Fall 2011, Volume 11

Fiction by Adam Moskowitz

The Best Afternoon of My Life

In a waiting room, in a doctor’s office, my mother mumbled as she read. I fidgeted with the buttons on my Timex watch that wrapped my skinny wrist like a big belt. I could change it to military time. I would do it so I could think I was in the military. I’d whisper things like, We’ll head to the bridge soon. I’d leave it in military time for five minutes but then feel uneasy and end up switching it back a minute later.

I used the stop watch a little. I liked to see the hundredths of a second digits race and I wondered if it was difficult for the watch to work so quickly.  I tried to keep up with the numbers because it felt like my brain was flooring it. I could recognize a number here and there, but that was it. I’d think, Oh! I saw 43!” Forty-three was my lucky number. It was lucky because when I woke up in the morning for school, I’d go down to eat breakfast and when the digital clock on the microwave said 6:43, I knew it was time to go.

But I didn’t like to use the stop watch too much because you had to hit reset after timing something. The reset button also turned on a light inside the watch, the light that was for being able to tell time at night. You could only avoid hitting reset by leaving the stopwatch at some random elapsed time—but I definitely couldn’t do that. It had to be at 0.00.00 before exiting stop watch mode, so I always had to hit reset, wasting the bulb inside the watch.

If it was bright outside and you were timing something with the stopwatch, and then hit reset, you were still using the light even though you probably couldn’t see it and definitely didn’t need it. Imagine walking into a room with sunlight pouring through big windows while all the lights are on. The lights don’t even look bright; they just look yellow, but they’re being used.

Sometimes, I would use the watch light. I pretended I was trapped in a cave and I was prepared with my watch light, like a flashlight to help me escape. I’d pretend to stumble over cave things, sharp wet rocks, shaped like cones and I’d pretend that the light on the watch was helping me dodge hanging bats. But other than that, I didn’t use it.

I wanted to save the power of the bulb. I liked turning off lights. I liked knowing lights were off and I liked watching them dim first, like they’re falling asleep. I figured they were always getting too hot and were always waiting to be turned off, which I could do.

At night, I pranced around the living room and kitchen, sliding across the floors on thick tube socks, finding lights. I sought out a vacant, but brightly lit bathroom and any dripping sinks, and made sure the refrigerator was tightly shut.

“At least someone in this house cares about the electric bill,” my dad said. I didn’t. I was more concerned about electricity pumping hard between the layers of the walls—blue and squiggly, like what the emperor shoots out of his hands in Return of the Jedi. I worried that too much of it raced throughout our house and I liked turning things off, and I imagined our whole house sighing.

In the waiting room my mom’s book covered her whole lap. I slid further down the office chair and pushed the metal button on my watch until it beeped back to the clock. I watched the digital seconds. When they got to the fifties, part of me would tense up, like something was about to happen when the minute ended.

I had this game where I would glance at the second digits and see how long I could stare at a second before it ended. I liked to catch the longest moment of each second. Hopefully, I would look at the number right after it changed so I would have the most time with it. Then, if I saw it change to the next second, it was like I lost. If it was 43 turning to 44, and I saw it turn, that would be bad luck. Sometimes I won. I must have caught it right after it changed because it seemed like time stopped and I was breathing with a pulse, alone and alive.

The doctor’s sloping and bristly beard hid his mouth. He held amber framed bifocals that left dents in his nose. His hair looked like it was dipped in molasses, on the verge of being long. I went in, and we both came back out forty minutes later.

He turned to my mom. “You were right,” he said, “He does have ADD.”  And then he wrote out a prescription. My mom eyed him, and nodded like she was concerned, but then she looked pleased that she was right. Then she looked at me like I had been suffering for my entire life but it somehow never killed me and nobody ever knew, but now, thank god, there was a cure. She picked up the pills on Saturday morning and placed one next to my juice. A half an hour later, she asked, “So, you’ll get some work done today, right?”

“Uhm, yes. Definitely. And I think I’ll read when I am done with my work I think I’ll read about atomic theeeooory because that’s a word in science class and I’m not sure I totally understand it so I should probably read about it.” I couldn’t decide if my mouth was sticky or dry.  I rocked the kitchen chair back and forth hitting the wall like thought cadence. Theooooory. Then I was gone. I abandoned the kitchen like it was on fire, sprung up three steps at a time.

I saw my bed. I swiped the blanket from the two back corners. It floated off the mattress. I held it and moved to the middle of the room. I checked how much space I had. I lay the blanket onto the carpet. I pivoted on my back left toes and kneeled before my Sony. I turned on the Braveheart Soundtrack and skipped to the song when William Wallace fakes his surrender. I returned to the blanket, found the corners. I lifted it and waved the end up and down, to lighten it of any dust. Between my arms, I watched the blanket in the middle of my room, undulating. Holding it, my head and body surged and rolled and swelled. I glanced toward the bed, tightly wrapped with flannel sheets. Continuing the blanket dance, I frolicked to the left and let the blanket sink onto the mattress after one last snap of my wrists. The blanket settled with the horns and drums. Scotland would soon begin its battles. My bed was made. I tightened my watch. I waited for the digits to reach a new minute.



BIO: Adam Moskowitz moved to San Francisco in 2005 to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at the California College of the Arts. During the last four years he has been teaching English at a small charter school in Oakland. When not grading papers, he has found slots of time to write.