I searched for Bob Dylan in London and Tennessee, in toy shops, in squats, and in toasters that sang like choirs of angels. I decoded his lyrics printed onto A4 paper, song by song – music spanning sixty-years. One line struck me in particular — it went, I’m with an old friend, never again. I thought it described his troubles with buskers in Greenwich Village a long time ago. But I scrapped this idea when I found Dylan hidden behind a wrecked cash machine, lurking at the bottom of a wishing well. He was huddled up with a clean-shaven Saddam Hussein, rolling cigarettes, sharing sushi. Sitting side by side like Siamese twins, the men played Risk — the game of world domination — and Saddam wore an evil grin as he moved his troops into Argentina. After playing for an hour Bob smashed the game board, scattering all the pieces, because he was a sore loser. He slipped on a Bob Dylan mask and Saddam slipped on a Saddam Hussein mask. They had a staring match that went absolutely nowhere. Suddenly, feeling artistic, Bob pulled out an easel to paint his masterpiece, which didn’t take very long because he’s a genius. He could turn his hand to anything, in fact—weld scrap metal, carve ice sculptures. Saddam tried Bob’s harmonica and played it with so much soul he attracted homeless children and wild animals from all around town. Even hot air balloons gathered above and trains and buses slowed to a halt. But I felt a great sense of pity for the men—their lives weren’t really real, not like security guards or snooker players, for instance. No, Bob and Saddam lived in the shadows, hidden behind muddy dollar bills and broken acoustic guitars. I’ll get help! I called down the well. No, we’re fine, the men replied, seemingly composed and happy with their creative endeavors. And then I became mad, because I felt they were treating life like some kind of meaningless game when, in fact, they should be pooling their forces to lead a lost generation out of the mire. They didn’t even care that there was a carnival of terrorists exploding on the horizon, and governments crumbling all around.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Wrongdoing Magazine, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, Rejection Letters and elsewhere. He was runner-up in The Forge Literary Flash Fiction competition ‘22. He has been nominated for Best Small Fictions ’23. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal and lives with his wife and child in North London, England.

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