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LISTEN UP

A Short Story

By James Donnelly

2001, Anthony James Donnelly

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“You think that’s overlooked? Listen up. Let me tell you something that’s

overlooked? This is gonna surprise you… maybe, well, it sure surprises most

people when I tell ‘em. Now I know you’re not most people, but still, you

might not have heard this, or even thought about this before, well, maybe not

in a long while anyway. It’s kinda like a tree. How often do you look at a

tree, I mean really look at a tree? Me, I look at ‘em all the time, but most

people, what about them? It’s just a tree, right. Like hundreds, maybe

thousands you’ve looked at since birth. When do you stop looking? I mean,

when you’re just a kid everything is fascinating, right? You look at your

first tree and you gasp in awe, ‘Oh my god, will ya just look at that, will

ya ma, dad, just look at all that growing stuff… it’s huge… what the hell is

it? Is it some kinda monster? And what’s that rustling noise, and those

flying things that sing in its branches, and those strange grey things with

bushy tails? Oh look, there’s another one!’ Right, that’s how it must have

been when you saw your first tree. Then you get the labels to go with all the

things you see, then what? What about now? I bet a tree is just a lump of

wood to you these days, right? What happened? What changed? Have you got

kids? Have you, well, if you have, just take a look at them.

 

“Change. Now that’s another thing I wanted to tell you about. Who the hell

are all these freaks anyway who say they’re afraid of change? Freaks I tell

you, freaks! What kinda mucked up drugs are they on anyway?

 

Afraid of change my aunt! Listen up. Let me tell you the truth about change. Look around you.

Look, go on, just take a look. What do you see? Tell me, what’s out there,

open your eyes kiddo, take it all in. I’ll tell you what you see: change.

Change with a capital C. No point being scared of it, it’s got you

surrounded. The town you grew up in has changed. The school you went to has

changed. The people you grew up with have changed. Hell, even you are

changing. Think about it for a minute will you. You’ve got cells and stuff

inside you that’s dying and growing and changing all the time. Now I’m no

expert in these things, but I got a friend… Did I tell you about Micky?

“Listen up. Micky, now there’s a story I could tell you. Hell, I could write

a film script about Micky. Micky is one of these people who knows a lot of

things about a lot of things, know what I mean. We all got a friend like

Micky, or a relative, or a friend who knows a friend like Micky. He is the

all-seeing eye. The Buddha of trivia. He is plugged in and tuned to the

frequency about what’s up, you know. Anyhow, listen up. I was driving this

cab, much like I’m driving you now, but it wasn’t you I was drivin’ ‘course

it was the man, Micky. He was sat pretty much where you was. The sun was

shining pretty much like it is now. Only difference is he was smoking one of

his Winston’s… hey, sorry man, I didn’t know you smoked, sure you can smoke

in my cab, just ask, man - don’t get no ash on my seats though! Anyway, Micky

was laying back, flickin’ his ash out the window, we had the music playing…

I dunno, some smooth Blues or something… Listen up, this is real interesting

stuff… So Micky and I are talking, well, he was talking, I was listening.

“He takes a long drag on his Winston, glances at something out of the window

and says, ”Listen up my man, you is gonna dig this.”

 

“Now, ‘course, he’s got my attention right away with that. Whenever I heard

that ‘listen up’, I know there’s something good coming up, and Micky is

always the man with the word. If he told me to bet my life savings on a

horse, by god I would. It would come in too, I’m sure of that. He’s not a

gambling man though, so there’s no fear of that ever happening, but you never

can tell with Micky - full of surprises, just like that day when he said, “ Listen up…”

“Well, Micky carries on: “You know me, and I met some pretty messed up

people in my line of work, and I seen some real strange stuff in my time, but

this is some real horror stuff. I know you ain’t gonna believe me ‘til you

see it, so we is taking a detour. Take the next left.” He throws his

cigarette butt out of the window. Micky’s always conscious not to get ash on

my seats, you know. Anyways, we take that left and drive some more. Micky’s

sitting up now, like in-between the two front seats so as he can better

navigate and all. Now I thought I knew this area pretty well, drivin’ a cab

and all, but he directs me down some weird-shit alleys and stuff and we

finally park out back. “Here we are!” says Micky, his eyes and teeth like

some lighthouse on some chalk cliff flashing an’ grinning at me. Now, I trust

this man, he’s a friend, don’t get me wrong here, but when he get’s that

look - you must have friends like that, you know ‘em, and when they look like

that, you just know something’s up.

 

“We both get out of my cab. I don’t usually lock it, but I didn’t trust that

area none. There was nobody else about, except us of course, but I was takin’

enough chances just being there. “Listen up,” says Micky. “We ain’t

supposed to be here. Like, nobody knows about this place, it’s like one of

them secret places, but I know the guy that owns this place, so like it’s

cool. Only I gotta tell ya, we ain’t really supposed to be here, and there’s

some messed up stuff going on inside, so just be cool and follow my lead, ok?”

 

Now you gotta understand Micky is a friend, but one of those friends you

kinda just know, know what I mean? He was always in and out of my cabs all

the time, I got to know him over the years, but we ain’t never been drinking

or nothing. We do each other favours now and then. He gives me the word, I

give him a free ride once in a while. It’s kinda fair. We got a deal, but I

ain’t never done nothing like this with him before, so I didn’t know what to

expect. So, I played along. What could be so secret about this place anyhow?

“So, Micky is there by the door. It’s all rusted up and chained and stuff,

like nobody’s been in there for a real long time, like people don’t usually

get to look around inside or nothing. The windows are all messed up and

grimy, the usual bars bolted to the wall. He’s there with that great bunch of

keys of his - that’s how we first got talking, he’s in my cab and I says to

him, “Hell, you got the keys to the city on that chain buddy?” He flashes

that lighthouse at me and says, “Might as well have, man, might as well have!” and lets out this laugh, you know, one of those nervous-contagious laughs?

 

Anyhow, listen up, Micky get’s that door open; it’s creaking like it’s been

closed for a century or so. We both walk inside. Man, that place was darker

than a bear’s armpit, walking in there out of that sunlight. You ever notice

how the dark hitting you all of a sudden is just like someone flashing a

light in your face at night. Well, we fumble around in the dark for a while

and Micky finally hits the light switch. Either those lamps were so covered

with cobwebs or grime, or else they were real low wattage, ‘cos them suckers

didn’t light up Jack in there; just enough to see where we was walkin’. “ Follow me,” says Micky. I was glad he took the lead.

 

“You still with me on this one? Very good. Listen up. So, this Micky goes

walking ahead, he’s muttering something, I can’t tell if he’s talking to

hisself or singing or what he’s doing, I just glad he knows the way. And I’m

getting more and more glad that I locked my cab. Not that I can see much in

that place, but it seemed like some sort of warehouse or storage place or

something, there was dusty stuff everywhere; boxes, crates, metal containers

and that sort of stuff, didn’t look like anything had been touched in years. “ Is this gonna take long?” I finally ask Micky. You know, I can think of  better things to be doing, I mean, like picking up another fair for one thing

- a paying one too. “You ain’t getting scared, is ya?” he laughs back at me.

I gotta admit, I was a little curious as to what all this was about, I mean,

it does sound a little strange, doesn’t it? Tell me, what do you think? Would

you have gone with him?

 

“Well, before I had the chance to change my mind - hell, I doubt if I could

have found my way out of there alone anyhow - Micky stops and turns to me. I

see him standing by another door, it’s slightly ajar and I can see it leads

down. “Listen up my man,” says Micky. “Now we gotta be real quiet as we go

deeper down inside this place, you ready?” Again, I was happy to give him the

lead and have him go on down ahead of me. He disappeared through that door

and I followed his creaking footsteps, each one down to the bottom of that

cellar.

 

“To this day I don’t know why I trusted him, but I did. That sure changed me

what I found at the bottom of that place. It sure was secret alright, and I

knows why it don’t look like nobody’s been in there for a while. I’m not

sure I’d go back there with Micky, or even if I could remember the way on my

own. That woke me up for the rest of the day, I can tell you. I can still

hear that Micky laughing his pearly-white teeth off at that look on my face

when I saw. You don’t think that sort of thing goes on in places like that,

but I assure you that it does. It surely does. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

“You wanna know about change? Well, I can tell you that changed my life. From

that moment on I was changed forever.

 

I heard of people talking about these ‘ life-changing’ happenings in their lives

before, but I never thought  something like that would ever happen to me, not

like that anyways. That was some real early morning wake-up call for me, I can tell you.

 

That whole thing is as clear as day, the whole event, ‘cept what we found down there. I figure

even if I could remember what it was, I’d best likely wanna forget it as soon

as I could. The important thing is that it changed me. I can go back there in

my mind’s eye if I want to, but I forget what it was exactly that changed.

Hell, they’re all freaks what says they’re afraid of change! It certainly

wasn’t the change that scared me, I don’t even think what I saw scared me so

much as woke me up. Now I take special care to notice the trees, and listen

to the birds singing, and the squirrels jumping and those leaves rustling…

singing the Blues…

 

“And you wanna know what’s overlooked these days…? Listen up… Hey, wise

guy! You gonna walk off and forget my tip? Sheesh! Some things never change.”

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