Fiction by David Arthur Walters
The Underground Man is back with a vengeance
Considering the circumstances, I must exist, therefore I exist. I am as I am circumscribed, and shall always be known as such, duly noted by my own hand, the only history I have. Few people know me because few have read me. I am in effect an editorial reject; to wit, a dejected nobody, a man without a country, so to speak, conscientiously omitted as a matter of course from all speeches about this great nation of ours.
Of course I love America, but how I despise Americans, and for all the good reasons decent Americans are well aware of, including their rattling of plastic bags and eating of popcorn with their mouths open during movies. I gladly confess a manslaughter I committed over popcorn. Popcorn is, by the way, my favorite food providing that I am the one eating it, and I for one always eat it with my mouth closed, as I was trained to do by my grandmother in Moscow – we emigrated to Brooklyn when I was ten-years old.
Grandma also taught me not to touch myself when I pee, because “your thingie is dirty,” she said. That lesson caused me to hate her for the public embarrassment I so often suffered after I came out of the bathroom, until the wet spots on my pants dried. I was relieved in more ways than one when she landed in front of the train in Brighton Beach and was killed before my eyes. Soon thereafter, while shaking and squeezing the last drops out of my thingie, I ejaculated in a flash, and, wanting that feeling repeated, I acquired the habit of masturbating once or twice a day. Somehow people know, as if your dirty secrets were written all over your pimpled face: Women who glance at me do so with utter contempt, obviously loathing me for wasting myself on myself.
Grandma had always taken me to the movies, which helped me with my English. I avoid movies that show sex as I wind up missing much of the action because I have to go to the bathroom frequently – I am usually a coward in action, so I dare not expose myself in the theatre. I prefer violent movies, the more violent the better, and it was during a prolonged scene of a brutal massacre that I made another exception to my cowardice and accidentally killed another little old lady.
I like to take my seat early at the movies so I can be sure to get the best one, preferably in the top row so as not to have anyone sitting behind me kicking my seat, chatting, rattling plastic bags and chewing popcorn with their mouth wide open. If you think a seat elsewhere would do nicely, nine out of ten times some rude person will sit right down behind you just after the movie starts, even when the theatre is half empty. Therefore the top row is ideal, especially for nobodies like me who like to enjoy the grandeur of their insignificance from on high, where they can look down on everyone else created equal. Furthermore, old folks, who are hard of hearing, tend to talk loudly, and who tend to bring in food in plastic bags because Social Security does not cover concession-stand junk food, never climb to the top row of theatres given their infirmities.
Never say “never”: There must be exceptions. I arrived early as usual, and secured a seat in the top row. There were only a dozen people in the audience by the time the previews were over, and not one person in the top five rows. So far so good! No sooner had the feature begun than an old lady carrying a large plastic bag entered and started climbing the stairs ever so slowly. Sure enough, she blocked my view for what seemed like an eternity when she reached the top of the flight right in front of me, and then she stepped up to my row and sat down right beside me.
I almost jumped up then and there to crawl over her and take a seat elsewhere, but the protagonist with the chain saw had just cut a man’s arm off and was about to decapitate him, so I stayed put and tried to focus on the movie, whereupon the old lady started rattling the plastic bag, which she had filled with homemade popcorn, retrieving one small quantity after another and chewing it with mouth wide open – crunch, crunch, crunch!
I stood up, grabbed the old lady from her seat and hurled her down the stairs. She couldn’t have weighed ninety pounds. It was amazing how she virtually flew down the flight and landed with a thud. Two men besides my good self ran to her aid – I didn’t mean to hurt her, at least not with malice aforethought. She was out cold, her mouth stuffed with popcorn. A denture had come loose and stuck out of her mouth – the scene would not make a good commercial for denture adhesive cream, I thought.
In fact, as I found out later, she was dead. She was a famous writer of horror stories. Her obituary said she had fallen down the stairs at a showing of a motion picture adaptation of one of her stories. She had no surviving family. I think of myself as her grandson now. I didn’t like my own grandmother that much.