The air was brisk; the pond was somewhere neither of them could see. He cracked the can only moments before falling into the pond.
“Oh, there it is. El Ooopoeoe, are you okay?”
“Ige ven gerter, gert et furs nerce.”
“Well I’d love to join you but I should probably head home.”
“Goo wer ker meh light?”
“Yea, I’ll see you at the bar tomorrow.”
The night befalls the two men, one in bed sleeping, the other in a pond drinking. In a poorly lit apartment with only eleven lights, the phone rings.
“We have him…”
“Who has who?”
“We have him…”
“I uhh, I don’t, I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Oh words, here, just listen to him.”
“Shey gert neeeeee!”
“El Ooopoeoe? What is this?”
“If you ever want to see your friend again…bring twelve dollars to the abandoned aquarium on Twelfth Street.”
“On what street?”
“I don’t…I don’t know what that means.”
“What? Just come to the abandoned aquarium!”
“I don’t know where it is.”
“Yea you said that, but…I don’t…”
“Okay, fine, fine, meet us at the old abandoned cotton candy factory on Eleventh Street…”
“Okay, and how much money am I brining?”
“Twelve dollars! You better be there!”
The phone hangs up from the other end. The man stares at himself in the mirror. He splashes water onto his faces and then drags his palms down his cheeks before rubbing his chin. He grabs his coat and borrowed shoes, places both on and then heads out the door.
His frustration slams endlessly through his mind as he tries to discover what twelve is before it is too late for his friend.
“Papers! Get your papers! Only a quarter!”
“Excuse me, young man, may I ask you a question?”
“You just did, so I reckon the answer is yes. Another question will cost you a quarter, I’ll even give you a paper.”
He hands the young boy a quarter.
“A piece of paper. Now what is your other question?”
“Hmf, well alright, do you know what twelve is?”
“Sounds familiar, perhaps I’ve seen it on the picture box a couple times as a child. Why do you ask?”
He puts his hand out and the young boy hands him the quarter.
“I need to save my friend and in order to do that I need to learn twelve within the next three hours. Think you could help me?”
He hands the quarter back to the young boy.
“I guess I could. Can you buy the rest of my papers first?”
The young boy hands him the quarter and he hands the young boy eleven quarters.
“Okay then, let us be off. I need to make it home by in time for my favorite show.”
“What time is it on?”
“I have no idea really, would just like to see it tonight though.”
“We had better hurry and save my friend then.”
The two run towards Eleventh Street, but halt as they reach a sign that ponders them both.
“What does that sign say?”
“That’s a good question, mister. That will cost you a quarter.”
“I read all the time, but, this word, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yea, I’ve been reading my papers all day and I can’t think a lick to what this word reads.”
“Your papers were blank.”
“Yea, that’s because I read all the words off them. That’s why people only be reading books once.”
The two stand and stare at the sign for over an hour, both minds numbing at each of the linked letters, sweat dripping from their brows.
“What time is it?”
“Almost too late!”
“My show might be starting soon!”
“I thought you didn’t know when it’s on?”
The two rip the sign from the ground and carry it with them as they frantically run around looking for Eleventh Street.
“Which way is Eleventh Street?”
“It comes after Tenth!”
“Right before Eleventh!”
“Wait…stop…do you hear that?”
“No…but I can smell it.”
The two run towards the aroma of cotton candy and bourbon as the grinding rusted machines can be heard from only a block away.
“There. We must be on Eleventh now. Let’s head in.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?”
“I don’t know, I’m not inside yet.”
The door creaks open, and they can hear words being spoken by people that know the English language sort of.
“Man, why we letting this man make cotton candy liquor?”
“Wait, which man are you talking to?”
“No, not you, Man.”
“Herterver, ile jerst gee evr ere…merking fern fer ervryern…”
The two stop and look over a conveniently placed crate that hides them from the sight of the two barefooted men. He sees his friend, handcuffed to a pole, stirring a vat of cotton candy bourbon.
“This man has only a few minutes left. He had better be showing soon.”
The two leave their place of hiding and approach the situation.
“El Ooopoeoe, are you okay?”
“Mer burz ez wring erf, bert nit two berd. Hir er ooo?’
“Eh, wasn’t able to get much sleep before having to come save you.”
“Oe, mer berd. Ay ers shirming en dese giys spert meh ernd bring mer her…dese giys…”
“Next time swim during the day.”
“Gerd esson, ay chall sonshider yore werse erds fer nerxt term.”
One of the shoeless men pulls a gun only seconds before the other.
“Man, enough of this! You got our twelve dollars?!”
“Twelve dollars! You owe us twelve dollars!”
“I don’t…I don’t know what that even means.”
“What is this now he be saying to our faces?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe this sign we have with us holds the clue.”
“What you two be doing with the Twelfth Street sign?”
“The sign for Twelfth Street, the street you didn’t even know where it was.”
“I don’t know Twelfth Street.”
“Well you been there.”
“No I haven’t.”
“Then where you get that sign?”
“I have no idea where I got his sign.”
“This man be out his miiiiind.”
“Just give us our money.”
“All we have is our quarters.”
“Yes. He still owes me some I believe, but he has one in his pocket and I have eleven in mine.”
“That’s twelve quarters, fine, just give us that and take your friend and get out of here.” “We don’t know what twelve quarters means.”
“What? Just put your quarters on this counter and I’ll show you.”
The two place their quarters on the counter. One of the shoeless men begins to count.
“!, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11…”
“Ern! Erts garner BLOOOOOOEEEE!!!!”
All of the men make it to the garage of the receiving dock just as the cotton candy bourbon explodes into an untamed fountain of great smelling magma. The men are caught in the burning muck and smashed into the metal door that doesn’t sustain its structural soundness for more than a few seconds.
They each awaken outside eleven minutes later.
“What…what just happened?”
“Where are we?”
“There is a street sign on the ground next to you, where does it say we are?”
“I can’t read this sign. Can you?”
“Man, I got no idea what that sign be saying.”
“Dis ers deh merst bertifur tersting ickwid erv erver lert fer epurn mer turng.”
“That was a very poetic sentiment, El Ooopoeoe.”
“Der, erm eh peret.”
“I did not know that. Can you read this sign, El Ooopoeoe?”
All of the men stare at the sign the two had earlier ripped from the ground. Maybe it was the mind numbing crash of their heads into the metal garage door, or they fact they are soaked in liquor, but each of the men ponder at the metal manmade puzzle, each of the men not knowing Twelfth Street.