Broken Watch: Part 3

Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here.

A day of glossy eyes, pale skin, stiff hands, endless noise, and Shelia from management, and he couldn’t even go to the abandoned headquarters because of his son’s bowling game. Even in victory, none of his offspring looked him in the eye when he intoned “good job,” and that was best. A meeting of eyes like these and those would be like a man in a desert locking glances with a vulture. Mr. Guillory drove them all home, cooked dinner, served dinner, cleaned up after dinner, picked up the living room, tucked the kids in, hunted the stray nails, poked his skin on the stray nails, hammered down the stray nails, looked at the late time on his watch and cried.

The crying began over the toolset and continued up over the remotes, iPads, and reclined chairs. Mrs. Guillory walked through the ornate doorway, bounced up, and then rushed over to Mr. Guillory to put an unsteady hand on him.

She waited for him to speak, and he did. “I- is this the best- I haven’t felt-“

“Slow,” she said.

Mr. Guillory sniffled, then continued. “Ever- ever since the army, I’ve panicked at the thought of getting shot. He- you know- he– nearly did so when I didn’t sound off to his liking. And the only time I felt alive was when Cane pointed a gun at me.”

He told Mrs. Guillory everything.

When he finished, she said “So your new family-“

“It’s not your fault. I need to bring more to this family, it’s my fault that I’m not doing enough, I’m spending time with them instead of you, it’s my fault-“

“Those kids-“

“But I’m teaching them. Did you know half of them couldn’t tell you what kind of anarchism they fight for? And Belt- once you get-“

“Belt’s parents are looking for her. They all are.”

Mr. Guillory shook his head, positioned himself on the leather couch. “But they’re not in a bad state. They eat just enough to get by. They say what’s on their minds. They’re kids, and I never once had to worry for their lives or discipline them… and they listen. With them, I’m not lording over, but I am-“

“Listen to me,” she said, the first time since her first pregnancy that her round voice developed an edge. “You don’t know what’s best for them. Her parents do. The government does. I trust you with a lot of things. I need to trust you on setting things right here.”

Mr. Guillory looked at the suburbs outside the flat window. Necklace described suburbs as the ultimate perversion of nature, an alien beauty imposed on grass and bushes, with square spaceships dominating the landscape. She always talked about the spirit in all things. She moved from helping Mr. Guillory up to responding to any of his facts (when she bothered) with spit and volume. And Mr. Guillory submerged himself in his own body, choking on the arteries and veins, and found a Mr. Guillory that endeavored to become the Most Responsible Man Ever, once for power, now for safety, always to take little Charton Guillory and kick his stupid head in. If Emerson were still alive, he’d do the same to Mr. Guillory.

“No.”

“But Charton, those markings, they didn’t mention them on the news, how do you know those thugs didn’t-“

“You want to argue about this?” Mr. Guillory stood up, his shadow like a gloved finger over his wife’s body. “Who’s the only one feeding the bank? Who’s the one who cooks breakfast for six every morning? I love you like a child nursing a fly’s broken wing does. This is my new life. I’ve earned it.”

******

Mr. Guillory stopped at the broken window entrance, ice pumping through his forearm veins until the police car caught his eye. He ripped his black pants on the spring up crumbling stairs.

The door was angled open as always, but with splinters where the lock would be. Belt banged her head on the uncarpeted floor. She was screaming through her tears before the blood seeped from her forehead and splashed on the officer’s hands. A lanky cop stood over a weapon pile, her sideburned partner held his pistol at Tie, Cane, Necklace, and Beard. Manifesto held the door open.

“Officer, I can explain-“

The transporter of Belt looked up. Belt, with a cry to smash a glacier into a thousand pieces, broke from her handcuffs and thrashed out at her captor. He shielded his face. She dropped to the floor. She ran to Mr. Guillory. The blood on her forehead stained on his shoulder.

Blood.

On his shoulder.

He witnessed it all happen inside him. His stomach became a practice grenade that got punched up his throat. Every bead of sweat ran like it was on a shaky roof two stories up. Every cell burst out legs and did push-up after push-up after push-up. Every motion of fingers ached from stitching up the second surprise shoulder shot during roll call. And every decibel of screaming became the booming voice of him. “Feel so high and mighty now? Feel so high and mighty now!”

The sideburned one told the anarchists they better clear off next time they come by, ‘cause they’re not worth the paper to incarcerate, but maybe one day they’ll upgrade to bullet in the head. The other officer gathered up the weapons and took them out. A piece of paper fell out of a cop’s pocket before she left, and lay on the abandoned building floor like a small chest wound. The shrieks and their shrieker faded away.

No one spoke. No one moved. Then Cane said “You fuckin’ asshole!” and ran up to knock Mr. Guillory to the floor.

Beard cried out. Necklace too, although Mr. Guillory saw her wince at a bloody nose once, so maybe any violence to any living thing choked her up. But Cane just grabbed his cane and pummeled Mr. Guillory’s face with it, shouting all the while. Cane never shouted before.

“We were supposed to protect her! She trusted us! You sold us out! You just stood there! You- you- move goddamnit! Do something!”

Mr. Guillory caught his breath.

“Yes!” he shouted. “I told my wife about you! She called the police! And you can go ahead and kill me for all I care, because I don’t anymore! If I’m going to be an anarchist again, then I need to break the ultimate rule! I’m beaten, I’m fallen, and I’m free! You set me free! I set me free.”

Once his shouting stopped, the pain dug into his head to the point where he only glimpsed Manifesto walk over to help him stand up. Tie stepped forward, picked up the paper the cops left.

“I will talk with him. We should pack.”

The leader and her lackey grabbed Charton and carried him to another room, where they lay him on an empty desk. Tie grabbed an old metal first aid kit, rusted. She pulled out a sanitizing cloth and dabbed Mr. Guillory’s stinging face with it. Manifesto read- something, about how the blood of the covenant was thicker then the water of the womb, not blood of family thicker than water of baptism.

“Did the book I give you cover conversion by way of Nazi-punching?”

It hurt to laugh.

“You know what this means, of course,” she continued. “You can afford a car and new weapons. You can take us to New Caveton.”

Mr. Guillory’s breath shuddered. “First we need-“

“You sold us out, now’s the time to buy us back.” Tie held out her hand and opened it- inside was the note and address that led Mr. Guillory to this soon-to-be abandoned building. “I gave you this because I trusted you to do the right thing. You are the truest anarchist I know now- you know who you are, and you see how it shines. Time to teach the world.”

With a numb hand, Mr. Guillory took Tie’s.

“I’d hate to admit it, but I’ve forgotten your name,” said Tie.

“Watch.” Watch was free to check his pocket treasure to see if any blood got on it yet. “My name is Watch.”

Broken Watch: Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

When the house quieted down at midnight, and the neighbors stopped brushing aside the pastel curtains to witness the chaos of the children, Mr. Guillory saw Belt on the news. The anchor motioned to a thin hole in the dirt basement of Belt’s house- every dig done by hand. Belt’s father owned a store on the South Side, and her mother cried so hard that she smiled. Necklace told him, after she passed out the bottom shelf vodka, that they put the scars and burns on Belt, places he’d never want to see. Mr. Guillory’s youngest child, in the one moment of his father’s inattention, touched the clothing iron and couldn’t pick up anything for the rest of the week. That son’s spaghetti stains were now off the close walls, the dusty treadmill, the white carpet, and the low couch Mr. Guillory sat on.

For once, he welcomed the anchor moving on to New Caveton, where the blonde newscaster monotoned about the shooting of Asli Breen by Officer Aaron Baak. Baak claimed Breen reached for his gun, everyone else claimed twelve shots into the black youth was excessive. Most of the witnesses, other minorities, were jailed for unrelated crimes. Before the indictment process even started, the community lined the streets, signs in their hands and gas masks in their pockets. The gang hounded Mr. Guillory about driving them there, because if ever an event called for bombs and bricks. He said he’d take them only with petitions and peace signs, prompting the only booing of the night.

He broke his first window at age 10. Only a sliver on the glass, but enough to crack the matron and reel from her mouth a condemnation for the mother that worked 80 hours, the public enemy of child services, the spirit that hugged Mr. Guillory when he boiled the rice or grabbed the clothing iron with tiny fingers. He almost hit a thousand windows before the matron forged his signature and the well-suited men brought him to boot camp.

On the TV, one protestor already ran into the police, and blood flowed from his shoulder.

A bloody shoulder.

The drafting…

When Mr. Guillory snapped back to reality, the real sweating skin and real pounding heart, the commercials began and the wife next to him spoke. The rolls on her body only highlighted the youth on her beady-eyed face and the wisps of hair standing up. “Another attack?”

Mr. Guillory nodded. “I don’t know why I keep having them. I never saw combat, just- him.”

“’Him’ sounds bad enough.” She smiled. “And ‘him’ made you into the wonderful man you are today. I’d say that’s enough.”

He winced as he said, “Am I more free?”

She said she didn’t understand.

“A lot of things would fall apart without me. They need someone to fill the coffee and cover the sick shifts. You need a dishwasher and childrearer and all around fixer. Yet only death can really take me away from all this- sorry, that’s too morbid, that’s not what-”

Mrs. Guillory tilted her head. “You’re not thinking of running away, are you?”

The flashback was over, but Mr. Guillory heard the echo of the sergeant demanding one more lap on the roof, if Mr. Guillory seemed so keen to run anyways. The ticking of his pocket watch was louder than his heart.

Their first date occurred because Mrs. Guillory rescued his watch. At the time, she just finished a meeting with a producer, begging him to make a movie about the time she got lost in Hollywood and met a famous actor. Mr. Guillory, his hair sticking up from sleeping on the bench last night, hugged her, told her thank you, my mother showed me how to make this watch when I was 6. She squeezed him tighter, told him there was one way he could thank her.

“Because I feel like that too,” she continued, scratching at the pajamas she hadn’t changed out of yet. “Like Hollywood won’t come unless I stop dreaming. But I control my dreams, not what happens out there. It’s all about how I see it. Also, it’s your turn to read them a story.”

Mr. Guillory stood up. One more run-through of Where the Wild Things Are, he seemed so keen to read about anarchism anyways.

******

Only Mr. Guillory noticed that Belt was about to insert the needle into an artery instead. Beard, Cane, and Necklace were busy arguing, Manifesto and Tie out of the room. Of course, he’d prefer she didn’t, but then she asked how he knew so much about veins and he looked back in his mind and saw a same-age Mr. Guillory hold a needle like an agonizing artist. When the liquid seeped into her bloodstream, she became the first person to laugh at his jokes. Today marked the first day the anarchists didn’t teach him a new protest strategy. But that didn’t stop him from taking the bottles after a few drinks and giving them his books.

Belt wandered off, and Manifesto began lurking about by the time Beard broke away and sat by Mr. Guillory. “So tell me more about this Emerson guy,” he said. “Is he as boring as you are?”

They both laughed, neither one genuine. “Well,” said Mr. Guillory, “my favorite quote by him goes like this: ‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.’” He declined to mention how his innards dropped nowadays when he said that.

Beard looked to the bare bulbs above. “So it’s like, whatever you do is better than everyone else.”

“I never thought of it that way.”

“That’s because you’re stiffer than my dick on a Saturday night.” He laughed. “Hey, when are you going to take us to New Caveton?”

Before he refused again, Mr. Guillory stared with his mouth a little open at Manifesto. The teen’s long yellow hair swished around as he walked to the exposed wires hanging from the ceiling and began licking them both. He stood on his toes to do so. Only his eyes looked human to Mr. Guillory- a smidgen of duty, an avalanche of fear. Everything else, including the smile, belonged to a spacefaring tribe’s legends.

“Hell if I know,” Beard answered, pushing Mr. Guillory down before he stopped the teen. “All I know is that he does what we tell him and he never wipes that smile off. Oh, and all you’ll hear of him is reading from that book.

“You know what I think?” Beard continued. “He’s too goddamn happy. His book keeps talking about bringing happiness by bringing misery- if even that, the logic in there’s worse than its spelling- but I don’t think he knows what either one is. He rereads passages to us until we come up with an explanation, and we stall so there’s less time for this stupid shit.”

“Do you think it’s a medical condition?” asked Mr. Guillory, wincing, bracing. “His smile, that is.”

Beard pulled out what looked like a half-open car remote combined with phone and began fiddling with its wires and chips. “I read the Koran a lot when I was younger- trust me, that’s a much better read. I asked my folks why they had to reinterpret and revise an already perfect book. They dodged the question, just pushed me off to share another class with Joe Hick and Billy Fuskssister. If I had to guess, he reads from that book because he needs to. A statue can’t sculpt itself. And do you trust him anywhere near sharp implements?”

Mr. Guillory checked his watch, and stood up right as the first shock jolted Manifesto into a small hop. As Mr. Guillory paused, he saw Belt writing ‘The ultimate rule is death’ with a pencil all over the dusty floor. She looked at him and smiled. Mr. Guillory turned to the bulky man with the tongue on the wires, just one of the rule breakers whose greatest accomplishment was still living.

Continued in Part 3

Broken Watch: Part 1

I decided to add some backstory to a previous project I worked on here. Here’s a draft of it. Enjoy!

Broken Watch

Mr. Guillory was free to wrench the gun out of the boy’s hand and pummel his nose with the back of it until the resulting twisted volcano of blood flashed him back to boot camp. The bald twerp held a rifle like a gangster in a video game holds a handgun. Still his heart swung in small circles, a rhythm he needed to talk to Dr. Starek about.

“If you don’t believe me, ask Tie herself,” said Mr. Guillory.

Tie sat with skinny arms resting at her sides, on a chair of broken computers and laptops that the office workers left behind years ago. Hundreds of outdated electronics held her up. Her black tie ran underneath her large eyes and between her small breasts. “I’m sorry, Cane. I meant to tell you. You can put down the gun if you want.”

Watching Mr. Guillory and Cane, four other teens fidgeted, rope and canisters and bat and bloody fist at ready. The windows at the far ends were wide enough to render the remaining walls useless. One teen’s green necklace of different animals shone brighter when looking at her red hair. One grew a beard on his Arabic chin, his eyes darting to all the exits. The youngest one shuffled her feet as if in a dance. And the non-bloody fist of the big one carried a stack of papers as thick as the skin on his face. There were unknown stains underneath them on the cement floor, and were all over the abandoned staircase.

Cane’s finger, first frozen on the trigger, came to move away from it. He picked up his sleek black cane and held it like a defending sword while his other hand lowered the gun. Mr. Guillory smiled.

Then Mr. Guillory hit the floor.

His chest stung on the outside, dug a hole in itself on the inside. If Cane resisted a smile, nothing about his body showed it. Mr. Guillory coughed. His lucky pocket watch fell out of his breast pocket.

“I thought you said-“

“’Down, lapdog?’” Tie mocked. “I have no more authority over Cane than a fat man in Washington has over your breakfast. Cane is responsible for what he does alone, just as you are responsible for looking like you tattled to the teacher. If you have any grievances, then talk it out like humans.”

The teen with the necklace put a hand under Mr. Guillory’s armpit and held his other arm, both of them lumbering up like a tent blown out by the wind. If anyone else was in the building, they could’ve heard the breaths of the anarchists synchronize against Mr. Guillory’s labored respirations. The swastika-tattooed fist of Cane tightened.

“Cane,” said Mr. Guillory, readying the lie. “Cane, I did not meant to insinuate that I- or Tie- have power over you. You are free- to do whatever you please.”

Cane’s eyes contracted.

“But please understand that Tie invited me here, and that I have no intention to report any of you to anyone.”

“Then why are you here?” snapped the one with the beard.

Mr. Guillory looked to Tie. Tie nodded, and then spoke. “We met at Zeno’s. I happened to be reading Anarchism and The Moral Condition. He kept staring at it. I told him, have it, don’t show it to any librarians. At the end, I left our address.”

All the heaviness of the room funneled into the curses and shouting of the other members. When they finished, Tie spoke again.

“Believe me, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t read him first. Belt?”

The youngest one, a preteen with a sparkling pink belt buckle, stepped up to Mr. Guillory. She looked at him as if he wasn’t two feet taller. “What is death to you?” she asked.

“Death?”

She nodded.

Mr. Guillory played with his tie in one hand, touched the personal pocket schedule with the other. “… There’s a reason we consider it evil. To be good is to… take care of those who need care. And power’s defined in part by that. I mean, of how many people you reach. Death is the child you can’t touch. It’s an alien power, stronger than us, ruling us without being in the same-“

Belt clapped her hands, shrieked. A great smile flashed on. She ran to another room.

“She does that,” said Cane as Mr. Guillory watched her leave.

“Is she going to write that thing again?” groaned the one with the beard.

Mr. Guillory looked at the stains. Some of them were just ‘The Ultimate Rule is Death,’ written in tight crayon and smudged together.

Tie laughed. “You’re either very fortunate or very right for us. What would you like to be called?”

“Mr. Guil-“

“’Oh Officer, I confess! I broke in! And Mr. G helped!’” Tie mocked. Her eyebrows tightened. “I’m Tie. This is Cane, Necklace, Beard, Manifesto, and Belt’s in the supply closet. Who are you?”

He could check the time, find a reason to return to the thundercloud of a home. He raised his head. “The Fixer.”

Beard snorted. Dimples popped up on some of the members.

“All right, Fixer,” said Necklace. “Welcome.”

Mr. Guillory was now a scuba diver ascending, the water pressure dissolving above him. He was about to breathe again.

“You were all at the NATO protest, correct?”

They didn’t need to nod.

“Did it ever occur-“ he continued before his face flushed.

“Don’t self-censor.”

Mr. Guillory wheezed before finishing. “Did it ever occur to you that the police are more free? Because they can do more than you.”

“Yeah, they’re free. Except for their thousand laws and commitment to violence and their addiction to donuts and-“

“Beard is upset about New Caveton,” said Cane. “When we go there, he’s going to suicide bomb them to teach them Allah’s law against suicide.”

“Hey, fuck you! At least when we go up against America, we don’t fold like a bitch ready for a fat one!”

“Our leadership was-“

“You guys are so gross,” said Necklace. “The spirits wouldn’t care about such crude matter.”

“Woman, you need spirits to get your shit!”

“I’ve had enough-“

Before Cane raised his namesake- and before Mr. Guillory walked out- Manifesto rustled through the pages in his book, his glossy eyes scurrying within that square page. Everyone stopped to watch. He hadn’t stopped smiling, nor looked like he was going to. He found his passage and read.

“’Though Death may seem as if the ultimate boon to give under Veritasism, the mysterious nature of the afterlife leaves the question of killing undecided. Shall there be paradise, Veritasism will fail, since the pain of the dead both ends and fails to make a better world. Our power only extends to what we know. If the greatest misery produces the greatest happiness, if the longest shadow means the brighter light, one cannot risk sending friend, foe, or fellow to a better world.”

Mr. Guillory didn’t grasp what exactly was said, and neither did anyone else according to their faces. But they all exhaled at once, and their shoulders dropped.

Tie stood up from her seat. “So because the police are powerful, they are free.”

Mr. Guillory confirmed.

“Are you more free than us, then? Because you have age and a job and a life?”

“That’s why I want to help,” said Mr. Guillory, taller than the growing bodies around him. “You’re the future. But you don’t know what true freedom is. It’s more than all those broken bones. I can teach you. I can make you into builders of the new world, instead of breakers.”

Tie laughed. “That’s the thing, when you leave school. You become your own teacher. We’ll see what you make of us, and we’ll see what we make of you.”

Continued in Part 2.