Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
Life After Seinfeld
by Robin Leslie Jacobson
There we are, playing hooky from the office, all that paper dammed and rising past flood level, overdue bills strewn across the floor like trash washed up at Mad River Beach, so no wonder we've gone off the grid for a few hours, except we haven't really, because there we are at this creekside table, Jake with his power drink and me with my nonfat decaf "Why Bother," arguing about money and sex and upholstery—I mean, just about any couple together this long could be sitting in these molded plastic chairs and it'd be the same, so I'm feeling generic, like we've been typecast in some bad old daytime rerun, and why did God or whatever pluck me out of that wreck the summer before last anyway, because this sure as hell isn't making it worth that higher power's trouble—when I see someone in the creek, no raft or dinghy, not even an inner tube and a six-pack, but in the creek, which is real deep because of El Niño and all, and if I'm chilly sitting in this five o'clock dry blue breeze, maybe this guy's closing in on hypothermia, though I see he's got his clothes on, and I begin to think: what the . . . ? and should we be doing something, like is he in trouble, I mean, he's not yelling or sinking or anything but he just doesn't look right—and then I remember how last night on Seinfeld those slackers finally got theirs, thrown in the slammer for laughing while they watched some fat guy get robbed in backlot broad daylight, but really it's karma for nine years of every week not caring about anything except their shoes, their cell phones, and their Honey-Nut Cheerios—but me, I do care what happens to the guy in the creek, only I don't know if he's there on purpose, and if he is there on purpose, whether it's for living or dying, and I think about that bopper Lambert stopping to help change a flat and getting run over kneeling by some stranger's car in the dark, and I think about Kevorkian and wonder whose life is it anyway? and as he drifts downstream I realize it's James in the water, that guy who's always wandering up Western, and he looks like maybe he's just taking a bath, his way, a school of bait fish for a washcloth, though I hear his brother yanks him off the street once in a while, cuts his matted dirty blond and Maytags the grease from his clothes, but right now sad James is still with us, and he looks all right to me actually, like maybe, after all, he knows exactly what to do to keep himself afloat in this world, and if he does, maybe there's at least one person I don't have to worry about saving.
This flash won Bust Out Stories' * 1999 New Writers Contest . In the cracks between bread-and-butter tasks, Robin Jacobson leads freewrite groups, mostly because otherwise she'd never get a chance to write. Her new chapbook, The Exit Marked Paradise: North Bay Poems 1994-2003 is just out from True North Press ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).
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