The Great God Bob



The sun came up, cutting a cruel edge through the heavy bedroom curtains. Not quite closed; a gap you could drive a bus through sideways. Look at them, inconsiderate linen bastards, letting the sun shine in on his face, grinding shards into the seams of his dried-shut eyes, forcing in light like angry knives whetting themselves in two-step time, tearing the light fantastic and leaving it pour all over his near-sleeping face. Another morning come to rip his beatific dreams away from him and leave inadequate reality in their place. Damn curtains, he'd get around to closing them, just wait and see. Ah, what's that? The alarm, now, what's next? Groan, roll over, sigh, might as well wake up, he says to himself as he throws the covers off and slides his tired legs over the side of the sagging mattress, feet finding slippers. Get a new mattress too, soon, just watch me, he says as he drags himself erect and scratches various itches and heads for the bathroom. Another day. Another damn day.

He lifts the seat as he reaches for the TV remote, aims in two directions and begins his morning. The bathroom door is angled so that the mirror on the door reflects into the cabinet mirror over the sink so Bob Can shave and brush while keeping an eye on the events surrounding the world of news coverage. It's white noise, babysitting for his brain, room filler to keep the spaces filled so he doesn't have to face an empty apartment. Don't get him wrong, Bob loves living alone, always has, intends to go on living alone, too if he's careful. Can't be too careful, though, he knows, two marriages and a drawer full of failed love in neatly scripted letters from across the years and the planet are always there for him when he gets too close. All he has to do is read what was and what could have been to see the odds aren't there for anything else but a single life.

Shake, shake, shake; flush. Look into the cabinet mirror and see both his aging face (still presentable after all these years, he realizes, a few lines added since last year, more white in the beard, gray in the hair, but still a thick full head of hair) and the news channel reflected just behind his head. Toothbrush, toothpaste, turn on the tap - wait, what's that? A bug? No, a miniature antlike thing walking the wall, patrolling the rim of the sink. There, another one hiding behind the hot water handle. Never noticed those things before, he says to his reflection in a tacit arching of his eyebrows. Little pioneers staking out a claim on my bathroom, I don't believe so, partner. Vamoose, And Bob wets his finger and catches all three on the droplet adhering to his fingertip and marshals them to the lip of the drain and flicks them down into the great unknown. Bye, bye sodbusters, he thinks as he lathers to shave around his beard.

As he steps into the shower the TV news reflects another disaster somewhere in a country nobody even knew was there. Hundreds killed and left homeless in another flood.

No sun kicking its way into his bedroom this morning, it's overcast and windy today, so Bob sleeps right up till his alarm insists he take stock of his options. He argues for the sake of appearance but gives in. No reasoning with time, he knows, get in step or get left behind. Up he rises, scratching pleasantly alleviated irritations as he heads into routine.

Seat lift, remote lift, point and shoot. Two direct hits. The news dins and the toilet flushes filling the bathroom with comforting sounds to edge out the pockets of possible pain. Thoughts come unbidden, Bob knows from long experience, so don't give them a chance to cohere in the bubbles of emptiness, fill everything you can as fast as you can and keep them outside the realm of need. No spaces to fill; no need to look for memories to fill them. Simple. Flush, move to the sink; examine the day's additions to my fabulous face, thinks Bob. Eyes a little red this morning, thought I slept well. Did I dream? Maybe. Something about a cat catching a squirrel? Yeah, Bob remembers as he reaches for the toothbrush. The squirrel turned into a monkey and I saved it from the cat - can't remember what the cat changed into.

Bob reaches for the toothpaste and sees another party of antlike crawlers, bold and brazen, two on the wall this time, beside the mirror and two on the edge of the sink. You guys don't learn, do you? Bob has no malice as he wets his fingers and ushers them all aboard his soggy flying carpet just to deposit this collection of invaders into the drain like the others. Silly bastards, he thinks, take the hint, will ya. This bathroom ain't big enough fer the both of us.

Shave-shower-dress, out the door. Back a moment later for the umbrella. Out the door for work. The television talks in serious tones about a family of tourists being carjacked outside of Rio de Janeiro. The carjackers shot all four. Tourists are advised not to resist in situations like this. The Brazilian government expresses its condolences and assures the Foreign Embassy that all in its power is being done to apprehend those . . .

Saturday morning. No alarm, no shards of angry light knifing into his eyes, no rain pat-pattering on his windowsill, nothing to disturb him, Bob sleeps on well into ten o'clock with no signs of breaking that course of action. A determined man that Bob. But he does seem disturbed, see his eyeballs REMing like crazy? He's probably having a dream he'd like to wake up from. Ah, there he goes! He's breathing deeply and faster than before, so it's a nightmare. He's moaning, fighting to move, fighting to drag himself up out of his altered state. Any moment now . . . Pop! His eyes are open and he's jerking upright in bed. Bob probably shouldn't have slept so long.

What the hell was that? He wonders. Dreamt of that damned squirrel again, but it was the monkey this time, a yellow monkey. It was my pet, no, more like my friend. It had huge sharp fangs whenever anybody else was in the dream with me, but alone, it was my buddy. We were standing in a room and he was on my right shoulder, holding on with his hands and his tail, there was a mirror and we both looked into it. His face was just like any other yellow monkey's until I talked to him. For some reason I remembered that macacco means monkey in Brazilian, so I said, 'hey macacco, how you doing?' And he smiled and his eyes got cartoon big and he looked right at my reflection through the mirror and he sang, "Ducacco, my name I just learned is Ducacco!" He sang it to the tune of Maria from West Side Story. Wow, that was strange, wonder what it meant, Bob wondered as he padded, slipperless, into the bathroom to lift the seat. He left the remote on the hamper facing the toilet. No news today, it's Saturday.

Ducacco was frantic, he had to get Bob's attention, but Bob was trying to score with the woman from the beach at Ipanema. She'd followed Bob into the bar and in the way of dreams, the bar turned into a bedroom and Bob and the woman were deep in conversation that they both knew would grow into more intense pleasantries if only Bob could retain his focus and follow through. But he was being harassed by a bouncing yellow ball of fangs and hissing squawks, yelling something at him. Finally Bob felt the moment melt away as the ball of fiery fur finally announced, "Ducacco! Ducacco is here. Here is your little pal Ducacco. See me?" But Ducacco's squawking voice raised in pitch until it became a whining hum, and the whine became the tone of his alarm clock. Bob feels that hopeless loss at having to relinquish a preferred state in favor of the one he always gets stuck with at least once a day. Monday. Oh, hell, he realizes, it's bloody Monday.

Into the bathroom, on goes the remote and up goes the seat. Nothing changes in Bob's life, nor in his routine. Nothing except the intrusion of all these tiny antlike creatures infesting his world. Now there are five of the little buggers walking the edges of his bathtub; and three more on the edge of his sink as he shaves. Now it's second nature for Bob to collect them onto a wet fingertip and flick them into the swirling drain as he goes about his normal business. Thinking to himself, 'take that you little bastards,' he reaches way over to the wall above the toilet tank and presses two more into the wall, crushing them and wiping his finger on the toilet paper roll. 'So, it's gonna be war, is it?' Bob says aloud, rinsing his razor under the hot water and swirling two more into the abyss.

After showering, Bob towels off and reaches into the cabinet for his aftershave and deodorant. Sliding the mirrored door open he notices a flicker of reflection and turns to see a cataclysm on TV. Seems an earthquake hit somewhere causing landslides and more floods. Lots of people killed, homeless, desperate. Same old story day in and day out. Bob splashes aftershave on and winces, then notices another group of the little homesteading invaders INSIDE his cabinet. Inside with his Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer and mouthwash! Screw that he thinks, they're not crawling all over the stuff I put in my mouth. Bob scoops the horde up in three fingers, grinds his thumb and fingers together and deposits the results into the toilet and flushes.

As he washes his hands a thought strikes Bob. Maybe I shouldn't be so cruel. Would it hurt me to leave them alone? How much room do they take up? Do they make a racket? No. Well, but somebody's gotta teach them not to crawl all over my stuff. That's just disgusting. Maybe I'll leave them alone tomorrow, he decides. Bob leaves his apartment to face the Monday morning rush hour. On his way down the subway steps he buys a newspaper and sees a four-color picture of a downtown department store that collapsed, killing 43 people. Officials said it was only a miracle the building had been closing its doors. If the collapse had occurred only 30 minutes earlier the death toll may have been in the many hundreds. Bob clicks his tongue and shakes his head.

Wet clumps of snow slap against the window, driven by below zero winds off the lake, but in his dream, Bob is watching in astonishment while Ducacco hurls clumps of fecal matter at the cat that had attacked him three dreams ago. Bob could swear the cat changed into something else at the same time Ducacco changed from a squirrel into a yellow monkey, but there it is, still a cat, hissing and feigning attacks against a taunting Ducacco. The sounds of the offal splatting all around the cat are so real, Bob can actually hear them. Outside Bob's dream the weather is raging against his bedroom window, rattling the double glazed panes and whistling where cracks permit. But suddenly one of Ducacco's well-aimed projectiles meets its mark and the cat howls in indignant fury and explodes into the air in a hissing confusion of claws aimed straight at the monkey. Bob covers his face and Ducacco screams.

BAARRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNN. The alarm clock announces Tuesday morning to all interested parties. Bob bolts out of sleep and slams his palm down on the clock's sleep bar. He's sweating and his t-shirt sticks to his shoulders as he rips the covers back and jack knifes into a sitting position. Christ, he says, what was that all about?

Shaken, Bob fights to locate his slippers under his bed while trying to make it to the bathroom to relieve himself. Sticking his toes beneath the bed and tapping them around isn't going to do it, Bobbo, he chides himself, adding a few bar room epithets to pepper his admonitions with brighter color. Screw it! He turns to the bathroom, clicks the TV remote into the mirror, bouncing it back into the TV, slams the toilet seat up and releases the floods. Unfortunately the seat crashes back from the covered lid and smacks wetly onto the bowl. Son of a bitch! The seat is deluged by badly aimed intent.

Bob is really shaken by his dream. There's something about it that he nearly remembers but each time he corners it, it slips back into darkness, mocking his efforts. Screw it, sonofabitchbastard. He's talking to himself as he reaches for the toothbrush and toothpaste, absently crushing half a dozen little six-legged homesteaders with thumping knuckles and rinsing the tools of little murder beneath the rushing water from the tap. Wonder if this is how God feels? Teeth brushed, Bob considers his face in the mirror. What? What're you looking at? Eyes red and underscored by a bruised off-color, Bob wonders if he'd slept at all from the look of himself. What was that last part of the dream?

He steps into the shower and draws the curtain across the bar at the same instant he hits the water. A hot cascade thunders down onto his head, bathing him in reassuring noise and steaming the shivers from his skin. Damn, he realizes he forgot to shave. Yanking the curtain aside he reaches over to the far side of the sink for his razor, just one more inch, nearly got it, and Bob slips and falls out of the bathtub.

His knee cracks on the edge of the tub and he shoots his hands out to protect his head from the edge of the sink but his right hand slips on a glop of toothpaste and skips off the sink leaving his forehead to take the full impact.

Lying on the bathroom floor, Bob can just make out his slippers beneath his bed, there in the next room, about a foot back. The TV news takes a break for a commercial; from this position, he can see the TV, too, on his dresser, angled to face the bathroom. Funny thing perspective, he thinks. On the TV is a wildlife ad, save the something or other, Bob doesn't care, and there it is right before his eyes. That's what the cat changed into in his dream, a butterfly.

The TV announcer is droning some treacle about connectedness and harmony while the butterfly sits drying its magnificent wings. Reflected over his head in the bathroom mirror, the butterfly stirs, flaps its wings once, and rests again. The six-legged homesteaders wander the wall above Bob's bathroom sink, a few even venture down the tub and toilet bowl to the floor. One is trapped, struggling in the spreading pool of blood and I'll bet it drowns. Bob thinks that as he watches it struggle.

Maybe I could help it, Bob thinks as he closes his eyes and dies. Maybe not.

The End