“A Million Heartbreaking Things” by David Catney


The man walked along the street. He was confused. He didn’t know what to do about things. He had no career prospects and no real talent. This was never a problem for the man before. He always had things he loved to do. But lately the things he once loved seemed to be nothing but a nuisance, a chore, something else to think about. Something else to dislike and avoid. It seemed to the man that the world was strictly filled with things to dislike and avoid. As the man walked along the street, he was searching for something that might change his mind. Something that seemed alive and real, or maybe, rather, something that would make him feel alive and real.

The man walked into a convenience store. The person working behind the counter waved and smiled at him. The man walked to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of orange juice. When he brought the bottle back to the counter, the person who was standing behind it before was now sitting on a chair. In his place at the register was a child who’s age seemed to be around six. The child’s face lit up as the man put the bottle of orange juice down on the counter. Moved by excitement, the child grabbed the bottle and scanned it quickly, informing the man of how much money he owed. The man planned to greet the child as he put the bottle on the counter, but the child had moved too fast. The man was amused. He managed a tiny smirk on his otherwise grim face, and handed the child some money. When the child gave him his change, the man looked at the coins in his hand and picked out a loonie. He tried to give it to the child, but the original person who was standing behind the counter got out of their chair and stood in between the child and the man. He shook his head the way one shakes their head when trying to physically articulate disapproval. He told the man to keep his loonie, verbally articulating the same disapproval now. The man stared at this person who stood between him and the child. This person who wouldn’t let him reward this child for being such a hardy, dedicated, go-get-em kind of worker. This persons actions would now probably cause this kid to grow up believing that hard work doesn’t deserve to be rewarded, which would incite and stir rebellion in the growing kid. The kid would then grow into a slacker teen who had no ambition, who would grow into an adult who lived off handouts for his entire existence, blaming everyone around him for what would seem like, from the outside looking in, a self inflicted, shit hole of a life. The child and everyone around him for his entire life not realizing that it all leads back to this one moment, when this person kiboshed this child’s reward. The man realized this, and thought it all within a few seconds after the person told him to keep his loonie. Incensed, the man walked out of the shop. He stormed down the sidewalk beside the shop, then took a sip of his juice. He swallowed. Then he threw the rest of the juice and the bottle at the brick wall of the convenience store. He kicked a garbage can a few times and cursed the person behind the counter for being the person they were. He walked away from the store and the plaza containing it, looking for something else.

The man decided to walk to a different plaza. He didn’t know why, other than the fact that it was another destination to head towards. Something to occupy his time. He walked along the same residential streets he’d been walking along for over ten years now. He walked and thought about nothing in particular, having already pushed the incident with the child, person and store out of his mind. He passed an old girlfriends house, the house of an old school buddy who was now in prison for murder, and a house that he had burglarized with his friends when they were in high school. He was about to turn onto the street that one of his backup cocaine dealers lived on, because you had to walk through it to get to the plaza the man was heading to. But as he turned onto the street he saw at least eight police cars, all with their lights on and sirens blaring.  They were turning onto the street from the other side, they sped down the street and stopped right in front of his dealers house. They jumped out of their cars and were kicking down his door within a matter of seconds. Not long after that they had the mans dealer and a few other people in handcuffs, laying on their bellies on the front lawn. They stayed laying there as the cops searched the house and, the man could only assume, had themselves a bit of a party in there as well. That house was loaded with cocaine, as well as many other drugs. For some reason the man decided not to stop. It was entirely out of character, but he just continued walking down that cop infested street. He caught his dealers eye as he walked by him. The dealer said a million heartbreaking things to the man with just that single look. He walked away feeling numb. In his mind he thought that he should probably feel something more, but he just felt numb. He walked off the street and turned toward the plaza. That’s probably the last time he’d see his dealer for a decade or so. Another friend taken from him by the fucking police. He felt like he should probably feel something more about the situation, but other than slight confusion and numbness, he felt nothing.

Having arrived at the plaza, the man walked into a sporting goods store. He was getting tired of walking around the streets, but he wanted to look for something that he could bring home. Something to occupy his time other than his books or his four walls. He grabbed a hockey stick off a rack and played with it. He imagined there was a puck in front of him and pretended to smack it with a slap shot. He flexed the hockey stick a little. Then he twirled it like a baton. He kept twirling it like a baton for a minute, then tossed it into the air, watched it spin 360, 540, 720, then he caught it and put it down with a cold look on his face. He walked over to a basketball and bounced it a few times. Then he dropped it on the floor and walked away. The man found a bathroom in the store and took a poop. When he finished he walked around, browsing the store some more. He inspected a pair of ice skates and a badminton racket. Then he stumbled onto the weapon aisle. He walked into the aisle and locked eyes on a bb gun immediately. A rifle. It looked like the one the kid in that Christmas movie had, and almost shot his eye out with. That’s it, the man thought. I’ll get this bb gun and practice shooting. Then I’ll get better and better. Eventually I’ll work my way up to real guns and become a master marksman, renowned worldwide. The man thought these things and bought the gun without hesitation. He also picked up a handball on his way out, for good measure. The man left the store and headed home.

When he got home he filled the rifle with bb’s. Then he set up ten empty beer cans across the top of his fence, for targets. He sat in his backyard and drank beer, aiming his new gun at the empties. He had thirty bb’s in the rifle, and after a minute of aiming down the sights, he started firing. One shot. Then another. Another. Another. He missed and missed and missed and missed again. He chugged his beer and lit a cigarette, thinking he might have the shakes, and that might be the problem. He fired again. Missed again. He shot until there were only two bb’s left in the gun. He stared down the sights for a long time, certain he was aiming directly at a can. He shot. Nothing. He aimed for his last attempt. Holding his breath, he took the shot. He missed.


David Catney is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Look him up on twitter or something, if you want.


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