The Beginning of Something, or the End

John Brown Spiers

Everything that could possibly have gone wrong over the course of a single day did. The bed was a cramped and bumpy mass. I lost a pillow out the window trying to silence birds. The water in the shower was lukewarm, suddenly hot, and then hotter again until it backed me into the far corner and singed the hair from my legs. My shirts had half their buttons. My pants bore definite stains. My dog cowed under the table and would not come to his bowl.

The coffee maker refused to work. When I checked its wiring I received an electric shock that stuck a legendary pop song in my head. When I tried to make eggs, the shells were all empty or filled with red goop. When, with a heavy sigh, I shocked myself again to try and be rid of the song, it only grew louder. I went to administer a third shock and the machine shuddered and died in my arms.

The car couldn’t accelerate and merely rolled. When the cars on the road behind me stopped pushing me up the hills’ fronts and left me to nearly crash into a ravine, I had no choice but to head into the city on foot. The bus I ran for cruised through a puddle as it passed, covering me in a thin layer of grime that somehow tasted like cotton candy but did not have any other resemblance to cotton candy, and that I could not, despite prolonged and focused sensory engagement, place as either cotton or candy of any kind familiar to me. I had inexact change and paid for a ride and a half. There was no place to sit and no space along the handrail and I could only make apologetic faces as the laws of motion cast me into the groups on either side of the aisle as the bus turned and shook. A child hit me with his toy truck. An adult dropped a can of soda on my head. The bus driver insisted I had under-paid upon entering, and made me pay again before I could exit. When I asked him about this, his eyes burned.

I stubbed my toe in a revolving door. I pushed through crowds, headed opposite their direction, and felt myself instead pulled through something. I received only bills and threats in my in-box. One read: “You will never be finished.” I had no more quarters for the community coffee pot. Against my better judgment I asked for a loan, and, from a taciturn co-worker, received a washer. Its lone jagged point drew blood from my thumb. The blood tasted awful.

My pen seemed out of ink. When I shook it, a healthy jet of ink leapt from the tip to stain my jaw and shirt collar and spread quickly over my neck and heart. By the time I ran the shifting gauntlet of employees and maintenance men and reached the bathroom to wash myself, the stain was the width and height of a human face. The face took on a look of critical disbelief as it hardened into fact. There seemed to be no point in trying to dab it out or even smear it a little and it took a great deal more energy and positive self-reinforcement than I would have suspected myself capable of, in that moment, to neither curl into a ball beneath the sink and hope no one noticed or splashed me for the rest of the day, nor to lock myself in a stall and simply crouch atop a toilet until the janitor turned the lights out at seven-thirty, and take my chances that no one would still be waiting for me then, but to instead sigh and stuff a wad of paper towels in between my undershirt and skin, to pass from the bathroom—around the door to which was clustered a sizable number of my colleagues, who, upon seeing me emerge, erupted into braying laughter, derisive bra-stuffing wisecracks, and simple open scorn—and to return to my cubicle, still with the presence of mind to brush most of the tacks from my seat before I took it.

My second pen had no ink. My superiors shook their heads. The delivery boy distracted me with a riddle and made off with my desk lamp. My vending machine sandwich was filled with tobacco. I was seized by a fit of coughing and sneezing. On my way to the elevator I was knocked down by an enormous man I had never seen before. The elevator operator told me the elevator was full. I tried to protest but he shut the door and started the car’s descent. I fell down two of the seventeen flights of stairs to the lobby. The group from the elevator left noiselessly as I stood panting.

A policeman mistook me for a murderer on the street and had me halfway to his patrol car before realizing his mistake. A bottle of water cost fourteen dollars. I could not catch my breath. It started raining despite the clear sky and when I asked people if it was really raining they stared at me and stalked quickly off. I couldn’t find my way to a street I recognized no matter how long I tracked in one direction. I paused to catch my breath and was shouted out from a doorway. An old woman emptied a bucket over me from the window of her apartment, then cackled. A lion backed me down an alley and into a brick wall. A religious man carrying a placard opened the ground beneath my feet. When I emerged it was dark and every other person on the streets bore a torch and the noises they made were not noises I understood.

I ran and they chased me and I ran for a bus and it chased me and I hid under a bridge and it rumbled and when I fled the city something kept right after me, too close for me to turn and glimpse it, so I ran, I ran knowing my keys were missing and likely lost forever, but this was all I could do, and I ran.

Though my front door was missing, I noticed as I dashed up the stairs that most of the belongings in the front room appeared to be intact. The bedroom door had no lock but I slammed it anyway and flew across the open floor with one leap to avoid whatever lurked under the bed and pinned myself under the covers and closed my eyes tight.

When I awoke, in the still-dark room, I had ample time to consider. And I realized that while the day had not culminated with my tortured death by the claws of unseen creatures, while whatever had been pushing me out of itself seemed at last to be finished with me but in no anguish over the pause, this had, in fact, been the worst day. Everything that could have gone wrong had.

Because when I tried, with my stringy arms, my wobbly legs, my dizzy brain, my crackling skin, my certain feelings, my doubts, my haircut, my unexplored consciousness, to raise myself from my bed, I was able to.

About the Work

John Brown Spiers

John Brown Spiers lives in Athens, Georgia, with his wife and their house full of animals. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Mandala Literary Journal, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as venues whose names do not begin with the letter M.

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