Tommy James and the Shondells were on the radio. “Crimson and Clover.” Cronic tried to sing along, but his voice was monotone and he kept getting lost in the na-na-na-na-na-na’s.
“Did you ever wonder why you can’t be somebody else? he asked.
“I’m still wondering why I can’t be who I am,” answered Scoobie.
“What’s that s’posed to mean?”
“Nothing. Just thinking out loud.”
They had spent the night at the edge of a corn field. The sky had been leaking rain most of the night, with clouds drifting overhead, revealing random patches of blue-blackness. October had been born overnight, and the chill of autumn had sunk into their bones. Both awoke after thin, veiled sleep and they watched a weak sunrise, shivering in their ragged, dirty clothes.
“No. What did you mean?” Cronic was in a mood, following the road as listlessly as he followed the song lyrics.
“What do you mean?”
Cronic stared at him for a few moments then shook his head. “Forget it. I was daydreamin’. Wonderin’ what it’d be like to be someone else. That Tommy singer. Why ain’t I him? Guy that sells groceries. Why ain’t I him? Elvis. Why weren’t I him? God. Why ain’t I him? You know? Why am I Charlie Nicky Cronic whoever I am? Who made that so? Scoobie Albagon. Now why ain’t I you? Why ain’t you me? I can’t figure it out.”
“You’re talking about… I don’t know… the randomness of identity.” Inside, Scoobie felt more chilled than was justified by the temperature. Was Cronic getting ready to re-invent himself again, shed his filthy skin to begin anew? Again and again, even though he’d never get it right? Not even a snake can shed its soul, he thought.
“Randomness of identity,” mouthed Cronic. “You mean I am who I am by accident? Somebody had to be me, so it might just as well be me? Somebody had to be you, so it might just as well be you?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Well now, ain’t that a bitch?” he said and goosed the accelerator. “We need money, Scoob, and we need it quick. Five, six hundred dollars ought to do ‘er.”
Excerpt from Cronic – Coming 5/1/15