Where Gerald opened his front door that morning, the neighborhood kids were blocking the street, shouting and kicking a ball around.
His nerves burned at every shout and kick as he locked each of three locks from the outside. They all took separate keys, but as this was his practice, he locked them in quick succession. Click, click, click.
Just as the third lock clicked into place, one of the insufferable children shouted “Oh no!” and Gerald heard the unmistakable sound of a playground ball hitting something hard, namely the front of his house. Boing!
The ball bounced off the house, but was corralled by the front porch railing, which was none too sturdy, but sturdy enough to stop a bouncing, errant playground ball. Gerald dropped his briefcase and chased after the ball, which seemed to run away from him toward the front steps.
At last, he snatched his prey in two eager, claw-like hands. The children lined up along his fence. “Here,” one of them shouted impetuously, holding up a hand.
Gerald laughed. It was not a nice laugh. “Not today, you hooligans!” he shouted. “Now get out of the street and away from my house!”
They all just stood there misty eyed and breathing through their gaping, bottomless mouths, so to drive the point home, Gerald took his keys and reopened all three locks on his front door. Then he threw the ball inside and locked up again. Click, click, click.
“Watch me forget about that when I get home. I’ll break my neck on that stupid ball.” He muttered this to himself as picked up his briefcase and made his way down the stairs and through the front gate.
As he latched the gate behind him, one of the infernal creatures came right up to him and pulled on his sleeve. It was a little girl, maybe five or six years old, as far as he could tell. “Please sir,” she whimpered, “can we have our ball?”
“No!” Gerald shouted, pulling his arm away from the child. “That’ll teach you to be more careful!”
Tears welled up in the her big brown eyes, but Gerald didn’t care. “Get out of here, urchin,” he said. Then he turned on his heels and started toward the train station.
The train station was six blocks south of Gerald’s house. He knew every weed, every lamp post, every square of concrete along the way. When he came within two blocks of the train station, he could begin to make out the sorrowful strains of an alto saxophone.
Gerald hated the saxophone man.
Whatever idiot thought it would be a good idea to offer permits to street musicians so they could pollute the air with their awful noise deserved a special place in hell – preferably situated right next to the so-called musicians themselves. For eternity.
Gerald’s insides clenched as he approached the offensive racket. The saxophone man stood at the entrance to the train station, half blocking it, playing “Summertime.” His case stood open in front of him, a dollar bill and three or four coins littering its shaggy blue insides.
As usual, Gerald put his head down and gave the saxophone man a wide berth.
But today, the huckster stopped playing as he passed. “Hey man, looking very important this morning!”
Gerald shook his head and kept walking.
“Hey man, I’m talking to you!”
Gerald ignored him and hurried into the bowels of the underground station.
As he walked, he reflected on the frustrations of the morning. First the children in the street with their shouts and kicks and their wayward ball. Then the saxophone man shouting at him like they were friends. It was as if the world was conspiring to make him late.
At first he didn’t even notice that the saxophone man’s song was getting louder.
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” the horn sang.
Gerald was surprised to find another shaggy blue saxophone case in his path. He looked up and saw the same sparkling eyes and the same wide grin. “Hey man, looking very important this morning!” the saxophone man said.
Startled, Gerald took two steps backward, then made a wide arc around the man and continued on his way.
Strange, he didn’t remember the hallway to the platform being this long before. Or this humid.
“Summertime” faded then rose up again. “Hey man…” the saxophone man began, but Gerald was off and running before he could finish.
The red tile floors of the station hallway swam together. Gerald pulled at his tie. It was so hot all of a sudden. In his mind’s eye, Gerald saw the gaping black case with the furry blue insides. He saw the same dollar bill and the same three or four coins inside. Were they the same coins? In the same positions? He thought so.
The next time the saxophone man came around, he checked. Sure enough, they were the same.
Gerald kept running, his briefcase banging against his knee. The music sped up too, until it was a ridiculous round of the same eight bars of “Summertime,” repeating over and over again in his head.
Another saxophone man appeared. “Hey man, looking very important this morning!” Then he took his saxophone by the neck and swung it hard, connecting with the back of Gerald’s head as he ran by. “Hey man, I’m talking to you!” The hallway spun faster and Gerald fell to his knees.
Then, everything went silent.
Fresh air overtook Gerald. He reached up and touched the back of his head. It came away bloody.
“Where’d you get that wound?” a voice asked. A kind voice.
Gerald looked up and into the big brown eyes he’d left behind on the sidewalk in front of his house. “The saxophone man,” he said.
The little girl touched his head and the pain stopped. “Shh,” she said, stroking his hair. “You’re okay now. Gotta watch out for the saxophone man. He’s mean. Meaner than you.”
“Meaner than me?”
“Much meaner,” the girl said. She took his hand and lifted him to his feet.
Gerald looked around and saw he was back at the entrance to the train station. The saxophone man was nowhere to be seen.
“You’d better get to work,” the little girl said.
Gerald eyed her a little suspiciously, but she squeezed his hand tighter.
“Are you going to be okay?” he asked.
“That’s good, Gerald,” she replied. “That’s a good start.”
The train signaled the next station and Gerald woke with a start. It was his stop, and Gerald got up and got off the train.
About Prompt-A-Day: The rules are simple. Every day, I generate a prompt using Story Shack’s awesome writing prompt generator. Then I set a timer for one hour. At the end of the hour, I post what I’ve got. Sometimes it’s decent. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes I fail at the prompt. Sometimes I do okay. I do not edit, unless I find a typo, because I can’t help fixing those. Feel free to join in and post a link to your writing in the comments.