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"Push Shadow", excerpt ii.

Monday 12/9/19

Really taking my time with "Push Shadow," "Spines," "Fare." Three special ones. Taking the journey with each. They'll be done when they're done.


***

When the knocking at his door became unbearable, he told Gasper about the time he had helped the child.


“You couldn’t have left it there.”


“No.”


“’Reconvene’ was its exact word?”


“Yes.”


“And each time you open the door, there is no one there?”


“Never.”


Gasper pondered. He took a long pull at his beer. They were in a bar. Gasper had three kids. They didn’t hang out much anymore. “Was it a boy or girl?


“Couldn’t tell.”


“Andro.”


“What?”


“It means ‘androgynous.’”


“I don’t think it does. It’s like a locked room mystery.”


“What’s that?”


“it’s a mystery with a room no one can get into, but seemingly someone does. Despite the room being fortified, with nothing in it that could harm anyone, there’s a body that has been sliced in half or something.”


“Never mind the unimpregnable chamber?”


“Right. Then someone has to solve the mystery. The locked room mystery.”


“That’s bullshit. Not what this is. This is the eternal mystery. Plus, the shadow kid was out in the hall. And the knocking doesn’t come from inside. Although I guess it could. People can throw their voices. Maybe a knock can throw a knock.”


The knock did throw a knock, in that as Dave went about his days, he began to hear the boom elsewhere. At the café when someone set down a coffee mug there would be a noise like the one he heard at home, in his little apartment, where he had gone to weather one of life’s phases. Gasper worked in contracting and talked about forever homes.


“Most people now, I would say,” Gasper had said, “don’t settle in their forever home until they are in their fifties. And you are forty-eight. So you have time. To get on your feet again. Emotional feet.”


Dave imagined what emotional feet might have looked like. They were probably black and red, in his case, with swirling gneissic patterns, like bad dreams in the form of that darkened mucus after a nose bleed. The dried detritus from up around one’s brain that looks like scabs or the tops of lesions having been ripped off and blown into the Kleenex you inspected for some reason, post-blow.


“I feel post-blow,” Dave said aloud, to no one in particular, startling the woman who sat across from him at the table they had to share on account of the crowd that day, the woman whose coffee mug had sounded like the boom of his door each time she set it back upon the table in between sips.


“Sicko,” she said, standing, preferring to hover against the furthest away wall, peeved kestrel with a lukewarm latte, waiting for another seat to open up. Dave accepted that the boom was nomadic. This ruled out the meatheads as its source. The latest week, full of booming sounds, was a trying one. Normally he didn’t distinguish. All of the weeks were trying, during what he hoped was just a phase, but still, that’s how pain was, as he was learning acutely—there is never a time when numbness becomes sufficiently total that you can’t feel another wave, prick, panic, uppercut, boom, blast. You can drain the seas, or think you have, you can be staring at an arid wasteland of sand, and up comes that breaker, advancing, soaking and stunning.


He didn’t like living in a building full of meatheads. They were quite a few years his junior. He didn’t like feeling parental. Off-premises. He didn’t like feeling parental off-premises was how he put it. He was parental on-premises when he was with his own child, which wasn’t often, save for this one week. Maybe he was parentally on-premises with the push-shadow child. The building meatheads probably didn’t actually look at him as if he were a scold, but it felt that way when he passed them in the hall after their latest weekend round of debauches, with each “”sup, bro,” feeling weirdly deferential, like he was the building elder, its Yoda.