A BRICK IN TIME
Jasper’s face hit a brick with such force both eyes knocked together as one before retreating to their respective sockets. It was quite a shock to everyone involved, especially Jasper who, until then, was wholly unaware of any bricks suspended in air, which, to his now addled brain, could be the only possible explanation.
“And yes. On my way.”
It was a terribly odd statement by a voice no one had ever heard. Carefully slipping a red clay brick into a notched leather holster buckled around his hips, the voice’s owner walked away with swift determination.
The crowd, as it had become, circled Jasper and his twitching eyes in empathy, though none, as far as they knew, had ever met Jasper, or, consequently, ever been struck with a brick. Regardless, outraged reigned, as they turned towards the retreating figure.
“Hey you,” someone yelled. “Where are you going?”
It might have been a curious query in any circumstance not involving a brick, but as it was, the challenge took on a decidedly unfriendly connotation.
“Are you,” the voice no one had ever heard until just then, and the one time before, boomed savagely, “addressing me, sir?”
The someone drew back, startled. The entire crowd in fact reacted as if they had been, well–
“Slapped with a brick,” Jasper muttered.
The someone, though not unkind, was glad to see the focus that had been so fiercely fixed on him revert back to its previous mark. The crowd breathed a sigh of relief as well, patting Jasper on the back encouragingly.
“What’d ya’–I mean, what’d ya’ slap me with a brick for?”
It was a good question, appropriate even, but the crowd, impressed by the stranger’s obvious self confidence, said nothing.
“I don’t even–I was just–” Jasper went on. “Standing, you know–and then–bam–It–It really–”
The man with the voice no one had ever heard except twice and again right now, strode within a foot of Jasper, exclaiming forcefully, “Would you have another, sir?”
The crowd unconsciously leaned back, waiting and wondering, looking at each other. Meeting a man such as this was not an everyday occurence. The stranger was awfully authoritative and certainly seemed knowledgeable. It was also, someone commented after studying Jasper’s wounded cheek, a well crafted brick. The holster too, so went the rumor, of the finest ilk. And of course, he had an exquisite speaking voice. These attributes, as well as the agility with which the well crafted brick was swung, all added up to a man of some worth to be sure.
“Answer me sir.” Steadfast as well, the crowd nodded, smiling. Jasper’s reply was eagerly anticipated, in that it would most likely lead to another beautiful line from the auspicious stranger.
No reply came for quite a few moments. Restlessness set in as all eyes were on Jasper, who only rubbed his cheek meekly, still muttering unintelligibly. Though Jasper had no enemies here, save presumably the brick wielding stranger, he had no friends either. The silence was expanding into the infinite and the crowd wanted some sort of resolution, or at least an entertaining comeback to prolong the situation. It was, they felt, disheartening to hear such eloquence on one side, while only lazy utterances of the obvious on the other. A dislike spread quietly through the onlookers. Jasper was failing them all. The crowd gave their eyes and ears over to the stranger who complied quickly, though it seemed he himself was unaware of the scrutiny. They dutifully added perfect timing to the stranger’s list of pleasurable traits.
“If you do not answer me forthwith I fear I shall have to take action, whether it is to your liking or not, sir.”
Jasper’s muteness had lasted so long the question was all but forgotten. The stranger supplied it with speedy accuracy. “Would you have another sir?”
“Well, I don’t–no–I guess not–I don’t even know what you mean,” Jasper sputtered, adding lamely, as if it were not already abundantly clear, “You smacked me with a brick.”
It was a grossly inferior remark. The stammering, plaintive whine in which it was delivered, and the swollen, sallow face it sprang from, made Jasper unfit on every level. It was now under discussion that perhaps Jasper deserved a good smack with a brick. After all, if the stranger was anything, he was a man of justice. Perhaps some insult had been hurled, in a cowardly, maybe weasely voice, defaming the stranger’s impeccable character. It would have been just like Jasper.
“Am I correct in assuming another would not be appreciated, sir?”
The stranger was right, the crowd knew. Jasper didn’t appreciate anything.
“I–no–just, just don’t,” the sniveling brat was at it again. “Just don’t hit me with a brick anymore, okay?”
Certainly not, the crowd almost laughed. The stranger did not deal out blows unless they were warranted. A few cries of “Give him another” rang out, but they all knew Jasper would get another when he needed another.
“You may trust in this, sir,” the stranger’s voice took on a contemplative tone, reaching out like the hand of God. “I will not stray far. My brick knows no fear. Its aim is true, its will unmatched. If ever in this great land of ours’ goodness is threatened by malignant forces, my brick and I will smack the malignancy until it breathes no more.”
The crowd was hushed. Never before had it witnessed such fortitude and strength of spirit. Had someone told them a stranger with a holstered brick would save them from people like Jasper (the worm) they would have said, “Get out of here with that. We don’t believe you, liar.” Maybe pushed him or something, but–Right in front of them, here it was. Here it damn was.
“Do you understand me, sir?”
The crowd turned their gaze on Jasper. What could he say? Someone this devastatingly moronic and weak was no match for the likes of the stranger. Some hoped he’d just leave, run away with his tattered tail between his stumpy legs. Others wanted a brick smacking fest. Still others wanted only what the stranger wanted. How could they deny him, who’d done so much?
“Yes, alright!” Jasper yelled without even letting the stranger finish, snot dribbling down his puny mouth. “I understand, but I mean–Jesus Christ, you know! I’m standing here, that’s all, just standing, not doing anything–”
“Figures,” the crowd murmured.
“Just standing like everyone else, being a human being–”
That was open for debate.
“And a brick comes up and smacks me in the face! I mean, a brick! In the face! For, for–Why? For no reason! Just because!”
Good enough when it came to villains like Jasper.
“And now you’re yelling at me and threatening me and so’s everybody else and I don’t even know who you are! I don’t know who any of you people are!” He stomped his feet and wrung his hands, letting out a frustrated scream.
There was no sound. The crowd stared, embarrassed, overwhelmed. Each shifted their feet, not looking at each other, not looking at Jasper.
The stranger seemed set apart, distant now, as if only he understood. Taking a step he bent his head level with Jasper’s, causing the still crying man to look up, a pause in his floundering. The stranger nodded, somehow moved. As he leaned forward, Jasper did not stir, allowing the soft contact. A tiny click echoed, as the stranger unclasped his holster and smacked Jasper across the face with a brick.
The crowd smiled.
– Kate LaDewKate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art.