Two StoriesBy Willis Plummer
November 21, 2018
We were driving on the bus. I had stolen a curtain rod from Target and was feeling proud despite having still payed twenty some dollars for a curtain and another rod. I texted Henry. He was concerned that there were cameras at the self-checkout machines. And then my phone died. I was taking out my earbuds when I heard the gunshots. I wanted to say the unmistakable sound of etc. but there are a lot of things you could mistake for gunshots and vice-versa. It was a lot of shots. Like two clips. Pop pop pop pop pop. And then a pause and pop pop pop pop pop. No one on the bus was really reacting at first. I think I’ve trained myself not to react to this kind of thing. No one wants to be the panicked white gentrifier on a bus thinking that firecrackers are gunshots. A woman smiled at me and said, “I’m going to just ride to the next stop and then walk a little bit extra I guess.” I nodded the way I normally would to passively disengage from a stranger. The bus was stopped. We were at the bus stop and everyone was on the ground except for me. Not that I was being brave or anything like that. I just looked up and everyone was taking cover all of a sudden and I was just still sitting normal in the plastic seat. Someone was yelling at the bus driver to get us out of there. The backdoors were open so we yelled backdoor. I don’t know how to explain the panic but it was like somehow these people communicating with the bus driver had me convinced that the shooter was trying to get on the bus like a Pittsburgh situation in the synagogue but maybe just punishing New Yorkers for voting against Trump. For all of that it wasn’t scary. Just total powerlessness with my head between my knees. After a minute, we pulled away and when I got off the bus at Mr. Coco there was a person asking for change like usual and people buying vegetables like usual. I called Sarah. She was in Boston buying a toothbrush and apologized for being distracted. It didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to tell it to someone. It didn’t feel like anything. I set to putting up the curtains in my bedroom and then crushed the two grams of ketamine I had bought from Curtis the previous week. On the couch with my eyes closed, I was swirling through a library, vaguely aware that I would become a part of this place forever. Some sort of realization of my inner nature I think. Later I was thrown through a paper shredder and spit out as a gentle confetti, among other things.
My upstairs neighbor’s hacking cough comes in through the ventilation in my shower while I’m taking a shit. I hear it from my window sometimes too and wonder whether he’s outdoors or if the sound carries from his window down to mine.
I shouldn’t gender the neighbor. Based on the low register of the cough, I assume that it’s a man, but, now, considering, I could also put a heavyset woman in her forties to the sound.
In the lobby of the building there’s a bulletin where someone has pinned a pamphlet about the benefits of eating fruit and vegetables. A woman advertises her services as a cat sitter and pamperer. And our thoughts go out to Salvador James, who has died in the building. The printed out tribute includes his photograph in a brown suit with a red tie.
Someday I assume I won’t hear the cough anymore and I’ll put a name and face to my former upstairs neighbor from a notice in the aforementioned forum.
The cat has come in and laid down at my feet. Finished, I flush and stand up. She jumps twice; into and then back out of the bathtub, producing one sound when her feet touch the porcelain. Her second landing is muffled by the bathmat.
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first i want to address that so far the two comments on ‘two stories’ are funny
i liked reading both of these stories
i liked when the narrator in the first story said ‘I think I’ve trained myself not to react to this kind of thing’ and ‘Not that I was being brave or anything like that’
i liked the complex relation to other people in the apartment building in the second story
i liked the narrator’s tone/feeling that verges on indifference and ends up being a kind of peace resulting from the everyday nature of disturbing (both up close and distantly heard/sensed) events about both stories
thanks willis and TNB
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