(Rogue created by Don DiVecchio in “The Zen of Fingersnapping”)
She runs so fast. Her brown shimmering hair sprays its kinks out behind her in the wake of her own wind.
Rogue has never felt so late before. Time slips away. She thinks, it is almost too late. And then she breaks out in laughter and the bubbles of it tickle her cheeks as she runs into it.
All I have to do is snap my fingers, she thinks, and I will be there. Why am I running?
Sometimes she forgets who she is, what she can do. She always tries to forget what she was created to do. She just changed her mind. Who could fault her for that?
* * *
Ar Lain Ta sits with the Troll and Moshe Dean. His right eye is glowing, small wisps of smoke drift out from underneath the patch over the socket where his other eye was. He tells one of his many stories while Moshe Dean, with his eyes closed, sinks his thumb into his coffee. The Troll appears attentive, yet one never knows.
“The grasshoppers in Montana have arrived at an invincible strategy to employ against their predators,” says Ar Lain Ta. He grins. “They eat wafer-ash leaves and, when attacked by the anole lizards that would feed on them, they vomit all over themselves. When the anole lizard tastes their vile effluent, they spit the grasshoppers out whole.”
Ar Lain Ta laughs. “Isn’t that a novel self-defense? Military applications of this strategy hardly seem likely, eh? Unless the military were to take junkies and use them as — ah, ha ha, I don’t think so.
“Eh Troll, what do you think?”
“I don’t like to think. The substance of my mind is distressing,” replies the Troll.
“Moshe Dean, how about you? What do you think?”
Moshe Dean opens his eyes to bare slits, sees that his thumb is in his coffee. He pulls it out casually, looks around the cafe, takes a sip of his coffee and then closes his eyes again. His head sags down towards the table.
Ar Lain Ta laughs. “Watch this,” he says, pointing at Moshe Dean.
“Moshe, I have the new batch of dope. They call it Bacardi and it’s better than the Butter. Want a bag?”
Moshe’s head picks right up, his eyes pop open. The Troll and Ar Lain Ta burst out laughing.
* * *
The black man with multiple sclerosis eating his muscles at a faster and faster rate leans on his metal crutches and shakes his cup. Then he stops all movement when the creature limps by. Step, drag.
Their eyes lock.
Misery, isolation, hopelessness, the sickness pours from the monstrous being’s eyes. The crippled black man who is called Donald reaches a hand out slowly and places it on the creature’s arm. The Frankenstein stops.
“Is there anything I can do?” The beggar’s voice cuts into the hazardous waste of the soul of the beast. The Rorshach knots of pain on the Frankenstein’s face cease movement for the first time in decades.
“You,” a guttural growl spills out of the twisted throat, ” you do not recoil from the horror I am?”
“Your eyes. Your eyes are like the ones I see in the mirror when I care to look.” The black man speaks in a whisper, his throat torn by miles of tobacco smoke, his larynx as scarred as Frankenstein’s face.
Tears rise, blow out of the monster’s eyes as if driven by a hurricane wind, splatter on Donald’s face. The explosion of tears chases the knots of pain from the face of the creature.
“There is nothing anyone can do,” the creature replies. “Even G-d cannot touch me for I was built by a man, created in a dark laboratory on a black night.”
Donald looks directly into the monster’s tears. “Today is your day. She is coming just for you.”
“Who?” the Frankenstein asks. “What are you talking about?”
Donald turns away from the grotesque giant and begins shaking his cup rhythmically. He grins. Someone places a ten dollar bill in his cup, almost bumps into the Frankenstein, moves around him as if he were nothing but a tree standing in the center of the sidewalk.
The creature remains still for a junkie’s moment, then he moves away. He thinks he saw Ar Lain Ta enter the 1369 coffee shop a few moments ago. He looks back at the crippled beggar and knows something is wrong in the world when men who so obviously need help have to beg for it.