felt like a salmon swimming upstream. As I tried to walk, it seemed people were
pushing me from the opposite direction. They stared at the ground with frightened,
emotionless faces and refused to let anything stand in their way, although they
had no idea where they were going. I turned the other way I met the same fate.
Finally the mindless mob turned a corner, and a gust of wind blew everyone behind
I sighed in relief as I turned back and saw I was
alone, but the wind blew my precious note out of my shirt pocket and glued it
to my face.
I tried to peel the page off, but the wind held it with icy fingers. I was grasping
at the frozen fingertips, trying to uncoil them, when I walked into a stop sign,
and fell face down into a puddle of grease.
I spat out mouthfuls of goo and stared at the sodden page, which floated in the
grease. It began to fade and disintegrate and suddenly burst into a flower of
flames, which burned a hole in the street and sucked in the grease and the broken
bottles by the curb, along with an overflowing bag of scattered garbage.
I dashed away just as an abandoned, stripped hull of a car was swallowed by the
hole in the street. It seemed this was clean-up day, and if discarded junk was
what the hole was eating, I had a sneaking suspicion I'd be next if I didn't get
I dashed over piles of flying rubble that swooshed around me to their doom, and
saw the crumpled page flying at me as a passing cloud spewed it out in a flash
of flooding rain.
It was the same crumpled page. I know, because when I peeled it off my face (again)
I saw the grease stains, and I re- read the message. "Meet me at 11:00 at the
place where we met."
Just then the rain stopped, and the page flew out of my hands and fell between
the cracks of a gutted building that must have once been an imposing mansion.
And as the sun blared over- head, a flower sprouted out of the page and quickly
began clothing the building in tufts of color and promise. Its roots grew wider
and wider, and flowers of color sprang up faster and faster.
"Meet me at 11:00," I chanted
the sacred words as the broken bricks all around me disappeared and the entire
block turned into a flowery field. "At the place where we met."
I chanted the words over and over, and I knew somehow that this was the place
where we had met.
I wanted to run through the grass and flowers and stay there forever with the
girl who wrote the note, but the wind gushed up again and blew me off my feet.
I flapped my hands, grabbing for something to hold on to, but the wind kept pushing
me back. I latched onto a tree as the wind whipped my feet in the air. I held
on as long as I could, and then I was flung up into the air and around the corner.
The wind didn't reach this block and I fell to the sidewalk with a thud.
I jumped up and ran back to the corner. I leaned on the brick building and cautiously
peered around the other side. But there was only a city street there --
the field of flowers was gone.
With a sigh, I hurried down the sidewalk, racing for the next corner, hoping I
could get back to where I had been.
This street looked just like the one that had been filled with the river of racing
people. Except now the people who strolled along this block seemed to be going
in slow motion.
I moved my hand. It seemed to be going at normal speed.
I jumped up in the air. I fell on my rear as normally as I could expect. But the
people were gooooiiinnnnnggggg aaaallllooonngg sssooooooooooooo ssssssssss-lll-oooooooooo-ooooow-llllll-yyyyyyyyyy.
me," I smiled to a polite-looking slowpoke woman. "Do you know if it's 11 yet?"
She turned her head ever so slowly to face me. She smiled and opened her mouth
and spoke, but the words took so long to reach me, I had no idea what she said.
She walked past inch by inch by inch.
I flagged down a small boy. "Do you know where there's a park, or field of flowers,
or something like that?"
The boy shrugged forever. I began to yawn, and I had to shake myself awake.
MAGIC, MAGIC," a voice was saying behind me, and that woke me up with a start.
I turned around and saw the Kid.
He couldn't have been more than two or three years old. Maybe less. He was wearing
a diaper. But he was standing on a soap box waving his hands (at, at least normal
speed, if not faster). I noticed he was waving over a tall black magician's hat
that stood on the sidewalk, and it must have been at least as tall as he was.
The slow-motion people tossed coins into his hat, and every coin that fluttered
down took so long to reach its destination that it burst into a dollar bill. And
the bills took so long to fall that they turned into fives, then tens, twenties,
I would have tossed a coin too, if for nothing else, just to see this magic inflation
at work, but of course, I didn't have a coin.
The Magician, however, spotted my ring, and his eyes grew wide.
"STEP RIGHT UP," he yelled.
It was a command. I turned away.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Kid waving his wand wildly at me. "You will
come here..." he shrieked.
I began to run. But suddenly the people all around me began to speed up, and they
flashed past me.
As I looked down at the sidewalk, I saw my legs were going like crazy, but I wasn't
I tried to run faster, and faster, but I was going backwards.
My hand was starting to hurt, and I looked down and saw my ring was glowing brightly.
Then my arm began to glow. And the glow spread and spread, until my whole body
was aflame. I felt this tremendous pressure inside me, and then suddenly I burst
down the street with a flashing bolt and turned the corner.
I leaned against a lamppost, gasping for breath. Far in the distance I could hear
the Soap-Box Kid crying like a baby, but the sound was soon drowned out by the
roaring rush in my head. I panted and panted trying to calm myself down.
Eventually the noise died down until all I heard was a dull rumble. "Whew," I
gasped as I stood up and walked slowly down the road.
Across the street was a billboard advertising some chocolate bar. Before I could
figure out which kid of chocolate bar it was, the ad changed to a steak sandwich,
and then an ice cream sundae, then french fries.
The rumbling sound was getting louder and I realized it was my stomach again.
"When was the last time you fed me!!!" it roared.
"When was the last
time I ate?" I wondered. And then I was really starving. Blind hunger washed over
me, and I staggered under its weight.
food," I mumbled as I plodded down the pavement, my tongue dragging behind me.
Someone stuck a piece of paper under my face.
"GOOD FOR ONE FREE MEAL" the
I looked up at the toothless smiling three-piece suit that held out the card.
the catch?" I muttered.
the smile snickered.
I shrugged as I walked into the restaurant beside us.
Inside there was a giant table filled with food. I mean, there was everything
there. I stared, and my mouth started to water.
"How many sir?" the waiter
one, I guess."
me, please," the waiter smiled, and he led me to a table that faced the food.
He brought out a giant plate filled with something that smelled wonderful. I couldn't
tell what it was from the smell, nor could I figure it out when he placed it before
me. But even my eyes were drooling.
I handed him my coupon, and he snickered.
Whatever the dish was, there was plenty of it, but I polished it off in about
I looked up from the empty plate to that table filled with food. My stomach ached,
and I felt even hungrier than before.
there be anything else?" the waiter asked, sensing the hunger in my eyes.
yes!" I gasped. "I'll have one of those and one of those and one of those," I
blurted, pointing wildly at the table, and he scribbled them all down.
"Before I bring out your food,
sir, please pay the cashier in advance. It comes to...forty three dollars and
fourteen cents." He tore off the bill. "Plus sales tax and an 18% gratuity, of
course," he added.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out air. I swallowed and tried to smile.
The waiter's eyes were on fire. "I thought as much!" he shrieked and grabbed my
He dragged me across the room, stopping to take several orders as we went. I couldn't
take my eyes off the table, and the people that sat looking at it as well. I watched
them hand in their coupons with their eyes on the food, and when they'd finished
their complimentary meals, they handed their waiter money, and more, and more,
and more...and then suddenly I was booted back onto the street.