in the funny papers

I really used to love looking at the funny papers, you know. There characters would be, in their little flat frames, leading their little flat funny lives. Sometimes I'd save them up for a week, and shuffle them, and read them out of order. Just to mess them up. Just to know more than they did about what was going to happen to them, how their universe worked.

And I guess it's fair, what happened. Because you think you are in control, you think you've got it made. Someone out there, though - they know how it really works, what your life is really about. And you don't know anything about how it works until you're here. Out of the frame.

The funny thing about it, what looks like the punchline of the joke now I'm here, was that for the longest time I loved him. No point in saying anything - he would not have understood. Where he came from, they don't even think about things like that. I loved his good manners, and his little jokes, and his little lectures - you don't have to have a chance with someone to love them.

I did lust after him though - I thought about him just before I went to sleep, and sometimes I'd get to dream about him, tall and hard and laughing. And those hands, those manicured dancing clean hands, that never left a mark on anything, that always stayed untouched by anything he did.

We worked well together - I won't say that I always agreed with everything, but he made things work, mostly, and did what needed to be done. People don't understand what it's like, having power and having to made decisions. You make trade-offs, you make compromises - it's not like you're selling your soul. Well, in his case, of course, it was exactly like selling his soul, but you know what I mean.

When he told me all the details of how his plan was going to work out, though, my stomach just turned over, and I knew he had to be stopped. I thought about who could stop him, and I'm sorry, you and your friend did not even cross my mind. We'd spent the past couple of years messing her around by remote control - and that stopped me taking her seriously. You were hardly even part of our sense of the scheme of things - oh! another one, that's interesting, there are supposed not to be two, we remarked to each other, and then got on with actual work.

He had old enemies, and one of them came to town; it was obvious - feed his enemy the paperwork, help his enemy's little friends come and go into the office, just stir things up enough to stop him doing it. And one night, I turned the corner, and you were there, and you solved all my problems at a stroke.

I was in a lot of pain - and you hurt me a lot, and it all went away. You and your friend didn't stop him doing it, but she punished him for it, and you made him feel. I hated him by the end and I still hate him for that. He cried real tears for you; and for me he sobbed on television.

What he wanted was just so wrong; not the eating the schoolkids bit - that was just more of what we'd been doing for years. I just wanted to love him and look at him, always the same, never changing. I just couldn't stand the idea of it, him turning that handsome face and body into that big snake. Getting rid of those beautiful clean hands.

Good Luck, Faith


Allan Finch


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