Yellow Mama Archives II

Robert Weibezahl

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89_ym_whyareyoujustsittingthere_mdavis.jpg
Art by Mike Davis 2021

WHY ARE YOU JUST SITTING THERE?

 

by Robert Weibezahl

 

 

It’s an unusually pleasant day for March, not quite spring, but filled with promise. In a small pocket park in the city, the solitary man sits on the single bench—calm, daydreaming. If you listen closely, you might hear him humming softly to himself. Something by Sondheim, maybe? Or is that Hamilton?

When the other man enters the park, clearly in a hurry, the man on the bench takes no notice at first. But the rippling trail of panic this interloper leaves in his wake is impossible to ignore for long. The man on the bench stops humming Sondheim, or Hamilton, and looks at the other man. He is weighed down, this other man, by two large brown grocery bags, brimming over with stuff—packaged food and cooking oil and far too many rolls of toilet paper. When this man notices the daydreamer, he stops, incredulous, for a moment even speechless.

“Why are you just sitting there?” he finally, feverishly asks the man on the bench.

“Sorry?”

“Don’t you know it’s coming?”

The man on the bench points to the brown paper bags. “What’s all that?”

The other man’s impatience is now palpable. “Essential supplies.”

“Supplies? For what?”

“Are you serious? Where have you been?”

“Sitting here,” the man says, although he’s not sure why he feels compelled to answer, “For a while. Before that, I—”

“Where’s your phone? Haven’t you been paying attention? It’s everywhere.”

“What is?” For the first time, the man on the bench realizes this stranger is wearing a mask. Not a Halloween mask of a superhero or a comic world leader, but the kind doctors wear across their noses and mouths.

“It’s coming. It’s already here. There have been deaths. Are you a fool?”

“Deaths?” The unexpected word startles him.

“I can’t believe you haven’t heard.”

“I may have heard some rumors,” the man lies. “What do you know?”

“It’s everywhere. Check your phone.”

Suddenly the man on the bench is no longer thinking of spring. He points again at the other man’s bags. “What’s that for?”

“For . . . before it’s too late.”

Visibly alarmed, the man on the bench rises. He moves closer. “Give me some.”

“No. Get your own.”

“Just give me a few rolls,” he says with desperation. “You have so many.”

“No. I need it all myself.”

Then, the man from the bench closes in. He tries to grab some rolls of paper from other man’s bag, but the frazzled man resists. No one witnesses the brutal struggle, but there are grunts and thumps and the crack of bone on concrete, and soon enough the bags are on the ground, their contents strewn across the pavement and the lawn. No one sees the man from the bench pick up the large branch that fell from one of the park’s wizened trees. No ones sees him beat the other man senseless.

“Are you all right?” asks the man from the bench as he catches his breath. “Hello? Are you all right?”

The man on the ground cannot answer. The man from the bench begins to cry as he gathers up the items that spilled from the grocery bags. “You’re the one who said it’s coming,” he says. “It’s your fault. You said . . . Before it’s too late . . . It’s coming.”

With the bags now refilled, he runs from the park, hurries down the deserted nearby street. One block. Two. At the corner there is a bus stop. A solitary woman waits, sitting on the single bench.

“Why are you just sitting there?” the agitated man asks her. “Don’t you know it’s coming?”

 

 

 

Robert Weibezahl’s stories have appeared in CrimeSpree, Beat to a Pulp, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, Mouth Full of Bullets, Kings River Life, and the anthologies Deadly by the Dozen and Moonlight & Misadventure. He has been a Derringer Award finalist and has also been twice nominated for both the Agatha and Macavity Awards in the nonfiction category. His two crime novels, The Wicked and the Dead and The Dead Don’t Forget, feature screenwriter-sleuth Billy Winnetka. Find him at www.robertweibezahl.wordpress.com.

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