Amber & Stefan Circle the Block Three Times

by on April 6, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Road Ride" by Tyler Malone

Stefan put the Malibu in gear and pulled away from the curb. He said: “Amber, I’m uncomfortable with the falsetto. I mean, a little is okay, but not for a whole verse. Maybe just the first two bars. I want you to think hard about this.”

She pretended to think hard about it and Stefan made a right turn. Two kids shoved a refrigerator out of a kitchen window four stories up. They hadn’t unplugged it so it tore the outlet from the wall as it dropped. It hit the sidewalk beside the spot where the Malibu had been parked a few seconds before. The door cracked off and two unopened cans of beer and a half a rotisserie chicken popped into the air. One beer can hit the curb and ruptured. “We’re in for it now,” giggled one of the kids, looking at the hole in the wall where the outlet used to be. The other kid was watching the beer can scud across the street, propelled by the beer shooting from its jagged fissure. It was the funniest thing he had ever seen or else the most beautiful, he couldn’t decide.

“Do you have the boombox?” said Stefan. “I thought you brought it,” said Amber. “Left it on the chair by the TV I bet,” he said, and made two more quick right turns. Noisy brakes. Time for new brake pads.

“Is that a refrigerator?” he said.

“Did it fall out of the sky?” said Amber. Stefan put the car into park a foot and a half from the curb and they crept up on the refrigerator, as if it were a sleeping crocodile they didn’t want to awaken.

“Are we in a Warner Brothers cartoon?” he said, searching the sky.

“This is your refrigerator. Recognize that chicken?” said Amber, then a mercury vapor light fizzed out and the chicken was the same dim shade of amber.

Stefan looked up at his gaping kitchen window. “Wow. Wow, wow.” A tabby with a purple flea collar circled the defenestrated rotisserie chicken, also perhaps recognizing it.

Stefan clomped up the stairs to retrieve his boombox. He noted the fist-sized hole in the wall as he passed through the kitchen. “I’ll deal with you little shits later,” he snarled, or sighed. Stifled giggling, from somewhere in the apartment. He couldn’t stand those kids, although he seemed to recall being equally annoying when he was that age, if not more so.

“Got it,” Stefan said. He handed the boombox to Amber and she put it on the floor of the Malibu. “What happened to the side view mirror?” Because there was no side view mirror now.

“Dunno,” she said. “Let’s go.” He drove around the corner and said, “Maybe one verse with the falsetto, one without?”

“What are you— oh crap.” The lights of a police cruiser flared up behind them and the siren blasted. He turned down the next block and pulled over. The police car shot past the intersection and vanished.

“Thought they were pulling me over.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing, but I still thought they were pulling me over.” He drove back to his building. “That shook me up. Gotta use the John,” he said. Amber rolled her eyes, somebody’s eyes. Stefan took the stairs, two-at-a-time. The kids were gone (or gone-ish) and there were two cops in the apartment. “Well well well,” said the first cop. He gave Stefan the stink eye. So many eyes tonight. The second cop was measuring a string that stretched from the window to the kitchen table and didn’t look up but maybe he grunted. He plucked the string, which twanged like a cartoon sound effect. “We got a few questions when you finish up in there, boy,” said the first cop. “Sure,” said Stefan, thinking: Boy? And: cops keep getting younger. Don’t like it at all.

The toilet didn’t flush. He had barely started washing his hands when the not-yet warm water sputtered & spattered. The pipes rattled crazily, jauntily. Some adverb, anyway. The water turned amber, umber, stopped. Disgusted, he wiped the soap from his hands and went back to the kitchen. The cops were gone and the stairway had been moved to the other end of the apartment. What a place, what a night, what a thing. He waved his hands to dry them and they left rapidly fading blue and yellow streaks in the air. His hands weren’t dry yet but waving them again seemed like a bad idea. Although the streaks were cool, the blue ones especially.

He descended to the street. Amber was not in the Malibu. He scanned the rooftops and noticed the constellations were wrong. “We’re in for it now,” said one of the kids (no longer a cop) crouching behind a gargoyle. He tapped his cheap blue plastic billy club on the gargoyle’s chipped beak. There was a response, or a distant echo, or a twang.

Stefan fished around in his pocket for the car keys. Maybe they were back in the apartment. Maybe the car wouldn’t start anyway. He walked down the street, towards some distant flickering neon signs, advertising things in an alphabet he didn’t recognize. Maybe Amber was getting a beer or a bagel in one of those stores. They were probably stores, anyway. Someone was singing in a falsetto. Was it real life or on TV? Blue light danced on every ceiling. All these open windows and no air conditioners. How long is this street? This so-called street. When he reached the first sign it snapped off into darkness and to his astonishment his apartment was directly over it, four floors up. He had gone around the block again, or around the world. Maybe Amber’s waiting for me up there, he thought, and something huge and white tottered in the window.

editors note:

Here’s home, the life you know! But is it? Is it anything recognizable? It’s your life, you tell me. ~ Tyler Malone

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