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"Push Shadow", excerpt

Friday 12/6/19

I must get to other things, now, with haste, but part of a new story I began this AM. Very good. I have some special ones going simultaneously.


***

Dave knew there was a hierarchy of coolness with fear. It was cool to be scared of sharks. Being water-boarded if you were abroad and went afoul of the government. Landslides if your house was on a slope. Knocks on your door were different. Booming, chestal knocks like an apartment building had cancer in its lungs.


A lot of people like a knock at the door. Surprise visit from friends. Bit of excitement in the day. There’s pleasure in turning aside a Jehovah’s Witness. Vague, benign power. Speaking of the power and the glory. Everyone wants in, in a way.


Dave hoped the knocks were from the building’s resident meatheads capping their latest night at the bars. They came just after he fell asleep. Sometimes they made him fall out of bed, but he had configured a row of cushions on the ground that looked like foamy Stonehenge. Fall back, spring forward. Just like the clocks.


Meatheads, though, did not knock and dash, covertly, inconspicuously. Meatheads did not do anything without their trademark meathead laugh. Ta-ha-ta-ta-ha. He could have picked his teeth with his heart after the knock resounded. It was in his throat and his mouth and it beat there, like a drummer’s press roll, or a hummingbird’s wings, he wasn’t sure which.


“Why are you so scared of the knocks?” his friend Gasper asked. “Do you think they are a summoning?”


“Jesus. What?”


“Or a way to force entry? It could be a great love. Angel of the night. She may be shy. It could be a child.”


Dave thought about that. It could be a child.


Once he saw a child’s shadow in the hallway, without the child, the back half of the shadow, dangling from a wall, shadow feet kicking. He looked around to make sure no one was watching him. No one was playing a joke, no one had a strange, prestidigitating flashlight, but he knew even before he felt he should go through the motions of confirmation.


“Help,” the child said, its voice muffled by the plaster, braces, stiles, and rails. It spat. Maybe it spat out paint. Dave could not see. He crouched down, a couple feet from the kicking legs, which now stilled, and spoke into the wall.


“What would you like me to do?”


“Push,” the child said, “and we will reconvene later.”


Now that was a strange word for a child to use. Perhaps it had a gambit.


“Are you going to harm me?” Dave asked. There was silence. No flailing of legs. Complete silence. For ten or twelve seconds.


Dave felt like he had committed a great grievance. “I’m sorry,” he said, when the silence had become too much. “I will push now. Ready?”


“Use your shoulder,” the child added. “Shadows are heavier than we think.”


Dave did not cut into the shadow, it was solid and felt akin to the weight of a lot of pennies in a bag, and with a squirt, like jam through a thimble, the child darted into the wall, Dave arose, and walked to the roof of the building, which he normally did around two, three in the morning, because aloneness could be better to ponder under stars than in a bed, or on the floor of a shower as the water beat against his neck and made the tops of his shoulders prune like grim, puckered avocados.