He woke up to a bird knocking its broken beak against the window. He sat up in bed and pulled the curtain to the side. The sky was layered in purple and yellow like an old bruise. The sun was setting, and he pulled on jeans and a sweater over his limp long underwear.
(describe appearance and gait)
Leaves tore like paper under his shoes. He walked with a crosscut saw propped on his shoulder. The wind whistled a little song through the saw’s row of teeth. The song kept him company while he walked, and his mood was good. He stopped in the center of a parking lot. Headlights spilled long puddles of light around the corners of parked cars. He stood in the parking lot with the saw over his left shoulder and his right hand on his hip. He squatted down and balanced on the balls of his feet. He bounced a little and rocked back and forth. He thoughtfully pulled down on the bill of his baseball cap. He stood up, bent at the waist, and extended his arms. He lowered the saw and began to slide it back and forth through the air. He manipulated the saw exactly as though he were standing over a pair of sawhorses in a woodshop, cutting one by fours into planks to build a deck or a shed. It was the most unusual thing, to watch an average looking man cut the cooling night air into what looked like neat cubes. It was a perfect pantomime, as though he had gone to school to learn the craft. Each cube was the size of a box meant to hold a small TV or a microwave. He turned at the waist and stacked the cubes in low piles behind him while he worked. The air was crisp and appeared to break easily, like a sheet of saltines or matzo already scored and ready to be snapped. He worked at the seams with the saw, and sometimes he tapped the cubes out with the saw’s point.
A line of sweat broke across his forehead. He smiled to himself and wiped his forehead with the back of his wrist. He never looked up at the people who stopped to stare. The people looked at one another, wonder and worry drawing lines across their faces. In a park on a summer’s day, people would have dropped warm coins into a hat for him. But in a parking lot? On a fall evening? He was a skilled mime, bending his knees and screwing his eyes and mouth in a tight knot around his nose. His face twisted with concentration like a balled up dishcloth. He stopped to rub his back with the fat of his hand every few minutes. He curled in one shoulder and drew in the next, and then dropped them both back and twisted at the waist. He looked behind him at the low wall of cool air cubes. He bent over and curled his hand around a water bottle that didn’t rest on the ground, and he twisted the air and raised the open bottle and poured a stream of air into his mouth. His lips were pursed and his Adam’s apple shook against the thin skin at his throat.
A crowd had gathered on the sidewalk in front of the pharmacy and the liquor store. A low hum ran the length of the sidewalk, like a fluorescent ceiling light buzzing intermittently. Mothers pulled children to their thighs, hooking their fingers under the children’s chins and turning their faces. Strangers lowered their brows and turned to one another. Should someone call 911? Should someone try to talk to him? Should they leave him there?