Now as Winston Ashley sat there, dismally watching the little, pea-green cars whiz by him, he felt a curious thing; a thing that he perhaps would not have even noticed if not for the fact that he was sitting on the cold wet curb, and uncomfortably aware of the vibrations running through the ground. It started as the tiniest of tremors that could scarcely be distinguished from the rumbling of the cars zooming past, but soon it grew and there was no mistaking it. The ground was shaking.
Winston stood up, scratching his green head. He was in the process of looking confusedly around when a particularly violent jolt nearly knocked him off his feet. A car swerved dangerously close to Winston's wet patch of curb and the newly appointed Senior Accounting Director of All Sorts and Important Stuffs let out a gasp and clutched at a nearby telephone pole for support.
"The earth is shaking!" she cried with irritating obviousness.
The ground suddenly seemed to ripple and yaw terrifyingly and Winston was forced to dig his heels into the pavement to stay upright. The woman's bags scurried suicidally into the street and were promptly squished beneath the tires of a dozen cars.
Winston, meanwhile, stumbled to the telephone pole and latched onto a metal peg, for fear that there would be more tremors. After about a minute of tense waiting, however, Winston relaxed a bit and looked around at the damage caused by the quake.
It was not so very bad. There was the odd out-of-place rubbish bin, or upended newspaper stand, but the buildings remained intact and the event seemed to have transpired with minimal accidents. But all around people looked quite shaken, in more ways than one.
Winston staggered away from the pole. He supposed he ought to find a safe place in case there was another quake or an aftershock; he knew that doorways were supposed to be safe. But he decided just to go home instead. If another tremor came he'd just have to hope he was lucky.
"Well, that's stupid," said Ashley.
"What is?" asked Charlie, annoyed.
"Why wouldn't he try to find a safe place? If I were in an earthquake, I would."
"Yes, well so would I," said Charlie. "But it would slow the story down. Do you really want to hear about how Winston stood in the doorway of a nearby fish market for twenty minutes to make sure the coast was clear?"
And so Winston returned home, where he let himself in and slumped dejectedly into his couch. This was turning out to be a very bad day indeed. First he was fired, now there were earthquakes. It's a wonder that the house is still standing, thought Winston morosely.
The trouble with thinking thoughts such as this one is that you put nasty ideas into the minds of the higher powers that happen to overhear them, which in this case -- as the storyteller -- is me. Higher powers just love to say, "You jinxed it!" which is precisely why "speak of the devil" moments tend to happen with far more frequency than seems statistically possible. And that is precisely why a sudden aftershock rolled along and completely toppled Winston Ashley's house (though the falling debris thankfully missed Winston himself).
That, and because a jobless, homeless protagonist with very little to live for makes for a good story.