Shadow of a Doubt
Part Two of The White Darkness series
Back to Part One: Guided At Night by Factory Lights
The clock claimed it was four o'clock in the morning when Miles returned home. His father was lying very still in his easy chair, perched in front of the television while a test pattern flipped by. There was an old ceramic coffee cup, part of the collection passed on from Miles' maternal grandmother when she died, lying broken on the floor. The coffee it had contained formed a dark stream across the hardwood floor, cold and congealed and littered with coffee grinds. Miles' father had no idea how to properly make a cup of coffee. He could barely concentrate long enough to tie his shoes.
"I saw a woman today, dad.
She had a little baby with her.
I think they are important somehow.
I was thinking about that whole patterns of life thing you always tell me about.
Anyway, I think she is part of mine."
Miles' father did not awaken, stirring only enough to assure Miles that he was alive. It was better this way. Miles had trouble talking to his father when he was certain the man was not listening. This way there was always a shadow of a doubt. Miles' father talked, and if he listened, he never gave you the impression that he was.
"If I had a nickel for every time I thought a woman was the answer...
...I'd wish I could give those nickels back."
Miles stopped and stared at his father, who had not awoken to speak those words. He only paused long enough in his dreams to let them slip across his lips. In the apartment next door to the one Miles shared with his father there was a lonely old man. He kept a gas grill on his porch for many years until the apartment manager informed him it was a violation of fire codes. That gas grill had been all the old man had. When it was removed, the old man died.
Miles went to sleep.
Morning came with the evil creeping of warm sunlight invading the goodness of the people who would have been otherwise able to continue sleeping. Miles often cursed his bedroom for being unable to remain dark under the assault of the coming day. It was like an infection that kept people moving, kept them returning to the regulated duties of their assembly line lives. It was all the same day. Newspaper on the front step, coffee and breakfast on the table, morning commute listening to the same radio station, and arrival at the job that paid the bills. Miles tried not to see the approach of autumn and the banners of college as an admission to failure. He tried to see it instead as a way to carve his own initials in the tree of life.
June 7, 1978
Monday morning, and in the home of Miles that did not mean much. His father warmed a chair most of the day, everyday. Miles was out of school and working occassional hours at the photography studio owned by the father of one of the few school friends Miles had. Armand had gotten him the job helping out his father, Fernando, with the more menial tasks of running the business. Fernando needed to use most of his time to get dressed and put on his make-up. He was a renowned photographer who had published his work in national magazines, but he was incapable of taking anything resembling a decent photograph unless he dressed and behaved like a woman. That did not leave him much time to make appointments, organize the files, or even develop the photographs he took.
"My cigarettes are wet.
Could you run down to the store and buy me a fresh pack?
And get me a cup of coffee.
This shit we have tastes like diapers."
Never one to pass up the chance to leave the house and take a walk or a drive, Miles jumped at the opportunity. His father was still in the same position he had been in the previous night, his cigarettes in his lap, hopefully wet from the coffee that had been spilled. He stared at Miles as his son headed for the door, tipping an imaginary hat and stroking the beard he did not have.
"Anyone could die in the next five minutes without upsetting the balance of the world."
Communion. It came at the most curious times. The same words spoken on the wind and carrying only through the air that Miles knew existed. He wondered what the phrase was supposed to be telling him. It was a beginning wrapped into an ending, a passage from one connection to the next. Or, at the very least, it was simply unnerving.
Miles moved forward, stepping out of the apartment and down the stairs towards the car he rarely drove. There was no hurry. His father could wait for cigarettes and coffee, but at the last moment Miles decided to take the car. There was no way he was walking two miles with a styrofoam cup of coffee from Earl's Corner Store.
Three weeks passed.
Miles did not wonder why.
There had been a girl. She had been a sophomore while Miles was in his senior year. He thought about approaching her, trying to charm her with his advanced rank in the high school caste system, but she was too cute. Or so he convinced himself. Whenever Miles saw her, all he wanted to do was to pick her up, hug her tightly and then cuddle her for the rest of the night. These thoughts made him sick. These were not supposed to be the thoughts he entertained about girls. Sure, there were plenty of girls he wanted to throw down on the bearskin rug and cover all the bases with in the warmest and stickiest ways. For whatever reason, Jeannie projected within Miles different and almost alien thoughts. He found himself wanting to protect her. Jeannie was a tiny, barely five foot tall slip of a girl who had a gaggle of friends and always found herself at the center of whatever storm the "cool kids" were involved in. Yet, whenever Miles secretly followed her he found her sneaking off to the library or into the woods alone. She was filled with wonder of the most magical kind. Miles didn't want to pull her skirt up in the back seat of his father's Buick. He wanted to marry her and build her a gazebo.
"She never walks alone."
She presented a whole new realm of possibilities, but Miles found himself unable to speak to her. He tripped over his tongue whenever he passed her in the hall and tried to mutter a feeble "hello." Whenever her eyes looked in his direction, Miles twitched. His fear was founded in the fact that he was so afraid to ruin this opportunity, this path, that he was letting it be overrun with weeds through his own neglect.
Then the storm came.
Miles was in the shadow of the mountain when the first warning came. Lightning dancing across the sky. Thunder booming like the mortar fire of impending damnation. The rain would follow soon after, and Miles, sitting in his usual spot by the reservoir, was offered freely as a sacrifice to the elements.
The image of his father's cookie jar flashed in Miles mind, blocking completely the darkness of the rainswept road. Miles was running, desperately seeking shelter from what felt like a diabolical cross between a tidal wave and a monsoon. He knew that a mere three blocks down Reservoir Road was Mack's Marine, a boat repair shop with an old tin awning covering the yard where Mack did most of his mechanical work. It would not completely protect Miles from the weather, but it would be far better than the circumstances that greeted him now. With any luck, old Mack would be awake and invite Miles in for cider.
"Paths intertwine for reasons that can only be seen in the absence of color."
Two cars were parked behind the fence that divided Mack's Marine from the road to the river. Both cars were running their engines, but had their headlights turned off. Miles took shelter under the tin roof, but could not resist peering around the fence at the cars on the other side. Rarely did anyone come out here at this time of night. This part of town was usually so dead, and so silent, that it was the natural place for Miles to go when he wanted to embrace the silence and the darkness.
There were three people in one of the cars, a gigantic Plymouth Fury, and two in the other, a small, well beaten Datsun. There was music playing from both car radios, each set on different stations. The people inside the cars were talking loudly, laughing at some moments, yelling angrily at others. They sounded like high school kids, probably out drinking and smoking grass, trying to convince themselves they were tougher and more advanced than they actually were. Miles wasn't about to give it a second thought until he saw the back door of the Plymouth open and a girl get out.
It was Jeannie.
Miles could not see her face very well from his vantage point, but not wanting anyone to see him, he did not move. Jeannie's blouse was torn and her skirt was riding up in the back in such a way that her buttocks were almost more clearly visible than her face. She was crying and running towards the smaller car. Someone got out from behind the wheel of the Datsun and yelled to her. He looked familiar to Miles, but the wind and rain obscured his identity.
"That's what happens when you act like a bitch.
You start shoving and shit and he'll give it back to you ten times worse."
"Jesus, Bobby, you're supposed to be my brother."
On to Part Three: Excess Beyond Consumption is Entropy