Flash Fiction Friday: Just Another Day in the Park
by Jeff Burk
The following story is from Cripple Wolf, the latest book from legendary bizarro writer, Jeff Burk. You may know Jeff Burk as the author of Shatnerquake, Super Giant Monster Time, and as the editor of Deadite Press. This book includes some of my favorite stories of the last year (like “Frosty and the Full Monty”), and some that I have been looking forward to reading since I was born (like “Adrift with Space Badgers”).
Here’s a taste of the greatness.
“Half Man, Half Wolf, 100% Crippled.”
“But how do you account for the natural disconnect inherent between all people?”
“Eeeee aaaa gggghhhh iiiiiaaa,” replied the derelict while rolling back his eyes. Drool dribbled down his dreaded beard and slowly drip, drip, dripped onto his handmade cardboard sign.
Ronald looked one last time at the childlike scrawl, Free Nachos, Free Beers, Free Tibet. With a “humph”, he turned and walked deeper into the park.
On every available six cubic feet of grass stood a philosopher espousing the hidden truths of the world. Ronald strolled along and breathed in the clean spring air, looking for a worthwhile opponent to debate.
To his right, a couple lounged while their two small children ran about throwing rotten strawberries at a man who was wildly waving his arms and jabbering about the space-time continuum. To his left stood a well-dressed man in a black suit, arms stretching to the sky waving dollar-bills at beings only he could see. Ronald had debated him two weeks ago—it had just degenerated into a three hour screaming fit.
Everyday for sixteen years he had come to the park, and it was becoming tedious. Before, he could come and dispute the intricacies of the universe for hours on end, but now he could not even find a decent conversation about the weather. Ronald had already argued with everyone in the park, most several times over.
As he walked further into the park he overheard retorts and accusations he himself had once said. When he approached the thick patch of trees in the back, he stared at them and quickly got lost in self-pity.
Through a hole in the overgrown vegetation he noticed a flapping piece of white cloth. The trees were so tightly packed, that, as he approached, he could not make out exactly what he was seeing. Curious over what this could be, and already having given up hope of discussion for the day, Ronald pushed his way through.
He stepped into a clearing circled by the thick mass of brush. In the center a woman stood atop a two-foot wooden crate holding a crisp, blank piece of cardboard. Her hair and face were smeared with dirt and all she wore was a long once-upon-a-time-white dress. Except for the small hole through which Ronald had glimpsed a flapping part of the dress, all the sights and sounds of the park were blocked out by the plant life.
In the numerous times he had been in the park, Ronald had never found this clearing and he had never debated this woman.
“How interesting,” he eagerly said, approaching the woman and pointing to her blank sign, “What statement are you attempting to make?”
The woman stared straight ahead and did not respond.
Ronald spoke again, louder, “What is your point?”
Still no response.
“Come now, why are you here? You must have something to say.” He regarded the strange woman for a few moments and then began to rattle off guesses, hoping one would be the instigator for a vigorous debate.
“A statement on the pointlessness of life?”
“A protest against the commercialization of art?”
“An acknowledgment of one’s place in the universe?”
No matter what theory Ronald put forth, the woman gave no acknowledgement.
“I know—you’re alluding to Plato’s theory of the forms and how all reality is inherently unreal.”
Nothing. The woman just continued to stare off.
Ronald rubbed his chin, taking special notice of his carefully trimmed whiskers. He walked behind and then around the woman, but suffered no stroke of genius.
“I’m going to figure you out,” he said stabbing his finger at her. “I’m going to sit down right here and not leave until I do.”
And that is what he did. He sat down on the grass and stared at her, thinking. He sat there that day and night. He sat there through the next day and night. On the third day, through sleep deprivation and hunger delirium, the answer came to Ronald. He leapt to his feet to proclaim the sudden truth.
“Rrrrrr gggghhhttt.” He frantically looked about in confusion as random noise came spewing from his mouth, “Kkkkk bbvvvveeee.”
Stepping down from the box, the woman looked into Ronald’s eyes with equal parts compassion and pity. She placed her hands on his shoulders and carefully guided him to stand atop the box. She handed him the piece of cardboard and a marker she gracefully produced from beneath her dress, both of which he eagerly snatched up. With a fury he began to scrawl on the cardboard. The woman turned away before he was finished writing. There was no need to read it.
As she pushed her way through the trees, Ronald stood atop his pedestal blabbering to no one. The grass tickled her feet as she walked to the exit of the park. To her left a couple was asleep on the grass while their two children were elbow deep in the chest cavity of a corpse. Joyously grabbing handfuls of viscera and tossing it into the air, laughing in their gore shower. To her right a well-dressed man in a black suit tossed crumpled dollar-bills into the air. One after another they vanished as if gobbled up by invisible mouths.
“Good day, Ma’am,” said the park guard while tipping his hat to the woman. She smiled and nodded and walked out of the park. She would be back tomorrow, but now she needed another box and more cardboard.