An Immovable Object

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When a boy goes to visit his father in prison, he passes the time while waiting for his father to be brought from isolation by talking to an inmate who claims to be something that is beyond reckoning.

Submitted: October 05, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 05, 2013



He could smell the cheap tobacco on the wind as soon as he opened the door. Stepping out onto the sun-faded asphalt, he turned to see if she had anything to say, but she just looked ahead, eyes squinted to the rising sun, and she drove off as soon as he let the door close. Just as well, the room would be filled with something worse than silence if she went in there with him. He heard the calls from the slotted windows on the other side of the fence, but the wind carried most of them away. Not that it mattered; he’d learned to ignore them anyway. He let the heels of his boots scrape with each step as he made his way to the gate, looking up at the camera and waiting for those in the booth to buzz open the sally port. After a few seconds the woman’s familiar voice came over the intercom.

“Is it just you this time, sugar?”

He nodded and wiped his nose. The buzzer sounded and he pulled the chain link gate open, careful not to let it slam shut on his finger again. He walked up to the glass control booth and the two dark women, one skinny the other not, smiled at him with bright, straight teeth. The larger one was looking at him now, her uncanny ability to pop her gum every time she chewed never ceased to amaze. The skinny one was handling other visitors, which was fine. To say her personality was wanting would be something of an understatement. The large woman sat back down in her rolling chair on the other side of the thick glass. Her considerable breasts seemed about to explode underneath the false button shirt, and he tried not to look at them for fear of her noticing, but she always seemed to expect them to be looked at. That’s what they were there for.

“Yo mama ain’t comin’, baby?” He shook his head no. “I guess you got good enough at this now anyway, huh.” She smiled broadly. It was not a question. He nodded to her and she tilted her head toward the door.

He pulled it open with the sound of the loud, mechanical click but did not step forward being blocked by the tightly creased uniform of the day-shift lieutenant. He glanced down at his black boots, shining like mirrors in the morning sun then up at his face as best he could. His mustache was impeccably trimmed with strands of gray amidst the brown.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me, young man,” he over enunciated his words as if he were trying to mold every aspect of his life to perfection from his blinding boots and creased pants to his meticulously groomed facial hair. The only problem was that it made his otherwise slight lisp more pronounced. “We need to go to the itholation room. Follow me.”

The soft soles of his own boots only gave slight squeaks on the overly waxed floor, but the hard soles of the patent leathers gracing the lieutenant’s feet clicked with the near staccato rhythm of a horse on concrete. They passed through a series of doors, the lieutenant using his keys that were chained to his belt, and reached the room just outside of the administrative offices within a few minutes. There was no one in sight in this area on the weekend, on visitation day, and the officer let out a curse under his breath as he looked around. He pulled his radio extension from his shoulder and held it to the side of his mouth.

“L-2 to U, U-1.” He paused, waiting only a few seconds.

“U-1, go ahead,” replied the radio.

“Give me a 21 in—“ he looked around for the nearest phone. The only one was back in the administrative area. “Admin, 10-21 admin.”


“You wait here, young man. Go ahead and have a seat. We’ll see about getting him here in just a few.” He walked out, but before the door closed, the boy heard, “Nobody lithens in briefing.”

The room was small and indeed isolated as was indicated by the chipped stencil lettering on the window of the door, Medical Isolation. There were windows that looked out onto an open grassy area. Two basketball goals and a sand-pitted volleyball court decorated the other side of this yard. White-suited men were walking in pairs toward the visitation area, a fence separating them from the adult playground. He watched them walk side by side, some smoking, all seeming to try with great effort to look dignified in the cheap, state-issued uniforms. All failing miserably. He looked around the room, a cabinet high on the wall, a few folding chairs in one corner, and what looked to be a dressing screen in the farthest corner, oddly shaded from the light. There were florescent bulbs in the ceiling, but most of the light seemed to come through the one window that wasn’t covered with a blind. In the middle of the floor was a pad, a mat about the size of a single mattress. There were leather straps bound to the floor, two at the top and two at the bottom. They seemed to be overly thick belts, straps. He got up from his chair to commence a more thorough inspection and the hair on the back of his neck and forearms came to attention as the movement from the opposite corner caught his eye. A white clad man like the ones he’d seen out the window stepped out from behind the dressing screen, from the only shadow in the room. He came out of it as if coming into existence right before the boy’s eyes. This man kept his eyes on the boy the entire time with a wry smile.

He stepped out slowly, dragging his feet as he did, and he carried a broom with the straw side up as if he used it more for walking than for cleaning. The hair that could be seen under the cloth cap he wore that matched the material of his uniform was matted and mousy. It was light brown, but the stubble on his face and neck was much darker with no gray in sight even though the man was old, unidentifiably old by the stiff leather of his face. He seemed to favor his left leg as he slid across the floor. He smiled a yellow smile, a roll-up cigarette behind his ear, and he stopped in front of the window, dimming the room only slightly but noticeably. He stood looking at the boy for some minutes. His hat, old and worn, was bent down in the middle, perhaps broken or just too tired to hold its shape anymore, and the sides stuck up and out as if he were wearing a chalice on his head cut down the middle. He ran his fingers down his stubbled cheek, the tips of each digit stained yellow with nicotine, but despite his appearance he didn’t smell bad. The foul, stale odor that usually accompanied these men with their constant use of the leaf did not linger around this one. He smelled clean, like the harsh, lye soap they were issued, and it blended with the bleach used to clean every inch of this place. He pulled the rolled cigarette from behind his ear, passing it under his nose like it was a fine Cuban and stuck it in his mouth. He let it hang there, putting his hands in his pockets and leaning back against the wall, propping his foot up as if he were standing on the sidewalk outside a bar waiting on a ride.

“Hi-dee, young feller. What you doin’ in a place like this on such a fine Sunday morning?”

The boy just looked at him in response. The initial shock of someone else in the room had now subsided. The boy’s natural state of calm had returned, his unfathomable ability to disregard fell back over his body like a securing blanket.

“Don’t you speak when you’re spoke to, son?” His voice was not deep, and it carried a rhythm to it, whether intentional or not the boy could not tell.

“I ain’t your son,” the boy replied in his own high voice.

“Oh, well look at that, you do have sense enough to talk,” he took the cigarette from his mouth and stuck it behind his ear again. He twirled the broom stick a little back and forth, gazing at the boy who only stared back in return. “No, I don’t expect you are my son. Not that I reckon anyway. I was probably housed in another fine establishment such as this while your mama was gestating. What are you, ten or eleven?”

“About that.” The boy replied dryly. The man gave him a curious look then tilted his head back and breathed in deeply. He glanced out the window behind him then began talking as he faced the boy again.

“You know why that mat’s on the floor yonder?”He sucked at his yellow teeth but didn’t move otherwise. “That’s where they strap down the bad men. That’s where they put the ones can’t control themselves, or refuse to be controlled by others. It’s a natural response in a place like this, when grown men are told what they can and can’t do like they’re children.” He leaned forward and kicked the strap closest to him.

“Yessir, strap you face down, sometimes without a stitch on you, as naked as you are under them clothes there, and they shoot you up full o’ Thorazine,” it came out thoor-zeen. “Yessir, they shoot you up with the good stuff and you go down for the count. I don’t care how big you are, how bad you are, how many people you killt, how many women you raped. They stick that in your arse just as hard and fast as they can, and you go to sleep not long after you feel the sting. Thoor-zeen, that there is man’s answer to the devil.”

“What’s God’s?” the boy asked looking down at the mat.

“Do what?”

“What’s God’s answer to the devil if that’s man’s?” the boy asked again, and the man cocked his head a little, squinting at the smooth, freckled face of the boy.

“You’re an odd duck, ain’t you?” the man asked lowering his leg from the wall and shifting his weight to the broom. “I knew it’d be somethin’ to come talk to you. Well, boy, I reckon man is God’s answer to the devil, but if you ask me thoor-zeen is better.”

The boy nodded his head in reply as if he understood completely what the man was saying. The man stood there looking at the boy for several minutes, occasionally shifting his weight to find the comfort that was not wholly attainable, and rubbing the bristles on his cheeks. He opened his mouth to speak but seemed to think better of it. He would let the silence creep in and wait for the boy to break it. After several minutes, the man began to believe that the boy would beat him at the game, but either his curiosity or boredom got the better of him.

“How is it they leave you in here by yourself?” the boy asked.

“I ‘spect I could ask you the same question.” The man replied. “Well, I kinda go where I please. I’m one of these that don’t like to be controlled by someone who thinks he has power over me. That’s always been the case. Ever since the beginning, I ain’t liked bein’ told what to do.”

“You still have to go where they tell you,” the boy just looked into his eyes.

“Maybe so, but the trick is making them think that’s where they wanted you to go in the first place. That way they think they won, but really you did. A better trick than that is getting them to forget about you all together. I like that one better.”

“I guess you’re gonna tell me you’re one of those bad men,” the boy said with his first real expression. He turned up one corner of his mouth.

“Boy, I’m about the baddest one you’ve seen, but I’d only tell you that. See, tellin’ you that does nothing to me. If I told them that, it would draw attention to me, and that’s not what I want. I want to go unseen doin’ what I want to do, you get it?”

“I get it.”

“I knew you would,” he said stepping away from the wall. He watched the boy to see what he’d do, but he didn’t move. He just watched the man walk to the door. “’Scuse me a minute.” And with that, the stepped out, shuffling along with the tapping of the broom in front of him. The pressed lieutenant stepped in as soon as the door closed.

“The yard officer is going to get him shortly. He was placed in itholation for—well I’ll let him explain that to you. We feel that he can’t be around general population right now for thafety reasons. He really isn’t thupposed to have visitors, but they thought theeing you might help him thome. Anyway, I’ll thtay here with you two during the visit—“

“10-10 in M-1,” a frantic voice came over the radio. “10-10 in M-1 and M-2!”

“Christ,” the lieutenant said opening the door. He turned around briefly before running out. “You thtay right here. This area is secure. I’ll be back in just a minute,” then with the radio to his mouth, “L-2 to U, U-1—“

Just before the door closed, the short straw of the broom head jutted between the door and the frame followed by the leathery, stained fingers of the man. He peeked his head in and smiled, making his way back to his position in front of the window, once again dimming the room a little with his presence. He pulled the cigarette from behind his ear again, but this time he followed it with a book of matches he took from his sock. He folded one of the matches over without tearing it out and pressed it against the sandy strip on the back side with his thumb. He popped it down and the sulfur hissed to life, stinging the boy’s nose only briefly before the stale smell of the cheap tobacco took over the room. He inhaled deeply and released the cloud through his nose giving him a sinister look in front of the lighted window.

“I thought y’all couldn’t have matches,” the boy said plainly.

“Don’t like to be told what to do,” the man replied with a wink. He blew the next drag into the cherry of the cigarette as if he were blowing it a kiss.

“What’s a 10-10?” the boy asked with indifference.

“That’s a fight, young feller. One that should’ve happened a little sooner, but it served its purpose nonetheless.” He smiled again and waited, but the boy didn’t question his reply.

“So,” the man continued, flicking the cigarette prematurely in front of him. “Why ain’t you in church on Sunday mornin’?”

“Because this is time for visitation,” the boy replied.

“Oh, it always is,” the man replied and laughed despite himself. He started coughing on the smoke he inhaled and held up a hand telling the boy to give him a moment. “I’m sorry. That just struck me funny. I know that ain’t the visitation you meant. So, you go to visitation rather than church then.”

“I wouldn’t go to church noway,” the boy replied. “We never have, so I don’t see as why we would now.”

“Well now, you’re supposed to go to church. It says so in the book.”

“Yessir, I reckon it does.”

“Says so in Hebrews and in Romans, if I recollect. Of course, you can make it say so in any book whatever way you want to read it,” the cigarette was nothing more than a stub now, but the man held it between his two fingers. The boy didn’t see how it couldn’t hurt.

“I reckon it does, but I can’t say that I know much about it,” the boy said with the demeanor of a grown man. “I guess I’d rather go ‘cause I wanted to rather than be scared not to.”

To this the man stood straight, holding the broom in both hands. The cigarette had now disintegrated, seemingly turning to nothingness if such a thing were possible, and perhaps it could be in here. He looked at the boy with half astonishment, stepping away from the window for a moment and giving the room a new level of light. He ran his knuckles briskly up and down his cheek and repositioned the hat on his head though it did not lose its shape. The boy didn’t move, simply keeping his eyes fixed on the man’s own. After a few moments, the man composed himself again in front of the window, dulling the world. Behind the man, the boy could see two more white-clad men walk up the sidewalk.

“It’s strange you should say that,” the man said with a stern face. “Fear is the most effective way to promote a response. If you’re not afraid there’s nothing else that will do. Well, nothing else works as good I can tell you that.”

“Always seemed like a backward way of doin’ it to me,” the boy explained, putting his hand in his pocket. “Seems to me most folks go out of fear of burnin’ rather than love of doin’ it.”

“How old did you say you were, boy?”

“I didn’t.”

“Hot-a-mighty I knew I wouldn’t regret talkin’ to you. I was bored before, but this has turned out to be mighty fine.”

“What’s your name, mister? I noticed you ain’t got no ID pinned to your shirt. I thought y’all always had to have that.”

The man tilted his head in reply and waited.

“You don’t like for people to tell you what to do,” the boy said nodding, and the man gave him a wink. “So, what’s your name?”

“What do you think it is?”

“I got no idea.”

“I think you do,” the man stood in silhouette against the window with legs shoulder-width apart and broom in hand.

“I think you want me to think it, but I just don’t know.”

“Winston,” the man said with a grin.

“First of last?” the boy seemed to have a genuine curiosity.

“Just Winston, it’ll do as good as any if you’re determined to label.” The man pulled a light blue bag from his back pocket and commenced rolling another cigarette. Several moments went by as he did so in silence. He did not ask the boy’s name in return.

“So you’re not afraid of goin’ to hell?” the man asked, popping another match.

“It used to bother me somethin’ awful. Used to keep me up at night in my room, thinkin’ about going down there forever and ever burning in a fire that never dies, hearing those around me scream in pain, those with the same fate as me.”

“Heh, you say it like it was some time ago, like you haven’t lived but a handful of years on this earth.”

“I guess it wasn’t so long ago,” the boy replied.

“Why were you afraid?” the man asked. “I thought you never went to church.”

“Daddy used to talk about it a lot,” the boy replied. “I reckon he looked to put the fear in me, and he did for some time.”

“But you just decided not to be afraid anymore?”

“It wasn’t gettin’ me nowhere.”

“Heh heh, boy you beat all I seen in a while. You ain’t scared right now? You’re in a room with a feller you don’t know, says he’s the baddest thing to walk the earth.”

“I know what you said you are.”

“It don’t scare you?” he stepped toward the boy, but he didn’t move. The boy pulled his hand out of his pocket, holding something. The man squinted to see what it was. It looked to be a toy of some kind then the boy began using it and cleared up the mystery. He slipped the string around his middle finger and flipped his wrist down toward the ground, letting the yo-yo roll just above the waxed floor before snatching it up.

“Does it bother you if it don’t scare me?” the boy asked, getting up from his chair to gain a more convenient height for the toy.

“It should, but maybe you don’t feel much of anything,” Winston said, tapping a white ash on the floor. “Maybe you get it honest. What’s your daddy in here for?”

“Can’t you tell me?”

“Easy, boy,” the man’s face took on a seriousness that caught the boy’s attention. “I’m enjoying our time together. Don’t ruin it.” He stood back and relaxed. “I could tell you. I could tell you whatever you want. I could tell you what you’re thinking right now, but that would ruin the experience. Now, what’s your daddy in here for? Is he a bad man?”

“Ain’t everybody in here one?”

“No, some are, but most of them just want to be. They can’t find any other way to fit in.”

“Yessir, I reckon he’s one of the bad ones.”

“You think you’re a bad one?” the man tried to relax his expression again.

“I think I wouldn’t be if I had to say it.”

With that the man stood and smoked. The boy turned his back to him, whipping the toy up and down, as if the monotony were soothing to him. He didn’t seem to notice anything, the boy, he just seemed to flip his wrist over and over indifferent to what was around him, seemingly not caring if the world moved up and down away from his motions rather than the centripetal force of the yo-yo defying the gravity that surrounded it. Winston watched him nearly mesmerized.

Time along a linear path from that point to this showed one instance after another of the will of man succumbing to the introduction of fear. Fear was a heightened sense of awareness, a realization that not only was it all going to end but the odds were that it wasn’t going to end well. It was claustrophobia, being contained by the surrounding universe. Existence was here and there was no dispute and once a man witnessed the finality of it all, he experienced fear. That is what the emotion was, a realization. Knowing there was no escape. Here stood this boy, playing with a toy with his back to him. It didn’t matter who he believed he was, whether he was the embodiment of fear or a pedophiliac orderly searching the administrative desks for personal pictures that belonged to the fools who sat at their desks day in and day out unspooling the time that passed from nothingness to the same place. It didn’t matter. The fact was the boy showed that he didn’t care. Whether his fearlessness was genuine was unquestionable because no man, no child especially could conceal the rawest of emotions from his onlooker. It couldn’t be done. The boy was real. The question was how did he come to be?

“They always let you bring that toy in here?” the man asked, approaching the dialogue from a different vantage.

“They usually hold it for me when I go to the to the visitation room.” The boy replied without stopping his repetitive play.

“I thought so. They wouldn’t allow it because of the string. Afraid somebody would try to strangle someone with it.”

“I reckon so."

“Oh yeah, it’s so,” Winston replied. “Not that it matters. Did you know you could make toilet tissue just as strong as a rope?” He waited for the boy to make an inquiry but none came. “Oh yeah, you just have to have plenty of paper and a lot of patience. You can braid it strong enough to hold up a full grown man, no tellin’ how many little boys.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“You gonna tell your daddy about it? Maybe it’s something he’d want to know.”

“Why would he want to know that?” the boy asked without looking up.

“You’d be surprised. It may be something you never thought of.”

The man looked out the window just in time to see the lieutenant walking back toward the infirmary door. Knowing the man would be here in a matter of minutes, he walked toward the door then stopped and looked back at the boy. After a few seconds the boy stopped playing with the yo-yo and put it in his pocket, turning to face the man again.

“Your buddy’s coming back,” Winston said in a whisper. “I’m just gonna stand back over in the corner. I don’t feel like duckin’ out of here again.” With that, he crossed the room, careful to stay clear of the boy, and stood in the only spot in the room that caught no light behind the dressing screen. No sooner than he stood there, the door opened and the officer stepped in.

“Well this has been a hell of a morning,” he said, pulling a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiping his forehead. He wiped down several times across his mustache. “When I told you we’d bring him thoon, I wasn’t lying. All my yard officers have just been tied up with other things.” He looked around the room carefully, his eyes finally falling on the mat in the middle of the floor. He stood there for some time fixed on the stained pad seemingly held down itself by the restraints.

“You need anything, a thoda maybe?” the boy shook his head. “It looks like I’ll have to bring him up here myself. Do you want to wait in front at the control room?”

“Nossir, this is fine,” the boy replied, again shaking his head.

“Okay,” the lieutenant said, not hiding his impressed expression. “I’ll be back in just a few.” With that, he closed the door behind him.

The boy looked over at the corner, but it seemed empty, black despite what light there was in the room. He could make out the dressing screen, and he watched it for a full minute until Winton stepped out again. He had the broom in his hand, but his expression had changed. He seemed less confident, his vitality gone somewhere in the brief strand of time since the boy had arrived. Once he took up his position in front of the window, he stood looking at the boy who had taken his seat once again, staring back at the man.

“How come you didn’t leave when he asked you?” Winston asked, defeated.

“Seemed like a waste of time to walk all the way back up there just to be brought back for the visitation,” the boy replied blandly.

The man pulled his pale blue bag from his back pocket and commenced to rolling another cigarette. He never took his eyes from the boy. Once he passed his tongue across the thin paper, he tucked it behind his ear and returned the tobacco to his pocket. He propped the broom against the wall beside him and folded his arms across his chest. After a few minutes of what appeared to be deep thought, his eyes opened wide and his brow unfurled, the alleviation of an epiphany covering his face. He rubbed his hands together and repositioned himself.

“How long ‘til your mama comes back to get you?”

“How you know it was my mama that did the bringin’?” the boy asked, folding his own arms to mock his questioner.

“Let’s just assume I’m right and you didn’t walk all the way from Dixie.”

“She’ll come get me when she’s good and ready I reckon, mister.”

“What does she do while you’re here, you reckon? You think maybe she sits in the parking lot and reads a book?”

“She passes the time as much as anyone else, I’d say,” the boy replied not without agitation.

“Maybe goes to the grocery store and gets the week’s shoppin’ out the way.”

“I don’t reckon either one of us is in the position to tell.”

“Maybe when she pulls up in that ragged, faux wood-paneled station wagon with glossy yellow eyes and the smell of trash on her breath you’ll know where she’s been.” He stood away from the wall now, all weakness in his leg appearing gone. The boy lowered his chin to his chest, keeping his eyes fixed on the man.

“Maybe,” continued the man, “she had enough time to service that feller in the trailer that sits off the road just above the bridge. The one you’ve sat outside of a handful of times because she’d rather go when you’re not around. Maybe she had time to give him some happy so she could get some back through that pipe, son. What you think? You think that’s where she went, or you think she’s at the Piggly Wiggly getting your week’s worth of sodee pop?” The boy stood up from his chair, his fists clenched at his sides. Winston smiled and breathed in deeply the air of satisfaction. He pulled the cigarette from behind his ear, popping a match with his other hand at the same time. He had it lit and pulling back the first hit in just a few seconds.

“I told you I ain’t your damn son,” the boy hissed, his chin still down.

“And I’m tellin’ you right now I don’t give a shit,” the man leaned back against the wall and looked at the end of the cigarette. “Anger. I’ll take anger if I can’t get fear. I can’t even recall the last time I had to resort to it, but like I said before, you beat all I’ve seen in a while. I see now it was right to talk to you. This needed to happen.” He stepped forward just out of reach of the boy.

“What is it?” asked the man. Through the window the boy could see officers running up the sidewalk. If Winston noticed, he paid it no mind. “What you wanna do? Kill me? It can’t be done, boy. I do what I want, always have, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be one-upped by a yo-yo slinging bed wetter like you. You’ve got spunk. I’ll give you that, but consider this a lesson to carry with you the rest of your cold life. Every man’s got a spot you can touch that will set him off his wits. I’m not even done yet. I’m an unstoppable force, and that’s the simplest way I can put it to you.” He turned to walk out, pausing with his hand on the door at the voice of the boy.

“Every man’s got a spot. I won’t argue with you on that,” the boy had his head up now looking into his eyes. “But I’ll tell you something else that’s sure and certain. Everything dies. From a blood cell to a star, to the universes that hold them both, one way or another one time or another, no matter when that time is, if it seems to be nowhere down the line, so far it can scarcely be said to exist, it’s there. So you can stand there and say you’re whatever you want to be, whoever you want to be, so help me maybe you are, but don’t make that claim. I’ll correct you in one place, mister. I don’t beat all you’ve seen in awhile. I beat all you’ve seen. Maybe I’m the answer to the devil. I tell you what, so you carry that with you and be on your way.”

The man frowned and turned toward him when they both heard the keys jingle from the other side of the admin offices. One lock turned and the door shut behind it. Less than a minute would be needed for the lieutenant to get to the medical isolation door. Winston stared forward for a moment then turned around walking back across the room. He brushed past the boy, but he didn’t move. The boy simply kept his gaze fixed on the man as he grabbed his broom and headed to the corner.

“I’ll be seein’ you, son.” He said in a low growl as he made his way to the shadow of the corner.

“That’s up to you,” the boy replied, and he turned around to the sound of the door opening.

“Whew, you been thmoking in here, young man?” the lieutenant was perspiring profusely, most of his light blue shirt now dark. “It doesn’t matter. Come with me. We’ve got to get in touch with your mother. Do you know where she is?”

“I’ve got a pretty good idea.”

“Let’s go. We’ll see what we can do from the control room.”

“Wait a minute,” the boy said, pulling his arm away from the officer. “Has somethin’ happened to my daddy?”

The lieutenant reached to grab the boy’s arm again then thought better of it when he saw the look on his face. He stood looking at him for several minutes trying to decide what to do. When he saw the boy wasn’t going to cooperate, he had no alternative but to talk.

“Yes, thomething has happened. There’s been an incident.”

“Did he do it to himself?”

The man was taken aback at the boy’s candor, but as the senior officer on duty, he didn’t have time to placate this boy. Before this day was over, some heads were going to roll because of this, and he wanted to make sure his wasn’t one of them.

“Let’s go, young man. Please, I’m sure you’ll hear about it enough anyway.”

In the parking lot he could hear the voices again from the slotted windows, but they weren’t yelling at him. They were carrying on with the commotion from the events of the morning. They loved chaos, and whenever they saw the opportunity to prolong it, they would gladly carry it to its greatest lengths like a kite on a string. That much would probably make Daddy happy knowing he’d caused that with his leaving. He rolled the window up against the wind and the noise and he waited for her to come back out. If they even let her leave after witnessing the state she was in. He closed his eyes and pictured the man with the broom. He pictured Winston, burning that image into his memory just as firmly as he could until he heard the gate slam shut and a few seconds later the car door open. She got in with the smell of trash and she grabbed the steering wheel, half laughing and half crying. He sat there and looked forward until she finished then she looked over at him and grabbed him under his chin to turn him toward her as was her habit.

“Your daddy’s dead,” she said with a grin, her eyes yellow and glossy and her gray streaked hair half pulled out of her ponytail. “Damndest thing I ever heard in my life. Had him on suicide watch. Nothin’ in his cell but toilet paper. Now how you think a man can hang himself with toilet paper?”

She started the car and pulled out onto the back road that led to the highway. Cracking the window, she lit a cigarette and dropped the empty red and white box on the seat. The boy glanced at it and the name across it then looked out the window at the blur of trees as they passed.

“Heh, ain’t that a peach,” the end of the cigarette bobbed up and down as she spoke. “What a way to go. Well, there’s one that hell was made for. He’ll dance with the devil for sure.” She looked over at him, and he looked back at her to her surprise.

“We both will.” He said with certainty then he leaned his head against the window and counted the seconds that unspooled on the line of time.

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