HYDE AND SEEK by JACK KET CHUM Cemetery Dance Publications
I don't believe in omens, but I think you can know when you're in trouble. Follow me on this, even if it sounds like bullshit. I was working the stacks of two-by-four furring. What we needed was an eight-foot length off the top. We were nearly into the next bundle down but you could still see a couple of lengths left up there thatdidn't look too weathered, so I climbed up after one. I had my hands on one when the steel cable snapped on the bundle I was walking on. A sound like a whip cracking. Damn near took my head off too. And naturally I lost my footing. I fell ten feet to the tarmac in ash ower of heavy lumber. Not a scratch on me. I was lucky. But the boss gave me hell. You weren't supposed to go up there -thougheverybody did--you were supposed to use the forklift There was an insurance problem. So I was breaking the rules. That was the first thing. Getting damn near killed breaking the rules. That same week I had the Chevy pickup on the coast road, doing maybe sixty, when a big black tanker passed me on the downgrade. I let him have the highway. But then on the upgrade he slowed to a crawl. I swallowed dieselfumes behind him for a while and then pulled out to pass. But I guess the guy wanted to play. He wouldn't let me by. He'd move over across the broken yellow line just far enough so that there was a good chance of piling me into the hillside if I tried. Then he'd pull back again. Out and back. I could see him watching me through the rearview mirror. It was very nasty. I cursed him and waited for anopening. It came on the downgrade again. By the time I saw it we were both of us doing seventy. Already that was hard on the pickup. My wheel would always wobble at sixty-five. Sol held my breath and told myself to hell with it, you were only young once, and pressed it to eighty. The pickup shook like it was trying to fall apart. I remembered the old bald tires. The downgrade was long and steep andwe ran it neck and neck, he and I. I passed him just as the road turned up again. I was sweating
and my hands were trembling. I can see that bastard smiling at me as I passed him even to this day- not so much the man, but the wicked cut of the smile. A tanker is a very big thing on a narrow highway when it's running a foot and a half away from you at eighty for over a mile. So that was thesecond thing. Being stupid and angry and taking bad risks. I could just as easily have waited him out. It had been a nice, sunny day. Then I stepped in dog shit. Coming home from work, half a block from Harmon's. Now, I know that's nothing. Meaningless. Silly. Even though it was a particularly big pile of dog shit, and fresh. But I'll tell you why I remember it and why I put it with the otherthings. It's very simple, wasn't looking where I was going. Now, that's nothing either, unless you take into account the fact that it's completely contrary to my habits. I stare at the ground when I walk. I always do. I've been criticized for it now and then. My mother used to say I'd get nearsighted and stoop-shouldered. She lied, of course. I got tall and see at twenty-twenty. But damn it, / wasn'tlooking. I'm aware that these are all random events. And maybe it's just hindsight. But sometimes it seems to me that once in a while you can look at all the random events you live through every day and see that suddenly there's a mechanism that's just clicked on, you can see it right then and thereand the events are not so random anymore. The mechanism is eating them, absorbing them, growing largerand larger, feeding on the events of your life. To what end? You don't know. The mechanism is you. But it's also fate, luck, chance. All the things that are not you but that will change you anyway, irreparably, forever. Maybe you'd better forget all this. I'm still a fool, and I meander. * But right away she scared me. They all did, actually. All three of them. They were rich kids, fc one...
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