Vignette from “Three Significant Days in Othmar's Life”, 1991
The sky looming over the bank that day was whitish-grey. It wasn't threatening; it was bland. Bland and maybe a touch grungy, thought Othmar, leaning against the wall.
It was eight thirty and thngs were jumping in the downtown intersection, the traffic aggravated and convulsing, the walkers bustling off, no-nonsense, to their somber destinations. All but Othmar. Othmar was as stationary as he was unemployed, loitering by the First National Bank. It was common practice for him to sleep in these days----could it the jet lag of prevalent hopelessness----but today would be different. Othmar was sure of it. It had come to him in a dream.
Around quarter to nine, Othmar's boyhood friend, Roger Chadwicke, happened by. Okay----maybe “friend” was a stretch. Boyhood Acquaintance? Borderline Antagonist? That was maybe more like it. Roger was a low-echelon marketing analyst. He and Othmar had grown apart since high school, as borderline antagonists will. Roger was rushing off to work like everyone else, sporting that harried, oh-no-I'm-late-my-life-is-over face.
Othmar waved. Roger stopped, mid-scurry. “Out of work again, eh, Othmar?”
“Get a job, mister,” Roger snarled. “Life doesn't wait for the idle, Bucko!”
“What are you doing, hanging out on a street corner?”
Othmar shrugged. “Waiting for something to happen.”
“Oh.” Roger grimaced as if he'd just been told the sky was purple. “Well, good luck with that.” And off he stormed, compulsively inspecting his jacket as he went.
Othmar kept on waiting, leaning against the wall for two hours, arms folded, waiting, just waiting. The cops made several revolutions by him but left him alone....he seemed to know what he was doing. It was turning into a real sleepathon, but Othmar hung tough. He knew something was going to happen. It was a dream, a fancy, a mere hunch, but Othmar had come to lend great faith toward his hunches. Something would happen.
Shortly after eleven, something did.
“You weren't in Viet Nam,” bellowed someone from down the block. Othmar looked up. There was a ragged, overdressed man heading right for him.
“You weren't in Viet Nam,” roared the derelict again, “so don't you be lookin' at me!” He whomped Othmar with a feeble right cross and then he thundered down the street in a huff.
Othmar didn't know whether to feel hurt or just confused by the whole thing.
As noontime came around, Roger walked by the bank again, this time with a gaggle of similarly attired cohorts. He grinned at Othmar. The smile wasn't anything close to friendly or charitable; it was more of an I'm-going-to-ridicule-you-in-front-of-my-martini-buddies-just-for-sport kind of smile. “Othmar!” He hailed. “Did anything happen?”
Othmar had no reason to lie. “Yup.”
“What happened, Othmar?”
“I got punched.”
Roger curled his lip with distaste. “Great. Take care, Othmar, and dammit, get a job!” He and his group departed with a discharge of smarmy laughter. Othmar lingered, heavy-hearted, for another ten minutes or so. Then, guessing that everything that was going to happen had, he went home.
That night, Othmar had a nightmare. In the dream, he was attacked by a lion. The lion bit his lips off and he bled strange, white blood.
The next day he heard that Roger was dead. Faulty wiring in his electric pasta shredder had caused his house to explode.
Copyright 1991 C.F. Roberts, 2015 Molotov Editions