Part I: Red Ink as Far as the Eye Can See

The stale stench of old coffee hung in the air of the apartment off 77th and 101st. Samuel sat at his kitchen table holding the times in his fat fingered hands. He ran one hand absent mindedly through graying dark brown hair and exhaled while he leaned his chair back against nicotine stained wallpaper. The stench of the piled up garbage outside was seeping through his half open window, and he sat in that rancid room pondering their old life in Gramercy Park.

 

The city was cold, but not windy or rainy yet. It dulled Samuel, a constant ache deep within his bones. He folded the times and creased it, there was no need to squint his eyes and read the print about everything spiraling out of control. For Samuel, the day Okie Doke Advertising had sent him packing was the day he started to feel it all slip away. He’d given that company five of his best years. He had no pension; all he was left with was a mortgage he couldn’t pay and the dead weight of failure.

 

He and Loretta used to go out till early morning hours, soaking up all the luxury Manhattan could offer. They swung and drank and danced their way through that city. New Years parties in Time Square, banquets in fancy hotels, shopping at Saks. They’d treated him real nice then, the cigars were fragrant and everything seemed like it was made of gold. Sam had never wanted kids, back then, he used to say he wasn’t done living. With Loretta gone, the whole idea seemed even more foreign to him.

 

Samuel laid the times on the table and shot a glance around his kitchen. A half burnt cigarette lay in their ash tray across from him. He took it from the rim and dragged nice and slow. The smoke poured from his open mouth as his wooden chair creaked with the weight of him. The radio played something lively and jazzy. Samuel coughed and cleared his throat.

 

Hard to believe that two years ago at this time, he’d have been pulling his wife’s body from the rafters, trying to maintain his balance as her dead weight shifted into his care. She probably had not fully considered the after effects, the involuntary defecation and the ugly bruised ring around her throat and neck, the crooked way she hung. Her fair skinned face had turned an ivory white with the softest tinge of blue.

 

Before pulling her down he had sat in that same chair listening to the radio and reading her note, watching his wife swing back and forth while big band soft toned women sang him love songs. Then there were nights of waking up and calling out to her. Ashtrays piled with cigarettes. The night before, they had fought over what his next move would be and he hoped she hadn’t walked out on him. He remembered getting out of bed and calling to her; pleading with her for forgiveness while he put his slippers on and tightened his bathrobe. He remembered how hard he had tried to make his voice take on a tone of soothing while he walked down their hallway into their kitchen. And then there was nothing but her swinging and a fresh cup of coffee.

 

Two years later, Samuel sat sipping coffee, trying to will himself to stop thinking of things as theirs. He glanced at the Colt, lying on the face of the table. She’d get use today. He picked her up and opened the cylinder for the first time in two years. One by one, he removed the shells and placed them on the table. They stood like tiny soldiers, waiting for the sudden clash that came with action orders.

 

While he cleaned the gun, he went over the plan again in his head. The office and the bank were both in Manhattan. First he would clear out his account. The papers were saying thousands of banks had already been run out of their money, who knew if his would still be open by the end of the week.

 

Samuel ran a pipe cleaner through the cylinder and lifted the barrel to eye level.

 

During that first week of unemployment, Samuel sucked down liquor until Hadley and Johnston had pulled him out of his stupor and sat him down. In a diner near Gramercy, they gave him coffee and told him how they had walked out. “Let’s do it Sam,” they pleaded, “Let’s make our own way.”

 

Samuel snapped the cylinder shut after loading it. This used to calm him down, his Colt used to be pristine. After the day Loretta died Sam just couldn’t bring himself to move the gun. He’d gone nights at that table, sipping coffee and wondering how long it took her to decide on the rope while he watched his treasure collect dust.

 

Two years after waking to that fresh cup of coffee, he felt like it was time to put the question to rest. It was time Mr. Samuel Nelson joined his wife. The rest of the morning belonged to him, but he’d have to get going soon. He had obligations to attend to.   

Samuel spent the morning listening to the radio. His fingers turned the knob navigating the different stations.

 

OR…


 
Samuel coughed into his palm and smoldered the cigarette butt in the ash tray.  He shut the radio off, lit another cigarette, and listened to the sounds of the city invade his room.

 

OR…

 

For the first time in his life, Sam felt as though he needed the Bible. He put out his cigarette and made his way to the bedroom.

Published on April 8, 2009 at 8:18 AM  Comments (1)  

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