FICTION: Son of Man by Ryan Norman

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“Hail Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners; now and at the hour of our Death. Amen.”Allen sighs with relief. Allen is a man. He is forty-something: Balding, gray at the temples, belly bloated from drinking light beer. It has half the calories, Allen reasons as he holds the fourth amber bottle to his lips, assuredly tapping his belly with a free hand. Allen steps into the sun standing in a church parking lot. The church’s young men’s choir sings in the background. He pauses and raises his face to the sun. It shines in the sun like a cherub’s: full cheeked, pink glow. With his palms open to the heavens, Allen proudly proclaims, “Thanks be to God.” He bows his head and says to himself, “And may the Force be with you.” Turning his head to the side he says as if it is coming from somebody else, “And also with you.” Free of sin and full of mirth, Allen bounces to his car. It sits with its tail end pointing toward the road and its nose at the foot of a statue of the Holy Mother’s naked toes. Close enough to smell the Mother’s odor, Allen’s car sits near the road’s edge with a sag. Not only are the tires low on air, but the car’s interior is so stuffed with Allen’s belongings that a pair of skis Allen once used stick out of the passenger side window; and from the car’s trunk pokes an abdomen machine still in the box.

It is a beautiful spring day. About mid-morning. It is the kind of day that one calls out of work sick feigning a cough, while leaving a message for the receptionist. The only cloud in the sky is shaped like the Easter Bunny, and it floats nowhere near the sun. The wind is blowing, but with only the force of a birthday child’s wishful breath. Bees buzz, but not near enough to cause alarm. Birds chirp, but only in the cheery fairy tale kind of way; the way that if one sticks out a finger a blue bird may land at the tip and both human and bird would sing “Oh, Happy Day.” It is a perfect day to reconcile with the Lord. It is a perfect day to save a life.

Allen is moving from his small, suburban city where Wal-Mart doubles as grocery store and Saks Fifth Avenue for the toothless, and, apparently, soap-, shampoo-, and deodorant-less. Next to the superstore sits a quaint clapboard contraption known to the locals as City Hall. Last year Allen fell in love with a beautiful girl and had plans on “making it official” right there in City Hall. He bought a corsage and a bouquet of daisies right next door. Marie, he thinks. She was just about perfect. Her hair glittered in the sun and her eyes sparkled when she laughed. True, her breasts were quite small, but they had potential. In a few years’ time they could have been something else. A real sight to get lost in.

But that was over. Marie was long gone. She split last year, hanging her head out of the passenger side window of her new man’s V-Dub. She flipped the bird to that hellhole of a town and it pecked a hole right in Allen’s swollen heart. He was sure the full thing was going to squirt its love-contents right onto the pavement of Main Street. That’s when Allen took up drinking. Well, maybe that’s a lie. But Allen blames his own spiral on that tramp’s departure. They were in love, or so Allen thought. But, no. Allen has to get going. No time to pine over golden haired vixens. Allen takes a final swig of his low-calorie beer and chucks that sinful thing right onto the Mother’s toes. “Praise be to that!” He shouts. “And a happy New Year!”

Strutting in his dusty Lee’s, Allen half smiles as he pushes his large spectacles back up the bridge of his nose and lets out a muffled belch. “I gotta get going,” he says. “See ya later, Ma!” He says to the idol and tries to cross himself and drop to his knee. In his attempt to show a little respect in the church parking lot, Allen ends up on his back watching the Easter Bunny hide eggs behind the sun. “For all that is Holy,“ he says, and decides to take a moment to let the sky finish its game of ring-around-the-rosie. Allen struggles to his feet and plops his plump Lee’s into his sagging car. Allen puts the car into reverse and backs out onto the highway. The tires screech as he pulls up over the curb.

With all the noises that car makes Allen needs something else to keep himself entertained. He turns on the radio and immediately finds a song he knows. Well, kind of. “I ain’t no senator’s son, son y’all!” He bellows from the bottom of his pit. “Well, flip, it’s true!” And he laughs. Allen is cruising down the highway having the time of his life. He has a new lease on life. He toasts to a new beginning, but only sips his beer this time before chucking it through the open window. “No more of that,” he says. “No more. New beginnings. Shit, I’m hungry!” Allen pulls into America’s favorite fast food joint. He turns his wheel with such urgency that those once-used skis fly right out of his car window and into someone else’s front yard. They stand perfectly straight in the ground. Well, not perfectly. They cross each other at the middle, but boy do they look like they have always been there.

Allen pulls up to the speaker to place his order. “What do you want?” comes a voice from the machine. It is crackled and sounds like a ghost stuck in the television snow of a channel your parents never bought when you were growing up, like Skin-e-max.

“I want some meat,” Allen says. “And make sure you slather it with something sweet and salty to cover the taste. Don’t forget the pickles! And, uh, I want the smallest diet drink you have. I’m starting a new life and I don’t want to spoil my physique. And, uh, oh yeah! Can you make that a Happy Ending Meal?”

“Pull up to the curb and someone will be right out with your order,” says the television ghost.

“Just make sure it’s a girl!” Allen says emphatically. He pulls to the curb and waits. His tummy rumbles, and he belches pressing two fingers to his lips. “Pardon me,” Allen says as he leans his head back against the seat. He runs his fingers through his patchwork hair and takes off his glasses. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Allen looks past his fingertips into the rearview mirror. When he moves his hand, Allen sees his food on a tray being carried by a raven-haired goddess. Allen puts his glasses back onto his flushed face and pats his shirt straight. He casually leans onto the frame of his loaded car’s window with his elbow and puts his index finger and thumb to his chin as if pondering a deep thought. A real thinker. A knock comes upon the window. It isn’t a gentle knock. It is the type of knock a bully policeman might execute as an intimidation tactic. It jolts Allen out of his sex-pose. Out of his airdecoquette. Allen roughly rolls down his window with excitement and a bit of a slur.

“You ordered the burger and small diet drink,” asks the raven-haired goddess with a virginal breathiness in her voice. She leans into the window of Allen’s crammed car. “And the Happy Ending,” the goddess says in her poor 1950s starlet imitation. Allen looks up into the goddess’s breasts. What he sees nearly sobers him up. Upon the chest of the raven-haired goddess sits a crucifix smothering in ample pimpled skin. She is wearing a navy polo with her own alterations. The raven-haired goddess has cut the neck of her shirt so that she is exposed almost to the bottom of her sternum. For modesty, realizing her mistake, the goddess employed a few staples to secure the shirt’s lurid plunge. No doubt from the stapler kept near the drive-thru window. Her skin is red. It isn’t flushed. It is red, and sore. The goddess has previously squeezed so many pimples within her cavernous flesh valley that her skin has a permanent sickly red ooze. It is as if the tiny Jesus is still bleeding on her cross of sanctification hanging around her neck. Allen stares through is beer keg eyes and can say nothing. He pulls the goddess by the hand wanting her to sit with him.

“I’ll come in,” the goddess breathes, “but you’ve got to be very fast.” The raven-haired goddess crawls over Allen’s lap as he holds his breath, trying to hold in his beer belly to make room in his chariot. Allen sits, rigid, staring awed in the rearview mirror. “Let’s get this started, hot stuff,” she breathes her hot words on his ear lobe. “Are you gonna move, honey? Or are you going to make me do all the work? Get it started, babe. Rev your engine, hon.” Allen reaches past the goddess into the brown paper bag and pulls out his hot piece of meat.

“I’m hungry as shit,” he says. “You do what you gotta do, and I’ll do what I gotta do.” As Allen unwraps his steaming burger, the goddess unbuckles Allen’s belt. “So, what are you gonna do? I always find it’s easier to talk through your nerves. Tell me what you’re gonna do with me.”

“What makes you think I’ve got nerves, honey? I do this all-day long. It’s routine. But if you want me to tell you what I’m gonna do I will,” the goddess says while struggling with the button of Allen’s too tight jeans. “First I’m gonna get these jeans open.”

“And then what are you gonna do,” Allen says with a full mouth, spraying some meat product into the hot stagnant air.

Pulling down Allen’s zipper, the goddess looks into Allen’s eyes directly past the smudged lenses of his glasses. She moves her face close to his and slides her mouth over to his ear. “What do you want me to do, honey?” The goddess’s breath is hot and wet. Little balls of moisture form on the fuzz of Allen’s ear. Allen’s pulse begins to quicken. Heat pours from his cheeks. The goddess pulls away to look in his eyes and sees the twitch of Allen’s carotid beneath the skin of his neck. Allen puts down his meat sandwich.The paper crinkles in the cupholder between the driver and passenger seat. The goddess puts her hands on Allen’s upper thighs, pushes her breasts forward, pouts her lips heavy with liner and lipstick, and then half sags her eyes in a 1950s styled seduction. Allen reaches his hand down without taking his eyes off the feigned sex stare produced by the goddess. He picks up his diet drink, slowly brings it to his lips, and sucks a loud slurp out of his mostly ice filled cup. The goddess pulls away from the noise.

“What is wrong with you?” demands the goddess dropping her breathy starlet imitation. “Are we gonna do this or what?”

“All I wanna do,” Allen says, “is save you, honey.” Allen places the cup back between the seats without taking his eyes off the goddess’s crucifix. “I see you have faith. It’s nestled there in your tits. I’ll ask you this one question, honey: ‘What would Jesus do?’” He pushes her hand away. The goddess swells up with anger. Her eyes grow wider and the veins in her neck and forehead slither under her skin as her heart pumps harder.

“I’m not like Jesus, honey, and you’ve pissed me off!” She squeezes back out of Allen’s car and stomps across the parking lot as ants scream their last breath only to be crushed by that woman’s angered pace.

“Well there ain’t savin’ the ones who don’t want savin’,” he slurs. “Now how much beer do I got left?” Allen surveys his stash and sees the goddess took his last beer. “Well I’ll be damned! She stole from me, and I was trying to do something nice for her. Oh, well. The belly’s full and I got to get going. Gotta get to my new life!” And with that Allen pulls out of the fast food joint, running over a curb as a car swerves into the other lane nearly missing him.  Allen bellows from the window, “Bless you, sir! You’re gonna need God on your side driving like that!”

Allen cruises down the highway carelessly driving. I hate this place, he thinks. Too much temptation. Not enough good sense. He drives for miles across the flat land on the straight highway blasting the radio singing “Some folks are born, made to wave the flag, ohhh they’re red, white, and blue! Ha! I love this song! It don’t get any better than this.” Allen drives what seemed for hours, destined for his new home, barely staying in the lane because he was having too much fun rejoicing. It isn’t long before he sees lights flashing in the rear-view mirror. “Well, I’ll be goddamned. I haven’t done anything wrong!” He pulls off to the side of the road.

The officer pulls up behind him in his navy SUV with yellow lettering spelling out State Trooper. The Trooper steps out of the vehicle and starts walking toward Allen’s over-stuffed car. Allen looks in his rearview mirror, “Here he comes. Play it cool. Look at his dumb hat.” He is already driving with all his windows down, so that saves him a step. “Afternoon, officer.”

“License and registration,” says the officer getting straight to business.

“Sure thing, sir. I gotta just reach into my glove box.” Allen leans across his car, his bloated belly pokes the straw in his diet drink. “Here you are, sir,” Allen says soberly, handing his documents to the officer.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” asks the officer.

“No, sir,” says Allen, hoping that the officer doesn’t smell beer on his breath.

“Your driver’s side break light is out. You need to get that fixed,”the officer says.

“Yes, sir, of course. I will replace that right away. There’s an auto shop down the road. I can pick it up and replace it when I get to my new home,” Allen says, hoping to get out of ticket, feeling confident now that throwing the beer bottles out of the window was the right choice to make.

“I see you have a lot of stuff in your car,” the officer said. “It makes sense now.”

“Yeah, I’m starting a new life. Scorned by a woman, “Allen says, shaking his head and taking his glasses off to wipe a fake tear for effect.

“I’ve been there. You’ll get through it. Here’s your license and registration back. Fix that break light as soon as you get home,” says the officer. “I’m letting you go with a warning.”

“Thank you, sir, for your kind words. I promise you I will fix the light,” Allen says with his hand over his heart. The officer pats the top of Allen’s car and walks back to his SUV. “Thank you, Jesus. I owe you one, bud. The next round is on me.” Allen drives away watching his rearview mirror. The trooper follows him for a few miles and turns into one of the breaks in the median.

Allen drives further on the road toward the mountains. Toward his new home. Toward his new life. “Wait a God darn minute,“ he exclaims out loud to the boxes filling his car. “This is a sign from the almighty himself! I need to turn down this music. I think I’m having moment. A real hit to the eye, as Napoléon would say. Jesus is giving me a flippin’ second chance! I’ve been drivin’ a little tipsy, a cop pulls me over and tells me I need to fix my brake light. I need to change my brake light. It hasn’t been shinin’ too bright since Maria left me for that darn V-Dub drivin’ kid! I took to the bottle. Drinkin’ made me fat! Well, fatter, heh! Here I am thinkin’ I’m holier than holy. Thinkin’ I can save someone. I need to pump my brakes and save my-flippin’-self from myself! Look at this shit in front of my eyes! Look at these mountains, and these trees. They’re so green and perfect! This is where I’m gonna be livin’! Look at the sky! The sun is still shinin’; there’s barely a cloud in the sky! I’d pull this car over and kiss the ground, but no. I just wanna get to my new home and start over. Jesus just gave me a reset button, and you bet your ass I’m pushin’ it! I’ve got twenty more minutes of drivin’, and then I’ll be at my new home. I’m sorry what I promised before, Jesus. The next one ain’t on me! I’m not gonna keep on being a glutton for that amber colored poison. I am finished. El finito or somethin’ like that. Look at that tree!”

After driving a few more miles down the highway, Allen enters a small town. The homes there look like they have been there for a while. Some of the homes are Victorian style painted in muted colors, while others look as though they are made from the trees that are so bountiful in this mountain town. Allen turns down a driveway marked “Private Road” and drives so slowly it is as if his car is barely moving. He is gawking at the rows of trees that deeply line his new driveway. “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”. Eventually Allen makes it to his home and parks his sagging car. It is one of the homes that looks like it has been built out of the trees from the property. “Alright, hopefully they turned on the electric like I told them to!” Allen scurries to the trunk. “Where is it? Where is it?” Allen looks at his scribblings on the boxes and finds the one marked “Good Reads”. He shuffles through porn magazines and exclaims, “You really are a filthy one. Where is it?” Finally, he finds it and holds it over his head. “The Holy Bible! Sorry about that, Bud. I don’t read much, but I promise to burn that box!”

Allen half jogs to the front door and lets himself in. He flips the light switch and the lights turn on. “I am truly blessed,” he says to the foyer. He takes a moment to take in the beauty of his new home. The light plaster walls reflect the light from the cast iron sconces hung around the entry way; the wooden floors stained medium oak matching the stairway immediately to his left; and straight ahead sits the living room with its large windows overlooking the backyard. Allen starts walking forward remembering why he was in such a hurry only a few minutes earlier.“Now let’s get things done.” Allen scurries to the kitchen, Bible in hand, flips on the lights, and sets his eyes on the kitchen sink. He moves to the sink, turns on the water, crosses himself, and places the Bible on the counter. Allen then grabs the sink hose, places his right hand on the bible, sprays himself with water, and proclaims, “With the power vested in me, and all that is Holy in New York State, I now pronounce you, Allen Gene Tompkins, Son of Man!” Allen stands there dripping in pride. He is cleansed of his sins. Crying with joy, Allen lies in the puddle on the floor. Today, he saved a man.


Ryan Norman

Ryan Norman is a fiction writer with a Psychology degree from Dominican College of Blauvelt.

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