April 19, 2013 in Books
Enjoy a free read of “The Streetwalker”, which is chapter 1 of my new novel “Dead-Ringer”. Links to purchase the entire book are above. God bless you, Jim Yackel.
© 2013 Jim Yackel
Jesse Same didn’t choose to be up at 12:57 a.m. on this clear and chilly Tuesday morning in late October, 2009, but you could say that he was the insomniac’s insomniac. Still, Jesse would be quick to point out that it wasn’t insomnia but something else that had him walking in his black Cross Trekkers along the peaceful streets of Chittenango, New York. And like an artistic mime scribbling on air, Jesse would feel compelled to draw an image of the town that would be even quieter if that stupid mongrel belonging to that convicted child molester Kenny Harsch wasn’t barking its flea-infested head off at oh-dark-thirty!
L. Frank Baum, the writer of that timeless tale The Wizard of Oz was born in the rustic burgh of Chittenango, and Jesse counted the film adaptation of Baum’s story as one of his favorite movies. Indeed, this man who was sleepless in the “’Nango” was proud of the town’s only claim to fame. As Jesse perambulated in a southwesterly direction on Genesee Street past the Redwood Bar and Grill, the streetlamps illuminated the imbedded bricks of the faux “Yellow Brick Road” that was created by the village fathers in honor of Baum to adorn the sidewalks on either side of what was the main thoroughfare through town.
The remnants of the dream that woke Jesse out of his fragile sleep were being dissolved in the sound of South Central Rain by R.E.M., from their 1984 album “Reckoning”. But just as the voice of Michael Stipe began to sing “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” over the jangling D minor guitar chord and tinkling piano, the mental radio in Jesse’s head was unceremoniously unplugged from its cerebral wall socket.
It wasn’t so much the blast of beer breath assaulting Jesse’s olfactory glands and the slurred proclamation of “Eaguhs winnnnn… Redskinnnnssssssuck… efff-yeah!” as an inebriated football fan staggered out of the Redwood after earlier watching the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Washington Redskins 27-17 on Monday Night Football. What was more annoying to Jesse was the drunken, eerily familiar Chittenango resident’s insistence on placing his dirty, tattered, green Philadelphia Eagles cap on Jesse’s head while he leaned into him to keep from falling onto the yellow brick center of the sidewalk.
Though only 5’5” tall and 135 pounds, the tottering drunk man’s weight pushed Jesse into a black vintage-style street lamp post. With the post offering support, Jesse stripped the Eagles hat from his head with his right arm, while pushing the drunk off of him with his left. As the intoxicated reveler wobbled backward, he screeched with a garbled voice “heyyyyyyyy, you look like Elvish Preshley” before collapsing onto his buttocks. As Jesse re-gathered his wits, the drunk who was now sprawled on the “Yellow Brick Road” vomited; spilling some of the chunky yellow and pink liquid onto his faded denim jacket while the remainder steamed on the faux pathway to the fictional merry old Land of Oz.
As an appalled, dazed, and confused Jesse started to quickly stride away from the drunk, he was able to reply to the prone Eagles fan “yeah, a lot of people say I look like Elvis” before affecting a perfect voice impersonation of the King of Rock-n-Roll and adding an “uh-huh.”
Jesse was fifteen feet further along on the yellow bricks when a black and white Chittenango Police Department SUV pulled up to the curb on Genesee Street alongside him. Jesse continued to walk, passing a small storefront known as the Oz Museum as he heard the Dodge Durango’s driver-side door close. It was then that he heard the command “hey you hold up!”
The man who bore a striking resemblance to Elvis Presley stopped and turned toward the approaching officer named William Brostic. The rotund, terribly out-of-shape, fifty-six-year-old cop waddled up to Jesse and asked him curtly “where you goin’ tonight?”
“Just out walking, officer” Jesse answered politely.
“Lemme see some I.D.” was the panting cop’s brusque follow-up.
As an irritated Jesse retrieved his New York driver’s license from his wallet and Brostic’s portable radio squawked some indecipherable garble, the intoxicated Eagles fan yelled “heyyyyyyy Billeeee” as he laid on his right side in a puddle of his own steaming reverse peristalsis.
“Hey, Ronny, you celebratin’ yer team’s win tonight?” the cop replied while snatching the I.D. from Jesse – seemingly embarrassed that he knew the drunk who was hideously prone on the yellow bricks.
“Aah! Elvish pushed me dowwwnnnn… then heeee tried t’ take my warrrret, Billeeee! An’ I thought heee wassss dead! Whyyy ish shome richeeee rich famoush sing-gher tryna take my warrr… warret? Heyyyy Billeeee – eeeee… duh Eaguhs wonnn!”
“Mr. Same, did you assault that helpless intoxicated man on the sidewalk over there? Did you take his wallet?” the cop inquired of Jesse accusingly.
“Heee gave myyy Eaguhs hat t’ da dog!” the now sobbing drunk screeched as he assumed a fetal position in a fresh pile of puke on the “Yellow Brick Road.”
“What dog… what wallet…what the…?” a confused Jesse asked Officer Brostic as the cop forced him chest first against the side of the police vehicle as he began frisking him.
“Ha-ha-ha! I jus’ messssinnn; my wa… (belch) warret ish right heee-yer” drunk Ronny screeched from his fetal position, no longer crying but laughing, and then stating “Eaguhs wonnnnn, Elvish sucks!”
Brostic halted his frisk of Jesse as two male Redwood patrons emerged from inside and began to help Ronny to his feet. As the men lifted Ronny, the drunk passed out. Both of the men were in their forties, and one sported a green Eagles jersey numbered “1” with a customized player name plate on the back bearing LADY’S MAN. It was this fellow who announced “we got ‘em, Billy. Hey, and next time, don’t buy him so many rounds dude, ya know he can’t hold his liquor – ha ha!”
As the two men dragged the unconscious Ronny back into the bar, the cop glared at Jesse and asked “what are you doing walking around this time of night? I see you out here a lot and I…”
Jesse interrupted the obese cop and asked “what are you doing drinking before work?”
“What? You got no proof of that…”
Jesse angrily interrupted the nervous cop with “the proof is in the form of that macho idiot with LADY’S MAN on his jersey. He just indicted you with his words. And, I’m no lawyer, but I think that waste-case Ronny might be some compelling evidence against you.”
“I oughta arrest you right now for Battery. You…”
“Arrest me for Battery? You must be under the influence, officer! It was that drunk that staggered into me as I was walking by this bar, minding my own business” Jesse interrupted the cop, and then continued:
“There is no law against me walking at night. I am committing no crimes. In reality, I could press charges against that Ronny for knocking me into this lamp post here, but I won’t. I can see that Ronny has enough problems already. But, you officer, you’re the one that might be looking at charges. I can smell the booze on your br…”
Before Jesse could finish the word “breath”, Brostic pushed him back against the passenger’s side of the Durango; Jesse’s spread-legged frame obscuring the the gold-lettered POLICE adornment on the back door. Jesse’s left foot was caught between the curb and the vehicle, causing a bolt of pain to shoot like lightning through his ankle, making him wonder for the longest millisecond if it was broken.
The long millisecond stretched into many full seconds, and Brostic froze for a moment before lifting his left hand off of the taller Jesse’s shoulder, leaving a puff of stretched fabric in his green Russell Athletic knit hoodie. As the seconds lumbered along, Brostic slowly slid his right hand off of the handcuffs attached to his gun belt and then lifted both hands to their corresponding shoulders with palms facing forward – seemingly affecting a gesture of surrender.
There were no cars passing along Genesee Street and no other witnesses, other than those in the supernatural. No one peered through the windows of the Redwood Bar & Grill. The New York Pizzeria, the Oz Museum, the Just Dance Studio, Delphia’s Restaurant, and the other small shops along the “Yellow Brick Road” were closed and uninhabited. The tenants of the apartments above the shops were either asleep or had no interest in looking through their windows. Yes, for this miniscule period of time, it seemed that the world was populated only by Jesse and the fat Chittenango cop whose backup from the Madison County Sheriff’s Department never arrived.
“I’m willing to let this go, Mr. Same. I don’t think Ronny is gonna wanna press charges against you. He won’t even remember this in the mornin’. But, you better watch yer step and don’t cause any more trouble around here, got it?”
Jesse was able to stand on the grey concrete section of sidewalk despite his twisted left ankle throbbing with pain. As Brostic announced into his Motorola portable radio that he was “clear”, Jesse rebutted sonorously “and you officer had better get some breath mints, the whiskey is strong on your breath.”
“Please repeat that unit three zero two, regarding whiskey, over” a response crackled through Brostic’s radio as the cop glared at Jesse as he started to limp away from the scene.
Five minutes had passed and Jesse’s ankle was hurting less but the thoughts in his head were swirling like cyclone-driven roofing nails. He had passed the La Cocina restaurant – the town’s purveyor of “authentic” Mexican food – turned right, and was now setting foot on the “Creek Walk”, a gravel pathway that was much like the Erie Canal Towpath that also passed through Chittenango. The Creek Walk paralleled Chittenango Creek – known as Madison County’s most popular trout stream – and was a pleasant venue for jogging, biking, or taking a leisurely stroll.
The Oak, American elm, and Yellow Birch trees prevalent along the Creek Walk had dropped many of their leaves on the pathway, creating slippery areas and also serving to cover the fallen fruit of the Juglans nigra or Eastern Black Walnut trees – the nuts still shrouded in their brownish-green husks. Jesse could not see the nuts in the dark, but could certainly feel the hard round fruit when by happenstance he’d step on one.
Even easier to feel was the walnut that dropped onto his head, having seemingly been pulled from its parent tree by the intermittent breeze that added to the new morning’s chill. “Ow! Ah!” Jesse yelped as the nut’s surprise contact caused him to stop walking and spin around, putting extra stress on his tender ankle. Jesse looked up toward the walnut tree and then bent down in confusion. He would have appeared strange to the natural eye of another walker would they have come upon him; he rubbing his left ankle with his left hand while messaging the top of his noggin with his right in what would appear to be an out of sync version of the Hokey Pokey.
After a half-minute of rubbing and messaging, Jesse stood upright and resumed walking; albeit with sore ankle and a growing goose egg. His eyes watered with frustration and pain as he muttered to himself “why does this weird stuff always happen to me – why!?”
What was hidden to the aforementioned natural eye was the supernatural translucent image of a demon that bore an uncanny resemblance to one of L. Frank Baum’s “flying monkeys” dressed in bellhop’s hat and vest. The mischievous sprite seemingly snickered with glee as it stood weightless on a mere twig of the walnut tree, nineteen feet above where Jesse had just passed.
But what of the aforementioned dream? Wasn’t it the dream that woke him at 12:05 a.m. and forced him outside to walk the streets, only to find a modicum of peace on this gravelly path along the rushing rivulets of Chittenango Creek? If it wasn’t for the dream, he’d still be asleep and would never have had the bizarre encounter with Ronny the barfing drunk and William Brostic the cop equipped with enough adipose tissue to serve as a second line of defense in the event his Kevlar would be penetrated.
Sometimes the dreams were difficult to separate from the visions. Indeed, it had become difficult for Jesse to know any more if he was awake or asleep. But, as Jesse walked, he was reasonably certain he was awake as he felt with his right hand’s middle finger the bump that had grown as a result of the walnut bomb dropped on his head with amazing accuracy. The resulting contusion was trickling blood through his hair and then downward along his right side mutton chop, and as Jesse dragged his hand along the side of his head a red smear was painted on the outside of his index finger.
Jesse ascended the short wheelchair ramp that ran left from the path to a wooden handicap-accessible fishing platform that extended over a hedge of boulders that bordered a swirling pool in the creek. The platform had been constructed over the summer by members of Trout Unlimited Chapter 680. Here was a spot loaded with beautiful Brown Trout and the ubiquitous White Sucker, but thus far the platform rarely saw fisherman. More commonly, the fishing platform was utilized by underage drinkers, smokers, and dopers; all seeking a nighttime hideaway to pursue their vices without being caught.
Bolted to the plywood slats at the front of the platform was a newly installed, white 30” x 30” sign reading CAUTION – SHALLOW WATER AND HIDDEN ROCKS BELOW – NO DIVING OR JUMPING FROM FISHING PLATFORM. Below the warning text was an illustration of a male outstretched in a dive about to make contact with water. The illustration was circled in red with the obligatory angled slash through it.
Jesse snickered to himself as strode to the front of the platform, wondering who would be stupid or stoned enough to jump, creating the need for the new sign. The platform was scarcely four months old but it had already become a place of refuge for Jesse. He was glad that it was currently devoid of any other human life, so he might have some time to linger and pull out some of the proverbial roofing nails swirling through his mind and piercing his psyche.
The youthful thirty-something that bore such a striking resemblance to the ‘68 Comeback Special Elvis didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs – and yet it seemed that the hordes around him who did had a better quality of life. If there was pain, most around him would drown it in booze or suffocate it in some manner of illegal substance. And, those painkillers were also recreational and formed friendships while killing time. If the addictions became too powerful, the addicted were coddled and pitied and then celebrated as role models if they managed to overcome. In this world, if you didn’t drink to excess or use drugs, you were essentially persona non grata.
No, Jesse did it the hard way by walking the narrow path. Unlike the Creek Walk, the narrow path was strewn with roots and rocks and bordered with untrimmed thorn bushes. This path through Jesse’s life was littered with spiritual broken glass that would penetrate his supernatural sneakers and cut his feet. Indeed, it was a narrow path and a rough road, but it was the only way home.
The sky was clear but moonless, so the cool limpid water below looked like motor oil in the darkness. Jesse wiped his right hand on his jeans and believed the minor bleeding from his injured crown had stopped. He could see his breath in the cold as he looked down at the gracefully flowing creek while leaning against the slats that served as the front of the platform. He shoved his hands into his hoodie pockets, shivered, and wished that he would have pulled his Pelle Studio Classic black leather jacket on over the knit garment. But, when he left his upstairs one bedroom apartment in the grey multi-family house with burgundy shutters at 316 Genesee Street, he wasn’t thinking clearly and was too distressed to realize that 41 degrees Fahrenheit is cold!
It was a dream this time and not a vision. He had been asleep he was sure. Jesse knew the dream was in some way prophetic, but how could he get anyone to believe him? He was confidant now that these dreams and visions were in fact endowments of the Holy Spirit. But, these dreams and visions over the last two weeks were causing him to torment in ways that he had never known.
The cold was too much to bear without a warm jacket, and Jesse was quickly back on the Creek Walk, passing behind the brick with white trim single-level structure housing the Chittenango Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare. He cut through the parking lot and walked the short driveway to Russell Street where he crossed, turned right, and was now walking the sidewalk back toward the center of the village.
Jesse passed the inconspicuously middle class duplexes and bungalows along Russell Street, many of which still had lights on at 1:40 a.m. Street lights were lined along the opposite side of the street, but most of them were non-operational.
After walking two blocks in a distracted daze, Jesse crossed Russell near its culmination at Genesee and ambled along the diagonal sidewalk that bisected Dr. West Memorial Park, which served as the town square as well as food and vendor location for the Oz Fest every June. Scattered about the autumn leaf-strewn park lawn were heavy oak benches shaped like church pews; save for their un-churchlike red and white two-tone paint jobs.
Jesse sat down on the bench closest to the Genesee Street side of the park, with his back to the Ten Pin Restaurant & Tavern at the intersection of Genesee and Seneca Streets. To Jesse’s right, where Russell ended at Genesee was the Chittenango Volunteer Fire Department. To his left was Arch Street, that particular block being non-descript and residential. Directly in front of Jesse, Arch Street “arched” to the right and on the arch was situated the stone gothic-style architecture of First Presbyterian Church of Chittenango. The church, built in 1828, featured a large concrete stairway that led to a tall, white, arched entryway with double wooden doors. The two-story edifice featured arched, recessed window sets on either side of the entrance; all trimmed in white. The entryway itself was topped with a peaked roof trimmed with white that pointed to another peaked roof over the main structure, which pointed to a square, white, wooden belfry that sat on a smaller peaked roof.
First Presbyterian Church was a significant part of the dream that woke Jesse and had him out walking in the wee hours of Tuesday, October 27, 2009. The church building itself fit well into the Halloween motif that had overtaken the village like it did every year as of late; with an increasing number of plastic skeletons, inflatable ghosts and witches, strings of orange lights, rubber bats, and plastic tombstones gracing so many porches and front lawns while Jack O’ Lanterns lit with candles smiled or grimaced on front steps – the facial expressions dependent on the moods and imaginations of the individuals operating the carving knives.
The Jack O’ Lantern’s candle lights around town had been extinguished for the night. The church still loomed as a stone-faced monolith, surrounded by street lights that actually worked. As Jesse sat and stared at the church, he shuddered as his tired mind still possessed enough energy to recall the dream from a couple hours before…
…In the dream, Christmas wreaths were hung below the globes of the vintage-style black street lamps along Genesee St. There was snow on the wreaths and a thin layer of slush on the faux Yellow Brick Road that made up the center of the sidewalks on either side of the street. Many of the businesses had twinkling Christmas lights and trees decorated with Wizard of Oz ornaments adorning their street-side bay windows. It was late afternoon and the sun was sinking below the western horizon as Jesse walked in a westerly direction, passing the Redwood Bar and Grill. In the dream, no Ronny the drunken “Eaguhs” fan emerged from the Redwood to accost him. Jesse said to no one in particular “it’s kind of quiet for a late Friday afternoon” as there was no one to hear him.
The rumble of a low-flying helicopter broke the relative silence, but Jesse couldn’t lift his head to see the whirlybird; such is the state of dreams. But, Jesse was able to see a large shadow sweep across the street in the fading light, and he again spoke to no one, asking “why is that helicopter flying so low?”
As Jesse spoke the word “low”, the Chittenango Fire Department’s Federal STH10 alert siren began its oscillating wail, and simultaneously all of the lights in the shops along Genesee Street went out. As the siren began its first descent of its five cycle cadence, a mature male voice spoke from a point unknown to Jesse, commanding him to stop, look, and listen. As Jesse was frozen in confusion, a sober Ronny, resplendent in a white apron with pizza sauce stains, burst forth from the New York Pizzeria and stopped on the “Yellow Brick Road” in front of Jesse and said with angry astonishment “they friggin’ took Sean Hannity off the air, dude! The whole friggin’ AM band just ain’t there! It’s like the whole goddam thing is gone! What the hell!? I’ve been on the wagon since October 27th man, but this bullcrap makes me wanna drink again!”
“No, Ronny, please, please don’t drink… you’re gonna die, man!” an ostensibly paralyzed Jesse plead with sober Ronny the pizza chef. Ronny was now sobbing and his image began to dissolve. Jesse was overwhelmed by panic as he tried to run toward the disappearing man but could not move. It was then that the voice again commanded stop, look, and listen!
“Lord Jesus, don’t let him die without you!” Jesse screamed as he too was now crying, while bearing a crushing level of despair. Simultaneously, residents of the houses and apartments along Genesee began to pour out into the street in frantic, angry, desperate confusion.
“It’s an effing free-for-all!” a blond, freckle-faced 18 year old sporting a buzz cut and wearing a white tank top, oversized jeans that hung off of his posterior, and sideways flat-brimmed NY Yankees cap proclaimed with sinister delight as he punched his 89 year old downstairs neighbor in the left temple. After the elderly man toppled backward over a yellow fire hydrant and then fell onto the slush-covered shoulder of Genesee Street, the thug snatched the man’s wallet from his grey slacks as he lie twitching in death throes.
“Just take his cash, Homes. The credit cards ain’t workin’ nowhere” the thug’s similarly dressed 19 year old roommate advised his friend. “Cool… let’s get some forties, even if we gotta bust the frickin’ windows on the Byrne Dairy!” was the killer’s ecstatic reply.
As the two walked away from the scene, a 40 inch flat-screen TV burst through the glass of a bedroom window of an apartment above the Just Dance Studio. The 19 year old saw the television falling and yelled “look out” as he scurried out of its path. The projectile landed back-first on the unaware 18 year old roommate, fracturing his skull and shattering five of his upper vertebrae, killing him instantly. The 19 year old whose soul was devoid of any compassion exclaimed “sucks to be you, dude!” and then cackled with laughter as he walked away along the “Yellow Brick Road” as twenty already shocked and frightened Chittenango residents looked on in horror.
In his dream, Jesse attempted to pursue the killer but his right arm was grabbed by the curly-haired redhead with too-tight jeans and too much lipstick who worked as a hairdresser at the Alexander of New York Hair Studio. As he tried to pull free, his gaze was drawn to her piercing blue eyes that were wide with fear as she clung tightly to his arm. There were a number of people gathered under the awning of the salon, and they were speaking in frantic tones as they wondered what exactly had happened. Jesse could not decipher what they were saying but was able to hear the hairdresser.
“The guy on Y-94 FM said that we need to stay in our homes. I need to get home to my daughter but somebody smashed the windshield of my car! I gotta get home and the phones aren’t working so I can’t even call her. Please help me… please!” the 40 year old panic-stricken woman pled with Jesse.
“Okay, let’s walk down the street to my apartment and I’ll give you a ride. I think I know where you live, but you have to let go of my arm” Jesse replied calmly; albeit in confusion.
It was then that cocky, swaggering 23 year old Chittenango Police officer Ryan McMaster, who sported the obligatory “high and tight” haircut, grabbed Jesse’s left arm and said “you aren’t driving anywhere. You return to your home ‘hero’ before I throw your ass in jail, and you get back to the salon, lady. No vehicular travel is allowed.”
Jesse heard the hairdresser’s desperate plea of the cop as he found himself suddenly floating toward Dr. West Memorial Park. There were 40 or so panicky individuals gathered there on the snow-covered lawn, asking of each other if anyone knew why the electricity and cellphone service was out. As Jesse heard them speaking, some claimed they still had power and it seemed to be a block by block issue.
In the dream, Jesse now sat on the same bench as he did in the wee waking hours of this Tuesday morning. A hoarsened male voice announced from the crowd “before the juice went out, one of those pretty boys on FOX News said there mighta’ been some kinda’ nuke in New York City er somethin’. If that’s true, we kin jus’ bend over and kiss our asses g’by!”
Jesse stood up to walk toward the smaller group of people from which the man spoke, in an effort to glean more information. It was then that the same Chittenango Police officer ordered from behind “hold it right there, sir!” Jesse turned toward the young policeman, and as he did a loud gunshot boomed through the park and the cop’s head exploded in a gory mess of bone, brain matter, and blood. A navy blue, late model Dodge Ram pickup truck squealed away from the Genesee Street curb, 10 yards behind where the cop had been standing. Jesse could see seated in the truck’s bed as it sped away four middle-aged men dressed in green camouflage who looked more like deer hunters than military personnel. Each man carried what looked to Jesse to be military-grade rifles.
A red-headed 43 year old bar tender named Sandy, with a voice harshened by too many Virginia Slims and too much Miller High Life screeched hysterically from the now growing throng in the park:
“Oh my god, the North Madison Militia shot the friggin’ cop! They blew his friggin’ brains out! Oh…my…GOD!”
As Sandy cried out in revilement, two Chittenango Police cruisers as well as a silver-hued Ford Explorer with green trim and bearing the MILITARY POLICE insignia on the front doors commenced pursuit of the speeding blue pickup. As the first pursuing black and white Crown Victoria passed the Subway restaurant, it exploded in a ball of flame, having been impacted by a HEAT warhead fired from the back of the pickup by an M72 LAW. The car’s hood twirled through the air and then smashed through the eatery’s bay window, leaving the upper left corner of the Five Dollar Foot-Long poster that adorned the window to dangle in the cold breeze. The militia member had but one shot with this type of shoulder-fired weapon that was last produced in 1983 – and he made it count with practiced precision.
The cop driving the second Crown Vic put the brake pedal to the floor, forcing the vehicle into a three-sixty before it was struck by the trailing Military Police SUV. The police cruiser tipped onto its passenger’s side in the center of Genesee Street while the out of control Military Police vehicle wheeled onto the south sidewalk and came to a rest in a vacant lot that now resembled a Christmas card image with the freshly-fallen snow. The two MP’s in the front seat were seriously injured and would not be able to exit the smoking vehicle.
Despite the weather, the time, and the appearance, there was nothing “Christmassy” about this scene as smoldering shrapnel littered the street and the smell of burning plastic, rubber, and flesh filled the air.
Seemingly undaunted, Jesse turned his head toward First Presbyterian Church where his dreaming eyes fixated on the white wooden belfry. Standing on top of the structure was what could best be described as a seven foot tall translucent grey gargoyle, with its chiropteran wings folded neatly on its back. The being’s head and face possessed qualities that appeared human, but from a distance Jesse could not decipher the finer features.
As Jesse “looked and listened”, the being used its muscular arms to tear open its abdomen, releasing fifteen “flying monkeys” in a supernatural Caesarean section. The bird-winged apes were in essence identical to those from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz books and film and stood between three and four feet tall, dependent on the individual. Like the gargoyle they were grey in color and translucent, making Jesse think that they did not possess a natural body. The faces of these Hominidae revealed human-like expression, some smiling while others grimaced; all appearing “thoughtful”. As they burst from the gargoyle’s stomach, the winged monkeys flew down to the snow-covered park lawn and then frolicked about while whispering into the unaware ears of many of the gathered crowd members.
“You can’t see them but in your spirit you hear them! Don’t listen to them! Don’t do what they tell you to do!” Jesse yelled, using his strong diaphragm to full effect.
“Don’t do what… you alright, man?” a young volunteer firefighter asked as he shook Jesse’s left shoulder. The young man couldn’t help but stop as he saw Jesse on the bench and heard him murmur “don’t do what they tell you to do” as he walked home through the park after running to the station for what turned out to be a false alarm.
“Yeah, man, I’m fine. I must have fallen asleep here on the bench and had a bad dream” a startled and embarrassed Jesse responded as he quickly stood up.
“Okay, good… glad you’re alright” the firefighter said, shrugged his shoulders and continued on his way. Before the alert siren blew, the 21 year-old volunteer had been arguing with his live-in girlfriend, whom he was sure was cheating on him. His anger was again boiling, and he suddenly had the notion that the “unfaithful wench” needed a punch in the mouth to straighten her out. “As a matter a fact, maybe I’ll just toss that new TV that I bought for her through the window” he thought to himself as his gait became a purposeful stride.
As a haunted Jesse began heading home, shuffling through the leaf-covered grass to Genesee Street, he thought to himself “I wonder if L. Frank Baum actually saw the stuff that he wrote about?”
Jesse had this terrible dream twice, the first time driving him out of bed on Monday night and then a short time later as he dozed on the park bench.
Was the dream prophetic? This wasn’t the first time he’d experienced something like this. Now, Jesse needed someone to believe him as much as he needed sleep.