Ghost of the Starry Night

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A small town police officer encounters a man gazing at the stars in the backstreets of his town.

Submitted: November 17, 2013

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Submitted: November 17, 2013



Arnold Hafner's world view was sculpted by public service announcements and half-assed tidbits of advice from his parents and teachers. To him, the world was simple. Children were always naïve, and elderly people were always wise. Girls liked pretty flowers and romance novels, and boys liked football and war movies. Men provided, and women nourished. Listening to music too loud was bad for your ears, and riding a bike without a helmet was dangerous. People should not steal, do drugs, say curse words, watch too much television, or eat too much junk food. Having a lot of friends was a good thing, and being alone was a bad thing. Hard work always paid off and was a prime source of character. The mailman delivered mail, the garbageman picked up things that nobody wanted, and the policeman put the bad guys in jail. People wanted what made them happy, which wasn't too hard to find out, and people didn't want what made them sad, which wasn't too hard to find out either.

All his life he trusted these basic concepts, and all in all, they got him pretty far. He graduated college and took a job working as a police officer in a college town. He wasn't married, as interaction with the female gender had always frustrated him. He always brought them flowers, took them to nice dinners, told them they were pretty, held doors and pulled out chairs for them, and played R&B music during sex, but for whatever reason, it was never enough.

His job satisfied him. He had an innocent yet powerful sense of self-worth, which was a part of his devotion to a purpose that was vaguely tied to a desire for justice and vigilance. Nothing needed to be explained in this line of work. There were rules in place, and he was there to make sure they were respected, which wasn't hard for him to do.

One night he was patrolling down a quiet one-way street toward the edge of town. The street was in between two neighborhoods and primarily consisted of the backyards of the houses that belonged to them. The only houses that were technically a part of the neighborhood were two small wooden ones that were lined with chimes on their front porches and lawn chairs in their front yards.

As Arnold's patrol car eased through the narrow road he took notice of a man of no obvious age with a hairless head and a cold face composed of rough contours and precise features. He stood at least six and a half feet tall and his head was leaned upward toward the sky unflinchingly. “Ah, double dang,” said Arnold as his patrol car rode past. “What's this dummy up to?” He pulled the patrol car over and shined his flashlight on the man. “Sir,” he said, “please face me.” The man turned his head toward Arnold. “Can I, uh, ask what's goin' on here?”

“The stars look good tonight.” The man's voice was toneless. He spoke with a crooked, almost sarcastic smile.

“Okay, well it's nice to look at the stars sometimes, sir, but you're standing in the middle of a very dark road. Someone could hit you.”

“I am not standing in the middle.”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“I am not standing in the middle. I am standing on the side of the road.”

“Okay sir I'm not really liking your tone right now. Can I please see some ID?”

“I don't own one.”

“What do you mean you don't own one?”

“Just that,” he said as he looked back toward the stars. Arnold paused for a moment, looked at the ground, and then up at the night sky. He admitted to himself that it did look rather beautiful, especially because there wasn't much light pollution in that part of town.

“Okay listen sir, I'm going to play it cool with you because you don't seem like a real threatening guy. I've encountered much scarier actin' homeless before, and you don't seem all that bad. So here's the deal: you just head on out of town up that way –”

“I lied to you before.”

“You what?”

“I lied to you. I do have an identification card. It is in my wallet.”

“Ah now, come on! Now you're really pushin' my buttons sir, and you don't want to do that, so hand it over.” The man reached slowly into his pocket, pulled out an old, beaten leather wallet, and got out his ID and handed it to him. Arnold scanned it with his flashlight and was surprised to see that that it all checked out. The photograph looked like the man and the date was still valid by a few years. “Alright, sir, everything here looks good. Now don't you have somewhere to be?”

“No I do not,” said the man as he reared his head back toward the glistening stars.

“Ah, come on now, don't you have a job to go to in the morning? A wife and children to take care of?” The man said nothing as his eyes continued to scan over the skyline. “Sir, you have to move along. I've been patient with you, but now I'm starting to lose that patience. Do you understand?”

“It really is a beautiful evening,” said the man.

“I can see that, sir, but you cannot be standin' around here like this!”

The man finally looked down at Arnold and stared at him directly in the eye. He then turned around for a moment, then turned back around with a gun drawn.

“Hold it right there, mister!” said Arnold as he drew his gun. It was the first time a gun had been pulled on him in his life. He tried to think back to his training in an attempt to conjure up some form of defense. “Put the gun down or I will fire! I repeat, I will --” The man fired his gun and Arnold fired his. A bullet tore through the man's right shoulder as another exploded through Arnold's throat. The man barely flinched and walked over to Arnold's violent, shivering body and shot him still with a clean shot to the head. He looked back up at the night sky and with a random string of stars fashioned a constellation of a god only he knew. 

© Copyright 2020 William Charles. All rights reserved.

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