I hope it isn't raining, but if it is raining, I hope the wind isn't blowing, but if the wind is blowing, I hope there aren't a lot of puddles in the streets and cars zooming by to splash me, but if there are cars, I hope Karen isn't driving one of them, but if she is behind the wheel, I hope she doesn't see me, but if she does spot me, I hope she doesn't realize I'm not wearing the goofy earmuffs she gave me for the holidays, but if she does notice, I hope she'll stew slowly in silence instead of boiling over and calling her henchmen to snatch me off the street and drag me back to the hacienda for torture by chili peppers, but if it must be the heat for me, I hope I can be manly and not break down crying, "Karen, Karen, please stop feeding me those red hot peppers," burbling, breathing fire, babbling, begging for water, water, water, like I didn't get enough out in the street where I hope it isn't raining, but if it is raining, I hope there are no wet dogs chasing me through the puddles, and cars honking, and drivers yelling, "Hey, get off the street, you moron," but if there are dogs and puddles and honking and yelling and running and hiding in an alley behind some garbage cans, I hope there are no rats, but maybe I shouldn't have mentioned the rats, I hope Karen didn't hear me mention the rats, but if she is listening, maybe from behind that curtain in the window high up in the alley, or maybe she's actually inside one of the cans, hold on, let me check, nope, but if she does somehow hear about the rats, I hope she'll have too much on her mind to remember to use them on me when her henchmen finally find me and drag me back to the hacienda for jalapeños, but if she remembers, maybe the rats will be too smart for her, I hope they'll be too smart for her, but if the rats are dumb, dumb and mean, all teeth and no brains, easy to catch and be transported back to the hacienda in little wire cages, I hope they'll be gullible rats so I can make a deal with them, something like you don't eat my eyes and maybe I won't blow up and burn down the place and everyone in it, which reminds me that burning down the place with everyone in it would not be such a bad idea, you didn't hear me say that, it's just that they're always so mean, Karen's henchmen and the other inmates, no, kids, call them Karen's kids, her big kids, and the way the grocery checker looks like she's about to bust out laughing when she says, "Hey, more Kool-Aid, big guy? So you're one of Karen's kids, right?" and the way the kids can always get my goat saying, "I see BM Boy," "What, you see BM Boy? Well, I smell BM Boy," and they all laugh like donkeys, and I run out into the street where I hope it isn't raining, what do they all want with me anyway, it's not like I'm making trouble, I mean I didn't go off when I first got here and you know I could have, but I didn't, I could have resisted arrest, made a scene in this strange land where I fell to earth with my sad story about how my parents had been eaten by missionaries, and I could have said a lot of bad words in a language no one around here could understand, but I didn't, instead I went quietly and had no snappy comeback when they called me a foreign devil, not that I knew what that meant for months and months of slow language learning, Karen pointing and saying and me repeating and she slapping and me struggling, already suspecting the truth about her hacienda and her hot peppers which were supposed to sweat the poison out of my system, but now it really is raining and there are puddles and barefoot cars with hairy feet and dogs with monkey ears and sneaky smiles and windows running down the walls and henchmen and lights in the sky and bugs and bats and snakes and rats, big butterfly nets, choke holds, tear gas and smoke and people shouting and people screaming, and it's finally my turn, everyone's looking at me, I can feel a hum rising from deep in my works, here we go, here we go, if life is a ride, you spend most of your time just standing around waiting to get on, waiting for a moment like this, right here, right now, no past, no future, just now, your own parade that not even the rain can rain on, oh wow, oh wow, whoopee, I'm what you might call up to my ears in this moment of mine, I can smell sunrise singing in the daffodils and ships at sea honk because they love Jesus and they think I'm not so bad myself -- but then my moment is over, and the henchmen tackle me, and I want to know can I go again, Karen, can I, can I go again, can I have another moment, can I, can I?
"Don't be silly, ICBM Boy," she says. "It's time to go back to the hacienda for a quick bite. Your ears look cold. Where are your Merry Christmas earmuffs?"
It's like from her point of view nothing has changed.
"Get back," I tell her, "get back or I'll go kaboom."
She doesn't get back.
I go kaboom.
Copyright © 2002 Ray Vukcevich
Ray Vukcevich's new book is Meet Me in the Moon Room, from Small Beer Press. The book has been nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award. His first novel is The Man of Maybe Half-a-Dozen Faces, from St. Martin's. His short fiction has appeared in many magazines, including Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, The Infinite Matrix, Rosebud, Talebones, and several anthologies. He lives in Oregon and works as a programmer in a university brain lab. Recent fiction includes "In the Flesh" at The Infinite Matrix and "Dead Girlfriend" in Rosebud 23. For more information about him, see his Web site.