General Fiction posted January 22, 2024

This work has reached the exceptional level
life can be hard to understand


by jim vecchio

Call me Johnny Nobody.

Oh, I have a name, but I’m no one now.

I was Arch Stemple of Stemple and Bennett. Yeah, that Benny Bennett!  And, you must’ve heard of me. I was one half of that rising young comic team. The whole world was ahead of us.

Then the bottom hit us, hard. Did you ever have to watch your best buddy in all the world die, in stabbing, suffering moments before your eyes?

I always joked with Benny about his sugar. He would devour a bagful of lemon drops before each performance. Said they gave him a “high energy level.”

Then, following our performance, he developed a habit of rushing to the men’s room. Said he was concerned about the color of his urine.

That should have alerted me. When his comedy became less physical and he complained of back and abdominal discomfort, well, that was a red flag.

Benny didn’t seem to enjoy all those free meals from the house any more. He would run off, and I knew it was to vomit.

As his weight went down and mine increased, I felt we’d become an Abbott and Costello team. I urged him to go to the doctor.

Benny did go, but he never said anything to me about his condition.

One day, he said he was not up to it, and cancelled our future dates.

Inside of a month, he was in the hospital.

Another month, and he was gone, a victim of pancreatic cancer.

Now, I live alone in this dreadful place. I had enough to allow me to live in this low-rent hovel even if I never worked again, and, believe me, I never wanted to work without my buddy, Benny.

I didn’t want to settle for less, but how could I go on, wanting for more?

Periodically, I go to a casting call, but it seemed more like the Bowery Boys, seeking employment, but hoping they don’t get it.

I did not want to work solo.

Today, I had my most prestigious interview scheduled, with Ridley Scott, who wanted a comic lead for a new space opera. He said I was his “most well-remembered comic.”

I rustled in bed, waiting for the alarm. I couldn’t sleep. I thought I wanted that job and then thought I didn’t want it. When I resigned myself to rise from bed, the alarm sounded.

I threw on my best shirt and tie and a jacket I last wore at The Tropicana. I rushed out the door. The interview was being conducted in a small theater a few blocks away.

I paraded down the front steps, or was about to, when I came upon her, sitting cross legged on the bottom step. She resembled more an antique doll than a human, dressed in a smart pinafore.

I rushed past her, took a few steps, then knew I had to go back.

“Little girl,” I said, “Where are you supposed to be?”

She stared at me, silently.

I tried to get some information from her. “Tell me, honey, where do you live?”

Again, a blank stare.

“Little girl, are you hungry?”

She would not respond.

“My guess is you’re hungry. I have a very important appointment, honey. If you’ll come with me, I’ll see you get the best bacon and egg sandwich you’ve ever eaten.”

To my surprise, she took my offered arm.

About halfway to the theater, we stopped at The Egg-Centric Café.

“I’m sorry, little girl, but you’ll have to eat on the run. This is important. I’ve got a special meeting to get to.”

She devoured her sandwich in record time, and also swallowed some orange juice, while keeping up with my steps. I knew she was hungry.

We reached the theater. It suddenly dawned on me-What do I do with her, now? I can’t leave her outside, alone in the city!

There was only one thing to do. She had to tag along with me, inside.

Ridley Scott was there already, sitting high and wise in a chair on the stage, looking down on me.

I gently tugged the little girl into a front row seat.

I walked up to the stage.

Before I could utter a word, Scott asked, “Who’s the kid?”

“Just a girl,” I replied.

“Whose girl?”

“I don’t know!”

Scott jumped up. “This interview is over!” he said.

Soon, I was straddling the pavement again, with her by my side.

“You know, girl, you cost me a very high-class job!” I said, grimly. Then laughed. “Oh, what the heck? I didn’t want that job, anyhow!”

I knew my next stop should have been the police station. Somehow, it felt good to have someone, anyone by my side that made me feel necessary again.

“Little girl, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands now. Would you like to go to the library?”

I looked at her. She nodded “yes.”

I should’ve realized it sooner. This girl could hear, but couldn’t speak.

“Honey,” I said, “I don’t know your name, and you cannot tell it to me. May I call you Suzy?-I’ve got to call you something!”

She gave me a little smile and nodded.  “Yes.”

As we walked past the huge stone Lions, Suzy rubbed the head of one.

“Would you like to ride on his back?” I asked.

She smiled agreeably once more.

I lifted her and she straddled the lion. She tried to laugh, you could tell, but the sounds wouldn’t come out right. I couldn’t imagine her being happier.

Then, she entered the huge doorway with me holding her hand. Her eyes searched everywhere. She was totally enchanted by this atmosphere.

I led her to the children’s section and pulled out a large yellow book.

“Now, Suzy, sit at this table, and I’ll read a story to you!”

It just so happened that the wife of a rich man fell sick: and when she felt that her end drew nigh, she called her only daughter to her bedside, and said, "Always be a good girl, and I will look down from heaven and watch over you." Soon afterwards she shut her eyes and died, and was buried in the garden; and the little girl went every day to her grave and wept, and was always good and kind to all about her. And the snow spread a beautiful white covering over the grave; but by the time the sun had melted it away again, her father had married another wife. This new wife had two daughters of her own: they were fair in face but foul at heart, and it was now a sorry time for the poor little girl. "What does the good-for-nothing thing want in the parlor?" said they; and they took away her fine clothes, and gave her an old frock to put on, and laughed at her and turned her into the kitchen…”

Suzy seemed enthralled in the story. She waved her hands and fingers in a sort of communication I could not understand.

As I read to her about the laughter, I actually heard laughter stemming from a neighboring table.  It was a group of pre-teens mimicking Suzy’s gestures.

I tossed the book down and stomped over to their table.

“What’s wrong with you kids? Are you so proud you can talk that you mock someone who can’t?”

They silently left their table.

I finished reading the tale.

“Suzy,” I said, “I enjoy being with you, but we’ve got to get you home!”

She looked at me with pleading eyes.

“Oh, what the heck?” I said, “Let’s enjoy some more time together! Where would you like to go?”

She raised her arms, touching one another, and waving them in exaggerated movements up and down.

“Oh, I get it!” I said, “A roller coaster!”

Suzy excitedly nodded her head up and down.

“Have you ever been to Coney Island?” I asked

Suzy frowned and shook her head. “No.”

“Then that’s where we’re going now! Suzy, there’s thirty seven rides out there and we’re going on just as many as we can! There’s The Cyclone, The Speedboats, the carousel…”

Suzy smiled in delight.

We walked down a couple of blocks and got on the subway. The cars were completely taken over by graffiti. Suzy took it all in with wonder.

We got off at Coney.

“Now, Suzy, what’s the first thing you do when you get to Coney?” I asked.

Suzy shrugged her shoulders.

“You got to get a hot dog!” I shouted. “Let’s go!”

We skipped over to Nathan’s and Suzy gobbled a hot dog and chased it down with root beer.

“Now, Suzy, this is where the gentleman wins a doll for his special girlfriend!”

Suzy followed, her head twisting in all directions merrily, taking in all the sights.

We stopped at the target shooting booth.

“Suzy,” I explained, “Guns are not for playthings!” I laughed, “I learned how to shoot a long time ago, but don’t worry! I don’t carry!”

Displaying my amazing skill, I hit all targets. I won a doll for Suzy that was half her size!

Suzy proudly carried her prize from one attraction to another.

Soon, we found ourselves in the speedboats.

“Suzy, some day you’ll find out there’s just something special about a man, a woman, and the water!”

Suzy broke out in that cute little smile I had grown to love to see.

On the Airplane ride, Suzy dangled out her arms, as if grasping for clouds.

Next, I took her to the cotton candy stand where Suzy enjoyed what must have been her first taste of pink fluffiness. I wondered if she imagined if I were feeding her delicious clouds.

On the Carousel, Suzy delighted to the music of The Blue Danube while accepting the brass ring I caught, specially for her.

As dusk settled in, I knew our time together would be drawing to an end.

We boarded that farewell subway car. Suzy still snuggled with her trophy doll.

I politely hugged Suzy and said, “Thank you for spending this special day with me. I don’t think you know what it really meant to me.”

Suzy gave me that quizzical look.

“Suzy, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve been lonely. I lost someone dear to me. You brightened my heart more than I can tell you!”

We exited the subway. I bowed down and looked deep into Suzy’s eyes.

“Suzy, you belong to someone. Someone who this moment misses you very much. You have to return to them.”

Suzy burst into tears and groans that struggled to cry aloud.

I held her hand as we walked up the police station stairs, her face covered now in tears. She dragged along that doll.

I walked up to the desk and said, “I’ve got a missing child.”

A sergeant from the back peeked out and shouted, “It’s the Griswold girl! Take care of her and bring that man in here!”

I found myself in the midst of a hard interrogation.

The sergeant repeated that question over and over. “You say, she appeared at your doorstep this morning?”

“Yes Yes! That’s how it happened!”

“And you waited all day to report this?”



“You wouldn’t understand!”

At that moment, a police detective motioned the sergeant over. He whispered, but I could hear him. “She is a victim of abuse. She wasn’t spared anything!”

I was thrown into a holding cell.

In the lonely cramped lockup, my mind lived the agonies over and over.

The absolute pain of seeing my best buddy die by increments, and being helpless to alleviate the suffering.

The pain of a lonely life made brighter for a day by that adorable little face.

The pain surges on.

Things will get worse before they get better.

I’ll come out okay.



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