Issues not with Loneliness

by Justis Mills

Geoff Bridges was at his local diner enjoying a cup of coffee in a booth alone. It was a booth that was designed with four people in mind, and Geoff was wedged into the corner of it. He was flipping through his high school yearbook, which he had brought with him to the diner, and he was looking at a picture of his ex-wife. Then he looked up and there was a man in a black hoodie on the other side of the booth, holding a big sharp knife.

"Hello Geoff Bridges," said the man in the black hoodie. "I am going to kill you with this knife."

Geoff Bridges did not want to be killed with that knife.

"Please do not kill me with that knife," he said. He wished he was on the edge of the booth instead of in the corner, so he could escape without scooting. But he couldn't escape without scooting, and scooting was too slow, so if he tried to escape he would probably be stabbed.

"I am going to," said the man in the black hoodie, "because your ex-wife will feel happier and more actualized as a person if you are stabbed with this knife."

That hurt Geoff Bridges's feelings.

"That isn't true," he said. In the yearbook in front of him the picture of his ex-wife was outlined in blue and had little red hearts on either side of the outline, hearts she had drawn herself around an outline he made because she had been special, at that time.

"She thinks it is true," said the man in the black hoodie, "and it is not my job to agree or disagree."

Maybe, thought Geoff Bridges, he could pick up the yearbook and then hit the man in the black hoodie with the yearbook, and escape while he was dazed. If Geoff Bridges knew kung fu tricks, he could do something like out of an action movie, where the assailant goes from armed and dangerous to suddenly not armed and dangerous, but Geoff Bridges did not know kung fu tricks.

"I am a hit man," said the man in the black hoodie. "I think it is important to be explicit."

If Geoff Bridges's coffee was still hot he could throw it at the man in the black hoodie and scald his eyes, and make a daring escape. But it was just lukewarm and sugary, and he did not think that sugar caused people's eyes to sting.

"Can I pay you money," said Geoff Bridges, "so you will not kill me?"

"No," said the man in the black hoodie, "that is not how being a hit man works. But I have good news for you, Geoff Bridges."

The server came up and asked if any more coffee was necessary. Geoff Bridges said "yes, please, extra hot," and the server did not seem to notice that he was sitting with his back awfully flat against the booth, or that the guy in the black hoodie was holding a big sharp knife.

"The good news," said the hit man, "is that this is a magic knife."

Geoff Bridges was not sure if having a crazy hit man was better than having a hit man who was not crazy. He decided that having a crazy hit man meant he shouldn't say anything, because if he said the wrong thing he might have a crazy enraged hit man, which would definitely be worse. His ex-wife always folded bills when she handed them to people, over her finger. She had probably folded some large bills over her finger, in order to arrange this encounter.

"When you are stabbed with my magic knife you will die very quickly," said the man in the black hoodie, "but your consciousness will travel through the knife and into my brain. So you will be able to join me in my brain with the people I have killed, where it is much like a party at all times."

Geoff Bridges did not want for it to be a party at all times. He wanted to be in police custody with a phone to report that his ex-wife had attempted to murder him via crazy hit man, even though he thought of her fondly sometimes, or at least melancholically, to the tune of bringing high school yearbooks to diners and only halfheartedly pretending to be interested in pages other than hers.

"It is a party," said the man in the black hoodie, "because we are never alone. There is evidence that being killed by my knife is a good experience, because everyone I have stabbed with it has later thanked me personally in my brain for having stabbed them."

The man moved his knife a little bit, so it was over the table and its reflection was visible in the polish of the table, and Geoff Bridges reconsidered his stance on not saying anything to the crazy hit man. The light in the diner was the same strained yellow as in Geoff Bridges's one-toothbrush bathroom.

"I do not have issues with loneliness," said Geoff Bridges, "so I will not thank you."

"Everyone," said the man in the black hoodie, "has issues with loneliness."

The server came with the coffee and said "nice knife," to the man in the black hoodie, who said "thank you," while keeping eye contact with Geoff Bridges. The coffee was extra hot but soon it would be cool, which might cause Geoff Bridges to get stabbed and die.

Geoff Bridges did not have issues with loneliness, and he also did not have issues with knowing when people were saying impossible things. So there was no reason for him not to throw the coffee in the eyes of this crazy hit man, and then scoot very quickly out of the booth and run outside, where surely his ex-wife would not have hired a sniper. To leave the yearbook behind, stained with flung coffee, and moreover to get on with his life.

The server came back holding a small piece of paper and she stared into the space exactly between Geoff Bridges and the crazy hit man and she asked the awkward question:

"Separate, or together?"

BIO: BIO: Justis Mills edits First Stop Fiction. He is currently at work on a trilogy featuring business attire. His email address is justis.d.mills@gmail.com, if you would like to say hello.