James Moats - 02/04/2008

So, it's dark out now. It's always dark at this time of night, though. I don't even know why I mentioned it.

Sometimes I feel concerned. The rest of the time, I probably just don't notice. Sometimes I am content.

I have been awake for nearly three days now. I have been awake longer than last time I checked. I don't know why that is important to you either, but I thought I should mention it. It may help all this come together for you. It might just help you to decide to move on and find something more coherent to spend your time on. This is a story about self-doubt. Maybe... I don't know.

That was a joke.

Now you're considering looking for something more coherent to spend your time on. And now I'm smiling. And now I tack on another sentence just to make the situation a little uncomfortable. I'm breaking up my rhythm. For your sake.

Yes, I'm reading this aloud to you.

When lunch time came yesterday, I had already been awake a day and a half and was feeling pretty weird. Sitting on my front stoop, I was listening to the sounds of my neighborhood. The metal railing is kind of rusted. I rub my hands on it to make them orange. I look at my orange hands. Smell them. Coppery. Wipe them first on the concrete, scratchy, then on my pants leg, soft, but not like my sweater. It's relative, the softness of my pants. There's a school down the street. A little brick building. A small playground on my side of the street. In decay. Those kids have to cross the street to get to the playground across from the little brick building. That's messed up, but there isn't any traffic in this story, but there is a good, strong breeze.

The silver chain nets on the basketball hoops make shimmering sounds in a good, strong breeze. Cardboard trash scrapes across the cracked blacktop of the street and on up into the playground. While listening for new sounds, I hear an old man walking around the outskirts of the playground with a metal detector. Headphones with orange foam ear pads are loosely draped across the top of his withered head. I think about yelling


just to be a dick. I look at my hands and they are orange again. They smell coppery.

Usually, on days like yesterday at lunch time, I have been up long enough to know to censor myself a little more. Days like right now, I am beyond that numb, sparkly feeling that comes from sleeping in too late three days ago. Insomnia is the secret word of days like right now.

Say it four times and then go do something else.

Check back in a few minutes and you will probably still be awake. That's how good this technique works.

Find a secret word that encapsulates your scene, then repeat it four times. When you're done repeating it, your hands will smell like copper. You will still be awake with your hands on the railing. You will wonder why the old man is hanging around the playground this time of night.

You will wonder why the sun is so bright this time of night.

You wonder why I am messing up the environment. Because I can and I am running this carnival ride. The railing around it is rusty from the rain and years and it rocks easily back and forth. Your hands smell like sawdust and you are barely tall enough to ride and are down to your last ticket. Next time you read this, the old man may be someone altogether different. He may have been replaced by an old man with a fishing rod in his hands. Casting out past the tractor tire sandbox and reeling it back in. Red and white bobber dragging through the patchy grass. Next time. Maybe.

OK. Here's the thing. It's night time right now. The old man was beep-hunting on the playground yesterday at lunch time.

Pay attention. You're breaking my rhythm.

Yes, I am talking to you now.

He has a large satchel hanging across his neck and shoulder, paper boy style.

Johnny Applebeep. That's his name because I said so.

He is probably expecting a large take today. On days like yesterday at lunch time, he knows that those kids bring extra stuff to school, then drop some of the stuff while they are playing. He knows that the weekends come at the end of the week and that's when no kids are here and the beeps are out in greater numbers. He knows I'm watching him from my coppery cage and hears the trash scraping the ground and the wind jostling the metal chains that hang from those old basketball hoops.

He is not listening to music.

He is listening for the tab of a zipper. He is listening for an acorn nut. He is listening for something really shiny.

He is on the playground, trying to take your lunch money after you're long gone.

He smells coppery, like old man, and his satchel is fully empty.

He is listening for batteries.

The janitors are leaving for the day. Those kids probably left all the good stuff inside. The janitors probably always get the good stuff.

Down the street, across town, my house was brown yesterday at lunch time. I have a nice car in the driveway of my house today. This is a nice white house with a nice car in the driveway. I am doing well on days like right now. I am better at being up longer than I was yesterday, for sure.

Tomorrow is when I get to follow an ant line across my kitchen to see where a bit of food is sitting on the floor. That space in between my refrigerator and side of the cabinet always collects food scraps on days like tomorrow. I am never doing as well for myself on days like that. Tomorrow holds a small house with no stoop and no railing. Only an ant line in the kitchen. An ant line that has no beginning and no end. It has only a two-way middle that stretches on forever in my small kitchen.

Tomorrow, I am going to sleep in late.

Yes, I am taking dictation right now and I want you to know that I am going to sleep long and hard tomorrow.