The Abscission Zone is a work of fiction.
The article below is NOT:
Not long ago, on a faraway island, a tiny girl firefly was born. As you may know, male fireflies come out at night and flash green lights to attract a mate. Sometimes the females also produce light.
One starry night this special girl firefly gazed at the sky. Then she began to do something unheard of. She began to sing. A soft melody wove through the blades of grass and rose up into the coconut trees.
Crabs scuttled onto the beach and birds cocked their heads as they heard the beautiful music. People on the islands wondered and smiled as they listened.
That little firefly’s singing became known far and wide. Soon everyone clamored to hear her so she flew over the wide blue oceans to another bigger land.
Everyone wanted to learn how to sing from her but she decided she wanted to teach the little ones. The lady firefly brought the joy of music to many.
We all know that fireflies do not live forever. They bring so much beauty to the world that if they stayed too long we wouldn’t know what to do with all of the wonder.
The lady firefly decided that the time was right. One special night she sang and sang and then she beamed her green-golden light into the night sky. After a few minutes she switched out her light and went to sleep, satisfied that her job had been done well.
Her song in light still travels through our solar system, out of our galaxy, and to the edges of the universe, bringing joy to all.
They look like a perfect family. You know the kind I mean; the ones who send out a postcard with a photo; everyone wears red shirts and they are all doing the latest dance move. Dad is tall and distinguished with touches of gray at the temples. Mom holds a toddler on her lap while sitting between two teenagers, a boy and a girl.
I wonder where they are going. I wonder what it’s like to be a member of their happy family on this sunny day.
“Stop it,” the mom said. The little boy squirms on her lap. He has a vanilla ice cream cone and he is mashing it into his face repeatedly.
“Eww, you’re gross,” the teenage daughter said as she stares at her young brother. Her nose ring wobbles as she speaks and the purple tint on her mohawk shines in the sunlight.
The dad closes his eyes and clenches his fists.
“Now you’ve done it,” the mom said as she leaps to her feet. Sticky ice cream oozes over the seat. The mom pulls tissues out of her purse and she tries to clean up the mess. “We’ll have to move to another seat,” she said.
Great, you foul the seat so no one can sit on it and now you are going to mess up another one. I watch with disgust as the melted ice cream drips onto the floor and runs down the aisle toward my shoe.
I had to work late so here I am waiting for the train to Penn at three in the morning. I am the only one on the platform. I wonder if anyone will even take my ticket.
As I enter a car I kick a dirty coffee cup out of the way. A trickle of beer from an overturned can runs the length of the floor. The bathroom reeks so I rush by into the next car. It’s filthy. Trash covers the floor and seats but at least the air smells okay.
I find a seat by a window and throw my coat on the overhead rack. I figure I’ll take a short nap. I close my eyes. A noise wakes me. I hear footsteps dragging along the floor. I turn and see a homeless lady sit across the aisle from me. Damn, I just want some peace and quiet.
“Sir, got any spare change?” she said.
I look at her and stiffen in my seat. She looks like one of those mummies you see in National Geographic. Waxy skin is drawn tight over sharp bones surrounding empty, cold eyes.
“Well, I ain’t got all night,” she said. She leans toward me and I smell the alcohol on her breath.
I don’t know what to do. If I give her something will she leave me alone? Probably not. Hey, she’s probably starving, give her a break. But she’ll just use it buy crack or whatever drug she is high on. I reach into my pocket and pull out loose change and drop it into her outstretched palm.
“Shit, that’s all you got?” she said.
“Sorry,” I said. I pull out my earbuds, plug them in my phone and turn on some music.
It happens so fast I can’t believe it. The sharp blades of a pair of scissors press against my neck. The woman hisses at me. “Give me your wallet now muther fucker,” she said.
I tremble and sit stunned, not sure what to do. She has a crazed look in her eyes. I have no doubt that she will kill me. Even if I give her my wallet, she’ll probably cut me anyway.
“Look, I’m sorry. I can’t get my wallet like this. I indicate the blade at my throat. I need to stand up to get it,” I said.
She presses the shears into my skin and draws blood. “I don’t trust you,” she said.
“Please, I promise,” I said. “Let me up and you can have everything.”
“You better not be playing,” she said. “I’ll kill you for sure.”
She stands over me poised with the scissors. “Well, get the damn thing,” she said.
I know that I might only have one chance. I grab my backpack and shove it at the hand with the scissors. At the same time I leap to my feet and run down the aisle. I hear her screech in anger behind me.
“I will cut your liver out white boy,” she said.
I make it into the next car, not daring to look back. I’ve got to find a conductor. The train moves slowly, clicking and squealing over the tracks. I sneak a look back and I see the woman weaving from side to side, shaking her fist in my direction. I swear I can see her eyes following me even from this distance. I continue to run.
I realize that I left my coat on the rack above. Damn, it’s freezing out. Well, it’s better than resting on a slab in the morgue.
I can’t believe it, every car is empty. I don’t know what to do. The train approaches a stop. I know that the station is locked up for the night. At this hour no one will be there, not even the psychotic cab drivers. Maybe I should get off and find a cop. Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t know where to go. Should I stay on the train all the way to Penn station? But what if she follows me? Eventually I’ll reach the last car. What happens then?
I decide to take a chance and get off at the next station. The train screeches to a halt and the doors open. I lean out and look both ways. I don’t see a soul on the platform. There is no way she would get off here since it is a lily white suburb. I step onto the platform and run to the dark station. I hear the sound of the doors closing and the train starts to move. I watch the windows in the hope that I will see her. Once I know where she is I can relax.
The cars go by and I don’t see anyone through the windows. My shoulders drop and I heave a sigh of relief. I am shivering from the cold but I can use my phone to call a cab. Maybe I can find a place to get a cup of coffee and wait for the next train. I better call the guys and tell them I’m going to be late.
I feel a sharp pain in my neck and warm liquid flows down into my shirt. My field of vision narrows and I feel myself falling.
He entered with the train at H__ville. His bicycle clanked as he maneuvered it through the door. A neon pink headband crowned his bald head.
The other passengers moved out of his way and looked at the floor.
“Hey, good morning, I lost my ticket and I am trying to get to my mother’s funeral in New Jersey,” he said with a grin. He held a callused hand out in supplication. “Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.”
He moved down the aisle and the reek of an unwashed body was left in his wake.
“I don’t normally do this. It’s an emergency. I know you understand,” he said. “Even a dollar or fifty cents would help.”
So far no one responded. He continued moving through the car.
“I know you might not believe me but it’s true. It happened yesterday and I lost my wallet,” he said. “Anything, anything at all.”
A well dressed man in a suit wrinkled his nose as the man passed. “He’s plastered,” the man in the suit said.
The man with the bicycle stiffened and stopped. He turned and glared at the man in the suit. After turning around he continued. “I’m sorry I bothered you folks with my dirty objectionable presence.” The train stopped at the next station. The man took a look back at the occupants of the car and shook his head. “Some day you might need some help,” he muttered as he wheeled his bike out of the train onto the platform.
Across from me a lady stares daggers at me. I look down and continue to read the business section of the paper. I feel her eyes on me and I sneak a peek. She elbows the passenger next to her and whispers in his ear.
“Excuse me,” the woman said.
I ignore her and keep reading.
“I am talking to you,” she said.
I sigh and look up. I see a gray haired African American lady. She is wearing a black overcoat and holding a sheaf of papers in her hands.
“Do you have a problem with your hearing young man,” she said.
Me, a young man? Hah. “No, I am trying to catch up on the news,” I said.
“The human aorta is a foot long and an inch in diameter,” she said.
“That’s nice,” I said. I bury my nose in the newspaper. The woman is nuts.
“Does this train go to Penn Station?” she said.
I look up. I can’t keep a look of irritation off my face. “Yes,” I said.
“Thank you,” the woman said as she rustled her papers. “Do you know how many branches the aorta has?”
I shake my head. I just want to read the paper. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to know anything.
“There are twenty branches. Well, not really since some are in pairs,” she said.
I take out my ear phones and plug them into my phone with a savage gesture. I punch my phone with my finger and crank up a loud rock song. There, no way she can penetrate my wall of sound. I go back to the article on the Fed. Goddamn it, raise the interest rates already. I feel a tap on the shoulder. I look up and her face is inches away from mine. Her pupils are gigantic. I pull one of the ear buds out of my right ear.
“What?” I said.
“CREAM,” she said.
“What are you talking about?” I said.
She points at me and looks me up and down. “CREAM.”
I put my earbud back in. Stupid idiots on this train. I just want to be left in peace for a few minutes.
The lady turns to the man next to her. “CREAM, Congenital Rheumatic damage, Endocarditis, Aortic dissection, Marfan’s,” she said. The man next to her nodded. “I can tell just by looking at him, ” she said.
I look up and now the woman and the man next to her are both staring at me. What? Did I do something wrong? I continue to read and ignore them.
“I tried,” she said to the man next to her. He nodded. “Too bad, he looks like a nice young man.”