Abeís acting odd when I meet him for our usual Saturday bash at the Red Baron Tavern.
I canít put my finger on just whatís wrong except to think Abe is a bit duller than usual.
If you knew Abe you might realize how significant a sign this is, since I have always assumed Abe to be the dullest person in the known universe.
When I ask whatís wrong, he stiffens a little and tells me ďNothing.Ē
I wait until Abe has to use the menís room to ask Tommy, the bartender, if heís noticed anything odd about Abe.
Tommy says he hasnít got time to give me a full list since this would rival War & Peace in volume.
I keep thinking itís me.
Iíve become very restless living in a town as small as this.
After a while you get to know too much about everybody and start aching for someplace different when you donít have to see the same old faces all of the time.
I decide to driver over to Leonardville for the night, maybe even find some of that townís legendary bar girls the other guys are always harping about.
Good company, easy sex, and no talking about the factory jobs that company is planning to export to China next year.
On Saturday night, the last thing you want to hear about are all the things that could go wrong in your life.
You want to put all that out of your mind and pretend everything will turn out all right in the end, even when you know down deep it wonít.
I figure when I get back Abe will seem normal again, talking about the usual dull stuff he always talks about and I wonít have this nagging in the back of my head that something is wrong.
The deputy sheriff pulls me over on the East Road out of town.
I know Iím not speeding so I ask if one of my headlights is out.
He orders me out of my car.
His tone is not mean, if anything he sounds as dull as Abe did, and has the same blank look in his eyes.
A chill of fear comes over me, but for the life of me I canít figure out why.
The deputy tells me that the road to Leonardville is closed and I should go back into town.
Iím about to ask some questions when movement in the passenger side of the police car catches my eye.
The light is not good, but I think I see Abe there, and suspect thatís not a good sign.
I get back into my car like Iím told and steer onto the shoulder to turn around.
But I have no intention of going back to where I cam from and follow the traffic signs leading me to the interstate.
I figure to get to Jackson where this weird stuff isnít going on.
In my head I hope I really hadnít see Abe in the police car, and figure may its weariness, not weirdness, and I just need sleep.
In the dark my carís headlights illuminate some obstruction ahead.
I slow to find the ramp to the interstate blocked with parked cars, and trucks, a barrier around which I couldnít drive without entering into the wrecking derby.
From somewhere in the dark, the sound of voices rises, and after a few minutes, I see flashlight beams slashing at the night as if harvesting invisible wheat.
Then I see faces, familiar faces with the same dull look.
All of these people are chanting my name.
Before I can engage the gears to back my car up, Abe and the deputy arrive, blocking my retreat with the police car.
They hop out and point at my car, shouting, ďHere he is!Ē
Had I not used the menís room at the Red Baron I would be in real trouble, wet as well as panicked.
Unable to use the car, I get out and run, back into the network of allies that cris-cross this part of town.
Voices from the crowd echo off the walls around me, telling me not to resist and how much better off Iíll be if I just give in.
I know better.
All my life in this town I have always considered myself luckier than most. As trapped as I am, I could always count of having brains, or at worst, being less dull than people like Abe.
I hate the idea of being dull.
This is what keeps me going, knowing I am not going to live my life perpetually on the verge of sleep.
I want something better, even when I am frustrated by not being able to get it.
The mob, however, wonít give up.
The voices call and response like an old slave work song, people on either side of me telling each other they havenít found me yet.
I know they will never give up.
They cannot afford for me to remain different.
Dread leads me to a feeling of doom when I turn up an unfamiliar alley and come to a dead end.
The mob fills the mouth of the alley behind me with Abe and the deputy in the lead.
They tell me I must join them.
They say I must become part of the whole.
They claim it is no virtue for my thinking for myself.
I just be dull and let the masses do my thinking for me.
I kick at a metal door until the rusted lock breaks and then rush into the office beyond.
Some deeper need, some passions for personality drives me in a way I have never been driven before.
I know Iím going to leave this town, escape its pettiness or die trying.
And if I do escape, if I can find a phone, Iím going to find a way to stop all this.
If the state authorities wonít help me, Iíll go to the feds, and if they canít help me, then Iíll flee beyond the U.S. borders where people still think for themselves.
Behind me, Abe and the deputy year for me to give up, saying no one does what I do any more.
But I am in an open street again, running as fast as I can, knowing that if I stop, even for a moment, Iíll stop being me.