End of the Line

Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2010)

We stood in line because that’s what we do. There was a good-sized queue already formed in front of the dark entrance, so there must have been something worth waiting for.

The people who lined up behind us were clearly thinking the same thing, occasionally craning necks to see what was happening up ahead. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.

After a few hours, with only inching movement forward, we started to wonder. What the hell were we doing? Was there really anything up ahead?

“I could go look,” I said. “See what it’s all about.”

“You could do that,” said the jovial looking bald grandpa with an impressive paunch and thick glasses standing behind me.

I nodded my thanks and moved to leave the line.

“But he won’t give you your place back,” said the pimply hat-on-all-stupid-sideways teenaged kid in front of me.

“What?” I said.

“Nothing personal,” old dude said, and smiled. It was not a nice smile.

“You don’t even know what you’re waiting for.”

“Neither do you,” the kid said. “Maybe you should go find out, huh?”

I didn’t leave the line.

I almost left a dozen times, but each time the line would move a few feet, the kid would shuffle forward, and I’d decide to stay. Maybe we were close. To something. It’s not like we had anything else to do. I’ve stood in lines for cheap clothes, bought fantastic gadgets I hadn’t known I wanted. Got great deals on stuff I didn’t need that looked cool when I got it home, making me wonder how I’d ever lived without it. The kid had won tickets to concerts from bands he’d never heard of. Once the old dude got half-price coupons for a year’s worth of gasoline. Then he only had to stand in line at DMV and hope they would reissue him a license.

Lost in thought, suddenly we were through the entrance, all three of us, and it was dark. Cue spotlights on three doors, cleverly labeled: beginning, middle, and end.

There were no lines at any of the doors. We hesitated. We looked at each other. It felt like a trap.

“It’s a trap,” said the kid.

“Probably more lines behind the doors,” I said. “More of the same.”

“Fuck it,” said the old dude. “What do we have to lose by shaking things up a bit?”

I hadn’t a clue. Not even a hint. We shrugged in unison, swapped places, and opened the doors. No idea what we’d find.

We couldn’t wait to find out.