Graham curled up into a ball, grabbed his ankles and braced for impact, less than a minute away. All fell down.

Through the floating Cadillacs, hot dog wrappers and Coke bottles, he hurtled toward the earth at a rate of 8,000 miles an hour, though he didn’t know what the hour was. He didn’t know what the year was for that matter. He had lost track of time somewhere along the line during his 35-year sentence and had been twiddling his thumbs ever since.

Now having nothing to do but wait for the ground to meet him, he thought about how he was rocketed up there in the first place.

A day before the trial threw him into the upper stratosphere, Graham was out and about his route from 34th and Sax to 70th and Bridges, stopping at each mailbox, imparting the various postcards from Italy, care packages from Mom and Reader’s Digests for grandma. It was at 2645 Trivet Drive that the idea hit him.

Always eccentric, Graham couldn’t help but yelp with delight at his own genius. This would turn up in the papers to be sure. It would take planning, though. Diligent planning.

So getting back to business, he squirted across every intersection with reckless abandon. He darted down the cobbled streets of Mayberry, Iowa, haphazardly stuffing the plain grays, the flowery handmades and flipping up the multicolored flags. His workday was over in five and a half hours, three and a half under the usual nine.

He made for the post office and turned in his ID badge with Pam at the desk.

“You have yourself a wonderfully fantasterrific evening, Pamela!” he exclaimed.

Pam retorted with a little less heart. “Yep. You too.” She muttered “psycho” under her breath.
This was the one. This was really it. It was Graham Time.

First stop, hardware store. It had to be spring-loaded, couldn’t be anything but spring-loaded. Three gallons of lavender, a gallon of lime and a pint of chrome later, he was set.

He jumped in behind the wheel and popped some Creedence into the Oldsmobile’s tape deck. “And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the rain?” Graham howled as the wind whipped through the shoddy weather-stripping, falling in gentler wisps farther in to rearrange a few tufts of hair here and a few more misplaced coupons for five-second tans there.

Outside, the sky was brewing a dusty summer thunderstorm, but having memorized the yearly forecast, the better part of Mayberry’s townsfolk were holed up inside their homes waiting out the cool. The glow of their entertainment centers through energy-producing windows dotted the landscape less and less as Graham spun farther and farther out into the countryside.

In big, blocky letters arching over the highway, “No Trespassing! Wildlife Reserve!” flashed violently in red then slowly faded behind the Olds, puttering along.

The sedan was running on empty, and Graham’s gas can had leaked all but a few drops onto the old newspapers and hand-me-downs strewn about the wide expanse of the trunk. He’d have to gun it up the last hill and hope to coast all the way home.

It was either that, or he’d have to happen upon another stranded, thumb-in-their-mouth tourist.

Luckily, not too long after he pushed the pedal to the metal one last time, a light breeze out of the northwest came lolling along, picked up and pushed him past the toolshed through the open gate to his parking spot. Once at rest, he had to squeeze through the crack of space allowed by the open door of his crooked vehicle and the family tractor’s rear wheel.

His spirits weren’t dampened in the slightest by any of this. Just obstacles on the road to joy, he told himself.

“Don’t bother me, Mom. I have work to do.”

Judy Redding strolled by on her way to the hammock hung between the front yard’s two oak trees. She didn’t care to reply much less look at her son, in all his infinite hopefulness.

“It’s very important. You’ll see. You’ll see all right,” Graham sputtered in short blasts flung over his shoulder.

He swung the creaky screen door open, supplies in hand, then reached the kitchen counter and spread it all before him. All the colors of paint went into their respective Dixie cups. The springs, he laid out in rank and file according to length and thickness.

From his satchel, he drew out a felt-tip pen and a notepad.

“OK, the Hablutzels get the lavender. The Webbs, lavender. Hmm, Derringers? Definitely chrome…”

For the next twelve hours, he rattled off every last last name he had committed to memory, jotting down who, when and where would get his artistic treatment.

It all fell in line with the plan.

That is, until he woke up with his face half-lime and his notes in disarray, shuffled by his tendency to stir in deep sleep. The clock read 9:34 a.m.

“Oh nooo. Oh noooooo.”

Graham raced to the bathroom, turned the faucet on full-force, hot as could be. According to plan, though, no matter how hard he scraped, the coat of color hung on with a death-grip to his chubby mug.

As if taken by a bout of asthma, he breathed wheezily in and out in a fit of panic. What to do, what to do?

For all he cared, the world had just stopped spinning, and the only way he could set things back on course was to set his scheme in motion seven days ahead of schedule.

He threw all the springs in the bag then grabbed the box of Saran wrap from the cupboard and covered twenty of the hundreds upon hundreds of cups he had set out. This would be only a test run, though with things the way they were, he’d have to carry out the plan flawlessly.

And so, he set out on the highway at 15 miles an hour at the helm of the old International.

After a few furlongs, his hysteria began to give way to recovery, and a small grin began to coalesce across his face. He rolled down the road.

The first mailbox he came to was that of Frank Rasmussen. He parked his means of transport, and gathered the tools.

First, he drilled a screw into the back. Next, he thumbed on the pointy end of that screw a firing cork. Last, he hooked a spring to the end sticking out the other side. He slopped some rubber cement on the cork and stuck a sideways, full-to-the-brim cup of lavender to it, with the plastic wrap holding on tight with the aid of a constricting rubber band.

At 10:37 a.m. on the nose, as per the usual, Frank came into view, and Graham began his run to the nearby wheat field with the ever-expanding spring clutched tightly in his hand. When it reached full tautness, he spun around and crouched behind a particularly bushy stalk.

Frank advanced slowly. Each footfall made Graham’s heart skip a beat, but surely enough, Frank made it across the gravel road and assumed a wide stance to anchor his efforts in opening the rusty mailbox door. His gelatinous flab swung sweetly in concert with his exertion of eroded muscle.

Luuuuuurrrrch. He paused for a moment, befuddled by the dark shape inside. Then. Then it. Then it came. In stammering stages.

“Kablooie!” Graham’s exclamation rang out across the suburbs.

snap. Phingg. Twwwhap. POP!

And with that, Frank became a plum.

But not two seconds later an alarm sounded from some undefined place in the sky, and a robotic arm materialized out of thin air. It picked Graham up by the neckline of his T-shirt and shook him savagely. A few pennies and nickels sprayed out of his pockets.

What appeared to be a metallic backpack then dropped from somewhere else and mounted itself onto Graham. A warmly printed scroll was shoved into his right hand.

“You have committed a crime of culture. By painting Frank here, you expressed yourself beyond the bounds of Code 243,502,595, which enumerates the 5,206 ways in which humans can be too imaginative. Please notify your loved ones and let them know of your sentence, which will expire in 35 years starting from the moment your call ends or surpasses two minutes.”

“Thank you for your patience.”

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 5:38 am  Leave a Comment  

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