What Frank Told Me

They strip copper wire from vacant houses. Frank from work, he told me about it. They strip copper wire from vacant houses, tear manhole covers right out of the street, make off with road signs in the middle of the night. “Metal theft,” Frank says, “is big with these people.”

They set fire to garages. Why? “Presumably for the hell of it,” says Frank.

The more resolute among them sell oxycontin to high-schoolers. Resolute, that’s Frank’s word, not mine. They break into convenience stores. They stab strangers. “This qualifies as ambition among these people,” explains Frank, “stabbing those with whom you hold no personal grudge.”

Frank, he talks like that. “These people,” he says, “they’re everywhere. They’re a veritable epidemic.”

They stand in front of Wal-Mart, taunting shoppers. They amble across busy intersections, oblivious to traffic. “Oblivious,” says Frank, “until they whirl around and flip some unsuspecting motorist the bird. Yes, bird-flipping is big with these people.”

The couples argue loudly in parking lots. The parents threaten to slap bawling children in checkout lanes. Frank’s seen it. I have, too. The old drink themselves into oblivion at the VFW and the young swarm the sidewalks in front of downtown bars, pleading drunkenly into cell phones for reluctant step-siblings to come pick them up.

“Forever in need of a ride,” says Frank, “these people exist in a limbo-state their feeble brains can never truly comprehend.”

They toss empty soda cans into bushes. They abandon moldy couches on the curb. They mow half the lawn before forsaking the mower to the tall, browning grass of the un-mowed half–this, according to Frank–where it remains, rusting in the rain. “Like a monument to their indifference,” Frank says, sort of poetic-like.

They sit on the porches of rundown houses, glaring down at innocent passersby. They peer out of windows. They spend hours in oil-stained driveways, working on the corroded engines of trucks that will never run.

“Ride-less,” muses Frank. “Always ride-less.”

They think constantly of sweaty, unnatural sex acts. They wonder what it would feel like to strangle a cat. They snicker when people on TV are killed and they themselves would murder, if only they had the means and know-how to get away with it. Frank said so. I believe him.

At night, they sleep soundly. “Yes,” says Frank. “These people sleep soundly, content in the lie of their own being. For you see, they trust in nothing but the endless unfolding of their empty days and their simple, meaningless pleasures. That such things should ever come to an end is beyond their grasp and so these people sleep soundly, dreaming only of their ancient, dead-eyed god crouching over them in their slumber and whispering of their long, stubborn history. They dream of this or not at all.”

Frank, he’s always saying things like that.

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Stephen Langlois

About the Author

Stephen Langlois is a writer of short stories and pop culture ramblings. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, Weave Magazine, Smalldoggies Magazine, Juked, Gigantic Sequins, and Paper Darts, among other places. He toils in the dank, dimly lit world of the blogosphere at the Fifty Movie Pack Project (http://thefiftymoviepackproject.blogspot.com)
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