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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Elena Callahan's Very Big Day Part Ten

Here's the final part of this thing. There'll be another section, but this part of the story is done.

So! Part ten. Part nine is here.

Part ten: Rural Silence

“You’re going East, right?” Officer Racigan pushed the gun deeper into Agatha’s forehead. “If you were headed the other way I wouldn’t give a shit.”

Agatha continued to wonder why the direction, and not the contents, of her car mattered to the officer.

“Turn off the motor and get out of the car,” Racigan said. He pulled his gun from her head, observed the circled dimple he’d left in her skin. Took a step back.

Agatha, her eyes still on Racigan, asked, “Why am I getting out of the car?”

“You’re headed East.”

“I have two beheaded children rotting in the back seat.”

Racigan glanced at the corpses. “So you do. Good for them. I hope they enjoyed the ride.” Gun still pointed at Agatha. “Now open the door and get out.”

Agatha didn’t move. She kept one hand on the steering wheel. She looked ahead at the road stretching into oblivion, a pale grey stream rising and falling away, and felt the motor of the car rattling weakly through her bones. “Officer,” she said, “nothing I’ve done compares to what I’ve seen done by others. Recently.”

Then she said, “Please.”

Then she said, “Dammit.”

Racigan just stood there, gun in hand, gut barely contained within his shirt, both Agatha and Racigan listening to the Taurus's engine purring like a cat with a stutter. Rural silences are never complete without the low hum of a car engine.

Racigan, who had lost his wife nearly a week ago, took another step back. His boots were now on the center line, the yellow line, of the highway. The shadow of his extended arm stretched forward into the car.

“Lady,” Racigan said, “you got two choices. Get out of the car. That’s one. That’s the good choice. Get out of the car and come with me. Or go on your way. That’s two. That’s the bad choice. If you go on your way--”

“Jesus,” Agatha said. “Just stop for a second.”

“If you go on your way,” Racigan continued, “it won’t be to salvation.”

Agatha told Racigan, “I’ve killed three people today.”

Racigan shrugged. “Better day than I’ve had. I’ve only managed one.”

“I’m not used to killing.”

“Neither am I.” A lie, but an honest lie.

“Then,” Agatha said, “put down the gun. Let's just talk for a minute.” I don't want to freak out, Agatha wanted to say.

“Turn off the car.” Racigan had a voice raising up and going down, as if he remembered human inflections but had forgotten the implications.

“Not a chance.” Agatha weighed her options, which were pretty heavy no matter how she tipped the scales. Turn off the car and open the door, or floor the accelerator and risk a bullet to the head. If she opened the door, she didn't know what Officer Racigan might do. If she floored it, she knew what he'd do. If she floored it, she had a 50/50 chance of ending up like Moulder and Dee Skully.

Racigan stepped forward, pressed the gun into Agatha’s forehead, missing the circled dimple by only a millimeter, fired, and stood beside the car for a moment as Agatha’s body, blown backwards by the force, threw its arms in the air, leaked some of its contents onto the empty passenger’s seat, and bowed itself across the center console. The body’s stomach bent to the ceiling. A delicate arch. Racigan reached into the Taurus. He fussed around, stomach pressed against the Taurus's door, and found the keys. Twisted. The car went silent.

Pulling himself out of the open window took effort.

When he managed to straighten himself, he turned, dropped his gun into his pants pocket, and crunched along the broken asphalt to the patrol car.

He slid into the driver's seat with a grunt, turned the key, and started the car up, recovering rural silence.


“Haven’t we been through this already?” Elena asked, her hands grasping Cobble’s.

“Not really,” Cobble answered. “I mean. Maybe. Or. Over what? The return of Jesus?”

Elena released his hand and sat back in her chair with an expression not unlike shock. “Cobble.” Her voice direct, steady.

“Over what?” Cobble repeated.

“You’ve lost more boyfriends in ten years than I’ve lost husbands in 60.”

Cobble stopped kneeling. He stood. He lurched sideways, grabbed the sword he had stolen from a display case, and held it up. The jewels embedded in the hilt caught the diffused light sidling through the only window in the room as if the light were a sullen 7th grader not too happy to be in an old woman’s apartment.

The jewels glowed with a certain amount of petulance, refracting the sullen light and magnifying its resentment to be where it was, doing what it was doing.

“Jesus is back,” Cobble shouted.

“Stop waving that cane around,” his grandmother replied. “Jesus, you’re not Preston Brooks.” Elena instinctually threw a forearm up across her face, threw a hand up to fend off an attack. For a moment, her eyes went wide and her mouth went tight, and she leaned far back into her chair, far away from her grandson, and Cobble realized he had frightened her.

And he liked that he had frightened her because she needed to be frightened.

“This is a sword, Grandma. A sword. It’s not a goddamn cane.” He moved closer to the window, shoving a wilted fern out of the way. The fern was on a pedestal, which tipped over. The fern, the pot, the soil and the pedestal hit the hardwood floor in two different shattering movements, the pot with a dull thud followed by an earthy sigh of relief and the pedestal without a thud but with a crunching, clanging sound of hollowness.

“I didn’t lose a boyfriend. I watched his body go in two different directions at once. And then I stayed in a fucking tower for three days, got your call on my cell phone, and risked getting my own body torn in two just to come here. To get you. Because I’d assumed you were dead but nope, you called me. You called me and you were expecting a ride to the fucking grocery store because the Carter kid hadn’t shown up with your groceries for a few days and you were out of sugar for your coffee. ‘That Carter kid,’ you told me, ‘he’s usually so reliable.’”

Elena, lost in mourning for her destroyed fern, dropped her arms down and put her hands on the armrests of her chair.

“He is reliable,” she mumbled.

“He’s dead,” Cobble yelled. “The Carter kid... That wasn’t even his name. Benny Carter hasn’t been around in five years. The kid getting your groceries and doing your errands for the past six months was named Marla Leibowitz. She’s probably dead and wondering why the old woman she did all that stuff for thinks she was a 22 year old man.”

Cobble remained where he was, which was nearly ankle-deep in the carnage of a destroyed plant, beside a window with curtains that kept swallowing him each time the wind blew.

He held the sword in his right hand--or the cane--and he wanted Elena to see the sword for what it was, and he wanted Elena to understand what he’d gone through the past few days, and he wanted her to understand what the world continued to go through. He wanted her to know how much bravery it had taken for him to climb a rope down from the tower of the Cloisters and grab a bike and pedal to her apartment to save her.

He wanted her to recognize she was a damsel in distress. He wanted her to understand he was her savior.

Elena sat in her chair, a copy of Great Expectations beside a cold cup of coffee and a magnifying glass resting beside her on a shaky end table.

Elena said, in her craggy voice, “Jesus is like Miss Havisham.”

Cobble replied by not replying. He understood he could not save his grandmother. He took a step forward, fertilized potting soil sliding from his boot, and brought the sword down. The dull blade managed to work its way into Elena’s skull, slip through her brain, and scatter her thoughts.

The thoughts of the Carter kid went one way. The thoughts of her long-dead husband Gordon went another. And her thoughts about the Messiah came forward, so that this was her final thought: I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress.

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