Hostage Situation at Powell’s

The guy who smells like McDonald’s is not welcome at my hostage situation.

Neither is the barista working in the coffee shop today, who hasn’t smiled at me in months and clearly doesn’t love me anymore. Fuck you. It’s over.

The girl can come. Her stockings are exactly half shredded, sliced from the top down like the left side was the only one worthy of anger.

Maybe-Hostage #1: Chess Guy, his face born from a single straight line, sitting by himself with his board and his pieces and a dare. He’s going to be here all day if that’s what it takes to check every mate. It doesn’t take a psychic to read his sneer: Fuck all those fancy cellphone Asian kids with their ponytails and manga books and Fu Manchu moustaches. Fuck the dorks with their trench coats and cowboy hats and necessary noting that Go is more their style. Fuck those creepy twins with their matching hipster hairstyles and jean jackets and overloaded Timbuk2 bags. This is chess, goddamn it. You don’t play it with a computer.

I’m certain that if a gang entered sporting Dick Cheney masks and firing AK-47s at the ceiling until the overhead lights showered sparks and glass all over our screams, he would just keep sitting there until one of those bastards took a seat and made a real move.

Maybe-Hostage #2: The no-neck mullet man cracking up over the DSM-IV. He shouts to his friends excerpts from a diagnosis involving mirrors and folding chairs and chronic masturbation, laughing until he cries, his face collapsed over the book he won’t buy.

A hostage taker would surely spank him roughly with the heavy hardcover, shouting how unfair it is to oil up a book with your flesh stink and not surrender the appropriate nickels and dimes. The mullet man would cry and look for help from friends that would no longer look at him, desperate to press a previously hypothetical face back into the safety of page.

Every other maybe-hostage is forgettable, book store cliches, a menagerie of scarves and hoodies and plaid shirts and head scratches and thoughtful looks out foggy windows and rapidly drying quick-ink pens.

My eyes would be on the hostage taker. I think we’d get along. Maybe both of us find it disturbing that oil roiling the ocean doesn’t register as apocalyptic to everyone. Maybe we’ve both wondered if in our sleep an alien crawls through the window to harvest our precious bodily fluids for the preservation of Dick Cheney’s rapidly decaying fleshy sack. My Children of the Corn gaze would drink in every inch of his improperly held semi-automatic weapon, ears hunting for an accent so I know what middle eastern or eastern or south american country to credit for my unexpected action film.

Something art film would happen then, like the hostage taker would ask anyone speaking the language of plant life to come forward in the name of green. This announcement would paralyze an audience left with no choice but to turn to page 23 of their books to immediately read line 8 aloud to their peers. Whoever says “world of the story” first would be challenged to horse-shoe the squealing and fur-sprouting AK-47 with broken Bear Claws and day-old donuts. When not a single inch of the weapon was spared the stranglehold of stale confection, the newly christened Sugar Shocker would be surrendered to the sugar plum faeries until further notice.

Once the faeries came and went the Portland Police would arrive with curiously short arms and haircuts that look like harvests and a lot of long yellow tape no one would mention in the news. This happening would trigger the more active shelves alive, shuffling out of their places to reveal appropriate portals for hasty escape. Before parting I’d shout “stop loving me!” at the hostage taker, because without interference my something could leave him lost, could jangle his dangle until his eyelids stopped working and his jaw froze mid-grin. Then there wouldn’t be anything left but a shower of words and three hawks circling and sleep forsaken for eyes-open dream.

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