Jeffrey Genung

The February Featured Writer is Jeffrey Genung

Please feel free to email Jeffrey at: searust@gmail.com


by Jeffrey Genung

“There’s a patient man…I mean, just look at him. He’s been waiting for that light for at least five minutes, just standing at that corner. That’s a patient man,” Jim said, pointing across the street and down some distance to the corner. He went on, “The light hasn’t changed, either. Just look at that.”

We were sitting on my porch. It was late, dark already, and we’d been there for a while as evidenced by the box of empty beer cans the two of us had already produced. I figured we were halfway through the evening by tapping the box with my foot. It was hot, a Saturday, and we really had nothing better to do than to finish the twelve-pack of ice-cold beer in my fridge.

Jim kept staring, and soon had roped me into his little drama. “I mean, the guy is just standing there. He could cross if he wanted—hasn’t been any traffic. Third and Elm, waiting for the light to change. Gotta be a song there huh?” Jim chuckled a bit.

“Maybe he’s waiting for someone?” I suggested.

“Naaah, if he was waiting for someone, he’d be pacing or looking at his watch. He’s just waiting for the light to change, and it isn’t,” Jim said.

I had one of those beer-filled moments of clarity and remembered something just inside the house. “Hang on—be right back,” I said to Jim.

Of course I then had to navigate standing, walking around the chairs we were sitting in, and entering the actual house. My ‘be right back’ became a trip to the kitchen, a stop in the bathroom, and then the original purpose, finding the object of my one time immediate desire. It was actually where I thought it was, on the bookshelf near the back door which was a miracle. When I went back outside I also flipped off the porch light to be able to see better cross the street.

”Has he moved?” I asked.

“Not that I can see,” Jim said quietly. Turning the light off seemed to have lowered the volume of the outdoors for some reason.

I looked through the binoculars I had plucked from inside and stood behind him.

The man was dressed as if he had stepped out of a Sears catalog from 1950. You just didn’t see men wearing hats these days. He had on a grey suit, and in one hand a briefcase.

“Use these,” I said as I handed to binoculars to Jim. “By the way, did you see him walking up to the light? You know, before he, well, waited?”

Jim put the binoculars down. “I saw him right as he got to the light. I saw him walk to the corner. I didn’t notice him earlier though…I mean, he wasn’t walking around the neighborhood when I came over… I think. Just to the corner. And I haven’t seen anyone else since we’ve been sitting here.”

I thought about what he said, and agreed that he was right—I didn’t remember anyone walking since we had been on the porch, either. It was a very quiet evening.

Jim looked through the binoculars at the man as I stood behind. “I’m telling you, this guy is just not moving. And you know what?”


“There’s no sound anywhere. No cars, no planes…just listen. It’s so quiet—have you noticed that?” Jim said.

The stillness of the evening became painfully obvious. We weren’t on any sort of main thoroughfare, but in the last hour there had been no cars at all coming down the street. We were just two blocks from a more major street, and could usually at least hear traffic.

My house was on a corner, Third and Oak. I couldn’t see all the way to First from my yard, but it was just down a bit of a hill, and we should have been able to hear it at not even 10 p.m. in the evening. “I can’t hear any traffic over on First, either.”

Jim stood, turned a bit and looked back. “Let’s go for a walk.”

“Jim,” I snickered a bit, “neither of us is really in any shape to be walking around. I’m pretty buzzed.”

“No, we need to go walking.” Jim stood straight and wobbled a bit, but he stood. “I need a glass of water, but I’m good.”

Water. Good, I thought. I went to the kitchen and brought out two bottles of water. “Here; it’s warm but wet,” I said, handing one to Jim. My trip inside had been much more direct this time. Jim took his and drank it quickly. He tossed the bottle into the empties box and was ready to go.

I took a long slow drink of water and considered a few blocks of walking. I made up my mind. “Let’s go,” I said, leaving the last bit of water in the bottle, and setting the bottle on the porch next to my chair.

We went into the yard and out to where the streetlight illuminated the center of the street. The grass was dry and brittle as we walked on it, and we somehow passed into the street without seeming to step off the curb. Both of us stood under the light and looked both ways down the street. “Streetlights are working, but not a car to be seen,” Jim said.

The man still stood on the corner. We were almost two full blocks from him at this point, but he had made no indication the he had seen us.

Jim waved in the other direction. “Let’s go this way and then down to First.” I agreed by taking a large step and walking by his side, letting Jim take the lead. We were as quiet as the night was, our footfalls making little noise on the street. We both listened to the quiet walking of two men and little else.

Soon we were at the corner of Pine and Third. A first glance down the hill at Pine toward First, and we saw parked cars but nothing moving. A truck at the end of this block shined under the streetlight, looking as new as the day it came out of the showroom, but no people, and nothing moving. We turned toward First and kept going down the hill. The two of us still silent with the task at hand.

We should have heard traffic on First as we approached, but heard nothing. As we passed Second Street, we should have seen traffic going past, but again nothing. We reached Pine and First, and saw only the stillness of night. The streetlights were on, cars at a few of the curbs, but nothing moving. No one walked. We were alone. We were where we ought to see movement, and there wasn’t any. Neither of us spoke; we were both as quiet as the night.

We walked on. First we paralleled with the railroad tracks. Between the road and the tracks, there was a fence covered in many places with brush.

Both of us felt a distant rumble more than we heard it and stopped. We looked around for what it was and saw nothing, but it was getting louder.

Moments passed before we saw the light of a train. It was coming towards us—something was moving after all; something was here besides just us. We stood in awe as a short train raced past us on the double line railroad tracks across the street. It moved faster than any train I had ever seen on those tracks. It was a normal diesel locomotive, but there were only a few cars and actually a caboose which is rare to see anymore. The cars looked brand new, without the usual rust or dents. It raced past so fast it was hard to see much detail.

Jim was the first to speak. “Well, something’s moving, at least. Guess the entire world didn’t stop. ” We continued walking.

We saw from at least a half-block away that the corner convenience store was closed. I asked Jim, “I thought they were open twenty-four hours?”

Jim cupped his eyes and looked through the front window. “Me too, but it’s empty now.”

“Empty?“  I looked in too, and was shocked to see the entire space empty of fixtures, empty of the beverage coolers, and completely devoid of any sort of products. The store had been filled the last time I had been there, which had to have been less than a week.

“They closed it, I guess,” I told Jim, not convincing even myself. “Let’s go up Elm, back to my place.” Jim grunted in agreement.

We turned the corner at First and Elm, and started walking back up the hill toward my house. Then we remembered the man standing at the corner two blocks up.

I think there was something unspoken between us that this may be more important than finding the corner store closed and empty.

Another block to go, and then we saw him. His back was to us as we walked up the hill. The light had not changed, and he had not moved since we left the porch thirty minutes previously.

We trudged up the hill, slowly for two men who had had a few to drink already and then having walked several blocks. We were slow but deliberate. This was the backside of almost completing a circle of several city blocks.

The man was standing still. We walked around to his front.

Finally we got close enough to face him. Close enough to see him perfectly.

He wasn’t real.

It was hard to define what he was. His features were painted on, and rather poorly. He didn’t look like a manikin, as the clothes were painted on as well. He looked like a more shiny plastic than the plastic that is usually used for manikins.

Jim walked all the way around until he completely circled the fake man. “I swear I saw him walk to this corner, then stop,” he said.

“Well he’s not walking now,” I replied.

Jim had walked all the way around the man and he now walked behind me and stopped. I heard him stop. I heard him exhale and just stop.

There wasn’t another sound as I turned and looked at Jim. He was, frozen—stopped…painted, plastic.

He looked like himself, but just the same painted plastic as the man standing at the corner. I was stunned.

“Jim!” I shouted at him, but he didn’t move. I know I shouldn’t have, but I pushed him; anything to get a reaction. I was panicked.

He fell backwards. He just fell over, without moving.

He fell over, still in the gesture that he was making before I had pushed. None of his limbs moved, not a single muscle moved. One foot stuck up a bit up in the air.

I backed up several feet, looking at the tableau before me: Jim on the ground and the man standing at the corner. I had no idea what to do. I looked around and saw nothing, Stillness. There was no one about.

I looked at my house and ran. There was nothing else to do but run; I had to get away, but I was somehow immersed in what I needed to escape from. On the lawn, I looked back and saw Jim and the man just as I had left them, completely still. Jim had not moved from the ground.

My hand tingled. I looked at it and saw—I watched as it froze. My hand turned to painted plastic.

I watched, horrified but helpless, as the plastic and paint progressed up my arm. My feet couldn’t move. I was unable to move anything.

A hand—there was a hand in the sky…a moving hand coming down. It filled the sky. I saw it in the night darkness, coming at me, getting larger and larger. I screamed…and then I was still.

My mind is still aware, my body unable to move. I am right here on the lawn, in front of my house, right there on the corner of Third and Oak, screaming…forever.

Jeff Genung is an author writing from a ranch in the center of Texas. His hobbies include chicken wrangling and bee raising. While many of his stories explore the world between the strange and science fiction with a good dash of the unexpected, he also likes to find the humanity in every plot.

He regularly teaches scientific photography and gives hikes to teach plant identification and botanical photography. He is both a Texas Master Naturalist and a Sierra Club hike leader.