The Rubber Band Man

Originally published in The Weekly Knob

Do you know what the best thing in the world is? Being invisible. I can drift through these streets unnoticed among the general population. I see them every minute of every day, but they act as if I’m a ghost. Especially when I talk to them. Then they really look like they’ve seen a ghost. But they hide it well; they reply with a “No, sorry,” and walk away. Ah, I don’t need them anyway; I have my own job.

It’s Wednesday today, and that means it’s payday. A lot less activity on a Wednesday, if you know what I mean — less blue suits. I’m only invisible to them if I’m quiet. Otherwise, they take me away and hurt me. But I’ve had training, I can survive if I need to. Wednesday is really the only day I work, for now at least. Mallory says I might get more if I can keep proving I’m trustworthy. Mallory is the genius behind the whole operation. He set everything up.

Every Wednesday morning when I’m out on the street, a man, always a different man, walks by and puts fifty dollars into my cup. In with the fifty is three different locations. I have to wait two hours, and then I go to each location and pick up the packages. The items themselves are different. Sometimes it’s white powders, sometimes it’s mushrooms, once it was a bottle of water that made colours dance. I know it’s the package I’m looking for because it’s heavy and hasa rubber band wrapped around it. It’s usually hidden in something like an envelope, or a shopping bag. It’s all written on the paper with the fifty.

Speaking of which, I just got the paper. It was by a different guy again. Never saw the same guy twice.
Palo Alto Marina — Entry gate, in a paper bag
Dune Ranch Bar — Men’s room, stall 2 reservoir
Alvaris Grocery — Blue dumpster, box of savoy cabbage on right
Glengarry Park 6pm

I waited a two hours that I’m supposed to, and then I pack up my stuff and walk away. People make way when I start walking down the street. I can tell they’re afraid of me. They should be. They don’t know what I’ve seen. They don’t know what I’ve been through. They don’t know what I can do. It’s all in the training. What I had to face over there was way worse than what they see barrelling towards them at a stumbling pace. They have no idea what it’s like. A motorcycle zipped by me which made my heart race. I hate motorcycles. I had to brace myself, I nearly fell over. Shit, I’m starting to hyperventilate now. Okay, breathe slowly; count your fingers. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, nine and a half. I’m okay. I wiped the sweat off my forehead, took a deep breath and kept moving.

The Marina is close by, I usually set myself up by the water. The sound of the seagulls makes me feel at home. I found the paper bag on a bench next to an old Chinese man. I sat down next to him and took the bag. I knew it was the right one because he didn’t start yelling at me. Happened to me once before. Somehow when the civilians do it, it’s worse than when the drill did it. I got up and shuffled on to Dune Ranch Bar. I’ve been there before. Sometimes it’s to get a package, sometimes it’s because I made a little extra money that day. This week’s package is white powder. Heavy; maybe a kilogram. It has the rubber band wrapped around it, so I knew it was the right one.

I’m the middle man in this deal, I pick up the packages and deliver them to Mallory, and he pays me handsomely. After I had collected all the packages today, I headed to the 24 Hour Fitness gym. I come here a lot. They know me. Sometimes they’ll let me sleep here. I think they feel sorry for me, but they shouldn’t. I have a deal where I pay a little extra and they leave my locker alone. I went for a shower. Oh, that water is amazing. The gym membership was the best investment ever. It means I’ve got to hustle for more money, but that’s why my job is so great. It covers all my expenses (which aren’t a whole lot) and a little bit extra. I’ll be able to afford a room somewhere one day.

After my shower, I changed into my only other set of clothes: a suit. I combed my hair, tucked in my shirt, and grabbed my suitcase. The packages were inside, ready for delivery. It was close to the meeting time. We don’t always meet at the same place to exchange, but we always meet Wednesday at 6. I walked up to the park and sat down on the bench. This is where I’m to meet with Mallory. This park is peaceful.. I should stay here one night. It’s got great big trees, wide open spaces, a water fountain, and even long rows of bushes. About a hundred feet away from me is a man with a coffee stand. He’s selling it for $2.50. I want a coffee, it’s been ages since I’d had one. I don’t know though; I should use it to buy some nicer food.

From across the park I can see a man walking, reading the evening newspaper. He had it in one hand, and he was carrying a briefcase just like mine. It must be Mallory, but I’m not sure, and I can feel my heart racing again. I don’t know if this is the right guy, I can’t see him, the sun is behind him, but he’s heading right for me. Is it a sting? Is this the end? I can handle the men in blue, but I can’t handle a life in orange. He’s heading right for the bench. He sat down. It is Mallory. He cut his hair from long to short, and he’s wearing glasses. I wipe more sweat from my forehead, and from the back of my neck, and take a few deep breaths. I tried not to stare at Mallory. Mallory’s briefcase was next to mine. I leaned back on the bench and wheezed, “Did you hear about The Spinners?” The Spinners were the football team from the next town.

“Yeah, read about them in the T.I.” said Mallory. The T.I. stood for Times Inquirer which was the local newspaper.

I originally thought it was a random code, but when I looked into it, both The Spinners, and T.I. have a song called “Rubber Band Man” which is what I am. I get the packages with the rubber bands on them and trade them in for money wrapped in rubber bands.

He grabbed my briefcase, and stood up to leave. I grabbed his briefcase and headed back to the gym to change. When I was there, I opened the briefcase and inside was a single stack of bills kept together by a rubber band. It totaled five hundred dollars. That kind of money is why I don’t need a real job. I changed out of my suit, and hung it back up in the locker. After I dressed up again, I walked back to the park where I met Mallory, bought a hot dog, and laid down next to a nice row of bushes and went to sleep.