The Impeccably Dressed Man in the Woods
Harry was frantically pacing back and forth in his living-room, smoking a joint at the same time. Stone watching with amusement, said smiling ”it’s not paranoia if they are really out to get you.”
”Go fuck yourself Stone. This might not have happened if it weren’t for you.”
”What the fuck did I do?”
Harry stopped at his track, pointed at Stone with the joint in his hand and yelled, ”cos you led them to me!”
”I led them to you?”
”You are the incarnate of the fucked-up political system! Your the demon of Americana. It’s really you they want to destroy!”
Stone laughed, grabbed the joint from Harry’s hand and took a big hit.
”It’s just a bunch of e-mails…”
”And a letter in my car!”
”Oooooh!” Stone said, smiling, waving his hands around in mock-fright.
”I had this dream last night.
”What was it about?”
”I’m not sure but when I woke up I didn’t feel the same anymore. It was if I returned from a different world, the existence of which we are not supposed to know.
”It was just a fucking dream.”
”What if they’ve gotten into my head? Transferred these beams through their e-mails? What if I dream and never wake up?”
”There’s no such world. There’s only this one. Don’t be dreaming about others.”
”I can’t help it!”
”Relax will ya! You think they didn’t try this shit with me? I’ve had them trying to screw around in there,” Stone tapped his the side of his head, ”trying to screw things up around there. They pull this shit on me every year, but I let nothing get to me. They never really find the juicy stuff and everything else they find is gonna be useless because I am not ashamed of who I am. Neither should you. Just open up to me Harry, what is it you’re so afraid of?”
”I just want them to leave me alone,” said Harry pacing the room again.
”They won’t leave you alone unless you they are finished with you or you make them.”
”How do I do that?”
”At times like these, it’s best not to run away from yourself. The best thing you can do now is look at yourself in the mirror and see who you really are. If you can do that, there’s nothing they can do to you.”
”I don’t like looking at myself in the mirror.”
”Well there’s your problem right here. There’s something you’re ashamed about. Something you are possibly guilty about. Just come out with it Harry, what is it you fear? What is that thing that won’t leave you alone.”
”I don’t know. But the thought of this certain thing, if its just one, scares the shit out of me.”
”You know,” Stone said getting up, walking towards him, moving in front of him, blocking his pace as he hands him the joint, ”your mother was the same way wasn’t she? She feared things that weren’t really there.”
Harry leaped at Stone, grabbing his shoulders and pushing against the wall. Stone was shocked at first but laughed wildly, ”what the fuck are you doing you silly boy?”
”Don’t mention my mother again, you got that? I told you before. I don’t want to talk about my mother,” Harry said as smoke billowed out his mouth, as the joint still clung to his mouth.
Stone looked in his eyes deeply, as if seeing how far he could go. He then grabbed the joint from his mouth, taking a deep drag.
”Well I guess we have the nerve right there. The thing that haunts you. It was right around her death when things went sour didn’t it? It started the decline of your marriage. It was the start of your alienation from the remainders of your family and friends until you are all alone, in your little podcast booth…”
Harry squeezed his cheeks, pushing them closed. ”I haven’t got much sleep Stone. I’m in a volatile state of mind and you’ve been feeding me liqueur and drugs for the last few days. I’m liable to do anything.”
Stone’s arms leaped from below, pushing Harry’s hands away and before Harry could react, Stone had already punched him in the stomach, hard enough so that Harry’s breath escaped him. Harry went on his knees, clinging on his stomach, gasping for air. Stone stood over him, calmly smoking the joint.
”You went a little too far there Harry. I’ve got my limits too. Come on…” Stone pat his shoulder, ”come sit down with uncle Stone.”
Stone led Harry on the couch and as Harry was regaining his pace of breath, Stone handed him the joint.
”You’re right, maybe they are trying to get to me by getting to you. Though I don’t understand why they think this would work. They tried getting through my ex-wife and that didn’t work and shit, I think I might even loved. But don’t worry Harry, you’re going to be alright. If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror, we simply have to scare them away. Lucky for you, uncle Stone’s got a lot of resources. I can make some calls, we’ll get to the bottom of this. We might not get the guy, but as long as he gets the message that you aren’t somebody to be fucked with, that’s important.”
”How will you transfer the message?”
”You let me worry about that. But don’t worry, you’ll get first class tickets to the show.”
”You handled these guys before? You made these guys stop harassing your clients?”
”Once these guys know that they fucked with someone who knows and worked for the most powerful people in the world, many of them still owing a substantial debt to him, they will leave you alone.”
Harry sighed. It felt wrong getting help from Stone, but it felt like the only way. He just wanted life to be back to normal.
”I don’t want to go sleep today.”
”Don’t worry,” said Stone, fidgeting in his inside suit pocket, ”I’ve got just the thing for that.”
That night, Stone fell asleep on the couch, his escort Tara having fallen asleep on his chest. Harry hadn’t notice this as he was sitting next to them, in the midst of an amphetamine fueled rant: ”….I just to believe in guardian angels you know? I just to believe there was always someone or something protecting you from harm. Like, you could never get to too dark of a place because this force would stop you before you went too far. I felt like this for most of my life. I believed in cos my grandmother told me this story once, when she was lost in the woods, I think somewhere in Arkansas, hiking. She was walking around for half a day and she couldn’t find a way out. Eventually she encountered an impeccably dressed man, like a three-piece suit, something you wouldn’t normally see there, not to mention it was hot and he didn’t look like he was not even breaking a sweet. She gasped and asked him for directions and he told her she had to go this way and that way. She remembered that he spoke in a beautiful English accent. Something she always loved. She asked him if he was English, he said he was. He told her he had to be going and wished her good luck…”
Harry noticed then that Stone and Tara had already fallen asleep. Harry continued on anyway, ”when she started to leave, to the direction he had pointed to, she looked back one last time and he was gone. Boom. There was nowhere he could have turned to. Maybe there was, but at the time there seemed no way. His directions were correct, she found her way home…”
Harry sighed, ”I used to believe there was something protecting me, I believed this until my late thirties, when I was still married and happy. But then things just got worse and worse. And when you think things can’t get any worse, it can. Maybe it’s something I did that made the angels leave. I don’t know. I would do anything for them to come back to me…”
He thought about Sheryl, how her smiled seemed so precious now. Maybe she was the angel he disappointed. The only person that stopped from going the deep-end. It seemed like everything went downhill when she left. His mother would lose her mind right around that time. He would lose the creative drive to write something interesting and his ambition for it seized as well. If he could get her back, he could repair his broken life.
Harry reached into his pocket, grabbed his phone, turned to Sheryl’s number and fondled the call button.
”There’s no use, there’s no fucking use” mumbled Harry to himself when suddenly his phone started to ring.
It said: Anonymous. Harry stared at it. The scream from his dream last night back to him. He could clear it clearly in his mind though he didn’t know where it came from. He dropped his phone on the floor in fright, looked down at it as it kept ringing. Harry closed his eyes, waited until the ringing stopped. He could hear his heart pounding away.
Then it stopped. He looked down at his phone, grabbed it. Suddenly the sound of a text message, Harry dropped it again in fright. He took a deep breath before he grabbed his phone. The message was as terrifying as he had suspected: YOU’RE RIGHT. THERE’S NO FUCKING USE.
Art by Charles Bukowski