Mark Was Haunted by David Barringer



Mark Is Haunted



By a beat cop. During a night storm, the beat cop pelts Mark with little powdered donuts, gone slumpy in the rain. Slump. Slump. Slump. Itís hard to eat powdered donuts in the rain. Itís a futile exercise. Following five or six steps behind Mark, the cop picks the donuts out of a disintegrating box. The lid has transparent crinkly paper. The crinkly paper snaps under the percussion of raindrops. Mark hears the crinkling of this crinkly paper as the cop knuckles open the lid to nab a new powdered donut. The copís fingertips are thick with doughy goo. He has gecko fingers, the floury pads you get when you batter fish and drop the fillets into the pan. The cop has a hard time throwing the donuts. They stick to his fingers and plop to the sidewalk, little dollops rippling puddles, neon signs shattering and reforming on the water. When a donut drops in a puddle, the cop swears, ďDamn!Ē Sometimes he steps on one of these sad lumps and has to scrape the thick rubber sole of his police shoe on the curb or against the edge of a newspaper bin.

††††††††††† Mark is walking home from work. He works overtime two to three days a week. Itís nearly ten at night. His apartment is twelve blocks from his office. Earlier, as he walked the first few blocks, he had worries left over from work, worries that were crowded out of his mind when the second donut hit him in the back, which meant Mark could no longer believe that the first donut had been a mistake. Mark is anxious about what else the cop might do, given the authority of the city police. Mark chooses to keep walking. He pretends it isnít happening and hopes that what isnít happening stops soon. The cop will run out of donuts. Mark will make it home. Something will happen, but it wonít be because Mark forces the situation. Confrontation doesnít seem prudent.

††††††††††† When the cop gets Mark good, a wet powdered donut thwumping against his rain jacket like a beanbag duffing a tarp, the cop says, ďYes!Ē His enthusiasm betrays a distressing psychological deviance.

††††††††††† Mark catches the copís reflection in the dark bay window of a wine bar. The cop has stopped to extend a curious tongue to the ruined surface of a powdered donut. The cop detects the delicate open flavor of rainwater, mixed with gloppy sugar. Mark steps into the wine bar. The cop tastes critically, opens his eyes, finds Mark gone. He is bewildered. Mark feels triumphantly political with his warm cabernet, watching the depressed civil servant storm off down the street, flinging donuts at the canvases of parked cars.




David Barringerís third fiction collection, We Were Ugly So We Made Beautiful Things, is now available from Word Riot Press.

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