Anatol Timko was still not comfortable using a wheelchair. Several unsuccessful surgeries had not been able to correct his herniated disc. The doctor had recommended a sustained amount of time spent off his feet. Anatol had reservations about this.
The chair was making him feel claustrophobic and he didn’t like feeling dependent on his girlfriend or mother for everyday tasks. He was also having trouble sleeping. He would
look out of his window and often see things that he knew weren’t real. Yet he would let his imagination carry him away creating elaborate fantasies in his head. Before he knew it the sun would find it’s way through the curtains and he had not slept at all. To pass the time, Anatol checked out a book about myths from the library. There was a chapter on urban myths including the man with the hook as well as the bogyman.
Anatol looked at himself in the mirror. His face looked drawn from the lack of sleep. Feeling disgusted, he turned himself away from his reflection. Why didn’t anyone consider things from the hook man’s point of view? Society had forced the murderer to act that way. Society had been unaccepting of the hook. The same with the bogeyman. He had nowhere else to go. When the bogeyman scratched on windows at night, it was simply a call for help. Anatol found himself drawn in to these stories. He still wasn’t sleeping. His girlfriend was calling and complaining that Anatol would never take her out to dinner or dancing.
After several days of no sleep, Anatol finally slept all night and all throughout the next day. He woke up feeling groggy but with a clear mind.
He got himself into the bathtub and ran the water hot until his skin felt as though it were peeling. He limped out of the bathtub and dried himself with a dirty towel. He pulled on a pair of jeans and his boots and a long sweater. He grabbed the keys from his dresser and stared at the wheelchair. He limped towards the door holding a brown paper bag. He walked down his street and continued towards the main highway.
Liberty Knight was stirring her coffee when she saw the man limp through the doors of the Lucky Palace convenience store. He was holding a brown paper bag and looked a little lost. She looked around nervously, afraid that maybe the man might have a gun in the bag.
“Can I help you find something?” the cashier asked the man. He had also been eying the man suspiciously.
Liberty took a sip of her coffee and rubbed her bottom lip. The cold sore was driving her crazy.
The strange man limped to where she was standing. He grabbed a large Styrofoam cup and began filling it. He stared at Liberty. She coughed and walked over to the magazines to get away from him.
The man walked to the cashier and paid for the coffee but lingered at the front of the store, making Liberty nervous. She remembered hearing somewhere about holding yourself with good posture to avoid being attacked in dark places. The writer of the article had also mentioned holding your keys in front of you as if they were a knife.
She picked up a box of Tylenol and the coffee and asked the cashier for a couple of lottery tickets.
She spent a long time buying the tickets hoping when she left the store the man would be gone.
The cashier noticed her fear and asked her if she wanted him to call the police. She said no, and walked outside with her Tylenol.
Anatol stood beside the building drinking his coffee. He was waiting for the woman. He wondered if she liked to drink. Maybe she liked to sleep in on weekends and wasn’t high maintenance like his girlfriend. Maybe he could ask her to come back to his house. She didn’t look like she had anywhere important to go. Maybe there was no-one waiting for her at home. He looked in the bag and stuck his hand inside, feeling the smooth metal against his fingertips.
Liberty walked outside. It was starting to get dark. She could already see a full moon through the trees across the street. She walked quickly to her car and got inside, turning her heater on full blast.
Anatol watched the woman leave the store. He watched her walk to the white Mazda parked in front.
He limped towards the driver side and leaned into the car. He watched as her terrified face began to change colors. A light pink gradually changed into a rosacea -red. She started at him and kept her eye on the brown bag he held in his left hand.
“Yes?” she said as she slowly turned the key in the ignition.
“I noticed you have a tire that’s low. That’s all.” He said.
“Uh, thank you.” Liberty said.
“I can fill your tires for you if you like.” He offered.
Liberty started the car and put it in reverse.
“I’m not a psycho,” he said as he watched the car slowly move away.
Anatol pulled the hook from the bag and put it on his hand. He watched the car burn rubber as it pulled away. He began to walk towards the truck stop a few miles away. He thought about his wheelchair.
And how he had convinced the doctors to perform the surgeries he knew he never needed. He knew he was sick. They showed him the x-rays. They told him everything was fine. They told him he didn’t need the painkillers, the crutches, the recovery time, the weeks off from work. He started to walk faster glancing at the long shadow the hook was making on the pavement. It almost looked like a scythe.
He smiled and felt hopeful as he made his way through the well worn path next to the highway.
Melanie BrowneCo-editor of Leaf Garden press
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