Flat Tires by Douglas Colby

The doors open slowly. It is the middle of January. The windows seem to be frosted over. The doors separating room A from room B are two sliding barn doors, and they open slowly.

The flat track runs smoothly. One need be careful that the bottom doesn’t run out; a tricky maneuver like guiding meat along a shackling chain.

The door is hushed like a stunned animal. I feel it should be bursting back and forth. There seems to have been some legislation passed, some initial guidelines as to the appropriate ways to enter into room B.

Three men continue. Chattering like puppetry, a veil of smoke like comic clouds, speech bubbles, and a list of grawlixes—one looks like a lightning bolt has wrapped in on itself.

“Coffee, cigarette?” I imagine he should have a bellboy top and pocket watch. I imagine this man leading me to sit down isn't scared. I imagine these other men have a watchful eye on him . . . and me.


“Glad you’re here.”

“This is where you belong.”

He licks his cigarette sideways along the seam. There is a look in his eye of possessing some undisclosed information. And for some reason I don’t ask why. Not yet. I am the most important man there, I was just told. Why would I ruin that fun with any misguided questions?

He’s asking the questions: “”How long has it been? Where are you now? Do you want to stop here? Where will you go? What makes you any different?”

In rapid succession room B is where the skinning is done. I consider that I would have been poleaxed by a concise blow with such force that I would have been rendered unconscious without knowing it.

I came in from the cold. I was given what I needed when I needed nothing. A flat-tire repair kit. A phone to call out. The coffee was nice.

The man with the lighting bolts comes over and asks if I want to talk. I do not want to talk.

We sit down and he pushes his glasses down the bridge of his nose. His cranium leans in on me, and between spectacles and billboard-like forehead there are his eyes. He looks as if he knows something about me I have yet to realize.

“Mr. Mann, yes?”

“How did you know that is my name?”

“How long you been coming around here?”

I suspect him much more intelligent than that.

“Tonight is my first night . . . Say, what do you think that . . .”

“Do you want to stop!”

The conversation continues. What happens, I cannot remember. I am consumed with the feeling of fear—paralyzing, mind-twitching fear. I think he can see my eyes hiccup every time he smiles.

Douglas Colby resides in Buffalo, NY and is currently enrolled in a master of arts program at Buffalo State College. He can be reached at dglsclby@gmail.com.