SKU ebook Category

175 in stock


By Marshall Mays

ISBN: 978-1-78382-259-1
Published: 2016
Pages: 147
Key Themes: Mental Health, Short Stories, Schizophrenia

About the Author

I spent my youth in the rural southland of America. I walked long miles down gravel, country roads. I took excursions through grassy pastures. I kept an eye on the cattle that wallowed in the cool mud aside slowly flowing creeks. I fed sugar cubes to the horses when they came to the edge of their enclosure. I climbed into the hay lofts that were present in the barns, in the farmyards. I laughed at the rats that darted around the hay while tom cats gave chase. As I grew older I continued journeying, wondering, and watching the nature that surrounded me. I crisscrossed the continent in every direction. I am a fully mature man now. I continue observing.

Book Extract

Ashton was taking his accustomed walk through downtown Calloford. He mainly stayed in the art districts. He walked past galleries. He made his way among the young folk who stood outside of the coffee shop on the sidewalk chatting. He peeked in the window of the black barber shop that was on the corner of Trade Street. This business was always bustling. The six barber chairs were usually occupied. The clientele held loud and enthusiastic conversations with one another. After Ashton past the barber shop, he was officially outside of the art district. There was one more business that pulled the more adventurous shopper and art enthusiast out of the bounds of the art district just before the neighbourhood changed, and the law enforcement centre predominated. This business was a second hand clothing shop. In one window were t-shirts depicting various alternative and punk bands. A leather skirt with shiny black boots hung in another window. A very curious article of clothing met the eye in yet another window. There was a pair of extreme high top Chuck Taylor basketball shoes. Surely a savvy second hand clothing shopper would snatch these shoes up soon.

Ashton walked quickly past all of these shops. He nodded to the homeless men who stood smoking outside of the Mission homeless shelter. They looked oddly optimistic as they puffed away this afternoon. A couple of the men even said “hello” to Ashton. Ashton had been walking past these men, these art galleries, and this second hand clothing shop for over a year. He stuck to the same side of town and the same streets. He generally had no trouble. It seemed that no one along his route took too much notice of him, and he only took a summary observation of those he encountered as he walked past. This was to change today.

Ashton usually wore the same clothes day to day. He felt comfortable in his accustomed attire. His clothes defined him. He was an intellectual wearing a suit coat, but also a man of the streets wearing a pair of baggie trousers that he rolled up at the bottom until they hung just above his canvas shoes. Beneath Ashton’s coat he wore a white t-shirt. Ashton hadn’t washed his suit coat in over a year. He had never had it pressed. It looked rather tired hanging limp down his back and over his chest. Ashton’s coat made him feel that he appeared an artist. Artists wore nice articles of clothes juxtaposed with the attire that a less impressive man would wear.

Ashton had a thick head of red hair. He hadn’t visited a barber for many months. His hair grew long on one side. It hung down to his eye on the right side of his face. His skin was fare. He appeared like a man who had something on his mind. He wasn’t ugly, but neither was he beautiful. He had been handsome as a youth. Now that he was thirty-five years old, he no longer held out hope that he would find love as he did as a teenager and young man. He lived his life pretty much alone. He had a small apartment where he lived by himself. He wasn’t homeless. He was a young writer who simply hadn’t had much success in his field. He held out hope day to day that this would change.

For the past week as Ashton walked past the large parking lot where the police parked their vehicles, and the long brick building with darkly tinted windows where the police sat at their desks, Ashton noticed a female officer sitting in her cruiser close to the road. As it was late fall and was usually fairly chilly she kept the engine running, but left her window half way down. She watched Ashton as he passed. She didn’t look friendly. She was in her cruiser every day for the last week when Ashton walked by. Every day Ashton took notice of her, and every day she took notice of Ashton. Ashton felt a little inhibited as he passed this female officer and continued down the road. He was sure that she continued to watch him as he made his way towards the stop sign and intersecting street.

One day as Ashton walked he decided to acknowledge the officer. As usual she was in her cruiser close to the road with the engine running and her window half way down. Ashton nodded his head and sang out in a boisterous clowning manner, “Hello there, officer. Isn’t it a beautiful day?”

The officer shook her head in recognition of Ashton’s greeting. She eyed Ashton with displeasure and suspicion. As Ashton was about to pass her she spoke with authority and weight, “Step over to my cruiser. I want to have a word with you.”

Ashton felt a chill of fear run down his spine. He had an unpleasant feeling in his gut. Ashton did not like interacting with the law, and he hadn’t done so in over a decade. What was even worse is that Ashton noticed that on this occasion there was another officer in the cruiser. On closer inspection he noticed that the second officer was a male. Both officers were intimidating in their signature blue uniforms and their badges. He was certain that both of the cops were equipped with guns, pepper spray, and other crime fighting apparatus. Ashton was certain that they had the power to put him in jail, if nothing worse. “Yes ma’am?” Ashton queried. He found the courage to be humorous, although he was still feeling extremely uncomfortable, “How can I be of service?”

The female officer repeated her request which sounded like a command, “Step over to my cruiser. You aren’t deaf are you?”

“Certainly,” was all Ashton could manage to say. He was trying to catch his breath. He was trying to appear calm. He wasn’t calm.

“Where are you going?” asked the female officer.

“Just down the street.”

“Do you live nearby?”

“No. No I don’t.”

The officer seemed to challenge Ashton. She wanted to catch him off guard, and cause him to admit that he was engaged in some inappropriate activity. In fact, his activity was perfectly appropriate. “Have you been drinking? You’re not looking for drugs are you? I can’t see any reason for you to be on this side of town. “

“I just like the area. I walk through here almost every day. It’s part of my circuit. I guess I’m exercising.” Ashton controlled his posture as well as his words, as he had always heard that one should when dealing with the police.

The officer sounded even angrier. She was not making any headway in finding fault with Ashton. “Why do you walk by the law enforcement centre every day? Do you have any business here?”

The male officer got out of his side of the car. He walked over to Ashton. He stood a little taller than him. In opposition to the female officer who had black hair pulled into a ponytail, the male officer’s head was completely shaved. He faced Ashton. As he began to speak he tensed and released the muscles in his arms and chest. It was as if he was looking for a fight. “The only people who belong on this street are the police. This is our office. You have no business here. What are you up to?”

Ashton was scared, but he had to laugh. The situation was becoming so absurd. “Like I said, I’m walking—for exercise. I have been walking this street for months. I’m not up to anything.”

“We’ve been watching you,” replied the male officer as if this statement held some weight. “You don’t belong here. This is our office. Only the police have business here. I’m going to give you one warning, and only one. Don’t pass this way again. I don’t know you. My partner doesn’t know you. You look suspicious. We don’t know what your intent is. Don’t let us catch you on this street again—understand!”

“I hear you, but I don’t agree with you. I have no ill will towards the police. I would like to continue taking my accustomed walk. This is a part of my walk. You have no reason to be suspicious of me. You have no reason to bar me from this street. How can one be barred from walking down a street?” Ashton was maintaining control of his voice and posture. He was also trying to impress upon the officer the ridiculousness of his order.


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