Gerrie decided to sell the boat to the couple standing outside looking at the “for sale” sign posted in one of the cabin windows. She didn’t do much thinking about the possible consequences. She knew only one thing and that was that she wanted their money. It didn’t matter she wasn’t the rightful owner of the boat; she could play that part. She’d done it before, she felt, even though she hadn’t actually ever pretended ownership of anything before.
“Hey there folks, this boat is among the finest to be had in all the dockyards, and for a low price. Can I interest you in a tour?”
They said that she could.
Hours later, after much haggling, the couple and Gerrie had finally reached a deal. They would pay her several thousand dollars in cash. She would take it. They would presume they’d own the boat. That’d be their problem.
While they were ironing out the details, a man in white paints walked down the wooden planks of the pier. It was his boat. He had a bowie knife.
Near where Gerrie was ironing out the details with the couple arrived the man, whose name was Hugh. Gerrie said hello to the man and continued talking to the people. Hugh was incensed and held his Bowie knife tighter. He raised it at Gerrie, who turned to him and said, “Fine, you can keep your old boat for all I care. They’re willing to buy it for a lot more than it’s probably worth. Don’t stab me.”
Hugh stabbed her in the neck repeatedly, anyway. It was probably clear to everyone watching -- Hugh and the couple -- that Gerrie never imagined Hugh would stab her until he actually had done so, and by that time the only awareness in her eyes seemed to be whatever is acutely attuned to mortal wounding. She was not able to say anything comprehensible and expired quickly. The couple raced screaming from the pier, and Hugh followed them shouting something about offering it for a better deal because of the spilt blood on the deck, which would be hard to scrub out.
An old man was sitting at a park bench next to the jogging and biking path, very near to all the commotion at the pier. He wore a white lab coat. He was a particular kind of doctor. He was particularly skilled at detecting psychopaths, and he knew he’d smelled one in his midst. Rarely did his nose fail him. When he caught this particular scent he knew something horrible would not be far behind, nor hard to find.
“Well, I’d better get moving,” and the man got up, readying his pointing cane.
He saw Hugh chasing after the couple, offering them that really good deal. Hugh was slowed by still holding the knife he’d plunged into Gerrie. The knife was still inside of Gerrie, so he had to drag her awkwardly along.
The old man, Dr. Goldfarb, knew he had a classic example of a psychopath on his hands, here. He began thrusting his cane wildly at the psychopath, hollering that the man, Hugh, was a clear example of psychopathy at its most violent and raw.
He chased Hugh through the streets of the town, hollering about his being a psychopath and waving his cane at Hugh while he hollered about his psychopathy, and then the doctor spoke of the dangers. Hugh was slowly staggering away from Dr. Goldfarb, mainly because he was still holding the knife still plunged into a dead woman’s lifeless neck.
“I want you all to know of the danger,” Dr. Goldfarb hollered, pointing at Hugh. “There is a psychopath. There! You must understand the danger!”
All the townspeople looked their way, they looked the way of Dr. Goldfarb and Hugh. They looked with those stony eyes, those eyes that are glass. Those eyes that are hollow eyes. They made no noises. They didn’t holler like Dr. Goldfarb. They all started ambling toward the doctor and the psychopath.
Dr. Goldfarb pointed at them all, hollering about the danger.
The epidemic that started because of The Pusher, the one who pushes.
It was a night. It was a nighttime-like dream. Imagine you are a cow standing in a field of grass, and you are sleeping. In your sleep you dream of eating the field’s grass. You dream of waking up and just eating all the grass that’s there to be munched on. You, as cow, are not prepared for the terror of being pushed over, by some random pusher.
And like the cow’s dream, no one in the city was ready for the reign of The Pusher, the specter of pushing down. First it was simple things that were pushed. Loosened bricks, car steering wheels belonging to cars in the town dump, pet goats, sandwiches in the display cases of all-night convenience stores, things in a closet, empty scuba tanks.
But then worse pushings were reported.
Elderly cats, vintage car batteries, bananas near the registers in all-night convenience stores, decks of playing cards, professional wrestlers’ likenesses in wax museums, model cars, stacks of paper, gun racks.
People began suspecting the guy with a beak, Beakman. His beak made him seem like he had something to hide. Like for one, was it real? Or was it some sort of really great prosthetic?
Beakman made the argument that he’d never thought of pushing anything, especially not the statue that looked like a girl walking through a mirror but was really a statue fitted with panes of frosted glass held together by a gunmetal frame.
People agreed, it was not yet something that had been pushed, over at least.
But then that night, the pusher struck again, pushing over the statue Beakman had named.
“What a thrilling coincidence,” Beakman had said, hearing the news of the statue’s pushing. The facts of its being pushed.
“Yeah, because you did it,” the police said.
Beakman responded with indignation and bemusement. “Is that how this works? You can just accuse me of something without evidence? What if I’m in fact the vigilante crime fighter who’s been leaving those tied-up criminals with pecked up faces on the steps of the police station? Wouldn’t you feel bad about taking me off the streets?”
“Maybe for a day, maybe for two days, we’d feel bad,” the police said and meant to arrest Beakman.
Beakman squawked and ran from them, from their shiny police handcuffs before they could cuff him.
“Get him, men! Get him so we can cuff him like we’d planned,” cried the police sergeant. They chased Beakman up to a rooftop. A helicopter gave air support.
The police closed in for the arrest, for the cuffing of a perp.
Then a rocket propelled hand tore across the sky and collided with the side of the helicopter, which was sent spiraling downward with its pilot crying, “Mayday!”
The stunned police were all pushed off the rooftop to certain death.
Beakman could see amid the shadows their killer, who’d previously been stepping in and out of the shadows to push.
“Ah, The Pusher, my old nemesis. You’re in serious trouble for murdering all those people, all those police.”
“Yeah,” The Pusher said, “Yeah, I’m not real sure what I was thinking just now.”
“Probably something about wanting to murder people?” Beakman posited.
Matt Rowan is a Chicagoan of sorts. He is keeper of Untoward Magazine and he has a short story collection, Why God Why, due out by way of Love Symbol Press sometime soon.