by William Michaelian

Whatís happened to this world, anyway? Everywhere you go, there are lines. Even lines have lines. The other day I was trying on a pair of shoes. When the salesman put the right one on my foot, it felt pretty good, so I said okay, letís try the left, just to be sure. He said fine, but youíll have to step over there. He pointed at a long line trailing out into the mall. What for? I said. And get this. He said thatís the line for right shoes. Sorry, man, and he walked away. So I took off the new left shoe and I was about to throw it at him, when another salesman rushed up and told me to wait. Now what, I said, and this salesman comes back with, the line to throw shoes is over there, man, youíll have to wait your turn. So, Iím standing in the shoe throwing line and Iím thinking, what did I gain by trying to bypass the right shoe line? Not only that, after waiting a whole half hour, my turn finally comes to throw the shoe when all of a sudden some ditzy girl with an assistant manager button on her shirt stops me and says excuse me, is that a left shoe? The left shoe throwing line is over there. Talk about an insult. So I said one of your salesmen told me this was the shoe throwing line. He didnít say anything about left shoes. And she asks me what his name is. Todd, I said. His name is Todd. Heís a great big guy with greasy hair. Okay, the ditzy girl says, Iíll ask him. Ask him what? I said. I already told you, thatís what he said. I understand, the ditzy girl says, I just need to confirm it with him, thatís all. Either way, itíll be awhile, because Toddís on his break. So I said what am I supposed to do? And lo and behold, the ditzy girl points to yet another line. The line to wait for a place to sit and wait is over there, she said without batting an eye. By this time, though, I was ready for her. Before she could escape, I hit her over the head with the new left shoe. Ah-ah-ah, I said, donít fall. The line to fall is over there. Then I had a real good laugh and went back to where I was sitting so I could put on my old shoes and get out of the store. But my old shoes were gone. Now what? I said. The old shoe line is over there, another assistant manager whined. This line was so long, it trailed out of the mall. On the sidewalk, there was a big crowd of people standing around in their socks. It took me five minutes just to find out where the old shoe line ended. When I did, I told the guy in front of me this is crazy, someday this nonsense has got to stop. And do you know what he said? He said the comment line is over there, and he pointed across the street. Sure enough, there were about eight hundred people on the sidewalk, each of them staring straight ahead with their mouths zipped shut. You canít be serious, I said to the guy in front of me. A comment line? Iíve got to go over there and wait who knows how many hours just so I can come back over here and say boo? Rulesírírules, the guy says to me then. By now, the old shoe line had moved forward about three whole inches, and there were at least twenty more people behind me, half of them in the crosswalk of a busy intersection. Cars started honking, and before I could shake my fist a long line of traffic waiting to hit pedestrians had formed. After that, lines of more traffic formed in other parts of the city, waiting for their turn to get onto that particular street. Then the only thing that could happen happened. The entire city came to a halt. Weíre trapped like rats, I said, ignoring the no comment rules. My wife was at home. Knowing she would be worried about me, I punched in our number on my cell phone. But I didnít get through. Instead, an electronic voice informed me that in order to serve me better, my call had been diverted to a central cellular cesspool or something of that nature, and it would be put through in the order in which it was received. I couldnít believe it. Yet another line. It was the last straw. Howling with rage, I started tackling people at random and breaking car windows with my cell phone. Within moments, a long line of policemen formed, waiting to arrest me. I ran off down the sidewalk, knocking people over. Sworn to uphold the law, several of the policemen moved into the waiting to chase a criminal line, the whistle blowing line, and the firing a shot in the air line. This gave me the time I needed to make my escape. The city was at a standstill. When I got to the suburbs, the lines were shorter, but they were still there. Children were waiting in lines to kick rubber balls. Delivery men were waiting in lines at peopleís front doors. Cats were waiting in lines to chase mice, and dogs were waiting in lines to chase cats. I trudged on. I arrived in my own neighborhood, and then my own street, and the finally I came to my own house. After waiting in line for an hour to speak with my wife, I threw my arms around her and sobbed. What happened? she said. Where are your shoes? I left them in the store, I said. Itís lucky Iím alive. Ohhh, I ache all over. But instead of stroking my head and cooing, my wife started to laugh. She laughed and laughed and laughed. When she finally stopped laughing, she wagged her finger at me. See? she said. I told you. Men arenít cut out for shopping. Look at you. Youíre an absolute mess. Maybe next time youíll listen. I will, I said, and I gave her my solemn promise. Then my wife did a very nice thing. She gave me a warm bath, and then she made us a great big pitcher of martinis, and then she . . . Well. Ahem. I guess if you want to know what happened after that, youíll just have to wait in line.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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