​Michael J. Alcorn

From "The Accidental Christmas"


THE pavement scrolled past under Richard Clement Hardgrub's feet, neither noting nor remembering his passage. His white tennis shoes, now faded to grey, continued to hit the pavement, out of time with the sandals all around; his dull, charcoal sweat pants in contrast to the bare ankles and calves sliding past.

    He was out of sync with the world all around.

    It hadn't always been that way. There was a time when someone walked beside him, her feet in time with his, her arm swinging his arm with joy, her footprints marking their passage. That was Mary. Mary was his translator, what brought him into sync with the rest of the world. He never understood why she chose him, but, for a time, he resonated with life. Her life.

    That ended that horrible season 15 years ago.

    The memory of her inflated the pit in his chest, and he pulled his jacket closer to hold hiimself together. His head down, Richard picked up his speed to get away from her, from the memory of her, as if he could ever escape from emptiness. He tried to slide past the crowd, bumped a woman, spilling her drink on her tank top.

    "Sorry," he tried to mutter, half-turning, never meeting her gaze. Never meeting any gaze. Never noticing the look of shock on her face, the urgent gestures of her friends, or the squeal of car tires coming closer.

    He turned forward just in time to see the streak of blue metal careening towards him over the curb.

​     For a split second, he noticed again his sneaker, still on his foot, still connected to his leg, but grotesquely turned the wrong direction. Then, all faded to black.