Hide In Light
all you do for hours is drive a van, you have time to examine all
aspects of a situation, take things one by one. Adam thought back over
all the jobs he had done over the years, from good to bad, and with a
few exceptions, he decided that anything that paid the rent, put gas in
his van and didn't keep him awake nights was okay. He couldn't say
exactly when he realized that he had fallen into this sort of work as a
regular thing, to the exclusion of all else, but he knew that his whole
life, in little ways here and there, had been a sort of training, a
process of refinement and hardening that made him stronger than most
and colder than anyone he had ever met.
When he was barely more than a
child he had realized that he was different from those around him.
Instead of scaring him, making him withdrawn, it filled him with a
sense of purpose and self-confidence that put most people off. Things
that bothered others had no effect on Adam. He could confront the
vilest situations with blank-faced indifference, his eyes cold and
still, the color of slate, and walk away at the end, cash in hand, to
the next job.
As a child he had first
puzzled and later terrified his mother, a woman who rose in the morning
to televised pleas for money and spent the rest of the day arguing with
radio talk show hosts. She believed everyone on the television, and
hated them all. Sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee long cold
in her hand and a Marlboro clenched in her teeth, she would rave about
the world, its leaders, her neighbors and their kids. No one was
exempt, including Adam, who had no brothers or sisters to defend him.
The memory of his father had long grown dim, replaced by the
denigration's thrown up by his mother to his memory, so strong and
current that if Adam closed his eyes he could swear that the back door
had just slammed with his father's leaving. His mother rotated targets
for her venom, one week the factory that had laid her off, a former
friend the next, all accused of anything from theft to adultery, and
all without any chance of redemption.
She saved as a
constant subject, however, an older man who lived across the street,
widowed for years, whose solitary joy in life, it seemed to Adam, was a
pair of small white poodles whose leavings always seemed to end up on
Adam's front yard. After years of this Adam became sure that his mother
could hear the dogs paws touch their grass and would be out of the
house onto the porch bellowing in an instant.
"Hogan, you son of a bitch,
I'm gonna call the pound if you don't teach them damn dogs which yard
is theirs and which is mine! You hear me, you deaf fool?" She would
yell, housecoat wrapped around her like a bull¬fighter's cape,
arms waving in the air, blind to rest of the world, focused.
At the beginning of
this behavior, when he was younger, he would hide in his room,
mortified because his mother was ranting like a lunatic on the front
step, and would hope that soon either she would shut up or Mr. Hogan
would walk his dogs some other place on earth instead of right in front
of his mother's house.
Instead, after a few
years, with the dogs still running loose and his mother running amok,
he decided to end it, once and for all, and get some peace. He
remembered the bright sun as he walked down the old man's driveway and
up his steps. He knew the man was sleeping, as old people do, and
wouldn't hear Adam in the house. Once he got to the door he realized
that he had no way in and almost turned around and went home until he
heard a dog yip inside and he knew that if he didn't end it now it
would go on forever. He reached for the doorknob and turned. He felt
the tumblers rotate and reach the internal stop. Staring at the door,
Adam clinched his arm and turned the knob a little harder until he
heard the lock give way, and he was in.
Hogan was lying on a couch, an
AARP magazine on his chest, asleep and snoring. The dogs were the same
on the floor and Adam tried to remember how old they were and finally
gave up, figuring that however old they were they weren't going to get
any older. Reaching into his jeans pocket he pulled out a knife he had
taken from his mother's kitchen and sharp¬ened until a human
hair would split in two if dropped along the blade. He knelt down next
to the animals, listening to the rapid breathing of the pair. Why do
animals breath harder when they sleep, he wondered? One of them opened
an eye and stared at him, cocking an ear as if waiting for a command.
Adam reached over and ran his thumb down the dog's eyelid, and the
animal seemed to return to sleep. Bringing his other arm up he slashed
the knife across the dog's neck, deep, until it had gone all the way
around. Picking up the head and tossing it behind him onto a throw rug
he reached for the other animal and did the same. The blade was so
sharp that neither dog as much as flinched, and beside them old man
Hogan slept, dead to the world. Adam rolled the heads up in the rug and
left the house. Walking back home he could hear his mother calling
someone on the radio a blow-hard, which was normal. When he got to the
house he opened the screen door and entered the kitchen.
"Fixed those dogs for ya. Here
you go," he said, dropping the bloody rug on the old, chipped table in
the corner. He brushed pass his mother on the way to his room, not
hearing the shriek come from her then or later the quiet gasps as she
cried, leaning against the stove, staring at the pairs of dog eyes,
stuck looking at a fixed point above her head. He left the house three
days later, at seventeen, remembering those three days as some of the
best he had spent in that place, with his mother silenced and a look of
fear in her eyes.
He hadn't heard from or about
his mother in years, and hadn't been back to the city of his birth
since the day he left. He had no time to. The world was