Wednesday, September 09, 2009

This Is What He Does: An Excerpt

The following is an excerpt for my short story "This Is What He Does":

Mitch stands in his bathrobe, staring out the living room window. Among the drooping arms of the fir trees dusk is gathering. There it is. The movement of something slipping stealthily between them in the corner of his eyes each time he blinks. The movement of some thing that his eyes will not catch.

The dusk creeps in for hours around this house, seated in a steep Colorado ravine that allows only a small respite from shadow each day, only a brief period of sunlight. Darkness grows from under the savage armed trees and slowly, nearly invisibly slides its way across the lawn until it envelopes the house.

He knows the smoke of darkness that blots out the world outside also surrounds him in the house. If he turns his eyes from their scanning of the yard, he will notice that he cannot see the wall behind him. No wood-paneled wall, no green worn couch begging to be replaced. Just a black void.

She should be home soon. Her lights will cut the darkness, stab through the trees, long shadows arcing over the grass. Unless. The drive from Denver is long, over chaotic freeways and winding foothill roads. She faces many dangers. Is it not a miracle that she makes it home everyday? A car might brake too quickly, a truck slide into her lane, her eyes wander from the road and her car be sent into the creek that chases the road leading to their house. Maybe she is there now, headlights beneath the surface of the water, a deep wound on her head. While he stands here.

The dark is breathing on the back of his neck when her headlights splash light suddenly into the room. He turns to find the kitchen, where she would enter. She cannot find him paralyzed in the living room. Reaching a hand where he cannot see, he finds the switch. In a moment of bravery, something against which he must draw his breath, steel himself, he flips the switch. He scans the room quickly for anything out of place, anything unexpected, unwanted. It is an act of daring, each door opened, each room suddenly illuminated, because he expects something. What, he doesn’t know. A monster, a dead body, maybe a burglar. Something sinister is waiting for him. Everwhere.

Joslyn enters to find Mitch at the kitchen table, seated before a glass, and she holds her breath. She cannot say a word to him yet. Still in his bathrobe, the man has not left the house today. Barely left since the day he lost his job. She’s tried not to be hostile with him, though she’s not sure why. That is most certainly what she wants, to scream in his face, to curse at him. But she doesn’t do this. No. She is reserved. She knows that her hostility towards him will find other outlets. And there is the possibility that he is not doing this on purpose. But, if he had any will, he could beat whatever paralysis he faced. To Josyln everything is a challenge, something to be sorted out, overcome, or conquered.

Nearly six months prior, on a night such as this, he had waited at the kitchen table for her to come home. He had no real explanation, stumbling over it.

“And you didn’t know this was coming?”

“No.” He looked pathetic. “Not really.”


“That’s what they said.”

“You’ll get a good recommendation?”

“I assume.” The lights in the kitchen are bright and the windows only splash the fluorescent light back at them.

She wasn’t looking at him, staring instead at the intersection of wall and ceiling, sorting it out. “Contacts. You have contacts? Somebody you can call for other recommendations, or another job?”

“I suppose.” He obviously had not thought yet about another job.

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