Man on the Street by Al Kratz
Charlie, Mitch, and Bob worked downtown at the big insurance company. Charlie and Mitch liked Bob because he knew things about life they hadn’t even thought to learn. They’d take breaks walking downtown and Bob taught them just by talking. He’d say things like, “Don’t speak to the media. It never does you any good.”
A reporter stopped them one time and asked what they thought about the war. Charlie and Mitch wanted to hear what Bob thought about the war too, but Bob wouldn’t say. He just shook his head. “I don’t talk to the media,” he said to the reporter and kept on walking. “It never does you any good,” he said to Charlie and Mitch, smiling like a man proud to practice what he preached.
Charlie and Mitch had a little extra kick in their step from how smart Bob was and how surely it had to rub off on them. After Bob retired, they walked downtown alone, but eventually life felt as normal without Bob as it had been with Bob. Stimulus checks on the way gave them another kick in their step which the reporter unfortunately interrupted. Still, they proudly gave her their age, names, and place of employment. Sometimes working at the big insurance company made them feel big too. Besides, all the reporter wanted to know was, “How are you going to spend your stimulus check?”
“Child support,” Charlie said. “Child support takes all my shit.”
Mitch thought that was pretty funny, what his friend Charlie had said to the reporter. It gave him yet one more kick and he couldn’t stand to be outdone. Thinking fast on his feet, he found, “I’m getting the best hooker $500 can buy.”
Charlie and Mitch were let go by the big insurance company after their interview was published. They had no regrets. They remembered walking downtown, extra kicks, and how lucky they were to ever know somebody as wise as their friend Bob.
First, I love Meg’s Bob. This is a great example of how many different forms she has explored. There might be more, but I love this A to Z one and this one we ran recently in NFFR. My Bob is different than hers, but I loved the idea of the impact of a character’s absence. I love all of Meg’s characters. They are everything we say about good fictional characters: rich, real, developed, memorable. Take her classes for sure, but you can also get a great free class by spending time reading through all her work. Each story is a class of its own.
Al Kratz is the Managing Editor at New Flash Fiction Review. His chapbook Off the Resting Sea from above/ground press was first developed in a Meg Pokrass workshop. More about his work can be found at alkratz.com.