Ken Poyner

The Triumphant Stroll

Collage by Louis Trew

I was stopped at the very first corner. The night had the damp feel to it that I remember wringing out of one other far distant night, after I had dropped off the first date from whom I had wrested a good, solid feel, following an unremembered movie, when we had driven to an unfinished cul-de-sac overlooking a spot of water that had been desperately trying for years to recover from having been a tributary where sewage had long been dumped. It was quite a feel, and went on for a while, and this night has the taste of it; and I thought I would celebrate still having that futile memory all these years later by walking at least once around the block, with the dark all to myself, and fondling my sense of satisfaction just like on that night of initial sexual conquest all those crippling years ago.

I was stopped at the very first corner.

I did not have my identification: it was in my pants pocket upstairs – the pants draped over the back of the desk chair. My window was open and I probably could have hollered loudly enough to wake the wife, who could have tossed the identification out onto the side lawn. But I doubt the officials would have allowed me to walk over to retrieve it. And I might not have been able to wake the wife. My voice does get thin in humidity, and the wife sleeps on these open-window nights like a woman following a grand bender that she has deserved for far too long.

Luckily, I was wearing my boxers and not my briefs, and I did still have my t-shirt on. Nights when I try to sleep with the window gaping, I often wear a t-shirt, and so, standing on the sidewalk in front of a neighbor’s house that was two doors down from mine, I was dressed enough for decency, even if I did look a bit silly. I could imagine what the officers were thinking: how senile is he? Does he know he is in his underwear? Where does he think he is going? Or, more probably they were thinking: is this anything I have to write up? Am I responsible for anything? Do I get some credit here?

Not one of them I am sure was thinking about getting a good feel. But I was. And I could not remember her name, nor her face, nor even the depth and character of that fortunate feel. Neither left nor right nor both nor length. But I could remember wanting it so, needing that sense of wizardly animal accomplishment. How little I have changed over the years! How little, though the appliances that fill my small victories have been with time adjusted.

And yet, when I looked down to see the palms of my hands that once accomplished so much, I looked past them and thought: shoes, why did I not put on shoes?

Then, that pencil of pain as they drew a standard sample of blood from my arm, to slide the substance of me through their handheld reader and into the network: and from great distance determine who I might be.

A moment’s pain to find the electronic soul of a man, and draw it from the dusky netherworld of disembodied souls categorized and filed and shriven of inexact causes. And, when they had the soul of me on the dusky flash of screen before them, they asked me: who are you?

Why, I had thought that device was supposed to tell them who I was, and everything there might be, fit and unfit, to know about me: the legends and limits and lucidity of my life, digitized and available, for those with credentials, by remote collection device. I guess they wanted to see if I knew about me as well.

But how could I forget? I am the sum of my wants. And what was it I wanted those many nights ago, with a hand free to reach and a speck of unstable star glistening darkly in the round of my poisonous passion’s gathering eye?


About the writer:
Ken Poyner’s collections of short fiction, Constant Animals and Avenging Cartography, and his latest collections of poetry, Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot, can be obtained from Barking Moose Press. He serves as bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs. His poetry lately has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore; and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Red Truck, Café Irreal.

Image: Collage by Louis Trew. Bristol, UK. Manipulated photograph. By permission.