The Crossing

by Timmothy Merath

Brad always moves quickly.  Especially when he's on his way to and from the small grocery store just down the street from his one bedroom apartment.  He's not one to think too much about bread and yogurt.  Not that he buys that stuff often anyways.  It's usually junk food and alcohol and even those items don't get much thought beyond his immediate desires.  He practically jumped down the two short flights of stairs between his door and the front entryway when he left his apartment, only hitting one step between each landing.

Theodore has never been to this particular store, although often buys his cheese and paper toweling from another branch on the east side of town.  He observes each person leaving very quickly but deliberating, taking mental notes of their faces and expressions.  These are the unlucky people.  Although, they won't be considered much at all when the focus moves inside.

He crosses the half-full parking lot, just a step slow of running, hoping he can grab some beer and make it back for the start of the game.  As he sidesteps the cart corral at the end of the aisle of cars, Brad feels a sudden weight in his stomach.  A soft but large and obvious weight, like a sudden influx of warm, heavy air has filled his torso.  The pressure slows him down to a near crawl.  His left foot gingerly plants itself down in front of him and then pushes back against him like a brake.

His left hand is still clutching the blue Bic lighter in his pocket, rubbing it slowly but firmly.  Anticipation is building, filling Theodore up like a combustible gas inside of a too-small container.  Knowledge is the spark.  Teaching everyone what it means to sacrifice.  Learning about the consequences of ignorance.  Teach them, show them, allow them to see.  He repeats these and several of his other mantras in his head as the automatic doors slide open for the man in front of him.  A man now standing still.  Probably too dumb to remember what he came here for.  Theodore brushes past him, the poor fool.

There is an acute awareness of his surroundings, despite a contrary feeling of cloudiness and obscurity to the features of the objects and people, like they're trapped in jello.  He can clearly perceive them all, that they're there, but not the actual contents , just the packaging.  Get a hold of yourself Bradley, the thinks to himself.  Maybe you shouldn't have stayed up playing Call of Duty so late last night.  Maybe you should have called Kelly back.  God, I'm tired.  He shakes off what fog he can, turns, and starts to walk home.  Slowly.

Aisle seven will serve as a splendid stage for this affair, Theodore considers as he sets down the red plastic gas can in front of the Cheerios on the bottom shelf.  Poetic, in fact.  He strips off all of his clothes and sets them, nicely folded, on the shelf next to the Lucky Charms.  How poetic, he remarks, out loud this time.  People are gasping at the pervert in the cereal aisle, pointing and calling for help from the store employees.  Children's eyes are being covered and stares of hatred build around him.  A hesitant but angry mass.  Theodore bends over, picks up the gas, and lifts it over his head as he tilts the spout towards this forehead.  Some of the herd are catching on to the lesson already, he thinks to himself as the first splashes of fuel hit his face.  He can see their eyes start to open.  This lecture of his will never let them close completely again.

Brad closes his eyes as soon as his head hits the couch, his body all but collapsing.  Peace, he thinks to himself, what a splendid peace to finally get some rest.  He reaches over and clicks the power button on the TV remote.  Slowly, he pulls a cigarette from his latest last-pack-of-smokes and lights it with the blue Bic lighter someone left sitting on the couch.