Writing Calisthenics

AvatarA collection of short stories, essays, and exercises to keep my brain from rusting between larger works.

Marvin's Emergency

(Sorry for the absence, but I've been working on this guy for a couple months now.  I wanted to let this stew for a while, but I'd like comments and reviews.)


Long before the age of ten, Marvin knew he was supposed to feel awkward about searching through Tiger Beat in the Osco magazine stand, and he did.  As surreptitiously as any chunky ten year old with a right leg shorter than the left could be, he had walked by the rack: first in one direction to announce his presence to the magazines gathered there, and then again in the other with a furtive glance that would have said to all but the most astute observer, "Oh, hi.  I didn't see you there."
    The look was quick, but studied.  Osco was just over a mile from his house and as Marvin clumped down the sidewalk, past the store window reflections of a short boy dressed in husky black jeans and a polyester red shirt and that one special shoe with a sole like a rubber loaf of bread, he had practiced.  Marvin had a mental list of stores he'd pass on the way: Martinelli's Grocery, Industrial Hardware, Mr. Grecko's shoe repair, the barber shop, Rite Round record store.  He had picked a very specific object from each of their shop windows to act as a surrogate.  Since the thing he'd be looking for on the cover of Tiger Beat could appear in any number of forms, Marvin had made some rules for this game. 
    The items he chose would have to be specific enough to be instantly recognizable: it was a real face he was looking for after all.  The problem was, in the way of fan magazines throughout time, that face might show up in some helpful, recognizable context or it might be part of a fuzzy floating head, cut from a stock studio shot by an overworked intern with unsteady hands.  The items he chose would have to be ambiguous enough to represent the endless combinations he would have to deal with.  It occurred to Marvin that the searching part of such an exercise might be good practice for a fireman hunting for a small boy trapped in a collapsing warehouse with nothing but a description of the boy's clothing to guide him.  The dispassionate coolness he needed to maintain seemed useful only if the rescue was going to appear on TV.