“They’re coming,” he screamed.
A grizzled cactus of a man with matted, greasy hair, and a suit jacket that looked as if it hadn’t been washed in a decade walked up to me and waved a bottle of red wine in my face. I tried to ignore him, but he blocked the sidewalk.
“I’m telling you. They’re coming to get us.”
“Who?” I asked, trying to get around him.
“You, you dumbass. Me. All of us. They’re coming to get us.”
I decided to humor him, partly out of fear for my personal safety. “No. I mean, who’s coming to get us?”
“THEY. THEM. Who do you think? The enemy, bonehead.”
“You’re way ahead of me,” I said. “Who’s the enemy?”
“Open your eyes, fool. THEM. Government THEMS. Private THEMS. Corporate THEMS. All of THEMS. They’re in collusion, working together, plotting against us, against you, against me.”
“Do any of these ‘THEMS’ have names?”
“Of course they have names. Everyone has names. Do I look like I carry a list? Google it, for chrissakes. See for yourself. It’s all there in black and white.”
“You’re insane,” I half whispered, stepping into the street to get around him.
“Of course I’m insane. Any fool can see that. But they’re the ones who made me insane. And they’re out to make you insane, as well, if they haven’t done it already. I’m speaking the god’s truth.”
“I’ll take my chances,” I said, continuing to put distance between us.
“It won’t be long now,” he yelled after me. “You’ll have your chances pretty damn quick.”
I turned and looked at him. He had my attention, if for no other reason than curiosity. I didn’t have to be anywhere right away. It was my lunch hour. Besides, he was quite the character.
“Okay,” I said. “Tell me. What are these people, these THEMS, planning to do to us?”
“Already doing it,” he said, almost conversationally. “Taking over. Taking everything we have. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Where have you been? You been living under a rock?”
“Give me some specifics. What are they taking over?”
“Everything. Everything. That’s what they’re taking over. Everything we have. Every stitch, every stick, all we got. Taking it all.”
I shook my head and started to walk away.
“Look,” he said, pointing. “See for yourself.” He looked up the street. His eyes grew large. “They’re coming now. You can ask ’em yourself.”
I looked in the direction of his gaze. It was true. I saw what he meant. There were crowds of THEM. Coming in droves. Dressed in white shirts and ties. Carrying briefcases. Moving toward us. The sidewalks were full of THEMS. The cars too. They were everywhere. And worst of all, most of THEM looked like me.
Jim Woessner’s writings have appeared in the Blue Collar Review, The Daily Drunk, Close to the Bone, and elsewhere. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College, and he works as a visual artist and writer living on the water in Sausalito, California.