FLASH FICTION WEP CHALLENGE FOR OCTOBER – DEJA VU OR VOODOO
October’s Prompt: Trees
Tree Déjà vu
I’ve seen Tommy drunk before. His days working at the golf club get to him. It’s not the fresh air, but the air of superiority that suffocates him.
“The downfall of society happens before the anarchy. That’s what this is. That’s what we’re seeing.” Tommy says as he starts another of his political philosophy rants. The bartender and I are so glad Tommy went to college so he could sit here, night after night, and impart his over-priced knowledge. So glad.
“First, the society is formed by making a bunch of rules. A group of people agrees to those rules.” His red nose catches on the inside brim of the glass as he drains it. A wave of his finger gets the bartender to pass him another drink. I wish he’d pass out. Just one time. Pass out, fall off the stool, and give us a laugh.
“Then someone breaks a rule, or a bunch of rules. That’s always gonna happen. Which is why you gotta have a system set up to deal with that. Now, here’s the thing. Here’s how you take out a society. I don’t care what one. Rome, Egypt, the Ottoman’s, whoever.” He sucks down the drink with unnatural power and speed. I’d be impressed if I hadn’t seen it six hundred times before.
“Now, pay attention here. This is the important part. To crumble a society, a rule breaker has to escape punishment. But that’s not all. See, everyone has to know about the crime. And generally, there has to be more than half of them agreeing the rule breaker committed the crime. But, somehow, it has to get twisted around. The victim takes the fall, the blame, the hate. That’s who is tossed out of the society. See, that’s when other victims realize how it is. That’s when the society is over.” He drops his empty glass on the bar. The bartender and I have a rock-paper-scissors match to see who will walk Tommy home. I lose. He better not piss on my shoes again.
“Anarchy, war, legal battles, whatever comes next. None of it really matters, it all ends the same way. Because it’s over before any of that. It’s over when rule breakers not only go free, but when the society turns on victims. It isn’t civilized behavior, see. And you can’t have a society that isn’t civilized.”
I sigh. “And yet, here we are. Come on, I need a gentleman to walk me home.” The lie just about burns a hole through my stomach. It is the easiest way to get him to agree to leave though.
Tommy stumbles as he stands. His black hair falls into his brown eyes. Cursing, he bats it away and moans about needing a haircut. I take his arm. The combination of beer, cut grass, and dandruff-control shampoo wafts to my nose. There’s really nothing attractive about Tommy. Not his looks, his scent, or even his personality. His only redeeming quality is that he’s respectful. A rare trait in today’s world.
“It’s my first wife!” He declares as we cross into the park. “Jessie! How I’ve missed you.”
Tommy throws his arms around a tree. It’s one of the three old ones left in the city. A trunk so thick, it’d take five people to hug it properly.
“You’ve gotten a bit rounder. But I love you, Jessica. No matter your size. Maybe try a bit of lotion, though. I’ve got some at home. What’d you say, girl? Come home with me tonight. For old times sake. One more roll.”
The tree, shockingly, doesn’t answer.
“Yeah, I remember now. Gotta work for it, eh?” Tommy strums an invisible guitar. He belts out Jessie by Joshua Kadison. The rendition is so wonderful that I consider breaking a branch off of “Jessie” to stab my eardrums.
“We don’t have a cat.” Tommy stops singing. He lets go of the tree and looks at me.
“Did she leave me because we don’t have a cat? I could get a cat. Would you help me find a cat? Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”
I rub my temples. It’s Déjà vu. “I thought you were walking me home.”
“That’s my wife! She can’t see us together. Just help me get a cat and then go away.”
I head over to the trashcan. The times Tommy has stood up for me play through my mind. How he kicked out the drunk frat guys who mistook me for a whore. The night he helped me when my shoe broke after someone pushed me. He’s a good guy, under all the drinks. I grab a brown bag with a yellow M on it from the trash. Despite smelling of fries, it’ll probably fool him.
“Look, here’s a cat.”
“Moses!” He carries the bag to the tree and gets down on one knee.
“Jessie, I know I wasn’t the best husband the first time. But I’m willing to try again. Look, I got you a cat. Just like in the song. What do you say? Marry me again?”
I can’t believe Tommy is doing this. It’s the third time this month he’s asked that tree to marry him.
“Why are you ignoring me? Fine. Take your cat. I don’t need you!”
I walk Tommy home. Once he’s locked safely away, I hit the button on my bracelet. A moment later, I reappear at the bar. The bartender has closed down everything human. I tap our transponder.
“Report number 601. Subject Thomas “Tommy” Hodges survived another Earth day. Has not found a new life course. The fate of this world remains unchanged. Continues to sedate with alcohol.”
Observe and report. Not sure if watching his fate drain away is more or less pathetic than me just sitting around, waiting for him to not become important. As long as he never sees the real Jessie again, he’ll never ascend to power, and this world will be an easy conquest. So far, so good.
FCA 996 words
The unnamed main character is sarcastic. (Some people have trouble recognizing sarcasm.) Neither she nor the bartender is actually glad in the opening. And Tommy’s singing is horrible.
You’re welcome to guess what the main character and bartender really are, just don’t expect an answer. My site/ brand is named what-are-they for a reason! Ha ha.
Inspiration came from the tree prompt, an actual tree, and a pin on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!