Friday, May 11, 2007

Chapter Twenty-Two: Edgy

"Here is something new I wrote, something edgy," said the reader of the week, Thomas Morlitary. Todd felt his stomach tense. Edgy, here at the Lit Snob. There were sure to be complaints come tomorrow.

The cherub shown in the icy rain. Wet drops ran down his wings, his child’s face, across his blank eyes. He seemed to cry, falling into the pool of blood at his feet.

The wipers thwap-thwapped on there 180 trip across the windshield. Carl switched them to high and jammed at the stuck defroster button, cursing. On call late nights; this was definitely not working for him. His sheets, tossed aside as he reached for the pager, remained on the floor. The black shirt was wrinkled. Who had the energy to call in something at two a.m?

The yard of the Victorian was black. The crows lay in the muddied earth. There were no marks, but it was obvious they were dead. Did you bring a dead crow, dozens of dead crows to a coroner or a vet? Carl rubbed rain water from his forehead, gave his eyes the luxury of a brief moment shut, wished for the millionth time his life was something else.

Dating the D.A. was definitely not a good idea. It had been spring and he was sick on love, or of love, or something. Figured, if nothing else, the D.A. would be good in bed. Didn’t count on these moments of awkwardness the would follow. Nighttime in the car to the thwap-thwap of the wipers from the scene of the crime.

Bagged a bird, found a body. Asian. Male. Five ten. One hundred and seventy three pounds. John Doe, the toe tag said. We are all equal in death. The coroner said it looked to be a poisoning. He’d know more in the morning. The birds: no explanation. “I think we all need some sleep,” he said.

Carl didn’t call the D.A., and the D.A. didn’t expect him to. It had been a summer fling. Carl having figured he’d do his boss because he wasn’t supposed to. And now, a cell phone in the car. The ring-ring of the phone. The wiper thwap-thwapped. The D.A.’s voice was husky with sleep; just the way he remembered. Later, sleep would be a long time coming.

“Cyanide,” the coroner said. “Severe cyanide poisoning may be characterized by gasping for breath and loss of consciousness. After loss of consciousness, breathing may be weak or absent. Cardiac arrest and death may result ,” the coroner said, methodically of a man who was once someone’s son. Still was, in a way. Dead man, dead birds. Diagnosis: cyanide.

Friday night, so he went to a bar. Pick up somebody. Anybody who wasn’t the D.A. Didn’t remind him of the D.A. Had nothing to do with crime prevention. There was a not quite boy with dark, spiky hair in the back corner. Carl turned away.

In John Doe’s room: fifteen bird cages, a bottle of cyanide. No evidence. They wanted to rule it a suicide. How does a suicide get from his bedroom to his backyard?

That summer, the D.A. had held his hand at the beach. Carl feeling relatively post-modern, like this was going to change the world, his relationship with this other man. But the Atlantic washed up jellyfish. It should have been an omen.

The case was to go unsolved because there were no good leads. Ritual murder? Insane suicide? It was anyone’s guess. Carl couldn’t help but feel the loser.

It seemed a good time to become nihilistic. Evil could be touched. Seen at midnight on the autopsy table. People went out and murdered, plundered, and raped. Genocide was once a near reality. The world is always ending. Ebola and AIDS were sweeping the globe. The Americans threatened war. China was stuck in the middle. Evil could be viewed incarnate. A college held an exhibit of Hitler’s art. Hope and joy were an illusion. Webster could never really define love, and that was a sign that optimism was for the delusional.

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