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Fiction

Herbert Lowe perused iPhones at the 5th Avenue Apple Store. While Lowe walked between the display tables, Detective Skinner spotted him from outside. Lowe froze—his stomach fell to the ground.

Lowe snuck out of the side entrance of the store and headed southward. Skinner followed. Lowe turned right on 47th Street, just before Saint Thomas Church. He wanted to run, but Skinner had his oversized German Shepherd, Banjo, with him. Banjo was notorious for biting fleeing perps in the crotch. 

Last week, Lowe stole a satchel of diamonds from a boutique over on Greenwich. As Lowe walked faster and toward the Museum of Modern Art, he berated himself. Of course Skinner would check the Apple store, Lowe thought. Lowe ducked into the Museum of Modern Art, flashed a fake annual pass, and snuck upstairs. You can’t bring a hulk dog into MoMA, he thought.

At the top of the stairs, a gathering of people blocked the entrance into the Asian collection. Lowe blended in with the crowd and snuck his way up to the front to observe whatever it was that everyone had gathered to see. 

At the front of the crowd, a slender Japanese woman wearing a flowing white kimono moved in a rhythmic pattern while holding a ceremonial gold bag. She danced in front of the Great Wave off Kanagawa, a painting by Katsushika Hokusai.

Lowe stared at the painting, transfixed by its textures. The beige sky and the deep blue tones drew him in. He had seen the painting before, but had never noticed the three boats with the tiny people aboard getting knocked around in the waves. He hadn’t seen the snowcapped mountain anchored on the horizon.

“Don’t move, Lowe,” Skinner said, whispering into Lowe’s left ear. Lowe’s heart pounded with a heavy flutter. He felt Banjo’s hot growl on his thigh. 

“How’d ya get that damn dog in here, Skinner?” Lowe asked. 

“The nice lady is going to finish her dance. When she’s done, we’re going to make our way out of the building together, without incident.”

“And if we don’t?”

Banjo growled.

“I think you know.”

Lowe’s pupils dilated and his palms began to sweat. He ran towards the kimonoed woman and pulled his 0.357 Magnum from his coat pocket. Before he could take her hostage, she kneed him in the balls. Lowe howled in pain and grabbed at her kimono as she ran away. He fell to the ground, grasping at air. He stood up and found himself holding her gold bag in his left hand and his 0.357 in his right. 

By the time Lowe stood up, the crowd disbursed in chaos. But Detective Skinner and Banjo remained still. Skinner pulled his 0.44 Magnum.

“Drop it, Lowe,” he said. 

Lowe stomped his foot. He threw the gold bag to the ground and a cloud of dust covered the room. A fine powder had filled the bag. Lowe, Skinner, and Banjo all coughed as the dust subsided.

After they gained composure, Skinner and Lowe cocked and aimed their guns at each other. 

“Last chance, Lowe.”

“Fuck you, Skinner.”

Then, they both fired. In the flash that followed, Lowe observed the man before him: Detective Paul Skinner. Paul always paid his taxes, never once jaywalked, and never even thought about cheating on his wife. Conversely, Herbert Lowe had never paid a cent in taxes, jaywalked at every opportunity, and slept with Skinner’s wife, Cynthia, just yesterday. 

As he considered what Cynthia may have told her husband, Lowe drifted off into thought. He snapped out of his pondering to find himself standing at the stern of a boat. He bobbed up and down in the ocean, but didn’t feel sea sick, despite the wide swaths of movement. The water had an odd, angular look to it. It smelled of fresh cut pine. The sky was beige. A snow-capped mountain lay in the distance. 

“Kogu!” The woman in the kimono shouted from the bow, 30 yards ahead of him. In between Lowe and the bow, certain members of the museum crowd rowed the boat at the kimonoed woman’s command. Ten rowers on each side of the boat sculled as she, the coxswain, synchronized their movements. 

“Nami!” she shouted into a huge bullhorn. She and the crew ducked and a large wave rocked the boat. An ocean spray hit Lowe in the face, but it felt more like silk than water. After the wave subsided, the kimonoed woman ran up and down the aisle in the middle of the boat, shouting something frantic and unintelligible. She pointed toward Lowe and the crew rowed faster. Her frenzy intensified and she pointed at something behind Lowe. 

Lowe turned to see what was behind him. Another boat! Skinner and Banjo stood on a platform on the bow of the tailing boat, impervious to the bobbing motion of the stormy ocean. Skinner had on a kabuto, one of those large Japanese hats that the old shogun samurai used to wear. Banjo wore a mini kabuto that allowed his German Shepard ears to poke through at attention. 

Lowe and his boat were heading toward an island in the distance. A snowcapped mountain lay in the center of the island. The kimonoed woman whipped up the crew into a rowing fury and the boat pulled away from Skinner’s advances.

Lowe felt something land in between his legs. He looked down and saw a spear had stuck into the wooden deck. Lowe turned to view Skinner’s boat. Banjo hurled a second spear forward. The spear zinged past Lowe’s right ear and landed in the back of the rearmost rower. The crewman screamed and fell over. 

Skinner grew closer. Lowe picked up the spear at his feet and hurled it at Skinner’s boat. The spear struck the port side. The boards on the port side crumbled in upon themselves. Skinner and Banjo began to sink. Lowe, the kimonoed woman, and her crew rowed on to the island. 

The silken water slowed to a sway. The kimonoed woman embraced the fallen crewman and covered him with a fine silk linen. The remaining crew rowed at an easy, but deliberate pace.

Lowe’s boat slid onto the island. The snowcapped mountain still seemed far away. The kimonoed woman stood at the bow and held up the gold bag from the museum. She shook it with disappointment when she realized it was empty. She pointed at Lowe and screamed, “Onaji yume!” She threw down the empty gold bag and stomped inland. Her crew followed her. 

Lowe looked back at the raging water, now far in the distance. In the easy rolling waves that approached the island, Lowe saw Skinner and Banjo, in their kabutos, marching out of the water. Lowe ran toward the mountain. 

Thick sand filled the shore. Lowe ran encumbered through the syrupy beach. After 50 yards, the ground turned to a lush, green suburban lawn. The sand did not transition into grass. Rather, the grass started at a specific demarcation and formed an oblong shape in its brief expanse. 50 yards or so further, the grass appeared to turn to gravel within a similarly deliberate boundary. 

Skinner and Banjo marched on the beach toward Lowe. Lowe found it easier to run through the grass. He continued toward the mountain. As Lowe ran through the gravel patch ahead, he began to sink. The gravel was quicksand. As he sank, he turned and saw Skinner and Banjo approaching the edge of the grass patch. 

Lowe had sunk to his shoulders by the time Skinner and Banjo stood before him.

“What’s with the hats?” Lowe asked.

Skinner said nothing. Blood spread in a blossom from the center of his chest to the edges of his white shirt. Banjo picked up a spear from the ground and hurled it at Lowe. Just as his chin began to sink in the quicksand gravel, the spear pierced Lowe’s forehead.

Lowe’s thoughts drifted to darkness. 

He awoke to the sound of hospital beeps. Lowe lay in a ER bed, handcuffed to its rail. A black hole occluded his vision—he could only see in his periphery. He turned his aching head to the side and saw Skinner lying in the bed next to him. Banjo slept in a curl on the floor.

“Howdja get that dog in here, Skinner?”

“I caught you . . .”

Lowe inhaled the cold hospital air. His exhaled through the sides of his mouth. “I’m tired, Skinner.”

“ . . . Nami.”

“What did you say?”

“You sank . . . in the sand . . .”

“I’m sorry, Paul.”

“Fuck you, Lowe.”

Banjo barked at the moon.

Lowe fell back into the dream, the spiral nightmare of the wild blue sea. Skinner did, too. Lowe found himself standing at the stern of a boat. He bobbed up and down in the ocean, but didn’t feel sea sick, despite the wide swaths of movement. The water had an odd, angular look to it. It smelled of fresh cut pine. The sky was beige. A snow-capped mountain lay in the distance. 


October 01, 2021 23:31

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