He’s busking in the busy town square. His appearance is inspired by the classical master, Marcel Marceau. Black ballet shoes, black trousers with black suspenders, a sleeveless black-and-white striped shirt, white gloves, and white makeup juxtaposing his face with his ebony complexion. He’s carrying out one of the classical maneuvers, pulling on an invisible rope. His feet drag against the stone tiles, the muscles in his arms contract as if truly under a load, veins bulging. Sweat trickles down his painted grimacing face.
“Pull harder!” a voice comes from the crowd.
He looks to the crowd and finds her. A young girl, no more than five or six years of age, clothed in a yellow trenchcoat.
“Pull harder!” she screams.
The mime heeds her encouragement, and rumpling up his face — he pulls harder. The sound of the rope comes from a small recorder by his feet, it sounds like it’s stretching, like it’s giving in under pressure.
A loud crack ensues and the mime tumbles to his buttocks. The crowd laughs at the supposed mishap. Looking skyward, the mime raises his hands and grabs another invisible rope, this one dangling from the sky. He pulls himself up to his feet and the people in the crowd cheer and clap their hands. The girl with the yellow trenchcoat smiles and stretches a hand toward him, proffering a tousled yellow flower, a chrysanthemum. He’s about to step toward her when a man walks up to him and throws a folded bill into his upturned flat cap. He thanks the man by doffing an invisible hat.
The mime looks back to the girl, her arm is still stretched toward him, yellow chrysanthemum sprouting out of her clenched hand. Behind the girl and the crowd, he perceives an incongruous sight, a black motorcycle cruising about. The town square is no place for motorized vehicles. The motorcycle is mounted by two helmeted individuals fully clothed in black, both helmets turned to the crowd. The mime glances at the tipping man, who seems to be looking in the bikers’ direction.
Acting swiftly, the mime runs into the crowd and up to the girl. The crowd thinks it’s all part of the show. The mime glances at the tipping man, who now has his hand behind his back. The mime jerks his face toward the motorcycle; the one riding pillion is holding what looks like a small submachine gun, pointing it at the crowd.
The mime pushes his palms against the air at his sides. Feeling the air hardening against his palms, the mime shields himself and the girl behind an invisible barrier.
A fusillade of automatic fire ensues. The crowd disperses in clamor and panic. The motorcycle roars and is out of the area. The mime looks to his side; the tipping man lies lifeless on the pavement. The mime looks behind him, then down. She still has the flower in her small hand, its yellow petals stained with innocent red.
He sits hunched in his armchair, watching his useless bare hands. The only light source in the room is the television in front of him, providing but a dim, sparing light. He looks at his left arm, under his shoulder, where the bullet had gone. They had removed the bullet and stitched the wound at the hospital.
The television rambles on and on, for days on end the news speaks only of the shooting, an unrelenting reminder of his failure.
— gang violence is expected to surge in the coming days as the two rival gangs wage a bloody war in the streets. Police advise to stay indoors at the late hours of the night —
He has had enough with it. Incensed, he gets out of the armchair, hurtles toward the screen and kicks it down. The room goes dark and quiet.
Donning his white gloves, he leaves his apartment.
It’s the dead of night and he’s back at the crime scene, where a makeshift memorial site now stands. Wreaths, extinguished candles, and framed pictures of the victims. He walks up to the memorial site and looks down at her picture. He doesn’t know why he’s here. He begins to walk away, then stops and turns around and looks back at the memorial site. Not far behind it stands a tall lamppost discharging a mellow yellow light. He finds it fitting. He makes an invisible lasso, swings it above his head several times, and propels it at the lamppost. Deeming the throw successful, he tugs on the rope so to check if it’s secure, plants his heels into a groove between the tiles, and leaning backwards as far as he can — he starts pulling. The muscles in his arms tighten and swell. The veins pop out on his arms, neck, and forehead. His entire face creases with effort. The stitches on his left arm fail and blood begins oozing out of the freshly reopened wound.
Pull harder! He hears her voice.
He completes an entire step backwards, and the sound of straining metal permeates the empty town square. He lets go of the invisible rope, then simply turns around and goes away, leaving the bent lamppost casting its light on the center of the town square, right where her picture is.
Born an emaciated preemie, Aber O. Grand grew up to be the largest man of his lineage. He attributes his size to a lifelong consumption of hummus and his mother’s early life at a small town next to a nuclear power plant. His work appears or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Andromeda Spaceways, Mithila Review, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Leading Edge, and he has won the Bernice Schaffer Bessin Poetry Award.