Hide In Light


When 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 Instead of scaring him, making him withdrawn, it filled him with a sense of purpose and self-confidence that put most people off.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 waiting. 

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