This Happened to Me the Other Day

By Jack Chang

I asked some guy on the street corner what time it was. He looked up from the grey-brown splotch on the pavement he had been staring at and stared blankly at me. I repeated my question, but in another language. Still, he stared. So I moved onto the pedestrian mall lined on both sides with discount electronics stores.

Among all the DVD players and Play Stations, I couldn't find anything resembling a clock. I spotted a young woman in a pin-striped suit who looked responsible enough to know the time. But seeing me approach, she crushed the documents she held in her arms closer to her pin-striped chest and walked briskly out of the store.

A sudden throbbing palpitated my chest. I reached inside the pocket of my uniform and pulled out my cell phone. "Unknown Number," it said. "Hello?" I answered. Silence. "Good afternoon" a woman said. "Yes," I answered. "Is everything OK?" "I think so," I said., "You're happy with our service "What service?" "The cell phone, you're satisfied with it? "Yes, it's fine. That's all?" The line went dead. I slid the phone into my holster.

Then, I remembered I was late for the boat crossing the lake. Which way to the terminal? The blank faces around me wouldn' know. I descended some steps into a lobby full of plush couches and burnt-gold railings. A bellboy in a tuxedo approached and pointed at my shoes.

"Which way to the terminal?" I asked but he continued pointing. My right shoe was caked with tomato sauce, and I had trailed red footprints onto the burgundy carpet. "Oh, sorry," I muttered. He wordlessly handed me an orange rag. I took it and cleaned off my right shoe.

He pointed to a door with a square window in it, through which a blue light flickered. I crossed the lobby and opened the door and saw a lit pool in a cramped room with something shadowy swimming at the bottom of it. I stepped closer. An alligator swished from one side of the pool floor to the other, as a man in a body suit hung onto its back. Both alligator and man were asleep.

I wanted to wake them so I jumped into the pool. With wide strokes, I made my way to the bottom of that water but couldn't find them. Oh, there they were, on the other side. Now, they were coming at me, and the alligator had woken, its intense eyes fixed at my throat. I screamed and stroked upward, feeling the alligator's breath hit my toes. I finally emerged from the water and grabbed a metal ladder and pulled myself out. With my wet clothes weighing a ton, I rolled onto the smooth, concrete deck.

All at once, heavy metal boomed from what sounded like the next room. I stood up, smoothed out my soaked skirt and followed the music through a dark hallway that twisted and turned. I found myself in a flourescent-lit commercial kitchen. The music was coming from behind a shiny steel refrigerator door, which opened easily. Stairs climbed into a rainbow-lit mist. I followed the music until it was defeaning. The mist parted, and a guy with fanning blond hair was shredding on a Fender. A crowd of thousands stretched up the hillside toward a line of trees. The audience rocked their heads and pumped their fists. I felt a rush of joy, like I hadn't felt in years, and raised my right fist over my head in salute. I took the microphone and sang out, "What the fuck time is it?!?!"

Jack Chang is a writer living in Brazil. He is also the author of XTC: A De/A-ppreciation and other pieces in the Archive.

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