Rubberband Man stoops and picks up a rubberband on the pavement.
On the next block, he spies one on a doorstep. He walks to a point even with it, stops, and turns toward the step. There is a look on his face like he has just remembered something that he left in his flat, that he has remembered something that he had forgotten, a rubberband, perhaps, like the one lying on this very step.
He goes up the step. But not as one would go up the step, take out a key, open the door, and disappear inside the building, not like that at all. Nor, is it as one would go up the step, put something into the slot in the wall, turn away, and do the same on the next doorway. No. Rubberband Man puts one foot on the top step and keeps the other foot in place, on the sidewalk. One foot is still in contact with the sidewalk, maintaining the premise that he is still there, and not, as it would appear, on the step. He reaches out. He is now elongated and close to parallel with the ground. He is ready to spring back should someone emerge from the door. He snatches the rubberband and stands tall, puts the band in his pocket, straightens his jacket with a tug, and walks on.
Rubberband Man walks with a rhythm all his own. He walks to his own drumbeat. His arms swing high with power. His legs pendulum. The movements are exact; the rhythm is almost mechanical in its precision, for it is not just walking, and few others could manage it. It, like the rubberband, is his.
Rubberband Man stretches the band with his hand. He uses his fingers to pull it this way and that way. It stretches however he wants it to, it goes in new directions, in his own direction, and that, he thinks, is the power of elasticity. And, he feels fortunate to live in a country where the mail service wraps the mail in rubberbands. Very fortunate indeed.
The weight of the knapsack on his back and the knowledge of its contents comfort him. The turquoise knapsack is full, but not as heavy as it appears. It is springy, stretchy, and self-contained. It is lighter, in fact, than one would think by looking at it. There is no flopping around with this knapsack. The shoulder straps are pulled tight; the waist belt is locked in place. It does not inhibit the arc of his arms.
What joy is there in all of this? Sometimes, people ask him that. To this he says, What better joy? He does not tell them more. He does not want them to know the joy of completion, of a thousand, a million, a thousand million successes.
You do it once -- you were here. You do it once and one more time -- you are here. You do it sometime soon -- you will be here. But, you do it every single time and -- you were, are, and will be here. And who has that? Is that not something extraordinary? Then you are not just a man who picks up rubberbands. You are ... (dun, dun, dun) ... Rubberband Man.
And what does that mean for the bands? Instead of lying in landfills or hanging from the world's doorknobs, they, his rubberbands, are united together. By the force of his will, they unite to form glorious elastic balls, massive and bouncy. They are the greatest joy of all -- something from nothing.
- - -
A dogwalker turns the corner. The dogwalker is harnessed to eight beasts. Rubberband Man sees him ahead, walking this way. The dogwalker and his beasts are a vortex of motion, an eight-headed Medusa blocking his path.
The dogs sense Rubberband Man. They smell him. They sense that there is something about this man that is different, not normal. They think that maybe there is something here that they should be concerned about. They become agitated, and quickly, their minds fall into place. They are now single-minded.
Rubberband Man senses their single-mindedness and stops walking. He does not have to go down this block at this moment. The city is his; he can go anywhere. He turns around. Another street, that will be where he will go now.
The dogs follow him, and the dogwalker braces himself against their will. He knows he must maintain control of the situation. I will plant my feet and hold them here, he thinks, hold them before they get the upper hand. The dogwalker braces, and the dog's advance is halted. For a second, there is stasis, a balance of power and resolve.
The dogs smell this new man. They smell his differentness. They smell his knapsack and the rubberbands inside, thousands of them. They smell like something they do not like. They smell like -- mail. They must get it, rip it, shred it.
The eight beasts leap as one, and the dogwalker is thrown forward. Flush with victory, the dogs pull harder, driven to frenzy by the smell. Rubberband Man starts to run. His arms and legs are rhythmically pumping, high and strong. But the dogs are closing the distance. The smell is growing more intense.
Rubberband Man swings his fist high above his head, then plunges it down until it, his fist, is fully behind his back. The full range of motion is achieved. His knees are driving. He is bringing them up almost to his chin, impossibly, absurdly, high. He feels his body. He is aware of what is happening. It is being pushed like never before, and it is responding. It has been in training for this all along.
The dogs also pick up the pace. They too find more. They feed on Rubberband Man's success. The dogwalker flounces behind the beasts, desperately trying to keep his feet. The dogs are close now. The smell of the knapsack is all over them. The hunt is almost over. When the quarry is close at hand like this, a new smell comes, which is the boost that helps them make the kill. They are waiting for the smell of fear.
Rubberband Man feels the beasts behind him. Their breath is hot, their barking deafening. He knows he must go faster, that this is not fast enough. He digs down inside, deep into his core. There must be something down there. Yes. He finds a little something. There is a little more ... elasticity. And, his fists pump a fraction higher, his knees piston just a hair faster. Pavement opens between Rubberband Man and the dogs. The pavement stretches.
The dogs break. They watch him go. They realize -- not this time. The eight beasts stop, some scratch an ear, others lick themselves, one sniffs a post, and the dogwalker collapses against a wall, exhausted. After he catches his breath, he stands up, smoothes his hair, straightens his jacket, and looks around in hopes that no one saw any of it.
Rubberband Man runs on, he does not slow. Rubberband Man thinks he runs like a gazelle.
About the author:
As plates and cups stack higher and higher, Mark Peebles Brown is hard at work on a story of a world where the dishes magically do themselves. His writing has appeared in print and online literary publications in the US and the UK, including a short story in the current issue of The Potomac Review.