I like the day. In the past I worked most at night; that former time on my beat as a street cop, the night-set cases I was assigned after I made shield. I learned a great deal. I found the night hosts things that scrape the walls of a conscience and abrade the soul.
|The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
Intimations on Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
Under the dome of the daytime world, I reach my hand to the sky and touch the clouds. I close my right eye and puncture a passing cloud with my index finger. There it is; I feel blueness through the white and fluffy gauze. No dark shadows that block a streetlight, no evil to flavor the cooling wind.
The hum of bees in my few remaining rose blooms draw me back to the warm musty loam baking in the late summer sun. The bush roses are in need of trimming; unpruned blossoms have dried on the stalks. I crush the old dried petals into mulch with the grass clippings and leaf debris that I've been fermenting. I'll clean the trimmed rose leaves and shoots from the ground tomorrow; to leave them in the bed beckons pests and plant rot that can infect a healthy bush.
I find that, as with most things, pruning with the sharpest tool is best. My late wife, Annie, purchased a finely honed Felco secateur - pruning shear to most Americans - for our final anniversary and there have been many afternoons over the past two years that I while away hours clipping branch after branch. There is significant investment in those shears. The satisfaction of clenching the now-worn leather grips and the finality in the clean snip of a new bud from the waxy green skin of the stem cannot be overstated. Propagating the bud on another stalk successfully is icing on a cake, but not so thrilling as it used to be. I think I'm tired of starting things anew.
A canny psychologist would have a field day with my obsessive fascination with the Felco. Annie gave me the shears the day she died.
Annie suggested we meet at Cactus for an early evening anniversary celebration. Cactus is a tending-towards-too chic, overpriced Mexican cuisine place on Madison, but I like the grilled jalapenos.
We shared a fine meal, slowly eaten. We watched the other patrons and suffered the slightly elitist demeanor of an on-again, off-again attentive waiter. I nursed a single Negro Modelo to the end of dinner; as we debated dessert, Annie rose from the table. I confess I had yet to find that perfect 10 year anniversary gift, but she had found one for me. "I'll be right back - I left your gift in the car."
And that was that.
I watched her retreating back as she walked to front of the restaurant, admiring the view from the rear, and thought again that it was time for a weekend at the beach. Just she and I and the ocean and vast expanses of private sand and chilled Pinot Gris. The door swung shut behind her, a strange and rustic heavy wood airlock that thudded audibly over the buzz of diners. I challenged the laggard waiter with my request for two fresh spoons and a single order of Cuban flan.
The next thing. It's always the next thing. Surely there is a space before the next thing, like a space between words in a sentence? A moment where there is a chance to change course, to take back a thought, to unhear bad news, to repel an evil. That gap, that hole between the last thing and the next thing cannot be measured by any yardstick, or through a tensile density that anticipates the depth of upcoming pain, or love, or fear, or need, or hate. Emotions bond together and become an angry, violent leaking packet of bile, and the next thing you know, the manager of the restaurant is at the table, assuring you that the ambulance is on the way. Service.
Annie had walked to the back of her car, pulled in on the diagonal as it was in front of the restaurant with the rear extended a bit into the street.
The next thing. As she lifted the lid on the trunk, the next thing hit Annie violently from the side; a car out of control and traveling far faster than it seems even possible on that jammed and narrow street. Hit and run. Her body was flung some thirty feet, ribs crushed, back broken, skull smashed against the pavement in such a way that her face was unrecognizable as they loaded her shattered body in the ambulance. To me; her face was lost to me. My Brittania rose, crushed petals, red petals.
As the EMT secured the back doors of the ambulance from the outside, hasping me in at Annie's feet, I turned and glimpsed the figure through the rear window, a figure dressed so dark on that warm night of death, in the street a few yards south of Annie's last moments. Each time I see him now, I recall him standing there on the street; my first recognition of something, somebody, hailing death like calling a cab. His hip slightly canted to the side, his right arm partially lifted. I remember now. He wasn't waving, he was reaching, one-armed, to the sky.
His name is Latham. He's no longer human.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents reside only in the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is completely coincidental.
(copyright 2008-2009 exmearden)