OFF COME THE MASKS by Mitchell Waldman

I’m driving down 104, out in the thinning herd of metal vehicles in pursuit of essentials, my mask on the seat beside me, right next to the miniature bottle of hand sanitizer and the pack of Marlboros, when I see him standing on the corner of 104 and Lake with his thin frame, long white beard, and the sign thrust up in the air “Prepare to Meet Your God!” I don’t know what comes over me, I slam on the brakes, the car behind almost smashing right into me, bleating its horn. I get out of the vehicle, and walk up to the figure, my heart pounding, fist clenched. I want to smash him in the face, get up close, closer, as I raise and cock my arm, ready to propel the clenched fist into his stupid face, when he looks right at me, a blankness, no expression in the eyes, like a zombie gone gone gone. The Gandhi on my shoulder whispers “Violence is not the answer,” so I drop the arm, just stare at the man, his breath right on me now, his sign still held up high, high to the heavens. I turn and walk back to my metal vehicle, hearing the horns honking, seeing the face of an angry driver mouthing silent words, not sure if he’s cursing me or the zombie. Across the intersection on the opposite corner stands a second specter with a sign which says “Jesus Is Coming Soon!” thrust high up in the air. I open the car door, sink back in my seat, stare at the mask on the passenger seat, my hands shaking on the wheel and sit, just sit there for a minute. Then I pull back out into the traffic herd, just another desperate human out on the hunt for essentials: meat, toilet paper, and a shred of the sanity I lost somewhere back when this all started.


Mitchell Waldman’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The MacGuffin, Fictive Dream, Corvus Review, The Waterhouse Review, Crack the Spine, The Houston Literary Review, The Faircloth Review, Epiphany, Wilderness House Literary Magazine, The Battered Suitcase, and many other magazines and anthologies. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Mitchell is also the author of the novel, A Face in the Moon, and the story collection, Petty Offenses and Crimes of the Heart, and serves as Fiction Editor for Blue Lake Review. (For more info, see his website at http://mitchwaldman.homestead.com).
 

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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