The One In Which Rick Looks At Himself Too Closely

Enjoy this excerpt from Of Ghosts and the Living available here.

Glub glub glub.  A gurgling noise fills the air while Rick leans with his back against the black and silver pump, waiting for thirty or so gallons of gas to fill up his old Cadillac limo.  He wipes his left hand through ear-length, greasy hair while simultaneously snatching a cigarette from the pocket of his red-checkered Levi’s shirt with the middle and forefinger of his right.  The action is so smooth that it almost seems instinctual.

He rests the unlit cigarette on his bottom lip and continues to wait. Rick strokes his thick, caterpillar mustache with the thumb and forefinger of his hand, exposing scarred knuckles.

Rick sizes himself up in one of the many passenger windows on the limo. He looks up and down his mostly gangly body, finally resting his eyes upon his slightly protruding paunch. He lets out a sigh before glancing upward and staring himself in the face.

The upper and lower halves of his face seem stuck in conflict, Rick thinks. The dark bags beneath his hazel eyes conspire with the wrinkles and scars of his cheeks to overthrow the clean-shaven and pock free chin that lies below his mouth. Rick’s mustache acts as a green zone between the two areas, covering his upper lip and the sides of his mouth before giving way to the smooth guerilla forces that reside in the hamlet of his cleft.

The mustache encompasses the best and worst of both regions.  Rick thinks that is why it must separate them.  Every man needs a moustache, just to maintain a sense of balance.

He begins to think about how ridiculous it is to rationalize the state of his face in such abstract terms.  In all of his thirty-five years, Rick realizes, he’s spent a lot of time thinking about this thing and that.  He’s spent years conceptualizing his place in the world and what he might want to do or should do and look where he is now.  The things that bounce around in a man’s head are all well and good, he thinks, but it’s the things he does and the nightmares created by the things he doesn’t that really matter.

The gas nozzle clicks and breaks his concentration.

As he takes the head out of the limo, a few drops of gasoline fall from the tip and slide down the car’s glossy white exterior. Rick spits into the palm of his hand and wipes the spots before drying the area with the edge of his shirt.  He wipes his hand across the faded front of his blue jeans, leaving a light greasy film.

A skinny man approaches Rick from behind.  He wears faded jeans and a Pantera t-shirt with holes near the bottom. The man takes exaggerated steps and holds his hands up at shoulder level.  Only a few steps away, he trips on the curb of the pump and stumbles into the window-washing bucket.

Sudsy water splashes against the concrete and wets Rick’s moccasins and the bottom of his jeans.

“How’s it going slick?” Rick asks without turning around. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Get the rest of the story from Wayne Schutsky here.

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