It was almost two years to the day since Barry first showed up. Old Theo had died, and about two months later some dog came wandering in off the street and decided to move in. He was more reserved than Theo, not very friendly to strangers but not unfriendly either. Whenever Barry showed up, which was every month, he would just sit and look at him quizzically. My cat, however, still fled in terror. He said he planned his life around our visits. He was never late, he said I was the only one in the world who seemed to believe his shit didn’t smell like roses.
I kept seeing him on television. I got interviewed a lot at first, I suppose I could have made some money at it but Barry was my best friend so I just did it. I think they were looking for something to tie him in with the mafia, or devil worship, or some church or something, but Barry had lived a pretty vanilla life until he died. There was no reason to conclude that he was chosen for any particular reason, and he always denied there was anything special about him. It was just luck.
When he went public after he died he seemed to spend most of his time trying to convince people that he was not the new messiah. Every media interviewer asked him, and he kept saying no. Thing was, people refused to believe it, and when he didn’t perform miracles they got pissed. Very pissed. People would send him huge sums of cash and then come to him with malice on their minds when the miracle they requested didn’t happen.
I got real nervous when he’d come over. There had been at least half a dozen attempts on his life; bullets that barely missed him, arrows that only grazed him, and one knucklehead tried to drop a safe on his head from a couple of stories. Boy, THAT made a mess on the sidewalk. Someone watched too many cartoons.
Freaky stuff kept happening around him. I mean, things would get quiet for a while, and then some guy would claim that his flat tire repaired and inflated itself when Barry walked by. Someone would claim they’d had terminal cancer and been cured when they kissed a picture of him. This would make other nut cases who’s wishes hadn’t come true, really, really mad. Other people started churches in his name and began worshiping him despite his constant denials of divinity.
He was on his way to a lecture when the van he was riding in got hit by a cop car. That made him late, he was never late, but it was just as well – that’s when that big earthquake hit, and the stage he was supposed to be lecturing on collapsed. No one was injured, and once again the nut cases got mad, and more and more people screamed about his divinity. It really upset him.
His lectures were really boring. I mean, this is a guy who was always shy, when he spoke publicly he always looked ready to crap in his pants. His lectures rarely lasted more than 20 or 30 minutes. He kept harping on the same thing – we had to get our shit together, It wasn’t going to help us anymore, It was bored. We had to be mindful of what we were doing. He didn’t have any magic solution, we needed to figure out what to do next together, collectively. He was not God, or special, or anything like that, it was an accident he was chosen.
One time in an interview he admitted to liking a particular brand of gum; all over the world store shelves were cleared in a couple of hours. A former high school classmate (one of the popular kids) recalled when Barry was in high school three decades earlier he was a total nerd, and the brunt of many of his pranks. He asserted the whole thing about coming back from the dead was a sham invented by Barry to call attention to himself. He disappeared two weeks later without a trace.
So sometimes he would come over and kvetch. He hated the fame, hated the attention, hated being special. But every month he would come over, always on time. Somehow the fame never went to his head and he just was the same old Barry. He hated that when he spit on the sidewalk some yokel would collect it.
Punctual Barry was late. The cat was hiding, the new dog was running around the house and barking like mad. Barry was at least 15 minutes late. And then the telephone rang. Caller ID said, “UNTRACABLE NUMER”. I’d never seen that message before. My palms went sweaty and I started shaking, but I answered the telephone. The voice on the far end was strained, quiet and distant, but it was him.
“Slither”, he said, “I’m not coming back. It said my job is done.” Even within a single sentence I could hear his voice starting to fade
“JOB! What job? Barry you’re not making sense, are you coming today or not! What’s happening?” For reasons I could not explain I felt panic welling up. Fear, pure and elemental, without a known cause. My whole body was trembling.
He managed two more words before the line went dead. I tried to get the telephone to dial it back, but it didn’t work. Two words. Two words! They were so distant, I was scarcely able to hear them. But I did hear them. Two words, and the whole thing made sense. I still don’t know if I should laugh, or be angry. Of course, no one will believe me. Two words.
He said, “It’s laughing.”
Copyright 2007 Gary Hughes-Fenchel