–– You ever play with string figures Mister? Ever show Sammy how to do those?
Thirty-five minutes, twenty-two seconds.
Frank trudges forward, his head to the street, scanning the tracks that dance over it, searching for the right tracks. The average wheel width of a city bus is approximately eight point two-five inches. Factoring in frequent stops, proximity to the curb and George’s half-a-bottle-a-break driving style they are simple to spot, even amidst the cacophony of tread echoes that gash the snow-covered street and point the way Home.
–– That’s what these things remind me of. These tracks. I just wanna take my hands into ‘em and make ‘em into something, you know? Cat’s Cradle is a good starter, if you want to get Sammy going on ‘em. It’s what I learned with. Hey, maybe I’ll teach him.
She skates across each frozen puddle, cracking thin ice, punctuating the brightness of her every limped step. She studies The Comic.
Six point two inches
–– Find him yet?
–– Jacob’s Ladder’s another good one. Doesn’t require as much manual dexterity or whatever it’s called. Your funny book’s about fighter pilots?
Delivery / Ten point two inches
Wait for it
–– My dad was a fighter pilot, just like the Sky Phantom. Lyle or whatever his name is. That’s a stupid name. My dad said he shot down the Red Baron. I don’t buy it, but hey. Do you know the Red Baron, Mister?
–– Didn’t think so. I knew Dad was a bullshitter. Unless he shot him down before you got to meet him. But I think he’s a bullshitter.
Bicycle / Two inches
–– He never said anything about shooting big mechanical dinosaurs though. Hunh.
Frank stops. The eight point two-five inch-wide tracks hug the curb. He points.
She pops her head out from The Comic.
–– They’re not angry enough. We’ve lost the angry tracks.
Bicycle crossing eight inches
Thirty-one, thirty-two minutes
No / Thirty-one
–– The angry tracks. He was angry. He drove angry.
–– These are him.
–– Hunh uh. Those aren’t angry. Does Sky Phantom die at the end?
She points with The Comic, the wind whooshing past Frank’s face. He reaches for It.
Take It. Run.
His elbow throbs. He misses.
–– Mister. Does Sky Phantom die at the end?
–– I hate those “to be continued” things. Gotta say, it really doesn’t look good for him. You figure out where my necklace is yet, Mister?
Eight point two-five
–– Well, maybe you should look harder. Maybe Sammy’s tired of being kept waiting.
Frank clenches his fist and slams his hands into his knees. He ignores the pain shooting through his elbow. He kicks a trashcan. It flies past Curls. She jumps back. He slams his hands into the brick wall and taps his head to against it. He mutters. She leans around his shoulder.
–– Mister, I can’t understand you when you talk to a wall.
–– The red door. The red door.
–– I don’t know what that’s all about Mister, but find my necklace and you can open all the red doors you want. This is your fault Mister.
He turns and leans against the wall. He laughs. She steps back.
–– My fault? You’re the loose little Sheba that lost it in the first
–– I don’t even know what that is, but I know I am not a loose little
–– place, so why is it my fault? Why is that cheap thing so important huh? I’m going Home. Why do I have to be your bloodhound?
–– Because you’re
–– It’s a work of fiction. Fiction. There are no giant Jap mechanical dinosaurs and
She smacks him in the face with The Comic.
–– I am not a loose little Sheba or whatever, Mister. He wanted me to be. But you? You could’ve just done the stupid drawing, scribble scribble have a nice day lovebirds. I’m a good girl, Mister. A good girl. You’re an asshole, but I’m a good girl.
Frank sucks in air. A rasp. He swallows snot. The welt stings. His elbow hurts. The snow tracks swirl past him. They surround him. She smacks him on the head again.
–– Oh and I know there’s no giant Jap mechanical dinosaurs. Honestly, Mister.
–– Oh, and you need to
Angry tracks. A headlight missing. Up on the curb, wrapped around a telephone pole. Frank approaches the mangled vehicle. Flames creep from under the tires. He rushes to the door, peeks in the window. Her necklace gleams on the floor, a silver locket reflecting the flames. Jacket’s gone. Frank throws the door open. The fire spreads. It races from the tires to the running board. He grabs the necklace, the fire hot against his skin, scalding it. He shouts out. Nothing comes.
Explosion. Glass and steel
Protect the necklace
She punches him.
–– Get offa me! I am NOT a loose little Sheba, Mister!
–– The car ––
–– What car, Mister? What car? Get offa me!
She punches him again. His nose cracks. Her knuckles bleed. She pulls her fist back and jumps to her feet. Frank lies on his back. She spits on him. Kicks him. Blood. She runs to the alley, Sammy’s Comic clutched to her chest.
Frank gets up. He stares around the empty street, at the chaos of tire tracks in the snow. It was there; the angry tracks were there.
She makes her own angry tracks, except for the slide across frozen puddles. He follows. He sees her in front of him. She throws It to the air.
Paper flutters and lights to the ground. Whiz!Bam!Pow! Comics Number Seven. He hears the clang of metal. The rat-a-tat buzz of a neon sign. He lifts It from the ground, pages bent and curved from the snow.
Twenty-six minutes, forty-five seconds.
The wooden broom handle slams into his face. He tastes blood. He feels the snow in his eyelashes and tastes the grime from the sidewalk.