Ed Teager

The ringing of the church bells pulls Ed Teager from a bleary sleep and nag him into movement. He aches but the bells are insistent. Teager pisses steaming into a pot and looks out the window, blunt fingers searching out lice in the forest of his chest. The sky is gray and greasy with smoke and the city whose name he has forgotten crouches underneath the tolling of the bells.

He comes downstairs and asks the clerk at the desk about the bells. “Today is a Jubilation Day,” says the clerk sourly. He is an old man wizened with frustrated malice; his face says he would like to spit on Ed Teager but is afraid of the knife strapped to his arm. “Today is the king’s birthday, peace be on his name.” He coughs into a handkerchief and wipes blood off his lips.

Outside Teager joins the crowd flowing through town. He lets it carry him along toward the city plaza where the bells are ringing, a soft mass of closed-off faces and bland clothing, all grays and browns and blacks. He aches and his head throbs with each brazen peal, but he is curious, too, and the bells are still pulling at him.