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The Dead Profession: Chapter 4
As the bell above the door rung loudly, a familiar scent graced my sinuses. It was a thick scent now, must’ve been the coffee break for the white collar folk up the road. This was instantly confirmed as I saw tables filled with the sheep in their expensive suits, drinking their cappuccinos and espressos. I sneered at the thought and moved towards the back of the shop. Bradley was talking to William over a book lay before the two, Joshua meanwhile was busy reading a smaller book, bright and colorful. I approached the table silently, the Bradley and William looked to me, only Bradley smiled.
“Louis, beautiful day isn‘t it?” Bradley said with a chuckle and a wry smile.
“I suppose, maybe for a fish.” Bradley chuckled again lightly.
“Yeah, oh hey, Willy got another novel published.” I finally caught a glimpse of the book they had earlier, it was a thick book, filled with action and drama. No doubt keeping people reading on and on and on, difficult to put down yet easy to read. Superimposed on the cover was “William Glass,” a picture of a sports car’s high beams flooding an ally way with light covered the front. Glass himself appeared on the back, he had a smaller book in his arm, holding it to his heart, his wire frame glasses sat on the bridge of his nose. He was wearing a turtle neck, black, with leather patches on the elbows. He was the perfect looking writer, a direct opposite to me, with my 20/20 vision and white hoodie on, a pair of light jeans as well as some sneakers.
I appeared to be in a completely different league than the man across from me, and yet, I respected that. I inspected the front one last time, noticing another name at the bottom, below the small printed title of the book ‘Roll Call.’ “How cliché,” I thought after reading it, not confronting William about it of course. The name Eric Neville sat at the bottom, I’d never heard of him.
“Who’s this Eric?” I asked.
“Co-author.” Said William dryly. “Why?”
“So you didn’t write the entire book?” There was a pause of confusion from William.
“No, it would take a long time to write an entire book alone.”
“But you’re an author, that’s what you do.”
“True but I need to get these books out for my fans.”
“I’m sure your fans can wait an extra month while you write it out. What, can’t go six months without a profit? Need to keep pushing out books like a conveyor belt?”
“He’s just like an in-between writer, he just fills in the blanks it’s not that important.” I started shaking my head at this point, sliding the book back across the table a dap of color struck my eye. Joshua next to me was deeply focused on the book he read, I leaned over slightly to read the title. I then saw he was reading a Doctor Seuss book. A coffee appeared in front of me, I turned, confused, and saw the new guy Harold.
“Decaf, and no sugar for Lou.” He smiled as I looked to him, maybe it was the situation he smiled at, how at this moment I was looking up to him, rather than the other way around.
“I’m not sure I want to know how you know my usual coffee order, do I?”
“Well it’s quite obvious, I stalk you.” Harold said with a grin. I looked over to Bradley with a raised eyebrow.
“Calm down, I told him.” Bradley said, instantly relieving me, Harold started laughing loudly.
“You actually believed I’m a stalker, didn’t you?” He said sitting next to me.
“Yeah kinda, you do give off that vibe, no offense.”
“None taken. I’m usually, but I’m used to you guys now so I’m good.” After he said that, I turned my attention back to Joshua, whom was tuning out the conversation as usual. He was deep in thought it seemed, as he turned the pages of the brightly colored book.
“What’cha reading Josh?” He continued reading, as he was in the midst of turning the page he spoke as he had a moment.
“Horton Hears a Who.”
“Very much so, it’s about Seuss’s anti-isolationism and internationalism after WW2. Did you know Seuss was an avid political commentator?”
“Really?” Said Bradley, genuinely interested.
“Yeah, he always liked writing about the “going ons” of the world and society. The Butter Battle book was all about the Cold war’s Arm race, Yertle the turtle was about fascism and Hitler. He was always showed kids the injustice in the world, he showed them the moral lessons that seemed avoidable at the time. He wrote about racial equality, about peace and war, about the environment and economy. He brought knowledge to kids, he brought literacy and idealism. He is a god of literature in his own right.”
“I wouldn’t say that Joshua,” William said while stern faced. “I consider the greats to be Hemmingway, Shakespeare, Salinger and so on. I don’t think a child author deserves that title.”
“Just because he didn’t use words defined as ‘real,’ doesn’t mean he’s not worthy. Shakespeare made up words every chance he got, he redefined old words and created new ones out of the shells. Seuss is the same, except he used rhyme and rhythm to create interesting ideas and claims. Read Hemmingway to a child and they’ll sleep.”
“That’s because children are stupid!” William retorted quickly.
“No, no children are not stupid. Children are innocent, imperfect, ignorant. They see the world as it should be seen. Free of prejudice and hate, they see good in people. Children are the only thing keeping us from killing each other.”
“Well then they’re not doing their jobs very well.” Bradley chuckled, and Joshua stared at him before moving closer to speak.
“When we aim our missiles at a country, the only thing keeping us from pulling the metaphysical trigger is children and women. When two adult men kill each other in war, the world turns away, they ignore it. But when a child is killed, the world is up in arms. In both cases a human being ceased to be, and in both cases they were murdered by another human being. But only in the latter of the two does someone stand up and say enough!” As Joshua finished, the table had fallen silent. William sat quietly with his mouth open, surprised. Bradley looked into his lap, ashamed. Harold had his chin resting in his hands, thinking. I was sitting with a crooked smile, happy to see William defeated for once. Joshua had won the argument, but at the same time, I believe we all had a mutual understanding that we had lost, Joshua included.
What we lost was unknown, we were all thinking that as we drank our now cold coffee. Harold tried to break the silence with insipid small talk aimed at Bradley.
“So, what do you do Brad?” Bradley looked to Harold sadly, still comprehending the past argument with Joshua.
“I’m a playwright.” Bradley spoke softly, still staring into his lap, emotion was drained from his face.
“Any plays I‘d heard of?” Harold said intrigued.
“Probably not, I don’t write musicals like most playwrights.” He said sipping his coffee, wincing as he did so. Harold nodded his head in his pseudo-understanding nature, then began to pull out a small magazine from his coat pocket. It looked wrinkled, the damp paper was still drying from the cold winter rain. The bell that hung above the door rang, Harold and I turned to it. Steven walked in alone, he wore a heavy blue coat, as well as a hat with the local newspaper’s name labeled on the front.
He took it off, shaking it dry near the door, awkwardly hitting a couple nearby. He took little notice of it however, and began walking over to us as he removed his wet jacket. As he placed it on the back of an open chair, I spoke directly to him as he sat.
“How was your day?” He looked to me in an exhausted way, shaking his head as he did so.
“Peachy.” He wiped perspiration from his balding forehead, “I swear I’m dealing with amateurs at work.”
“Do tell,” I said bored.
“Emil was trying to put emotions into his articles again, god how stupid.”
“How so?” Said Joshua suddenly, Steven looked to him confused.
“You can’t go putting emotions in Journalism! This ain’t your pansy poetry we’re talking about!” Joshua turned red at the statement, Steven shook his head once more before grabbing cards out of his right pocket.
“Anyone up for Poker?”
“We betting anything?” Asked Harold.
“Not unless you want to lose everything you got to Willy,” He said with a smile and a laugh, William looked humbled by the remark, he was humbled by the idea of being good at stealing other’s money through trickery and deceit. Steven started shuffling, and when he did so a card bent at such an angle that it was flung across to me, Steven looked embarrassed by the mistake and asked for it back politely. I looked the card over, it was a special card deck, I held the King of what was supposed to be clubs. Instead, however the King held a book in his hand instead of the usual sword.
“Where’d you get these from Steve?” I asked.
“Some old garage sale last weekend,” He took the card back, placing it in the middle with the rest of the old paper cards, he shuffled again. He dealt the cards, we showed our hands, and we continued this process, we used toothpicks instead of real money. William won most of the hands, if not all. The night air was fast approaching, as was darkness.
William left first, talking of a pain shooting down his back, he exited holding the base of his spine as though in pain, we knew better of course. Joshua left with little more than a “goodbye,” he never was one for talking, that Joshua. Other patrons of the store began their trips home as Bradley, Harold, Steven and myself sat talking. Steven was complaining about decreased sales of his paper and discussed working for a magazine, he denounced this thought quickly. He found little comfort in the idea of simplifying his writing for magazine readers, I argued with him on this, to no avail.
As Steven left, angry as usual, Harold gave us his own goodbyes; before he left, he turned to me, staring at first, then said.
“I was listening to your talk show a couple days ago, and you want to know something? After I did, I had this strange urge to give up on college. I wanted to stop the studying, the parties, the classes. And I wanted to walk, far away, I remember walking as a kid. I walked to the store, the creek, to school. I was in control of my destiny then, and I loved it. I always wanted to go back to that, to that peaceful coexistence with myself, with nature. I, just wanted to walk.” He was staring into space at the end of his story, and without warning, he left. Not another word was spoken then, he just left, the bell over the door rung as he did so.
Bradley looked to me confused, I looked back with mutual feelings. We gathered our things and began to leave, with a second ring we were out on the street. Bradley and I were talking again as we walked.
“How’s Maria? You told me she came back?”
“Oh she’s fine, still looking for herself I think.”
“She still taking it hard?”
“Her parent’s deaths are something no child should go through, but we‘re getting through it, little by little. Miranda’s not helping much either, always hounding the poor girl, never letting her breathe.”
“And you do, let her breathe that is?”
“Yes, and that’s why she keeps on coming back to me, don‘t get me wrong I love her like my own, but the girl needs to know responsibility, you can‘t just pack up and leave when things are tough.” I approached my car, as I closed the door I saw Bradley looking down to me, smiling.
“Not like you were any different, Huh Lou?” He closed my door and began walking the other way, not turning back to look at me. Rain drops began to fall, and Bradley snapped the collar of his heavy coat upwards, guarding him partially from the rain. He was crossing the street when a large truck drove behind him, when it passed completely, he was gone. I turned forward, his words danced in my head, churning emotions that had been left dormant for years deep inside me. I put the car into drive and began to pull out off the corner, The man who was packing had left. The deli was dark, empty and above all, gone.
My windshield wipers went on to counteract the rain, as I drove home, thoughts came about in my mind. Everything that day seemed to speak to me, even if subtlety. The poem, the old man, Joshua’s words, words that only a poet would assemble. They all seemed geared at changing something, something within the confines of my abysmal intellect. A dove landed near the stop sign down the street from my house, in it’s mouth was a bright orange peel, it seemed to have eaten an orange earlier. As I passed underneath of the dove, it dropped the peel directly on my windshield, it sprawled out wards and then slid off due to the windshield wipers. It spread the water on my windshield across to the other side, lines were prevalent in the glass.
I stopped my car out front of my home and just stared at the windshield, I looked as the thin lines blurred and faded away into downward streaks, I saw droplets speckle the glass with random placements. Every dropped landed separate to another, never did two land next to, or on top of another. I wiped my eyes and left the car, picking up the small orange peel from the windshield of the car. I held it in my hands for but a moment, feeling the weight of the peel, It seemed heavy for its size.
As I dozed off, the peel seemed weightless within the next moment, and as it left my hand and landed near the metal trashcan in the dark ally between my gray home it seemed to be glowing in the moonlit ally. I pushed my hair back, letting the water embedded in the follicles wet my hand. I looked to my hand, beaming in starch moonlight, and dried it on my coat, then entered the house.
On my entrance I was met with soft gunfire coming from the living room, I peeked around the wall to see Maria sleeping with the television on. I grabbed the remote that was on the floor next to the couch Maria now slept on and turned off the action movie that played. I turned to see Maria soundly sleeping, I looked to the wall mounted clock in the kitchen to see that it was around 1 in the morning. Shaking my head I dug my arms underneath the slumbering fifteen year old and began carrying her to her room.
I placed her gently on top of her sheet strewn bed, taking care of her brunette colored head. I gazed at the young women, I moved the bangs from her forehead, kissing the center softly. I pulled the sheets up around her chest, trying hard not to tuck her in like a child. I heard a light ring come from the living room and left.
Her phone sat at the base of the coffee table that separated the couch from the TV. I held the small orange phone in my hand, felling it vibrate in between my fingers. I pressed the smaller green phone above the num pad and held it up to my ear.
“Hello?” I said.
“Oh um, Maria?” Said a nervous boy on the other side.
“No, she’s in bed.”
“Oh, who’s this?” He said back quaintly.
“Her uncle, who’s this?”
“Friend, ju-just her friend.” He began to stutter as he spoke.
“Well I’ll tell her you called..” I left a blank for him to fill.
“Jason, it’s um, Jason.”
“Right, Jason. I’ll let her know you called.”
“Thanks, bye.” He hung up quickly, I stood their with the small pink phone in my hand. All the while, wondering if it was orange a few minutes ago