Chapter 4: Fingertips of the Infinite
Dawn. His first as a free man. He stood naked at the sliding glass window watching the bleary yolk of the sun as it cleared the hedges that towered over the privacy fence and climbed the October sky. There was rainwater in the bird bath and a family of robins flitted from nest to branch to mildewed stone and back, splashing the morning with birdsong.
After decades of the relentless noise of cellblocks and warehouse dormitories, of violent arguments and blaring intercoms, piercing whistles and buzzing doors, the roar of exhaust fans, the howling of the mentally ill, and the pounding from the beats of aspiring rappers – fists slamming steel, dull and constant, day and night… After thirty years of this, the quiet solitude of this first sunrise was beyond tranquil. It was spiritual. He could almost feel the fingertips of the Infinite massaging his temples.
Reluctantly, he tore himself from the moment and went to check on the clothes that hung from the banister. They were still damp, but wearable, if a little stiff. He pulled them on and grabbed his money and keys. After inspecting the cell phone like some alien artifact from the future, he decided to take it along since he had no idea how to get where he was going.
He could have called a cab but it was a nice day for a walk and anyway, he needed to collect his thoughts before facing the inevitable. At least that’s how he justified things. But deep down, he could not evade reality. He was delaying only to savor these last few hours of ignorance. When you don’t know the brutal truth, when you haven’t faced it personally, then that truth is only a rumor, a theory, and hope has space to breathe.
He surveyed the living room once more as if there was anything in the empty house to forget. Then he opened the front door and stepped onto the porch. He could still hear the birds chirping in the backyard as he walked down the driveway. His neighbors were backing from their garages and curbs. The work day had begun.
He cracked his neck, swallowed hard, and set off for the Harmony Meadows Assisted Living Village. Although she didn’t know it, his mother had a visitor.
Chapter 5: Call of Duty
“Evan Aubrey Tyler! You’ve got about ten seconds to get your butt down these stairs!”
“He’s going for his two thousandth confirmed kill, Mom,” her seven-year-old daughter explained.
“His what?” She glanced down at Madison before turning back to the staircase. “Evan, if you don’t get down here this instant, I swear to you I will rip that Xbox from the wall and donate it to the Salvation Army on the way to work.”
Madison tugged at her hand. “You can’t do that Mom. He’s gonna be a YouTube celebrity.”
“ONE!” she shouted.
Maddy shouldered her backpack. “Hurry Evan! She’s counting again.”
“I’ll go get him, Mom.”
Evan Tyler appeared at the top of the staircase in a Star Wars t-shirt and camo pants. He had a serious case of bed head and as he padded down the steps she could see the dark circles beneath his eyes. His father’s eyes, she thought.
“Where are your glasses?”
With an exaggerated huff, he spun and stomped back up the stairs, reappearing a moment later wearing his bifocals.
“Evan, you look handsome,” said Madison.
“Shut up, Maddy.”
“Evan don’t talk to your sister like that.”
The little family marched outside and piled into the SUV. She checked her lipstick in the rearview as doors were secured and seatbelts fastened.
“Mom, can I be a Hooters Girl for Halloween?”
She fired up the engine and backed down the driveway. “I don’t think that would be appropriate, Madison.”
“Why not? You were a Hooters Girl.”
She braked and put it in drive. “Well I’m a nurse now. Be a nurse, okay?”
Near the top of the cul de sac, she slowed to pass a man on foot. He wore ill-fitting, high-water khaki pants, muscles rippled beneath his white t-shirt, and his right arm was completely covered in tattoos.
“Hey Mom,” said Evan, “was that a soldier?”
She glanced at the diminishing form in her rearview mirror. He appeared to be searching for something in the trees overhead.
“I doubt it,” she said. “Probably just a landscaper.”