The Man Who Fell Off the Edge of the World

Rally located the large square building with little ado. He rolled up before it on his shiny red bicycle and dismounted. He locked his shiny red bicycle to a handrail there and straightened his new blue shirt. Rally had a complaint for the roadway inspector. Here he was to voice it. He passed through a large square doorway then and on, his cleanest sneakers squeaking purposefully beneath him.

"Hmm, hmm!" Rally began deferentially.

For already he stood at the inspector's window.

"Hmm, hmm!" Rally repeated.

The roadway inspector gazed back at Rally from an unwashed collar. The roadway inspector's high brow perspired above his somnolent eyelids. Rally did not note these details--neither the untidy shirt, nor the clammy cast, nor the torpid stare. He just began to speak.

"Sir!" Rally began. "Esteemed, inspector!" he addressed. "Over there! Around that near corner! Behind yon large square building! Gapes in the road an oblong hole of impressive proportions!"

And Rally halted his speech. The whites of his eyes shone. He twitched his narrow head to a cock. He looked on the roadway inspector significantly. He nodded profoundly.

But the roadway inspector blinked.

Rally waited.

The roadway inspector blinked sleepily.

And Rally deflated. But...?! A searching breath Rally drew. Wha..?! And Rally recovered his purpose. It seems I have not made my point! he concluded. Fingering at his left pocket then, Rally produced a pen. Groping from his right pocket then, Rally pulled a crumpled sheet of paper. For the roadway inspector's benefit Rally smoothed the paper at the window ledge. Rally smoothed the paper theatrically.

"Esteemed, Inspector! Please..!" and Rally began to sketch. "Behold! This square which I here draw is the large square building in which we are right now housed! This straight line next to the square is the street that passes from us to yon square building! This second square here is yon square building! And this oblong shape in front of yon square building is the hole in the road of which I so urgently inform you! I have tried to draw this oblong hole to scale, esteemed inspector! Please behold its impressive girth!"

And Rally halted again abruptly. The whites of his eyes glistened. But he did not twitch his head this time. Rally did not nod. He looked on the inspector expectantly.

The roadway inspector blinked.

Rally waited.

The roadway inspector blinked sleepily.

And Rally deflated. But how?! How can this be?! Wrinkles appeared at Rally's brow. Rally drew the wrinkles together in consternation. Then, on a determined huff, he began digging vigorously into his right pocket. This will do the trick! he thought. Rally tugged from his right pocket a thick wad of paper. With both hands he unfolded the thick wad of paper before the roadway inspector. Rally took up his pen again. For the full edification of the roadway inspector, for the complete elucidation of his point, Rally began pointing at the large map. He resumed his speech.

"Dear and esteemed and most respectable roadway inspector!" Rally resumed. "As you can see from the latitude and longitude of this cartography! As you can judge from the grid and numbered squares here hanging before you from my left wrist! This is the great and respectable city in which we together dwell! Here!" Rally pointed. "Is the great and impressive street upon which we now stand! If you follow this great street to this point here! And then turn to this point here! What you find is a hole! Esteemed inspector! This hole is of such impressive dimensions! That! Were you to view it in person! It would not go unnoticed by an official as upstanding and as conscientious as you have proven yourself to be! Just here we are!" Rally pointed. "Just there it is!" Rally pointed. "I present this map and information to you urgently, esteemed inspector! But with utmost humility and respect! The girth of the hole is impressive! And its shape is oblong! I'm sure that if you care to view it yourself! You will find that it should be dealt with post haste!"

All of this in a breath. So Rally drew now a new breath to refresh his spent lungs. He looked on the roadway inspector gravely. Rally's eyes narrowed. Had he done it? Had his important message been conveyed? The whites of Rally's eyes parched with anticipation. His head did not move.

But the roadway inspector blinked.

Rally began to flush.

The roadway inspector blinked sleepily.

And Rally blurted, "And if you fall through that hole, sir, it is a twenty foot drop to the highway beneath! That is a long fall, sir! And it is a highway down there, sir! Cars are constantly passing, sir! And at speed!"

The roadway inspector's eyebrows rose. At last, the roadway inspector seemed to come to life. Steadily, the roadway inspector considered Rally's face. Reflectively, the roadway inspector reviewed Rally's sketch. Judiciously, the roadway inspector glanced over Rally's map. Then, very precisely, the roadway inspector asked a quiet question. Quietly, the roadway inspector asked of Rally, "You mean this hole is in an overpass?"

"Yes it is!" Rally blurted. "Indeed it is! In an overpass, sir! Yes, indeed!"

The inspector blinked. But the blink of the inspector was not now a sleepy blink. In fact, this blink of the inspector might be construed as animated and concerned, as articulate and severe. The roadway inspector straightened his back importantly. Then he pronounced, very officially, "We'll get to that tomorrow."

And, as Rally turned now from the roadway inspector's window, "Ah!" he beamed. And, as Rally folded the map back into his pocket, "Yes!" he thought. "I finally drove home my point! I finally showed to the inspector the issue! At last I made known to the inspector what had to be known! Look! I have presented things as they are, have I not?! Now the inspector understands! Now the inspector sees the import of this crisis! The shape and proportions of the hole are understood now! The dimensions of the danger are evident! The girth is unquestionable and unable to hide from even the dimmest eye! I can rest at last! Finally I erected my point of exclamation! Certainly now this error will be righted! Soon this hole will be remedied and all can go about safely and happily free of any trepidation!"

About then Rally stepped up to his shiny red bicycle. With a garumph of accomplishment he unlocked it from the handrail.

* * *

Three days later, very late at night, in the deep darkness of the wee hours, Rally pedaled home from his all-night job at a warehouse. Rally pedaled on his shiny red bicycle right up to where the big oblong hole once sundered the overpass. Then, because he could not see so well in that deep darkness, Rally pedaled right into that oblong hole. Rally tumbled twenty feet down to the highway beneath, bicycle and all, and fractured his collarbone and left wrist. A Volkswagen was passing just then, too, and it ran over Rally. Luckily, though, a Volkswagen is a very small car. So all it did was kill him.

turn page >>>

John Dishwasher

The Man Who Fell Off the Edge of the World