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[personal profile] joegoda

Well, Word is telling me that I'm at 7618 words. I might as well agree with it, because what's the point of not agreeing with it. Unless you're the official Nano counter, which says I've typed even MORE. Besides, I'm tired and it's time to go to bed. Here's the latest installment.

He drove a twisty route to the main road, taking as many turns as he could because he believed it would help his memory. "Left, right, left, left, right, right, and we're there," he would say to nobody in particular. It was a mantra that helped him navigate. He liked to find routes and paths that others wouldn't take. It was important to him that he be just a bit different, to take that path less traveled, as it were. John's belief in himself wasn't what made him different. He just was.

When he was a little boy, and sometimes secretly as an adult, John had the suspicion that he was part of a government operation. Part of a genetics experiment, and that he was under, if not constant, the pretty darn near constant surveillance by people he called the 'Watchers'. His suspicion was supported by this: When he would turn onto a road, if there was nobody else on that same stretch of road, say at two in the morning or so, then within a block, lights would flash in his rearview mirror, or a car would pull out of a street up ahead, and he would no longer be alone on the road.

It wouldn't matter if he was in town, driving on a dirt road in the country, on some lonely length of highway out in the middle of some lost state whose residents were all asleep, there would be a car, a hitchhiker, a stranded motorist, a helicopter… something, someone would appear and be watching. It also wouldn't matter if he was walking, driving, riding a bicycle, taking a bus, a taxi or an airplane. There was always, always someone, somewhere, watching him.

John was convinced that these Watchers, these government agents, or alien observers or human overlord puppets were not evil. They were just curious. They had grown an anomaly, someone who didn't fit in with the rest of the human race and they wanted to see what his reactions were; how he handled different situations that would be presented to him.

This is why he would examine everyone he met to see if they were a member of 'them' or not. He didn't have a set method for doing this. He would just watch them, observing the observers, for any sort of telltale that would give them away, to make themselves known, give themselves away. In his entire existence, John had found only four people that he knew was a Watcher, or else a Watcher's minion.

When he reached the intersection, the 'T', to the main road, he stopped because there was a stop sign. As was usual in his life, there had been no traffic until he got to the stop sign. Once he was there, it was a good two or three minute wait for traffic to clear. He remembered, in one of those small flashes of vocal imagery, his paternal grandmother saying, "Just wait. There will be a space. There's space enough for everybody". John was 19 when his grandmother said this, and as a 19 year old, he didn't want to wait. He didn't want to pause, stop, hold up, not go. He wanted to do the opposite of stop and wait and hold up. Now, at the other side of 50, he still wanted to go, go, go! And, at the other side of 50, he realized that it was just part of the plot, to see how he'd react to having to wait. So he pulled up the book he kept in the passenger's side seat and read a bit while he waited.

He had the same trouble with stoplights. Stoplights, whether timed, or triggered by induction plates underground, or tripped by Theta waves from outer space, always seemed to know when he was coming. It was the unusual day when he would hit all greens, but it did happen. What was more usual was for him to be speeding along, being a good citizen, and go, go, going to wherever he was going and the traffic light up ahead would decide, regardless of the amount of traffic to show embarrassment and turn red, just in time to catch him. That is why he called them Stoplights, rather than traffic lights. They always seemed to want him to stop, rather than traffic.

He had gotten used to all of this by now. A good friend gave him the trick of counting when he reached the stoplight. "See how long it really takes you," she suggested. It was a good trick, and since John had the habit of counting anyway… he counted steps that he climbed, miles that he passed, distances between cities and gas stations. He counted clouds on a sunny day and he counted cows standing in a snowy field. He was a counter. Some called I OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – and John didn't disagree with them. He didn't know what else it could have been, and agreeing seemed to be the easiest way to get the subject dropped.

Anyway, John discovered that most stop lights take between twenty-five and thirty-two seconds to change from red to green, depending on the length of time the light stayed yellow. This is not a scientific discovery. Some lights, at two or three AM will stay red for almost a hundred and twenty seconds, give or take a sigh of frustration. And there was one, at one-thirty that stayed red for a full three hundred and forty seconds! He didn't drive that road anymore. It gave him a headache just thinking about it, and that would bring about one of his Optic Migraines, and that would do nobody any good at all.

He had come to accept that there were times that the Universe at Large was trying to teach him something. When all the lights turned red, stopping him and slowing him down from go, go, going, he would think to himself, "I wonder if I need to take more time and think about things." Not that he was thinking anything in particular, but he was receiving a hidden message to slow down, smell the coffee, listen to the radio, see what's what with the rest of the world, that moves so fast, it misses all the good parts of this movie called life.

John never considered that the lights may have been manipulated by the Watchers, just to see how long it would take before he cracked under the strain of not being able to go, go, go. Instead, he figured stoplights were put in place as a population control gimmick. He believed that they were invented by women, and were meant to replace stopsigns, which he believed were much more efficient than stoplights, and if people were stupid enough to run through them and get killed, then those people maybe needed to be removed from the gene pool.

John had been in a few accidents. He had been in five accidents, total. Three were his fault. Well, he said they were his fault, and they may have been, but they were all ice related. Even at five miles per hour, if you tires can gain no traction, they gain no traction and sliding into a post or a car is still considered an accident.

And, interestingly, in two of those three ice related mishaps, John would swear that the Universe stepped in and saved his happy ass, because they could have been much, much worse. In one, on Christmas day, traveling with his new family, he hit a patch of black ice on a highway. He was going quite under the speed limit, because ice is the one thing that will keep John from go, go, going. He this this patch anyway, and the car he was driving started to spin counter clockwise. His wife told him that he told them to 'Hold on', but he didn't remember any of that. All he remembered was the spin.

The car spun once completely around and then hit, miraculously, the only other vehicle around. That hit kept the car John was driving from falling down a thirty foot steep tree covered drop. That lone car kept John and his new wife and stepson from being hurt. The car was badly damaged, but still… better a car than a life, yes?

The other driver was not injured either. In fact, the young man who was driving the other car had hit that very same patch of ice not more the five minutes earlier. To make the situation odder, the young man had only come to be there because he was on his way back from a bachelor party and had stayed late to make sure everyone else had made it home all right. And one more thing. John was the second car to hit this young man that night.

It's the little things in life that make one go 'huh'. John's life was full of things that made him go 'huh' to the point he no longer went 'huh'. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Happens to me all the time."

The other accident was totally John's. There was ice involved, yes, and fog too, but the stupidity belonged to John and only John. There was this hill, you see… and John, being one to go, go, go, decided to pass on the wrong side of the hill, the side where you can't see if there's someone coming on the other lane of a two lane road. It was foggy, it was a bit icy and there was a car on the other lane of the two lane road.

To this day, John could not tell you what happened during. He could tell you what happened immediately after. Immediately after, he was sitting in his car, which was sitting in a field, a quarter of a mile away from where John tried to pass a slow moving sedan on a hill.

John's car wasn't in the middle of the field; it was rather on a sort of side road that led into the field, sort of like the field's driveway. And, John was sitting in his car watching traffic whiz by him as if no accident had even occurred. Nobody was hurt. No cars were injured in the making of this happenstance. It was, however, one of those BIG things that made John go "HUH?"

To the best John could figure, either he had died and here was that life after death he had heard so much about, or he had been picked up by the Hand of God and bodily moved out of harm's way, or he had somehow moved through dimensions and ended up a quarter of a mile away because that's where the dimensional gate dropped him… or… or…

Well, there you have it. It's just one of those things that make one go 'huh'. There is no decent explanation because nobody but John apparently witnessed it. Nobody stopped to see if he was all right, nobody stopped to yell at him for being an idiot, nobody asked if he needed to call ninety-onety-one. It was as if the whole thing never happened.

It was enough to make John wonder if he wasn't a bit touched. A bit magical, perhaps a bit special. That feeling carried in John's heart all the rest of his life, even when that life worked so hard to prove it wasn't true. Except, maybe it was.

The traffic cleared and John made a right hand turn into the main flow of the busy street. He found his slot and held to it for the next three miles, before he pulled into the turn lane that would gain him access to the parking lot that housed the building John called home for the next eight to ten hours, depending on the customers and if there was inventory to be done.

John didn't mind the extra work, if there was any. He liked working. Work kept his mind focused and he didn't have to worry if he was forgetting something. His bosses knew that John was a bit different and they would give him one or two different things a day. For the most part, John was to wander the store, making sure things got back on the shelves and helping lost customer lambs find their way.

The only time John got lost was the Monday after the weekend that the inventory guys came in and moved everything around. Where the plumbing supplies used to be to the left of the front door, suddenly they were to the right of the front door. Where the electrical supplies used to be to the right of the door and way to the back, now they were way to the back to the left of the door. God knew where they put the planting supplies and the Barbque supplies? Lost to the wind.

The good thing about being John is that he always carried a pad and a pencil or a pen with him, just for such emergencies. Out grocery shopping and the wife calls with an addition? It goes on the list, so you don't forget it. Go to the doctors and he gives you a prescription, it goes on the list, so you don't forget it. Some bozos disturb your haven, your sanctuary by moving ever damn thing to a different place, make a map, put it on the list, make a bunch of lists as you walk ever foot of every isle, and do this until you can tell someone where every single bolt and every single nut is.

If someone comes in looking for the felt feet that keep chairs from screeching across the floor, John could tell them exactly where to find them, to the isle, to the inch, to the centimeter. Not only that, but he could tell you what colors there were, what sizes were available and if they were the sticky type of felt feet, if they were the type that you have to tap on with a hammer, and if they were big as big buttons or small as small buttons, or if they weren't like buttons at all, but were square.

If someone came in looking for three eights inch, left hand threaded, PVC pipe that was brown, not grey, white or black, John could tell them where it was, what the cost would be depending on the length, and what the inner diameter was, if there was one.

This is pretty darn good for a man who has to relearn how to tie his shoes or how to make waffles. It is the difference between reinforcing memories over and again several times within an hour for a full day, and having memories that you visit only once a day. To say that John had a map in his head would be too easy. He had a map in his head and on his pad of paper.

John knew this store like the back of his hand. It was home to him, away from home. It was safe and quiet and he knew exactly what to expect. Usually, that is.


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