Jared Lipof
| Fiction

Benny cut me off again. “Ms. Hannum, as long as you’re over there, you see that building across the street? The one with the pizza place and barbershop? Do you, by any chance, see somebody over there?”

If he finished another one of my sentences I would lay him out cold.

Mister Silver, the town of Hanover does not pay me to conduct surveillance at the behest of my students. With your permission, I would like to finish with Mr. Poe’s story.”

Despite her reprimand, Ms. Hannum harbored a soft spot for Benny. Back on the first day of school he’d marched in the room and alerted her to the fact that his interest in law school demanded a comprehensive vocabulary and literary wherewithal, and he’d be damned if he’d settle for anything less than a straight A. I got the sense, ever since, that she considered him a scoundrel of the best possible sort, that if Benny were only thirty-five years older, she’d be all over his jock. On her way back to the chalkboard, she said, “For your information, Mr. Silver, there is no one in that building but a poor man recuperating from some grave injury, his head wrapped in gauze, smoking a cigarette in a lonely third-floor window.”

Benny turned to me, wide-eyed, and held up six fingers. If our calculations were correct, the bandages would come off tomorrow.

One of my mother’s professors had sketched a loose timeline for us: bandages for a full week, face swollen for another two, the bruised eye sockets of a raccoon for another month. On Sat-urday, with the whole afternoon at our disposal, Benny and I sat on a bench in front of the middle school, directly across the street from the fugitive’s apartment, shooting the shit. Benny owned Atari and my parents had bought me Intellivision, and we argued about their various merits and drawbacks. Benny conceded that Intellivision’s graphics boasted better resolution but maintained that the volume of Atari’s game cartridge library far outweighed the crisper picture.

“It’s about having fun, Ollie, not simulating anything real.”

“I guess.”

“If we were after realism, then we might as well––”

Benny froze and clutched my knee. Across the street a city bus pulled from the curb to reveal our fugitive, minus the bandages. I slapped his hand away.

“Try to act cool,” I said.

“So,” Benny said, way too loud, “like I was saying…”

“Keep it together, man.”

Benny shouted, “Graphics are a thing, but variety, I think, naturally is the thing…”

Unable to conduct surveillance while speaking cogently, Benny tossed a word salad while our fugitive lit a cigarette and paced in front of Val’s and King Pizza. It was our guy, no doubt about it. Bruises rimmed eyes that were like glittering gems, as if he’d snatched the mask clean off the Cheeseburglar’s face. He looked up Chickering Road, awaiting something’s arrival, and then he flicked his cigarette butt into the street and went inside the building.

Jared Lipof is a sound engineer for documentary television programs. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review. He lives in Tallahassee, where he is at work on a novel.

You’ve Got to Be Good to People
Seventeen Things about My Friend Farzana