Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Hey there, stranger! I'd like to start out with some flash fiction to illustrate today's topic.
John was stressed.
He'd promised Shirley he wouldn't be late, and at this point it had become an agonizing certainty. She'd never met the Hancocks, John's now-married college roommates, and he knew Shirley would be highly chapped if the couple arrived before John got home.
Perspiring with the vigor that only a healthy anxiety can muster, John boarded the bus and sat next to an older women who smelled of soggy tobacco and Robitussin. Beads of clamminess lined his forehead as he unzipped his raincoat and did some quick math—25 minutes to get to my stop, another 15 to walk home from there... shit, that puts me home ten minutes after they're supposed to get there. Damnit! He took a few deep breaths. Nothing I can do about it now, right? I'll get there when I get there.
He tried to imagine potential discussion topics between his wife and the Hancocks, but nothing really came to mind besides the usual traffic and weather defaults. Flustered even further, John focused on more pleasant thoughts as the packed vehicle lumbered back to the suburbs.
John's armpits. while no longer depositing corpulent sweat dollops into the contours of his torso, hadn't fully dried by the time he stepped off the bus. Five minutes to get home. Impossible. He'd grown accustomed to his odd route to and from the bus stop each workday: a c-shaped journey that took him around the fenced-off square block that held the ruins of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. Shirley and he had moved in across the street from the place four years ago, and while a hedge blocked any view of the hospital from the street, John always assumed he and Shirley had gotten a good deal on their townhouse because of its close proximity to an abandoned nuthouse.
Now, with five minutes before his guests were to arrive, he surveyed the block's elongated fence line and broke into a jog to shave some time off his tardiness. Distractedly punching at a padlocked gate fifteen yards down the sidewalk, John's New Balances squeaked to a stop as he watched the door swung inward.
Holy shit, What luck! he thought, pushing the gate further open as the rusty lock plummeted and clacked on the sidewalk. This is perfect, I can just cut through here. Once I get to the other side, I'll hop the fence, jog another 90 feet and bam! Home on time—sweating like a pig—but home on time.
John squeezed between the hedge's thick trunks, feeling oddly guilty that he'd lived across the street from this place for four years, yet never checked it out. As his body poked through the foliage, John gazed to his left upon the looming structure, its Gothic spires silhouetted against the pink winter sunset.
What are you doing standing here? Go! John broke into a high-stepping jog, his shins brushing rhythmically through the grass and weeds that comprised the facility's expansive but unkempt front lawn. John pranced steadily and deliberately toward the other side, intent on getting through this creepy lot as quickly as possible. Still, he couldn't pry his eyes from the dark, hulking monument to the mental abnormalities of yesteryear. Did they shock people in there? he wondered. Probably, right? What about lobotomies? Hell, yes, probably an entire wing devoted to...
One of the windows on the top floor suddenly glowed yellow. It wasn't a light; more of an orb hovering just behind the glass. Oh, my God. Another popped on behind a fourth floor window, followed rapidly by circular amber glimmers on the third and second floors. John didn't even realize he'd frozen in his tracks until a brilliant beam of light filled in windows of the main doors and they burst open, emitting the unpleasant noise of splintering wood and shattering leaded glass.
Smelling his own fear, a cocktail reminiscent of sour flesh and burnt wire, John willed his brain stem's most primal flee mechanism to kick in. Come on asshole, move! His legs finally stirred, first a labored shuffle, then a forced gallop followed finally by an all-out, panic-fueled sprint. The far hedge was coming into view. Finally.
Any spare wind stored in his diaphragm exited with a sudden gust as the creature's skull drove into John's kidneys. John collapsed and rolled onto his back, grunting hoarsely and sipping in shallow, fruitless gulps of air. Only after he stared into the thing's face and slowly absorbed each ghastly feature, did John realize:
Those clowns know how to tackle.
Here's the interactive part for you guys. At this point, John is probably:
1) Second-guessing himself for taking the shortcut through the abandoned insane asylum.
2) Losing control of key muscles which could prove embarrassing upon his impending encounter with Shirley and the Hancocks.
3) Scared. Also slightly confused about a clown at a mental institution. But mostly scared.
4) All of the above.
Technically, the answer is 4), but 1) describes the most likely scenario had we been asked to choose only one answer.
Are you a second-guesser? I sure am, in fact, pretty much every waking decision I make is second-guessed, and it needs to stop. You'd think that, the older we get, the more confident should be in our first choice being our best choice?
Yeah, apparently not. Here are some personal second guessing instances from a typical day of mine. I'm confident you'll be able to easily tell which ones are worthwhile and which are nothing but the paranoid time-sucks of an OCD-addled brain:
7:48 AM—Coffee isn't for guzzling, period. There's always another bus.
5:17 PM—I shouldn't have tried to jump over the cat.
7:44 PM—I shouldn't have eaten a whole bag of Hot Funyons, especially in the Uber. Now I'm a one-star-rated passenger who feels icky.
8:13 PM—I shouldn't have tried to high-five that man from Bulgaria. I won't elaborate, but now my bottom hurts.
9:09 PM—I knew I should have spent a little more for the name-brand giblets.
See? And that's just one day. Maybe I should heed the example set by our commander-in-chief, yes? Not only does that dude never second-guess himself, he's defends actions he's never even performed.
Okay, hang on. Upon further review, I'd rather be a second-guesser than a lying psychopath.