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Station 12. Barry dies on the cross
Wood carving by Susan Hagen, story by Mike Walsh
Barry was driving home after work. He was tired. All he could think about was taking a long, hot bath and sipping a nice, cold gin and tonic with a wedge of lime.
He paused at a stop sign a few blocks from his home and noticed a dozen or so athletic youths, along with a couple of attractive young women, hanging around outside a corner bar. They were drinking beer and laughing among themselves. Most of the young men were dressed in gym shorts, tank tops, and basketball sneakers. A few of them had tattoos and long locks of hair growing out of the backs of their heads. Both of the young women were dressed in halter tops and cut-off jeans and had their long bleached hair teased up high on their heads.
It was a scene Barry had noticed many times before, and he was curious about the bar. He had thought about stopping there some evening to see why it was so popular. He wanted to laugh and talk with his neighbors and meet the neighborhood's young women. Many times Barry had fantasized about kissing one of the young women. He wanted to astonish one of them with the passion he possessed. He wanted to make just one of them understand that a man could be interesting without being young, macho, and muscular. Barry realized that his chances of ever living out this particular fantasy were extremely remote.
As he drove through the intersection, Barry noticed one of the muscular young men motioning lewdly and laughing at a very heavyset young man walking by on the other side of the street. The heavyset young man wore white shorts and a dirty tee-shirt, which was stretched tightly over his large stomach. His face was covered with acne. He had long, dark wiry hair and a boombox strapped over his shoulder. Even in his car Barry could hear abrasive heavy-metal music blaring from the boombox.
The muscular young man strutted about awkwardly with his stomach pushed out and his cheeks puffed. He was obviously drunk or high.
"Hey, fat-ass, do I look like somebody you know?" he yelled. His friends laughed uproariously.
Barry watched in his rearview mirror as the fat young man walked away quickly with his head down. He felt sorry for the kid. He wanted to tell him that being fat was not a crime but his prerogative. There were worst things that one could be, such as cruel, like the young drunk across the street.
As Barry drove along he thought about the prevalence of cruelty in the world. Everywhere and in every era, Barry thought, human beings have been unjust, uncaring, and mean. He thought of the unimaginable pain human beings had caused one another over the centuries. He envisioned beatings, robberies, rapes, murders, wars, torture, and genocide. Cruelty was the universal trait of the species, he decided. It was mankind's heritage.
Barry passionately wished that he could grab every human being by the throat, especially the toughs hanging out on the corner, and twist and squeeze with all of his strength until they stopped being cruel or until he had strangled each and every one of them.
Unfortunately, while he was engaged in this reverie, Barry forgot that he was operating a moving vehicle. He did not notice that his car was approaching an intersection where the light was red and another automobile was stopped. Instead of braking, Barry was actually pressing down on the gas pedal so that the speed of his car was slowly increasing. At the last second he saw the car and jammed on the brake, but it was too late. His car rear-ended the car at the intersection.
Barry's car rocked back and forth, as did his body. He saw a spider-web pattern of cracks spreading slowly through his windshield from a point just above the steering wheel. He also noticed a small drop of blood near the center of the crack. He touched his head, looked at his fingertips, and saw blood.
Barry looked out his side window. Numerous people had come out of their homes and were standing on their doorsteps staring at him. He heard a very loud noise and noticed the fat young man with the boombox standing next to his car. Barry lowered the car window.
"Are you all right, mister?" the young man asked.
Barry smiled and in a low choking voice asked the kid to please turn off his boombox. He complied.
Then the woman from the car in front of him and the young men and women from the corner pushed the fat young man away and simultaneously started shouting at Barry.
"You stupid son-of-a-bitch," the woman yelled. "You could've killed me. What the hell are you doing?"
"He's probably drunk," said one of the young men.
"What a jerk-off," said one of the young women. "Somebody call the cops."
"Why weren't you watching where you were going?" the woman screamed.
"Don't worry, lady. We saw the whole thing and it was definitely his fault."
"Look at what you've done to my car!"
"Don't just sit there, buddy. Say something."
"Why me, Lord?" Barry asked quietly. "Why me?"
The drunken young man from the corner approached the front of Barry's car. "Hey, you wanna drink, dickbrain?" he asked as he pulled down the front of his shorts and began pissing on Barry's car. The bright yellow stream arched over the hood and onto the windshield. The young man and his friends laughed hysterically, like demons from hell.
"You're all pigs," the woman hissed and stormed back to her car.
"Forgive them, for they are assholes," Barry said to himself as he reached for the electric window control and pressed the button. The window slowly closed. Barry saw the muscular young men and their girlfriends, but he no longer heard their taunting laughter. The urine splashing on his windshield reminded him of bright morning sunshine.
Barry rested his forehead against the steering wheel and watched as drops of blood fell from his eyebrow onto the slacks of his new summer suit. He fervently wished that he was at home soaking in his bathtub and sipping a nice, cold gin and tonic with a wedge of lime.
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