SPECTACLES
by  Aline Carriere
The day Marcy Anderson's life changed forever, she got up early. Very early.  Waking suddenly the strange elusive dreams -- not
nightmares, but night visits from people she should call, send a thank you card to, people she owed -- had not quite dissipated.  Had
she remained asleep they likely would have been lost forever, but now they haunted her and kept her awake.
The few times Marcy woke this early she felt lost.  This time was not usually accounted for and she wasn't sure what to do with it.  
This unexpected responsibility added to her sense of restlessness, of half done things, left over from her dreams.  She felt like an
intruder.
Marcy lived alone in a small one-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a building that leaned slightly to the right.  The rent was
cheap, the neighbors quiet and the bus stop nearby.  Every morning, Monday through Friday, Marcy took the 10:28 to wait tables at
the Victory Café located downtown near the courts, arriving in time to freshen up before her 11:00 to 5:00 shift. The lunch crowd
was always packed with out-of-towners on jury duty.  The menu in an attempt at humor listed sandwiches such as the Barrister and
the Judge.  For dessert there was a choice of Verdict -- Guilty, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce or Not Guilty, fresh fruit cup. If
Marcy had errands in town, she took the 8:52.
Marcy had enough saved to buy a car, but not enough yet to keep it on the road.  She still needed to save for insurance, taxes, gas
and the inevitable service the car she could afford would need.  The people on jury duty never tipped well.  She reasoned that they
didn't want to be there anyway.  They were losing a day from work, stuck with strangers and bored.  She made it up on the regulars,
though.  The lawyers who would come in and ask how she was, as if they actually cared.  She knew they didn't, but they were polite
and generous.  When she had saved enough for a car she would move on, find a better job and maybe even meet someone who
would care about her.
Not only could Marcy not sleep, but it was Wednesday.  Marcy imagined that in heaven it must always be Friday afternoon driving
home from work with the sun slanting in the car, the radio on playing a new favorite song; the week behind giving a sense of
accomplishment and relief from burden.  The weekend stretched out ahead.  Hell was Mondays.  Purgatory, Wednesdays.  Eternally
stuck in the middle, past Monday but with Friday still a long way off.
As Marcy roused herself she remembered something that made her dismiss her dreams and the fact that it was Wednesday.  This
morning she was picking up her new glasses.  She had been looking forward to it for weeks.  She hadn't planned to get new glasses,
but leaving the Victory Café one afternoon she had turned her head to say something to Donna, the other waitress on her shift.  
When she turned back she had walked into the door and broken the plastic frame of her glasses.  At first she was upset, they were her
only pair, but almost immediately she felt relieved, even glad.  She had worn the plastic frame glasses since high school.  They were
large aviator shaped glasses that had been fashionable years ago.  At the Victory Café she watched the styles change.  She noticed the
eyeglasses of her customers and wished she could get a new pair.  But she couldn't justify the expense; the cost of the eye exam, the
frames, and the lenses, when she had perfectly good glasses and was trying to save for a car.  But now they weren't perfectly good
anymore.  They were broken.  Finally.
With the thought of her new glasses, Marcy turned on the radio and made her breakfast.  She recalled how carefully she had chosen
the frames.  She had looked through all the frames separating out the small oval and rectangular metal ones that were now in style.  
She tried on each pair, sometimes pulling her hair back and trying different expressions.  She found herself giggling at times enjoying
yet embarrassed at the rare self-indulgence.  When she had narrowed the choices down to five, she had asked the receptionist for her
opinion and had finally chosen her frames.  The Miss America contest could not have been more selective.
Marcy took the 8:52 that morning wearing her plastic frame glasses taped at the bridge.  She smiled at the people on the bus.  Some
even smiled back.  When she got off her heart was beating fast and she realized she was giddy.  "This is so silly."  She thought to
herself.  She decided to get a cup of coffee before going to The Eye Shop.  She did this partly to calm herself, partly to extend the
sense of anticipation and partly to recapture the feeling of self-indulgence.
Marcy walked into The Eye Shop with conscious slowness.  The air smelled faintly of antiseptic.
"Good morning.  I'm here to pick up my glasses."
"Your name."
"Marcy Anderson."
The receptionist looked through the open appointment book with a pen. "Okay. Have a seat."
Marcy sat down in the waiting area and without thinking picked up a magazine from the coffee table.  She opened it and flipped
through the pages, not able to concentrate on the words or the pictures.
"Miss Anderson?"
"Yes."  Marcy looked up.
"You can go in."
Marcy followed the receptionist into the bright room where she had chosen her frames.  The doctor who had examined her eyes and
written the prescription sat behind a small desk with mirrors on either side facing out toward her.
"Have a seat." He said indicating the chair in front of the desk.  He took out her glasses from a case and opened them backwards so
that he could put them on her.  The glasses looked smaller than Marcy remembered.  She took off her old glasses and leaned
forward.  The doctor carefully set the new glasses over her ears.  He looked at both sides, then smiled and said, "Have a look."
Marcy leaned back and turned to the mirror on her right. "No, no. This is all wrong," she thought, "they look awful."  She was not
prepared for her reaction. She had chosen so carefully and expected to be elated, instead she felt like crying and saw tears well up
behind her new lenses.
"Are these the same frames I picked out?" she asked trying to keep her voice steady.
"Yes. Is something wrong?"
"No." she said flatly. "They just look different."
"They might seem strange at first.  Your new prescription is quite a bit stronger than the old one.  It may take a few days to get used
to them."
Marcy didn't reply.  She thought that she would never get used to them.  She hated her new glasses.  She wanted to rip them off her
face and break them.
The doctor interrupted her thoughts.  "How do they feel?"  he asked and Marcy's stare in response prompted him to explain. "Are
they comfortable? Tight enough?"
"They're okay."  Marcy thought the less said the better.
"Come back in if you need any adjustments.  We do them as a courtesy to our customers."  The doctor motioned to Marcy's old
glasses.  "Do you want to keep those or donate them?  We have a program that helps provide glasses to people who need them but
can't afford them."
"You can have them."
The doctor picked up the glasses and bent over to write, dismissing her.  When Marcy got up, she felt dizzy.  The floor seemed to
come up to meet her and she could see distinct strands in the carpet.  She looked up at the door and the sides seemed sharp as
knives.  She thought if she put a hand out to steady herself against the jamb, she might get cut.  She walked carefully out the door and
into the reception area.
"Oh, don't they look great?" the receptionist said, then immediately added, "Are you all right?"
"Yes, thank you.  It's just the change in the prescription. I think."
Walking from The Eye Shop to the Victory Café Marcy slowly adjusted to her new perception.  Telephone poles no longer blended
into the background, but stood distinct.  Everything seemed harsher, sharper, more delineated and separated from other things.  
Marcy arrived at the café as her shift started.  She was relieved she didn't have time to go to the washroom and see her reflection.  
Donna was the first to notice.
"Hey, Marcy your new glasses.  They look terrific."
Marcy responded with a shrug as she tied her apron with the letter "V" embroidered on the front.
"What's the matter?"
"They're not what I expected, I guess.  I can see a lot better, but . . . I don't know."
"You shouldn't be disappointed.  They make you look smart.  You know, sophisticated.  Come on, smile.  We've got a big jury pool
coming in for that murder trial. You know.  Guy came home, shot his wife, called 911, then stole the ambulance?"
"Yeah, I remember. It was all over the news at the time."  Marcy replied still distracted.
"Well, they're picking the jury today.  Started to anyway.  They've been at it all morning."
"Donna, look your hand is bleeding."  Marcy grabbed a towel and ran over to where Donna stood holding out her hands in front of
her looking at them.  Marcy wrapped the towel around Donna's right hand.  "It looks pretty bad.  Do you think you should go to the
emergency room?"
"Marcy, what's wrong with you?  My hand is fine."  Donna pushed Marcy away and unwrapped the towel.  "See?"
Marcy looked at Donna's hand in disbelief.  "But I saw it bleeding." She said mostly to herself.
"Come on.  You probably just saw something out of the corner of your eye.  Probably those new glasses."
Marcy and Donna went out into the dining area where the breakfast waitresses were just finishing up and customers were lining up at
the register to pay.  Marcy started to clear off tables and wipe them down.  Court wouldn’t break for lunch until about one o'clock.  
Some of the regulars came in before the rush, ordered their usual and teased Marcy about her new glasses.
"My you look great today, Marcy.  Did you do something to your hair? Get a new boyfriend?"
The attention and compliments made her feel better.  Maybe she had reacted too quickly when she first saw herself in the glasses.  
She had seemed so strange. Like a stranger.  All those years wearing the same glasses, they had become part of her.  Maybe the
thought of suddenly looking different from that moment on had scared her.
On her break, Marcy stole away to the ladies' room and looked in the mirror.  She deliberately remained detached so she could
appraise herself critically.  The glasses looked fine, she thought.  They fit her face well and framed her eyes.  While Marcy watched
herself in the mirror, she noticed a trickle of blood coming from her nose.  "Oh, damn, nosebleed." She whispered harshly.  She tore
off a piece of paper towel from the dispenser over the sign that read "Employees must wash hands before returning to work."  She
held the paper towel up to her nose in the mirror and watched blood seep into the towel turning it red.  When the bleeding stopped
she placed the balled up paper towel on the side of the sink.  She took off her glasses, placed them on the other side, and splashed her
face with water.  As she reached for another towel to dry her face, she noticed that the towel on the side of the sink was white.  
Marcy undid the towel.  It was white throughout; not a speck of red.  Then she heard Donna scream.
When Marcy reached the kitchen Donna was on the floor with a napkin rapidly turning red pressed against her right hand.  There
were pieces of glass and brown fizzy liquid that smelled like root beer around her on the floor.
"It broke in my hand," she said to Marcy. "It broke right in my hand."
One of the regulars said he would drive Donna to the hospital.  The cut was bad and might need stitches.  Marcy would need to
finish the shift alone.
"It's okay. You go take care of yourself."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine.  Besides, you can't work with one hand anyway.  We'll manage."  We meaning Marcy and Joe, the short order
cook.  "We'll close early if we have to.  Don’t worry."
After Donna left, the swarm of would be jurors arrived.  They had no sympathy for Marcy's explanation that the café was short
staffed and their irritation reflected in their tips.  Mercifully, court resumed at two o'clock and most of the customers left.  Whether
happy or unhappy, they at least were gone.
The rest of the afternoon was hectic punctuated by periods of relative quiet.  One of those afternoons where Donna would say, "It's
feast or famine around here."  Marcy missed the banter with Donna during the slow times.  At five o'clock Marcy turned over the
closed sign and started to get the tables ready for breakfast the next day.
"See you tomorrow, Marcy."  Joe said as he made his way to the door.  "I'd stay to help, but I told my mom I'd come by this
afternoon and help with dinner."
Marcy doubted Joe would help anyone with anything.  By the way his clothes usually smelled he was probably anxious for a smoke
and a drink.
"Bye, Joe. See you later."  She said as she laid out some flatware.
When Marcy finished she realized that if she hurried she would have just enough time to go by the bank, drop off the deposit for the
day and catch the 6:08 back home.  She was in the kitchen folding her apron when she heard a tap on the glass of the front door.  
She stepped out into the dining area and saw a man gesturing at the door handle
"We're closed." She mouthed.
"I think I left something inside." The man shouted through the door.
Marcy unlocked the door and opened it enough to repeat "We're closed."
"I think I left something here." The man said now in a conversational voice.
"What?"
"I was here for lunch and had a package with me.  A book I bought as a present.  I don't have it now and thought I might have left it
here."
"I didn't find any package."
"Would you mind if I took a look?  I'll just be a minute."
Marcy hesitated.  She would miss the 6:08 and have to take the 7:24.  The buses didn't run very often after 6:00, assuming everyone
was home or should be.
"I'd come back tomorrow, but it's just that I need the present for tonight."
"Okay.  Just for a minute. If it's not here, it's not here."
"Thank you."
The man rushed inside as Marcy stepped back and watched him.  He searched under the corner booth and then walked behind the
counter.
"You can't go back there."  Marcy yelled across the room.
The man did not seem to hear her and continued into the kitchen.  Marcy remembered she had left the bank deposit near her own
bag in the kitchen.  "How could I have been so stupid," she thought and raced to the kitchen to confront the man.  As soon as she
entered the kitchen she realized her mistake.  Now she was alone with him in a secluded space.  All those years of warnings about
strangers and here she was alone with a stranger in a room with no windows.  Marcy froze when the man came between her and the
kitchen door.  Her heart beat in her ears and she seemed unable to catch her breath.  It had all happened so fast.
"Well, I guess it's not here." The man said as he turned around to face her. "Sorry to have bothered you.  I thought someone might
have found it and brought it back here."
"It's okay." Marcy said to herself as well as to the man, relieved even though now she knew she had definitely missed the bus.
After she escorted him out, she collected her bag and the bank deposit and locked the door.  As she walked past the bank's large plate
glass windows across the street she caught her reflection.  Behind her stood the figure of a man.  She wasn't sure if it was the man
from the café or someone else.  She turned to look, but no one was there.
The next bus wouldn't come for a while so Marcy went to the convenience store near the bus stop, bought a magazine and chocolate
bar, and went over and sat down at the bus stop bench to wait.  It felt good to sit down.  It had been a long day and she was tired.  It
would be past 7:30 and dark by the time she got home.  Reading the magazine with her new glasses was strange.  The words seemed
to jump out and hover above the page.  The bus came on time, just as a light rain began to fall.
On the short walk home after the bus dropped her off, Marcy used the magazine as an umbrella.  Two houses before her building
she started to get her apartment keys from her bag.  She entered her apartment feeling she had completed the circle of the day,
dropped her keys and bag on the table near the door and turned on the light.  The room looked different to her and she thought it
must be her glasses.  She went to the bathroom to take another look at herself in private, in the quiet of her home.
She turned on the bathroom light and looked in the mirror.  She saw her face and behind her, the face of a man who looked vaguely
familiar.  She turned around as she tried to place him, but before she could do either she felt her hair pulled hard.  She fell backward
onto the tile floor.  The man knelt on her and put a hand over her mouth.
"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream," he said in a singsong voice.
Marcy tried to push him off and bite his hand, but he held her down.
"What's the deal, apple peel?  No screamin', dreamin'.
Marcy wished she was dreaming, but she knew she wasn't.  She could feel his knee dig into her ribs and taste the dirt on his hand.  
Marcy nodded and he lifted his hand off her mouth.  She started to scream.  He punched her, pushing her glasses into her face, and
she stopped.
"How did you get in?"  Marcy gasped.
"Wasn't hard.  Credit card."
Marcy felt disoriented, removed, separated.  One Marcy lying helpless on the floor and another Marcy frantically thinking of
something to do.  She tasted blood in her mouth and brought up a hand to touch her nose.
"What do you want?
The man paused for a moment.  Marcy thought maybe he didn't know what he wanted, but then she realized he was searching for
another rhyme.  He smiled when he hit on it.
"Want some fun, honeybun."
The helpless Marcy wanted to scream again.  The other Marcy knew that she needed to get off the floor.
"Okay, okay.  Can I get up? Not here. Wait."  She said as she tried to think of a plan.  "I just got home, . . ."  She thought and said at
the same time.
He pulled out a knife and Marcy gasped.  The knife was a hunting knife, with a sharp looking, shiny blade.
“No, no.”
“I’m gonna let you up, buttercup.”
He got off her and Marcy got up holding one hand in front, separating her from the poet.  She looked down at her shoes while she
regained her balance, her mind racing.  They were practical shoes that tied.  The kind nurses wore.  She contemplated the laces, how
the strings twisted and where her fingers must have been.  It had not taken a moment to tie them; and she found herself wishing for
that time again.
Then she looked up at the man.  She had never seen his face before this encounter, but she realized she had seen his shape.  
He whispered, “Now it’s time, sunshine. Time to weep, time to sleep.”
He came at her before she could scream.  She saw the knife enter her chest before she felt the pain, before she felt her heart stop.  
She didn’t understand why she could not catch her breath.  Why her body stopped and fell.  She knew only that what was happening
was not real.  It could not be.  
“This is not, . . .” she said with the last of her breath.

ALTERNATE ENDING
She turned on the bathroom light and looked in the mirror.  She saw her face and behind her, the face of a man who looked vaguely
familiar with something in his eye.  She turned around as she tried to place him, but before she could do either she felt her hair pulled
hard.  She fell backward onto the tile floor.  The man knelt on her and put a hand over her mouth.
"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream," he said in a singsong voice.
Marcy tried to push him off and bite his hand, but he held her down.
"What's the deal, apple peel?  No screamin', dreamin'.
Marcy wished she was dreaming, but she knew she wasn't.  She could feel his knee dig into her ribs and taste the dirt on his hand.  
Marcy nodded and he lifted his hand off her mouth.  She started to scream.  He punched her, pushing her glasses into her face, and
she stopped.
"How did you get in?"  Marcy gasped.
"Wasn't hard.  Credit card."
Marcy felt disoriented, removed, separated.  One Marcy lying helpless on the floor and another Marcy frantically thinking of
something to do.  She tasted blood in her mouth and brought up a hand to touch her nose.
"What do you want?
The man paused for a moment.  Marcy thought maybe he didn't know what he wanted, but then she realized he was searching for
another rhyme.  He smiled when he hit on it.
"Want some fun, honeybun."
The helpless Marcy wanted to scream again.  The other Marcy knew that she needed to get off the floor.
"Okay, okay.  Can I get up? Not here. Wait."  She said as she tried to think of a plan.  "I just got home, gotta pee."  She thought and
said at the same time.
The effect was pretty much what she expected.  The poet got off her and she got up.  She looked down at her shoes.  They were
practical shoes that tied.  The kind nurses wore.  She contemplated the laces, how the strings twisted and where her fingers must have
been.  It had not taken a moment to tie them; and she found herself wishing for that time again.
Then she looked up at the man.  She had never seen his face before this encounter, but she realized she had seen his shape.  She
kicked her practical shoe into his groin.  As he bent over she brought her knee up hard against his forehead.  He fell backward against
the bathroom door.  She took off her glasses folded them and rammed them into one of his eyes.  As the man screamed and brought
his hands up to his eye, Marcy pushed past him.  She didn't stop to look at what she had done.  She ran, through her small apartment
and out the door screaming.  She kept screaming.  It was a long time before she stopped.