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The Idea of the Story Is This
by Steve Finbow

Emerging from the restaurant, I see Dean Martin standing across the street, a cigarette like a cigarette in his mouth.
     ‘Hey, look,’ I say.
     ‘What?’ She says.
     ‘Dean Martin standing across the street.’
     ‘What?’ She says.
     ‘He’s following me,’ I say.
    And that car. And that hut. No matter that I live in London, it’s winter and it’s raining, every turn I take, every place I leave, across a desert highway, in impervious sunlight, lighting a cigarette, is Dean bloody Martin. He’s wearing a sharkskin suit, white shirt, silver and black tie, black patent-leather slip-ons, black socks with slate clocks, the hair sticking out from his cuffs is as thick as quotes at a Mark Twain convention, his skin is slightly foxed and has a slight rip on the front sleeve. And the strange thing is he has a tattoo of a dotted line around his neck with the words ‘cut here’ on his Adam’s apple.
    The light seems to break in waves. My eyes make test patterns as they try to focus. There’s a car – fifties – all sc-fi grilles and bodywork. The car is to his left. My right. Behind him is a hut. A plain hut made from tulipwood with a green slanting roof and a red door in the front.
    Dean flicks away the match he used to light his cigarette and the match tumbles through the unsettled space and lands smouldering beside a horned toad. That’s new. Dean inhales and taps ash on the desert floor. I rub my eyes.
     ‘Can you see him?’ I say.
     ‘Who?’ She says.
     ‘Dean Martin,’ I say.
     ‘What? Where? Who?’ She says, maybe a bit too fond of the tripartite question.
    Dean starts to cross the highway. There’s a fast blur of cars and the macadam ticks in the heat. Dean’s slip-ons are picking up the remnants of roadkill and making it increasingly difficult for him to walk. On reaching the white line at the centre of the highway, he disappears and I’m wet with the rain, cold with the wind, and blinking and rubbing my eyes as if I’ve been tear-gassed.
     ‘You OK?’ She says.
     ‘Yeah,’ I say.
    We go home. She has sex. She falls asleep. I don’t. She wakes. She showers. She eats. I mumble. She feigns interest. She leaves. I shower. I eat. I dress. I leave for work.
    Bop! Bop! Dean Martin is standing across the desert highway lighting a cigarette. Same old car. Same old hut.
     ‘Hey, Deano!’ I shout.
    He ignores me and pulls on the cigarette. Match lands next to horned toad. Inhale. Ash falls to floor. Exhale. Walks across highway. Inhale exhale. Cars blur. Inhale exhale inhale. Tarmac ticks. Inhale exhale inhale exhale. Viscera sticks to shoes. Inhale exhale inhale exhale inhale. Reaches white lines. Sigh. But he keeps coming. He fixes me with his beady eyes and jabs his cigarette at me.
    I look around. The desert highway tableau fragments at the edges – it sort of shimmers – as if each realm were invading the other and there are fragments of both in the air like flying fish. I try to move but I can’t.
    Dean Martin flicks his cigarette away. I watch it arc, peak, and tumble. I don’t see it land. Dean starts to yell, a primeval sound full of pain and grief, full of dread and terror. He rips open his shirt, his tie flies back over his shoulder, the buttons of his shirt falling like pearly rain. And I can see the bright red six-pack of dynamite strapped to his abdomen with gaffer tape. Sweat beads on both of our foreheads. And he’s fucking ululating for chrissakes. I get a close-up of his tonsils and I get a close-up of his nicotine-stained thumb on a thing that looks like a doorbell.
    I turn and run. I run back to the house. I can hear him screaming but it's Dopplered. I open the door and I’m in. I look through the letterbox and there’s my garden, the rain-soaked trees nodding in the wind, the unweeded weeds, the stunted rose bushes.
    I climb the stairs to the bathroom. I stare at my reflection in the mirror. I splash my face with cold water. There’s a gurgling sound behind me. I turn and in the bathtub is Sammy Davis Jr, his mouth thick with purple tendrils, his gills frilling in panic, his fins thrashing around, trying to gain purchase on the white porcelain bathtub.

About the author:
Steve Finbow writes out of London, England. He writes the bi-weekly column Pond Scum for Me Three. His fiction, essays, short plays, and poetry appear, or will appear, in Eyeshot, 3am Magazine, Yankee Pot Roast, uber, Locus Novus, InkPot, Dicey Brown, The Guardian Online, Pindeldyboz, Xtant, and Big Bridge. He is currently working on a novel. (Yeah, right).

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