Emergency Exits

Two glass doors, labeled “for emergency use only,” taunted Wayne.

This was the weekend. Wayne time. Not rule time. Those glass doors were symbols of oppression that he wanted to bust down.

The doors led nowhere. They jutted into the interior of the Earth Mother Craftworks store, attached only to one wall so anyone could walk around them to get to the other side. They were an inconvenience, not a barrier, and therefore a clear symbol of the Man that must be constantly struggled against.

Wayne had been coming to Darkwood Gulch for six years, but he’d never been to this fluorescent store that claimed to be operated by a member of the Cherokee but probably wasn’t. He preferred to buy all of his beading supplies at a fantastic little boutique near his home in Columbus, but he’d been in a rush to get out on Friday and he tried to extend his supplies just a bit further than they were willing to stretch.

Wayne examined the doors more closely. They were unnaturally clean—completely smudgeless. Someone had spent a lot of effort to make and keep them that way.

He pressed a finger against the glass, willing his fingerprint to despoil this virgin territory.


An elderly woman with a basket full of brown scratchy yarns toddled her way toward him and prodded his shoulder with surprising force. “I don’t think you should be doing that, sonny,” she insisted. “That sign says ‘emergency use only.’”

“This is an emergency,” Wayne retorted. “An emergency of your complacent little mind.”

“I was taunting my elders when you were in diapers, little man. And I know an emergency when I see it.” She held up one of her skeins. “This sweater is for my ungrateful bitch granddaughter, but when I make it, I’ll be thinking of you.” The woman spun and left more nimbly than she arrived.

Wayne turned back to the doors. He couldn’t identify any alarm system. There were no funny wires or anything.

This was his chance to strike a blow for freedom.

Wayne reached out. His heart beat a little bit faster as his fingers grasped the handle. In his mind, he began composing the speech that he would deliver before the judge. It would be powerful, and moving, and it might singlehandedly save society.

“May I help you, sir?” came an oppressively friendly chirp from behind.

Operating on pure instinct, Wayne realized that he really didn’t need a criminal record. There was one thing that he could do: He dropped his bucket, scattering plastic and wooden disks across the cement floor, and bolted.

As he squealed out of the parking lot, there was a throbbing in his shoulder. He must have hit something on way out. He imagined that there was a whole rack of generic knitting patterns splayed across the floor, revealing their secrets of cartoonish old bearded men to anyone sad enough to look. That was the story that would emerge from this day. He would write an epic poem to deliver around the campfire. Maybe even folk songs.

Wayne felt righteous.


Here’s another bit of character anecdote that should make its way into The Clean Hippie Murders that was inspired by Midway Airport. It has, all through the terminals, these glass doors that stick out into the walkway that are labeled “Emergency Use Only.” It confuses me.

Perhaps noting that will get me put on a terrorist watch list. I hope not, although I really don’t travel enough for it to matter much.

In the workings of fiction, the experience morphs into a mighty rebellion, at least in the mind of one of the hippies of Darkwood Gulch. Really, I should put “hippie” in quotation marks; the Darkwood Gulch variety is intended to resemble the actual species in about the same way that McDonalds food resembles real food.


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