An Idea of Happiness
by Karl Elder
Clear horizon; no clouds; no shadows; nothing.
It starts off innocent as hell.
You’re in a mall shopping for a razor
when in the bottom right corner
of a plate glass window
the transparent reflection
of a distant profile
steps into the picture.
The protruding abdomen and lower lip
are reminiscent maybe
of a Picasso line drawing
which causes you to turn
to find the man has disappeared.
You turn back and find
the phantom has disappeared.
Wind chimes across the way
play a melodramatic theme.
Now you are nervous and handle your pipe
the way you might wield a revolver.
There is the little girl who saw it all,
the one you’ve got by the collar
while her mother mumbles,
“For goodness sake let her go.”
You don’t know what’s come over you;
you’re truly sorry, you didn’t mean it,
it wasn’t entirely your idea,
and you tell her so.
Next thing you know you’re running;
your lungs are tattered sponges;
your heart is hitting its head against a wall.
From the beginning
you’ve been looking over your shoulder.
You take steps two at a time
weaving among these zombies
on an endless escalator.
Once you pass, their arms rise like a somnambulist’s,
their forefingers point in your direction.
Your scent is on the air.
The hordes are gathering at the bottom stair
and coming up.
They want satisfaction.
You turn on them.
They’re taken aback
and growl and scrap among themselves
for shreds of your leather jacket
you have shed in a brilliant diversionary tactic.
Your mind is a lens
which slowly ascends above it all,
through the skylight, past the low
overhanging clouds, while the scene
recedes, the city shrinks,
the continent grows small—
all contracts into a blue
and slightly oblong ball
falling into a wall-less well.
It is the inaudible plop
of the little girl’s penny in water
your idea of happiness.
~ first published in the Cottonwood Review.