BY EIRIK GUMENY
Copyright is held by the author.
A YOUNG MAN sat cross-legged in dirty cargos on the outcropping, staring east over the hazy city toward the towering mountains in the distance. His name was Hesh K. Karfunkle. It was an unfortunate name, but Hesh was an unfortunate man.
Hesh had been sitting on the outcropping since breakfast, just staring and thinking, pondering all there was to ponder in the universe. He was no closer to an answer than when he had started, but his skin now had the healthy glow of an overripe tomato.
A lizard, brownish-green and speckled with white, lumbered slowly toward Hesh, inching its way through the scrub brush and sandy soil surrounding the young man. The reptile was the size of a small dog and the brush rustled as it neared. And then it kept rustling. And rustling.
It was a very slow lizard.
When the lizard got within a few feet, Hesh cast a casual glance sideways, to make sure he wasn’t about to be mauled by a mountain lion or violated by a drifter, but otherwise paid the creature no mind.
Then the lizard started talking.
“Something seems to have gotten you down, son,” said the lizard in a deeper baritone than one would think possible. “What’s wrong?”
“The world,” said Hesh, still staring absentmindedly forward.
“The world,” echoed the lizard.
“The whole thing?”
“The whole thing.”
The lizard hesitated a moment, knitting its scaly brow, then said, “Could you be more specific?”
Hesh took a deep breath. Then he said:
“My roommate moved out, my rent went up, my toilet’s broken, and my girlfriend left me for a cop that’s made it a point to explain how happy he gets when he beats up drunk people. There’s nothing in the newspapers but wars and almost wars and terribly unfunny comics. Half the world is trying to kill all of us, our own congress is trying to kill the poor, the poor are trying to kill themselves, doctors are allowed to rape women in the name of preventative medical screenings, our president has flying killer robots and every legal right to use them on anyone that so much as looks at him wrong, and, to top it all off, I can’t afford cable and I keep missing South Park.”
“That’s quite a lot,” replied the lizard.
“Do you know what might help?”
“No. Not at all. That’s why I’ve been sitting here staring forlornly at the mountains all day.”
“Lick me,” said the lizard.
“I thought you were trying to help,” replied Hesh.
“I am. Lick me. Head to tail, really get in there.”
“I don’t really want to.”
“I don’t really want you to either, but I’m a magic lizard. It’ll help.”
“You have a better reason why a lizard can talk?”
Hesh did not.
Taking a deep breath, he picked up the lizard. He stared at the goggle-eyed creature. The goggle-eyed creature stared right back.
Hesh licked the lizard.
“Oh God,” he said, putting the lizard down. “You taste like my socks smell.”
“You feel better?” asked the lizard.
“Holy crap,” said Hesh, blinking his eyes furiously. He rubbed his hands slowly along the back of his neck.
“But you feel better though, right?”
“I can’t feel anything.”
The lizard shrugged his tiny shoulders. “Close enough.”