Dear Stars on Ice

Clayton McCann

The crumpled hills have all but fallen away, burnt crisp as ash in t=he fog and twilight. In the bars downtown the rich kids sit and complain the=y never had a chance, the money’s too good, who escapes the money? Along Douglas—named after the ghoul who made off with the=20=entire island—the panhandlers have multiplied, alternately frowning and pasting o=n forced smiles. And it hasn’t gotten=-20cold here yet, not the sort of cold that brings on tears, real regret for reduci=ng your life to a street-level sleeping bag, and then numb. Numb like your f=ace doesn’t work. Numb to the point where your nose doesn’t even run. Numb like you might d=ie but the thought doesn’t sink in, nothing sinks in, you’re a piece of wood=.

And when the cops come and the ambulance drives up in the cobalt da=wn=another panhandler has died, they seize the body and drop it on the stretcher. “Fucking idiot,” one of the cops says a=s the cardboard sign flutters to the ground: Please HELP. Spare Chang.
“Spare Chang! Like he’s some sort of chink on death row,” the other= cop says, and he gets back in the cruiser to beat off=the cold.
The cop in the cruiser shuts the door.
The ambulance attendant wants a signature on the form. The outside c=op signs his name, hands over the pen, receives the form, all in one swift m=otion.
He’s back behind the wheel and they’re rolling before he says, “Tha=t fucking nurse stole my pen.”
“What nurse?”
“The driver, the ambulance. He stole my pen.”
“I gave it to him. And he took it.”
“That’s not theft,” =the other says, “that’s a gift.”
“It fucking is theft.”
“He takes it? After you give it to him?”
“I show my dick. She takes it.”
“Who are we talking about?”
“Anyone, no-one. It doesn’t matter. The act is the taking of someth=ing that is offered.”
“That guy’s going a little fast,” they both watch the car in the le=ft lane speed past, then slow down. It slows more, until it is behind the cr=uiser. “That’s better....”
“A pen is not a dick.”
“Are you on purpose this ignorant? I offer the pe=n. The pen is kept. It is the=20motive of the receiver that counts.”
“Oh, motive.”
“Yes, motive, sir. This ambulance driver, he intends on stealing the pen.”
“You can’t ascertain motive. The poor guy, like us, has been up al=l night—”
The radio bursts forth with a series of bleeps and static, then a d=ispatch officer begins issuing a call.
“—Don’t answer that. We’re off shift as of three minutes ago.”
The other cop taps something on the steering wheel, “This is one-wi=lliam-four-five responding, go ahead dispatch.”
“One-william-four-five, a ten-fifteen at 400 block, Douglas, over.”=
“Confirm, ten-fifteen...”

== +=

At initial approach, which is a drive-up, the guy on the sidewalk l=ooked like another pan-handler. Under-dressed for the weather, clutching him=self, desperate. It wasn’t until they = out of the car that they both had t=he feeling something wasn’t quite normal.
“Look at this fucking guy, will you? He’s scabbed like a sander wor=ked his face!”
“Jibber, probably.”
“Hey, buddy? Can you hear me?”
The man on the sidewalk =still, shivering, but still.
“How is this a ten-fifteen?”
“I just got here myself, partner. Try him again.”
“Hey, buddy? Do you want to try to get up?”
The man on the ground started to shake a little, his head jerking u=p in quick, furtive movements.
A woman appeared from one of the shops down the block. “Hello. I ca=lled the police.”
“So?” said the cop.
“He tried to eat the garbage. I called the police.”
“You work at this convenience store?”
“Yes. He tried to eat the garbage. I—”
“You called the police?”
“The garbage, was it inside your store?”

The other cop pulled out his baton and squatted next to the man. He= poked him with the baton, “You hear me? Can you hear me in there?”
The man convulsed noticeably, his eyes remained shut, but as though= they were forcing themselves shut.
“Sir, I’m asking you to rise, now.” He used his deepest cop voice. The man   went stiff, still and stiff, and then began to float, slowl=y, slowly, off the sidewalk.
“Lieutenant Fong?!”
The other cop =20engaged with the convenience store woman.
“Lieutenant F=ong!”
“Gimme a =20sec, here, =Roger.”
“Fong!= Fer fuc=k’s sake!!=!”
“What the--? That’s n==ot possible!!!”
The man had risen =20== four feet off the sidewalk, and appeared as= though he had no intention of sto=pping.
“He did tha=t in the store,” the woman shrieked, “He did that!”
“Lad=y, why the f==uck didn’t you =20mention it= when I asked you to tell     m=e what happened?”
“What the fu=2ck, Fong?!”=
“Just relax, =20Roger. Ste=p back here, lady... +Sir! ==S=ir, can you hear me=20?!...=SIR!!!”
The man sort of +sat up while floating in the air. Hi=s +bo=dy stopped rising. H=is eyes=+ open=ed, tw=o white, blinding whi=te lights shining o=ut of his +head.
“Fuck me+=!!”
“R+20=oger, call for—”
But= the man’s voice scree=ched out, “WHAT IS TO BE DONE, NOW THAT AL=L HAS BEEN FULFILLED?!!”
“What+=20==? What did he =say?!”
“+=20Roger! Call for—!+=20==”
“=Fuck this!!” And +20the== cop pulled out his =20==taser, “Sir! +==I or=der you20 t=o re+===turn =20to the sidewalk!”
“Wh=at the f==uck are+=20 you 20+==doing, Roger?!”
“I’m gonn=a taser this fu==cking—!!!”
“I do=n’t think 20-=that’s—”
A streak +=20 from the taser =, two streaks, tw=o w=+ires attach=20 themselves =to the man, the= man floating there. =+In the next instant the m=an began to+20 glow, white+ hot. The cop dropped the taser, shielding his+20 eyes. T=he other cop and the woman, too, cov=ering their eyes from =the br+==ightening inten=sity, all three+ step=20ping =back, away as from a+= house fire.
The man screamed =+again, this time some+th=ing unintelligible, and the =white+ heat filled the air, scor20=ching the cops, the woman, the street, blinding20=, blind=ing +white heat, white= light!

+ -

“And that’s when the suspect stole your taser?”
“Yes sir.”
“After you had fired it?”
“Sort of.”+
“What do you mean, ‘sort of’? Did he st=eal Roger’s taser or didn’t he?”
“It seemed to me...”
“Well, it seemed to me, sir, that Roger abandoned the taser, you kn=ow, when the 20suspect began to glow, uh, white hot.”
“Yes, sir. Abandoned it, you know, because it was getting =hairy.”
“And so, Roger, you abandoned your taser weapon?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Was a thorough—?”
“Yes, Fong?”
“It was more like he=20gave him the taser...”

Originally published in Moss: Volume One.
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