This week we have a double-header. Two from Adam Coronado. What struck me about these stories were the seemingly non-sequitur nature of their endings. As someone who loves metaphor, I found these pieces stretching my mind toward connections to ideas and narratives unexpected. What are the ends like? To whom do they relate? A character in the story or to the reader? Make sure to leave your comments, responses, thoughts or brilliance masquerading as little words.
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“Before Home, After Work” by Adam Coronado
Marcus sat in his maroon hatchback, waiting for the man and his sons to cross. The man was purposeful in the crosswalk, his sons indifferent. From the curb, the man’s mouth called out from the shadow of his ball cap. The boys, roundabout, obeyed. Still, they knew little of the night and its dormant grudges.
Marcus smiled at the boys, adjusted the radio’s volume and released the brake. A welcome bed and warm meal were only a short drive away. He began to traverse the long stretch of crosswalk in front of the supermarket, negotiating the speed bumps with aplomb and admiring the leafy shadows cast on the blacktop by the streetlights.
Then, from the periphery of his sight, Marcus noticed a tall man covered in denim. He turned his head and discovered the man was dangerously close to his window, though not grazed by the side mirror.
Has he been in the street all this time? Marcus thought. How thoughtless of m—
Marcus’s mind was interrupted by the sound of something, a fist maybe, colliding loudly with his car.
Marcus stopped the vehicle and stepped out. He called out to the man he almost hit with the car, who was now walking through the sliding doors into the supermarket. Marcus told the man to turn around, berated him with vulgarities, told him to own up to his actions and perhaps try that sort of thing on him and not his property.
The back of the denim clad man gave no reply. He was among the checkout stations now, tapping an employee on the shoulder and pointing over his shoulder, in Marcus’s direction.
Marcus reached the checkout station, eyes still transfixed on his denim covered adversary, who was now disappearing into the aisle of cookware and seasonal items. Marcus continued calling out the man, challenging him to understand that the encounter was an accident and that he was not justified in hitting anyone’s car over a misunderstanding and to be thankful he was not injured, jerkoff. No one was listening except the baggers, cashiers, shift managers, customers and hired security; all startled out of monotony and choked silent by the verbal retribution spewed from the mouth of red-faced Marcus.
The denim covered man was gone. Marcus looked away from the cookware aisle and at the checkout boy and security guard in front of him. The former had placed his hand on the emergency phone. The latter had his hand on his flashlight. Their eyes betrayed a doltish fear.
Marcus apologized to them and walked out.
At the sliding doors, he encountered more security. They ran up to him, but did nothing. Outside, Marcus saw the first man with his two sons. The first man was pointing at Marcus in grand fashion. His mouth told the parking lot to stay away from this guy, he’s dangerous, don’t make this guy mad or he’ll give you what for. The man’s sons looked on, ignorant-eyed and sugar-mouthed.
Marcus reached his car, still running, and realized that he left the door wide open, but remembered to turn the radio off. He wished that he knew the man’s face.
“Lang Samstag” by Adam Coronado
Benjamin was six years old when he attended his first fair. At the time, he was living in Osterholz-Scharmbeck in Lower Saxony, Germany. His father was a captain in the U.S. Infantry, serving along with a few thousand 2nd Armored Division soldiers. His mother taught aerobics to officers’ wives.
Even at six, the boy sensed the peculiarity of where he lived—his being an American in Europe—so he took in as much as he could: the mountains, the castles, the food, the festivities, and the snow, which seemed to fall by the chunk in winter.
The boy loved walking to school in darkness and watching the sun go down long after being put to bed. He loved the massive snowman his father built that took months to melt. He also loved Becker’s baked chicken and square dancing. He loved having both American and German friends. He loved British cartoons and Angelica, the girl who he frequently picked flowers for. He loved cobblestones.
Benjamin picked his nose as his mother took him in town by bike. They passed a produce seller, who commanded the attention of at least 50 people. The seller was a portly fellow with a guttural, hyper voice. He bagged fruits and vegetables for money as he ranted.
The cadence and sonic intonations of the produce seller’s voice faded as Benjamin and his mother rode by. But the voice stayed in the back of the boy’s mind, winding like a fish in a bowl.
“Mum, when we will be go to Bremen?” the boy inquired. “I want to be a musician there, yeah?”
In town, Benjamin’s mother picnicked with other wives. She gave her son two American dollars to exchange for tickets at a fair happening within walking distance. The boy matter-of-factly took his mother’s money and headed for the ticket booth.
But Benjamin got distracted, as he ambled along, by a puppet performance of Kermit the Frog. Benjamin had vague memories of Kermit, from when he lived in America. The name rose in the boy’s mind like bread, as he watched the puppet frog dance forth and back, arms and mouth flailing. There was something sweeping in the music and the frog’s dancing. Benjamin found himself standing next to the stage and a small radio. The boy marched gallantly, as if performing in a musical for the 20 or so audience members. Then he left to buy tickets.
Benjamin returned some hours later, his pockets stuffed with a ball, some jacks, and a miniature deck of playing cards. He carried a half-eaten bag of popcorn the way he would hold large beers later in his life. The seating area was empty now, save for a group who used a few chairs to visit together. Some seats were overturned and facing away from the stage. Before, the throngs of fair-goers walked around the performance site as though repelled by it. Now there were fewer visitors, but they walked through the area as if it were a minor inconvenience.
Benjamin could not take his eyes away from the “stage” where he had previously seen Kermit singing and dancing. He knew that if the famous frog had walked about the fairgrounds, than he would have heard about it. No such news.
The boy only needed to part the curtains behind the puppet theater to get where he thought Kermit was. As the curtains closed behind him, Benjamin found himself alone with the frog of yore.
Kermit lay deflated and still, his eyes seemed to bulge with sorrow. His legs were crumpled beneath his eggplant torso and his arms spread Christ-like in a limp, ineffectual “Ta-da!” The boy felt a surge of embarrassment he was sure he was sharing with the frog. He realized that perhaps they weren’t supposed to encounter this way, but there was no going back now.
Benjamin grimaced as he reached his hand toward the plush frog. Kermit’s stomach gave way to the boy’s fingers, which prompted Benjamin to pull his hand away.
“No, no, no,” the boy said, shaking his head. He squatted, his face between his knees.
Benjamin felt a surge of wind around his body. His face went cold. He opened his eyes to find that the curtain had been pulled open and the scene was now broadcast to the entire fair. He stood and ran away, bumping into a man standing near the stage.
Two years later, the man who originally voiced Kermit—who wasn’t at the fair that day—was dead.