Don't Say Anything


  Don’t Say Anything


            Rolf was walking down the street, pondering absolutely nothing at all.  He was on his way to the store to get a candy bar.  This was in fact the whole reason he was going.  It was not unusual in the slightest for him to be pondering absolutely nothing at all as he walked down the street, he spent much of his day trying to think about as little as possible.  He'd been doing it for some time.

            He went into the store and took the candy bar off the shelf and put it down on the counter, between himself and the woman working the register.  She was a middle-aged woman who looked like she'd been working there way too long.  Her hair was all mussed and tangled and her clothes hung off of her like she didn't give a shit.  Her nametag said 'JASMINE'.  From her sagging position she inflated somewhat; it appeared she wanted someone to talk to.

            "Nice day out there, isn't it?" she asked whilst punching numbers into the machine.  Rolf said nothing.  "Weatherman says it's up in the seventies over the weekend.  Strange for this time of year, huh?"  Rolf stared at her, prompting a return glare.  His eyes were watering a bit like they always did.  He wore big round eyeglasses and they added to the overall effect, magnified and warped the water pooling behind the lenses.

            "Will that be all?" Jasmine demanded.  From conversational she'd turned all officious and angry, she didn't like being ignored like that.  Still Rolf said not a word.

            "I said, will that be all?"

            His eyes watered away as his hand went to his lips to finger them a bit.  She was making him nervous with all the confrontational bullshit.  Grumbling and mumbling Jasmine stuck the candy bar in a little plastic bag and flung it at him.  He walked out.  Most of the time it was better not saying anything, this he'd learned from extensive past experience.  It just never went anywhere good.

            He went home and Anton was there.  Anton was Rolf's roommate.  He was from one of the Slavic countries over in Eastern Europe; he'd told Rolf which one a few times but Rolf always forgot.  Not one of the ones everyone knew about, like Romania or Bulgaria, it was something with a funny name.  Anyway, Anton was there, watching TV and loading up a bong.

            "Yo, dude," Anton said.

            He put his lighter to the wick thing and bent over and inhaled.  The room was already full of smoke, as it always was.  Anton smoked way too much pot, it was entirely evident.  He did twice as much as your average pothead could stand, he did more than Bob Marley ever did, he was like some sort of strange unnatural pot-smoking machine.  If Rolf himself didn't feel like getting high he had to shut the door of his bedroom to keep the shit out.  Anton's dog Maxwell was there on the floor.  Maxwell was high as well.  He was one of those dogs that was all long and stretched out and rode along very close to the floor, with big floppy ears, not a dachshund but something in that neighborhood.  He was over twelve years old and was developing something of a distinguished look, streaks of grey in the muzzle mixing in with the black.  An elder statesman of the canine world.  A fine hound, that Maxwell.  One of Rolf's best friends.

            "You go over to the Cauldron?" Anton asked.

            Rolf looked down, that meant no.  The Cauldron was the dive bar where they hung out, it was full of punks.  It was actually called the Black Cauldron but no one ever called it by its full name.  The sign outside was so bad you couldn't even see what it said anyway.

            "We should go down later on.  I wanna see if that blonde chick's gonna be in there again.  That girl is fiiiiiine....." Anton said, then broke out in a slow-developing peel of laughter.  Pot did this to you.  Anton could smoke as much as he wanted but he actually wasn't a big drinker, in fact he was a positive lightweight - he'd have four or five at most and then it was like a switch had been thrown, all of a sudden he was stumbling all sideways and making no sense whatsoever and you were wondering if he'd even be able to make it home.  He weighed all of about one-forty anyway, I mean he was a scrawny little dude.  He'd messed with heroin years ago and had barely made it out alive and Rolf suspected that the damage had been done and there was no recovering whatever had been lost there.  Anton looked unwell, his face was all drawn and his skin was yellowy-strange and his teeth were half falling out.  It shocked the shit out of people encountering him for the first time but Rolf was just used to it by now.

            Maxwell let out his customary short bark, which meant he needed to go for a walk.  Rolf strapped the leash on and took him outside and he peed and he took him back inside again.  By the time he came back Anton was either completely absorbed in what was on the TV or he was comatose, it was hard to tell which.  It was a routine with him, he'd get this crazy entranced look on his face and his eyes would recede into their sockets and he'd be like that for a while.  Rolf went into the bedroom and shut the door.  He took off all his clothes and closed the blinds and stretched out on the bed, lying on his back.  Not a word had been said all day and it felt good.

            Rolf went out in the afternoon and went downtown, still considering absolutely nothing.  For a time, at least.  He was fine until he passed the bitch on the street, marching up the sidewalk at him all stern and severe and out for blood.  Power suits, they actually called them, if you can believe that.  She threw a dismissive glance at Rolf and took a few nimble steps to the side as they passed each other, actually circling around him somewhat as if he were crawling with lice or something.  People did it with him quite frequently but this was more dramatic than usual.  The dams began to burst for a split second, then caught and held.  'We injure ourselves as we go hurtling towards oblivion,' were the words that went through his mind.  The words were unpredictable that way.  He shut them down and continued forth.  He wondered how bad he looked, wondered if perhaps he smelled.  He'd taken a shower that morning but admittedly hadn't used much soap.  He looked down at his old ripped jeans and t-shirt in tatters and his severely beat-up sneakers, the pair he practically never took off, even to sleep.  He supposed the reaction was predictable.  The next few people he passed tensed up noticeably as well and soon there were more words trying to force their way to the surface and before he knew it he was standing in a crosswalk with a taxicab bearing down on him.  He'd been in crosswalks before but for some reason this time he wasn't progressing through it like he was supposed to, something was wrong, his feet were just not moving.  The cab driver was a large Italian with almost no hair left on his head, just a few strands.  He was leaning his fat head completely out the window with one fist on the horn and the other one up in the air.  He was irate.  It appeared he'd been trying to make contact with Rolf for some time but not a word had gotten through.

            "Yo, I'm talkin' ta you!  Get the hell outta the way!"

            More horns joined in from behind, now it was an urban symphony of outrage and indignation.  Rolf shuffled forward and was almost sideswiped as the cars buzzed angrily by.  His brain was moving slowly and there were still snippets of information passing through, little blips and bleeps of words and phrases and fragments of same, nothing to make much use of.  There was a hamburger place directly in front of him and he went in there to get off the street and also to try to get something to eat, the candy bar being all he'd eaten all day.  He pointed at the #2 and the little girl handed him a #2 and took the bills and gave him his change and he sat down in the corner and started to wolf the burger down.  An old man was camped out at the table across from him.

            "Sun's out today, isn't it?" the old man said.  "It sure feel nice."

            The weather, it was all anyone wanted to talk about.  Why discuss something so obvious.  They could have been discussing classic literature or the prospects for world peace or racial harmony or trying to figure out the stock market or some damn thing and all they could do was point out the sun in the sky.  The old man was a talker, he was another one who wanted some conversation.  Even if it was about nothing.

            "So what're you up to taday, young feller?" he asked.  Rolf's eyes watered back.

            "Not too much, I guess.  I get that way mahself sometimes.  In fact most the time, if I'm bein' real honest.  You gonna eat them fries?"

            Rolf shook his head no and the old man's gnarled hand reached over and clawed the fries up and transferred them to his own table.  He continued on with his inane babble and Rolf began to rub his forehead and finally the old bastard ran out of material and buggered off.  He'd been pulling at his lip so hard that blood had formed, he was having to wipe it off on the napkin.  He sat there thinking about the bitch in the power suit, why he'd allowed her reaction to bother him so much.  You gave people power over you when you allowed them to influence you like that, Rolf knew this only too well, and yet there it was happening every single day of his life.  He'd been cursed with a sensitive soul and it was continually getting him in trouble.  He shut down further, went into hibernation mode and remained there for the rest of the day.  No one else spoke to him and he had no further problems.  He went home and sat on the couch and then it was nighttime and time for more food.  He went into the kitchen and popped open a can of chef boyardee and threw it in a bowl and heated it up and ate it.  Such a strange substance, chef boyardee, tasted neither good nor bad, it was almost like not eating anything at all.  Anton was gone, Maxwell wasn't.  He played with Maxwell for a while then got bored.  He texted Anton to see where he was, although he already knew full well he was down at the Cauldron.  Anton was either here or at work or at the Cauldron, there were no other possibilities.  Rolf sat there waiting some more for no good reason and then at nine he went over.  The place was swinging, it was Thursday night.  The usual scumbags were there.  The place was always at least half scumbag, usually well more than half.  He parked himself next to Anton and started to drink.  The drinks flowed like rivers.  Lindsay came in.  She was named after a tennis player of some kind, or so she'd said.  Her mother had been a big player herself, on the pro tour and all that.  This had never mattered in the slightest to Rolf and yet the information stuck stubbornly in his mind.  You couldn't control the catalog of thoughts filed away in your head, even if you could control which of them escaped from your mouth.  Lindsay whisked down to the other end of the bar and stayed there, with Rolf's eyes following her the entire way.  He had a thing for Lindsay although he didn't know why.  She was the local chick barfly and she wasn't even all that good-looking either, she had a lazy eye and her hair was always blaring away in all these overly bright colors.  An hour later he looked up and saw her face hovering between the two hunched bodies, his and Anton's.

            "Whassap Anton, howz shit goin'?" she asked, leaning in a bit drunkenly.

            "As good as it ever is," Anton said.  "You know me..."

            His eyes were almost completely closed, he was high as hell.  There was a place in the back where they could light up, a dark little corner behind the stairs.  Lindsay ignored Rolf as she always did and Rolf waited.  Some asshole tried to talk to him on the left and he had to wait for that as well.  The bartender asked him if he wanted another drink and he almost said yes before remembering he was pretty much out of funds, down to his last ten bucks or so, which was supposed to be eating money for the rest of the week.  This had happened before and the recurring phenomenon contributed to his rather svelte figure.  He waited some more.  Midnight rolled around, Anton disappeared with a couple of his stoner buds.  The bar was emptying out.  Last call was announced.  The place across the street was still open for another hour or so, all the drunks knew it.  It was a hipster place and was always wall-to-wall dickhead but it served alcohol and at that time of night that was pretty much all that mattered.  Lindsay was sitting there right next to him, finishing up a lingering conversation with Nick who was on his way out the door.  Rolf knew what had to come next and every fiber of his being was rebelling against it.  He screwed up his nerve and opened his mouth and faltered before starting again.  Lindsay saw the struggle and leaned in, the better to hear him falter.


            "Wanna go across the street?"

            "To the Lamplight?  I'm totally out of money."

            "I got a few bucks left."


            They went across the street.  The bar was full, way too full.  Eschewing the bar itself Lindsay made her way toward the back patio and sat down at a little table for two.  How romantic.  Rolf got the beers and went over to join her.  With the tip he'd had just enough, now he was clean out, totally broke.  The last time this had happened he'd been salting pieces of bread.  Lindsay already looked bored, her eyes were darting all over the place, she was looking for a better deal.  Almost anything would have been better.  But she felt somewhat compelled considering he'd just bought the drinks.  Even barflies had consciences.

            "So, Rolf, what kind of name is that?" she shouted across the table.  She had a yankee accent, she was from somewhere up north.

            "German," he said.


            "It's German."


            Rolf tried to think of something else to say.  He could not.  He sat there looking at her, thinking about how much better her lazy eye and peacock coif looked when you were drunk.  He tried asking her a question but it came out as a moan and was completely inaudible and there hadn't been much point in asking it anyway.  Lindsay sat a few moments longer until she couldn't take it anymore and then jumped up and disappeared, fading back into the crowd, heading for greener pastures.  Rolf grasped his beer bottle.  It was more than discomfort, it went well beyond that in fact.  He slammed his fist down on the table and beer went flying up.  The people at the adjacent tables stopped babbling and stared.  He didn't move and didn't slam any further and they quickly went back to their utterly fascinating conversations.  He sucked the rest of the beer down and stood up and went further into the recesses of the patio.  It was darker in the back underneath the overhang and you could sort of escape from them there.  He put his back to the fence and watched them without watching them.  They always looked the same, always sounded the same.  There were a pair of floaters sitting on the bench, he picked them up and drank them down.  Then he walked through the crowd and out the front door and into the night.  Anton was around somewhere and he didn't care where.  He was swearing it all off, again.  Planet Earth was a blank space.  He wanted to think that that was the end of the bar scene for good but what the fuck else was there to do.  You were trapped wherever you were.



Scott Taylor


Scott Taylor hails from Raleigh, North Carolina.  He is a writer and a musician, and an avid world traveler.  His short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Ghost City Review, Snakeskin, Oddball, Angel Rust and Swifts and Slows.  His debut novel 'Chasing Your Tail' has recently been released with Silver Bow Publishing, and his novellas 'Freak' and 'Ernie and the Golden Egg' are slated for inclusion in an upcoming anthology with Running Wild Press.  He graduated from Cornell University and was also a computer programmer in a past life."

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