A Brief Transaction

"At first he thought everyone was like him, but the puzzled look on a friend's face
when he remarked on his emptiness told him he was mistaken and convinced him forever
that an individual must not differ from his species." ~~Jorge Luis Borges

Untitled Excerpt From a Longer Story

Standing outside in the misty dark, Jess felt unusually quiet. A rusty pipe propped open the door of the tin shed, its butt end digging into the gravel driveway. The single dim bulb in the shed revealed a green John Deere and the dusty clutter of four decades -- old car bumpers, boxes of paper, pitchfork, rusted garden tools and engine parts. The haze made the whole scene appear fuzzy and colorless as if draped in a shroud of gauze. Only the green John Deere reflected any color, sitting in a cleared space in the midst of, but seemingly detached from, the labyrinth of rubble. Hank Denmark stood alongside the rear wheel of the tractor, his cap pulled snug over his brow.

"It's got to get more gas!" he shouted to Stanley Ross, who had climbed up into the tractor's seat and was now attempting to disengage the clutch. Stanley pulled the stick up, and then back part way.

"It needs more oil here," Stan said.

Hank told him why it had to be stiff like that, and stepped back as the engine turned over, the old John Deer lurching backward with a heave.

Stan quickly cut it off. "This thing's dangerous!" he laughed, dropping down now from the green behemoth.

Jess looked across the way to a streetlamp softly diffusing its light through the evening fog. The thickness of the moist misty night made everything seem strange. Hank and Stan seemed different, too. Their bodies seemed thicker, bulkier, more real.

Hank and Stan closed their business with the tractor and shuffled out of the shed. Hank turned out the light.

Over by the truck Hank asked a question about a guy who had recently returned to town who was now divorced. Jess continued watching and listening as the two men talked on, standing in the shadow of Stan's box-shaped truck. A loudspeaker was blaring from some remote distance, but not enough to distract from the story Stan was telling.

After a while, Hank said, "Let's go in the house." The temperature had been dropping quickly.

The three went inside, but feeling awkward and alone, Jess said goodnight and stepped back out again. He wanted to cry.

It will always be this way, he thought to himself as he walked back up the drive toward the barn and trailer. Like Kara, he also had somehow ceased to exist. In some indefinable way he was a phantom.

Folding his arms across his chest he shivered against the cold


copyright 1984 ed newman
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an original story by ed newman

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