit me. I saw you raising your arm to strike.”
This lady is loony. “Lady, you’re crazy.”
The voice told me to back up and let the sun strike me in the eyes, which I did. And be damned, she stopped squawking. Now she stared.
“Can I help you, lady?”
She made a horrifying face like she was standing off stage watching Medea killing her kids. “You poor man.”
I looked around to see who she was talking to. Nobody but me on the street.
“What can I help you with, lady?” She confused the hell out of me. Maybe the voice understood. She was as confused as a woodpecker with rubber lips and driven mad by an unbelievable world. Dunno, except I knew she had something wrong.
She straightened herself like dignity folded around her, then she donned an air of superiority like the sweater she wore and looked down on me, even though I was taller by a couple of inches. Her eyes became deep like I knew they could, and she rubbernecked around to see if anyone would see her talking to me. It must’ve been alright because she held her hand out to me, not to shake or even place it on my shoulder. I was more like she invited me to follow her.
The voice urged me to go. So, I nodded and walked toward the lady. She turned, still holding her arm out behind her, and walked. The warmth of the sun felt wonderful on my back.
“My name is Beverly. Beverly Yorkshire.” Her voice was the kind that makes me feel like she cared, not real high or low, but fuzzy.
I grunted in acknowledgment.
“Can I know your name?”
No. It doesn’t matter.
That was strange. But I shut up.
“Don’t want to tell me? I promise I won’t tell anyone.” She stopped talking for a couple of steps. “Hmm. How about I call you George? My husband was named George. He’s no longer around. Is that alright if I call you George?”
“But my name isn’t George.”
“I can’t just call you, uh. I believe the bookstore man called you Buba––”
“Yes, Buba.” That should work. I still didn’t give my name like the voice said not to.
“Are you sure? Buba?”
I nodded a couple of times. “Yes, call me Buba.” We walked by an alley, and I smelled ripe garbage from the Chinese place’s dumpster. Beverly smelled it too. She scrunched her face and took her finger across her nose. It didn’t bother me like that, though.
Today was Wednesday, so there wouldn’t be anything good to eat there. The garbage truck came by here on Wednesday afternoon. Today was the best day for pizza. Yesterday was their pick-up day, and last night they had their buffet. I’ll check it later.
Okay. I won’t lose her. She’s walking kind of slowly.
She needs help.
I figured. Otherwise, you wouldn’t tell me about the woman.
Beverly stopped in front of the door to the diner. “Can I get you something to eat? Uh, Buba?”
I made a mistake when I looked at her eyes again. I fell into them. The blueness sucked me right in, and I grabbed the door frame. It was hard to keep from falling because they made me unbalanced.
How come she needs my help?
Because she does.
“Buba? Are you hungry?” She held the door open.
I peered inside. That bastard would kick me out. This place is where the old man with a bat is, and I hunched my back and furiously blinked while I weighed the problem. There was the Pizza feast, but the chunks of hamburgers they had here were good— but that shitty bat. I decided on pizza and opened my mouth to tell her.
Her eyes grabbed me again. Between the sight of them, and the voice, I nodded and stepped into the place.
Shit. It was the baseball bat bastard.
Be damned! Beverly jumped in front of me, and the guy stopped and settled on pounding his hand, of course not as hard as he pounds on me.
Beverly scolded the man with her eyes and turned to look at me with, I suppose, sympathy, but it turned out she put the sweater of superiority back on. Her eyeball conversation was, “Leave him alone!” Then she turned to me. “You poor man, Buba.”
The bat guy walked back behind the counter to put his bat up and pointed at me.
“We’ll sit here,” Beverly indicated a booth out of the way but near the door. “Come on, Buba.”
I sat, trying to look in every direction I could.
“It’s alright. No one will harm you.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
Tell her. Telling her is why you are here. Say, she’s okay.
Oh. I nodded several times.
“Now, what would you like to eat, Buba?” She picked up the menu from where it sat, wedged behind the napkin holder. “Buba, you can have anything. I’ll buy whatever you want.”
The woman talking was a new Beverly for me. Hell, she sounded chipper, like a rabbit enjoying the carrot funny farm. She didn’t even look over her shoulder.
I pointed to the double cheeseburger with tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles, all on top of a mountain of fried potatoes. My mouth was anticipating, and my tongue was wandering around my mouth.
“We’ll have the deluxe cheeseburger, please.”
Can’t I wait until I eat?
I won’t get the burger, though.
Tell. Her. Now.
Shit. “Miss Beverly?”
“Why yes, Buba. Do you need something else?”
I shook my head. “No, mam. I just need to tell you she’s okay.”
Her eyes pulled her head around, and she stared wide-eyed.
I fell into them again and had to scramble to hang onto the table so I wouldn’t drown there. My hand and arms hurt from how hard I grabbed the table.
Her fuzzy voice was gone, replaced with an edgy one. “What are you talking about?” I thought the edgy sound was going to cut my ears. And her eyes wouldn’t let go, either.
I pushed backward to escape, blinking several times to stop staring at her. It didn’t work. They stared at me so hard! I thought her soul was fighting to snatch mine.
“Hell no, it isn’t! Why did you want me to––”
“Buba, who are you talking about?”
I looked for a way out, but there wasn’t any. There was only the room – as blue as her eyes. Damn. Damn!
The voice called to me, but I tried to shake it off.
The blue eyes were pissed, hard as ice. “Who? Buba, Who?” Her shrill voice pierced me. She grabbed my shoulders, and I couldn’t move. The eyes hurt me, so I turned my head. I wanted to melt away, but my eyes wouldn’t let go.
I couldn’t. Damn.
Tell her that?
Beverly relaxed her grip on me and stopped screaming. Her eyes blinked like a spinster at a wedding. They welled up and tears dripped down her cheeks. “Who, Buba?”
“Your daughter.” I hung my head, resting it on my chest. Someone put the burger on the table in front of me. My nose filled with the aroma—it was fresh food. I stared at it, while my hand sneaked to it and seized it.
“Buba, do you know my daughter?”
I took a huge bite and chewed. My head shook. “No.” I chewed as fast as I could. Then I jammed it into the side of my mouth. “I don’t know you or her. I just know she’s fine.”
“Are you sure? Do you know my daughter’s name? Because, if you do, I could believe you. I desperately want to believe you, but … How did you know I even had a daughter?”
“The voice.” I’d forgotten how delicious food is without the taint in it. The flavors of the hot meat, tomato, and the onion burst through my mouth—another bite.
My arms trembled, and I bounced around like a kid needing to pee.
Beverly sat as still as death. She breathed in and sighed. “Buba, do you hear voices?”
I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t fall into her eyes again. My head shook. “No. I just hear one, sometimes, but not always.
Her shoulders sagged. “Does it tell you to do things?”
“Yes. But not always.”
“Does it tell you to hurt people?”
I stuck the last burger piece in my mouth so they couldn’t kick me out before I could eat it.
“I don’t hurt anyone.” My eyes flicked around to see where everybody was. The door looked close, but I’d have to go around the other table.
Beverly was doing the same thing. Her eyes flew everywhere. Then her arm flailed some, and the bastard with the baseball bat came to the table, the bat behind his back.
That bastard stared at me as he talked. “Can I help you, mam?”
“Yes, I wondered if you would be so kind as to help me if I need some?” The blue things dragged across me, and then they focused on him. “I don’t think I have an urgent need or anything. I’m simply inquiring as to availability.”
I knew what she was saying. She thought I might turn dangerous. She thinks, oh, the eyes turned on me. They are going to hurt me. I kept my eyes lowered so I wouldn’t fall into the blue.
Why did I have to tell her?
Because she needs to know before …
Now it was my turn to be a statue. Before what?
“Okay, Bub. Time for you to go.” The baseball bat man stood before us, the bat now in front of him, his head pointing to the door.
I scooched to where I could stand up. My eyes looked at the table. The fries would be gone, and I was careful not to look Beverly in the eyes.
Tell her, Tina. Just tell her, Tina.
I leaned down toward Beverly. “Her name is Tina.”
Beverly sucked in sharply.
Before I could stand all the way, Beverly screamed. “That’s it!” The blue eyes swallowed me.
Then, the bat hit me in the neck.
“Oh, my God, Suzie!” Tina waved her friend over to the couch, backed the video up, and pointed to the picture. “Look at this. My mother is going viral.”
“In the video?” Suzie sat next to Tina.
“Says ‘… homeless man was attacking Mrs. Beverly Yorkshire when Gary Owen, owner of the Grand Avenue Diner, saved her. The unidentified man is in critical condition at the hospital and under suspicion of murdering Mrs. Yorkshire’s daughter, Tina, who has been missing now for three months. The man, believed to have mental problems, will undergo psychiatric care at …’”
“Holy shit, Tina. They think you’re dead.”
“Yeah, maybe I better go on back home.” Tina started to gather her things and start packing.
“What are you doing?”
Tina turned. “I’m getting ready to go home, of course.”
Suzie leaned back and put her feet on the coffee table. “Why? We can take our time. It won’t matter at all when we get there. Even if they find him guilty of your murder, he’ll just go to some funny farm. They said he’s crazy.”
Tina blinked and stared at her best friend.
Now that you’ve read “The Voice,“ let me ask you a couple of questions:
What was the voice? Was the voice real? How about the girls at the end? What did the girl choose?
Let me know what you think. I’m looking forward to your comments.
To move along, please don’t forget to preorder my book; I Am. Therefore I Think. You can preorder wherever they sell good books — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Smashwords, Kobo, and many more. When you preorder, you will get it at a much lower price. I’ve lowered the price to $4.99. Preorder today!
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