Young man awakes to a life changing experience.
It hit me like a bucket of cold water.
Then that electric jolt slammed through my whole body.
I was deep in a black hole when the shock of it all felt like a too bright white light in my face.
All I could do was to crawl toward that awful dreaded racket. I had to stop it some how.
I smacked the alarm clock off the nightstand.
I knew I had to get up. The Boss said he’d fire me if I was late again.
Maybe setting the alarm to get up an hour early wasn’t such a hot idea.
I felt like shit. The bed was warm and my nose was cold. It had to be freezing in here.
And did I say I felt like shit? Yea, I think so.
Oh, well…what the hell…might as well drag myself out of bed and get to work. Have to earn enough to make it to the weekend and party time.
I threw off the blanket and sat up. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I knew I was right. It’s cold as hell in here!
I ran over to the wall heater and turned it up full blast. The hot air felt good as I tried to keep from freezing stiff. I didn’t take too long before the room warmed up.
It was still dark outside. The garbage truck crews were working their way up the street, and I could hear the water pipe noises in the building. Soon the whole building would be up and moving around. If I wanted any hot water, I better get it now or never.
Hit the toilet first and then had to decide between a shower or a fast shave. The shave sounded like less work, and I didn’t seem to stink.
I had just flicked on the bathroom light to use the mirror to see how thick the beard was. I was rubbing my chin and trying to decide if I could go without the shave when it caught my eye.
Something on the right side of my head…just sort of hanging there…a dark triangle thing. I looked closer in the mirror. It was sticking out of my head! There was a triangle on the end of a pencil sticking in my head! No, wait! Some on the left side of my head, too. Some feathers on a pencil stuck in my head!
Just then…just like that… it came together. There’s an arrow through my head! Pointy end and feathers and all that shit!
I was still trying to figure out whether to panic or go blind, when I caught myself really looking at it. It looked like a bright yellow wood stick with some kind of white feathers at one end and one of those stone arrowheads like on the cowboy and Indian movies. It went in the left side and out the right side.
I blinked a couple of times and did a reality check. There’s an arrow in my head. It doesn’t hurt. I’m not bleeding. And I don’t know where it came from or how it got there. I had to still be stoned, or nuts.
OK. Think it through. Had a few brews last night because my stash was cleaned out. It’s not the drugs. And beer never did this before. Must be nuts. But I feel OK. I think anyway.
Then it started to sink in. SHIT! I’ve got an arrow through my head! Got to get to an ER! AND DAMN QUICK!
Jumped into a pair of jeans from the dirty clothes pile. Slid on a pair of old sneaks. Let me tell you, no matter what anybody says, putting on a tee shirt over and around an arrow through your head is a real bitch!
Ran out of the building, looking around for a cab. Saw this cab coming down the street. Stepped right in front of him and waved my arms. Figured, what the hell, either way, it he hits me or stops, I’m going to the ER.
He drove right past me. No, make that, right through me. Like I wasn’t even there. Really not there.
I turned around and watched him disappear down the long street. Now that was weird, I thought. Yea, like having an arrow in your head isn’t weird!
Saw a guy sitting on the bus stop bench, reading a paper. I ran over and started screaming that I need help.
He kept reading.
I got pissed and pulled the paper down so he could see me. He shook the paper…straightened it out…and when back to reading. So, I decided to belt the guy. I did. And I didn’t. My fist when through him like nothing. Just like that cab and me.
I stood there. Arrow and all. Like a nobody. Like a nothing. I heard the city noises fade away. It got real quiet. The sun was coming up. But, the sky stayed grey. The street and the painted lines were grey. The buildings around me were grey. And it was spooky quiet.
“Hey. You. Over here.”
I turned around. There was an old black guy, down the street, leaning against a building. He waved me over. I remember running up and babbling something about the arrow and needing 911.
He waited until I was done carrying on before he calmly asked, “Woke up with the arrow?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Follow me.”
We walked around the corner to an old silver train car style diner. The lights were on and it looked like one of those cheap all night places.
He held out a hand and said, “Name’s Lester. Yours?”
I croaked, and cleared my throat, “Billy.”
As we shook hands, he led me through the diner’s front door. It had those round counter stools, tight booths and a long grill behind the counter. Place smelled of strong coffee and cooking grease.
There were a few people in the joint. A real skinny waitress in a pink uniform. A guy in glasses and a suit at the first left booth, working on some papers. And a young guy in a leather and chrome chains jacket at the end of the counter.
And one more detail. They all had arrows in their heads. Hey, it didn’t seem weird at the time. Seemed right some how.
The waitress had one those short crossbow arrows; think they’re called bolts or something. The old suit guy had a hunting arrow with the big sharp point. And the leather and chains had one of those kid’s suction cup arrows.
“Billy, time for introductions.” Lester pointed out the waitress. “That’s Shelley. She broke up with her high school boyfriend. Never been the same since. She was working here when she found that arrow. Was in the lady’s room. She went all freaky. Now she never looks at anyone. Tries to ignore it. Like it never happened.”
He turned left. “Here’s Paul. Big time accountant. Real money man. Works numbers backwards and forwards and both sides. He never saw the arrow. People at work paid no attention to him anyway, so he never realized that anything was wrong. Keeps buried in his work.”
Paul was buried in his work alright. Left hand danced all over the pocket calculator, and the pencil in his right hand scribbled columns of numbers on a ruled tablet. He kept mumbling, “Numbers. It’s all about the numbers.”
A loud hard rock guitar rift tore out from the other end of the counter almost blew us over. It was leather and chains playing air guitar. He stopped to turn the make believe knobs on his air guitar amp.
Lester bent over and whispered in my ear. “That’s Ronnie. Played lots of bars and clubs. Up and coming. On his way to the big times. Only, he got so stoned and drunk all of time that he never saw the arrow. When he disappeared from the band, they thought he was dead. For some reason a so-so band with a dead lead singer sells music. He doesn’t want to go back, because if they find out he’s alive, the band’s career dies. So, he hides out here. Famous not so dead rocker. Arrow and all.”
As Ronnie blasted us with a long guitar solo, Lester sat down at the counter, and I joined him. Shelley brought over a cup of coffee. Lester mouthed the words “blueberry pie.” There wasn’t any way to hear anything over Ronnie’s amps.
When Shelley brought the pie, Lester shouted in my ear, “Want anything?” I thought about asking for breakfast, but I didn’t bring any money, and I didn’t feel like trying to make myself heard over Ronnie. I just shook my head.
Just before my eardrums ruptured and my brains went liquid, Ronnie put down the air guitar and turned off the air guitar amplifiers. Somewhere in the ringing in my ears, I heard Ronnie say, “Sorry, time for a break. Next set in twenty minutes.”
Lester looked over and said, “What’s on your mind?”
When I didn’t answer, he asked, “You want to know about the arrow. Or don’t you?”
I looked him straight in the eye. “Never mind me. Where’s your arrow?”
He had to be jerking me around. “Still where?”
Lester leaned over to me. “Broke off the ends. Thought I could still fit in. Figured if nobody sees it, I’m alright. Didn’t work out. They can’t see the arrow, and they can’t see me. The only place I’m seen and fit in is here. And they got the best pie around.”
He went back to working on the pie.
Sat there and started thinking. I had no idea how I got here…like this. Was I like Ronnie? Drugs. Or no drugs. Or not enough drugs. Maybe not enough drugs at the right times. Could’ve been too many drugs at the wrong times. Maybe all of that…with the beer, too. Was it like with Paul? Stuck in the same old rut…like working just to party. Can’t be like Shelley. Haven’t dated in, well, years. Damn it anyway!
I got up to head for the men’s room when my foot caught on Lester’s leg. Fell against the counter top and landed on the feather side of my arrow. The pain was so bad I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head.
Lester helped me back up. “You OK?”
I was trying to shake off the pain, when I saw myself in the mirror at the end of the counter. The arrow had moved. It was longer on the pointy end. The fall had moved it. I pointed to the arrow. Lester shook his head, “Pay it no mind. Let me push it back where it belongs.”
If nothing else had seemed weird enough, that was it. There was no way I was going to do anything that might make me keep the arrow. If it moved, it might move enough to come out. I remember looking at Lester and stepping back.
There was a coat rack on the back of the booth seat. I hooked the arrowhead on the coat rack hook and yanked my head away.
Talk about pain enough to make a nun swear! It felt like all my teeth and both eyes were being pulled through the side of my head at the same time.
I heard a pop.
Then I heard something fall.
The arrow hit the floor.
I felt my head. The arrow, my arrow was gone. It was on the floor.
Shelley looked at me and sniffled…and she ran off crying to the lady’s room.
Paul never looked up. Just mumbled, “I told you it’s all about the numbers.”
Ronnie folded his arms and turned away.
Lester ordered a refill and another slice of pie.
Then the place faded to a light grey. I couldn’t smell the coffee anymore.
Ronnie went back to his solo, only now it wasn’t screaming loud anymore. It was silent.
A car horn beeped outside. Then I heard the air brakes hissing on a bus. And more horns.
I went outside the diner and found the world in full color again. A noisy world. My world. Without the arrow. And I’ll tell you what, I’ll never go back looking for that diner.
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