Gaston walked on the shoulder close to the railing as cars whizzed by. There was no sidewalk on the endless hill, just a gravelly shoulder with scratched CD’s, crushed earbuds, flattened cigarette boxes, plastic sports drink bottles, a hubcap. Gaston had left work early because he’d been so angry. Now the exhaust, late afternoon sun, and engine noise made him more dizzy than angry and he’d lost some of his focus.
The plan had been to get home, get his gun, and go back to the place he washed dishes. However, the wind of the cars zipping by blew the thoughts right out of his head. He’d been walking forever and he still was not down this first hill yet. In his fury leaving work he’d miscalculated exactly how long it would take to walk home.
At the bottom of the hill he took a right across a short bridge and then a left up another hill. Eventually he reached the part where he knew he could take a shortcut through the woods across someone else’s land to his side of the hill.
He knew these woods. He actually knew a lot more about these woods than anyone else. Bad things had happened in these woods over the years and he was the only one who knew. He always imagined bringing a date down this trail and telling her the significance of all his secret cairns. He knew better than to bring anyone here though.
When he reached the top of what he called Sunset Ledge he sat for a while on a mossy boulder. The forest was silent except for the faint sound of the cars speeding down the hill a few miles away. He hadn’t noticed anyone out here but now without even turning his head he sensed a presence. When he finally did turn his head he saw someone enshrouded head to toe in what looked like a sheet soaked in black oil.
Meanwhile back at the restaurant someone had the foresight to call the police. A few officers stood around while the busboys brought dishes back and the other dishwashers went about their business, albeit a bit nervous and shaken from earlier. When you get him you really ought to lock him up this time, said one of the waitresses. Don’t you worry about that, one of the policemen said.
Gaston had made it back to his house now. He walked through the front door and proceeded to knock everything to the floor. Most windows got smashed with a metal bar he brought in from the shed. He found his gun but he knew he’d lose his bluster if he walked all the way back to work. Instead he went upstairs the fifth floor attic where a guy from Australia was paying to stay for a week.
An hour later Gaston had calmed down. He sat watching a talk show in the basement, drinking a diet soda. He dozed off on the couch and dreamt of gazelles back in Africa running and running from a pack of hyenas. Then the dream morphed into Gaston working in a stadium selling hotdogs and popcorn in the bleachers. Then the images dissipated and were replaced by blackness, blackness with a soundtrack of screams of unknown origin. Someone was now shaking him but he didn’t want to wake up. He just closed his eyes tighter and let his head bounce around and drool. If I never wake up they can’t convict me of anything, he told himself. I’ll just act like I’m sleeping until this whole thing blows over…