The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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Harper lost the Wheeler account. He felt it slip through his fingers like something warm and sticky, making a mess of everything. He spent the rest of the morning in Johnstone’s office, staring at the burgundy carpet as his boss leaned a finger into Harper’s face and raged.
At lunch, at the Club, Harper dumped a saucer of Ranch dressing into his lap.
Kelly called around 3. The toilet again. Gray water puddling fast in the bathroom, spilling down the hallway, and threatening their Tree of Life rug carted all the way from Barcelona by her late father.
On the drive home, cars lined like camels in the heat, Harper heard a cough. The cough kicked in and out a few times, and then the cough wound high to a sharp whine until the sound of metal on metal rang from under the hood. Steam filled the road. The alternator light blinked red.
Harper got out of the car. He reached back through the window and opened the glove compartment. He figured he should have a tool of some sort. A screwdriver, something. He should have a tool of some sort if he was going to stand in the sun with his hood up.
There was no screwdriver, only a hammer. Harper hefted it in his right hand and opened the hood. His water pump lay at an angle, gray and greasy like a beached whale. Green antifreeze dripped from the torn gasket.
Harper stood next to his car, in the middle of the expressway, with the hammer in his hand. There were cars as far as he could see. Horns screamed. Off to his left, golden arches reflected beaten sunlight.
A jet passed overhead. Harper looked toward the airfield. An old B-29, a relic they’d set up as some kind of memorial, burned white in the afternoon sun. It hurt to look at it. Harper thought of his father, who often talked of the war.
“In war,” his father used to say, “there’s this terrible racket in the head, and the colors are all wrong. There’s a stink that lies over everything. You feel things straining, snapping and buckling deep inside. And suddenly you’re hard on the edge of something. You whimper. You make promises.
“The whole meat and substance of it all swings close.”
An immense regret seized Harper. He stood in the sun and regretted never having had a war he could call his own.
Men have need of such things, his father used to tell him.
A woman leaned out the window of her Toyota and bent into her horn.
Once home, Harper sloshed through two inches of standing water. He collapsed on the sofa. The Tree of Life rug looked limp and wasted. Kelly was there, a mop in her hand and her hair sheathed in an old scarf of faded reds and blues.
“Kelly,” Harper said. “Kelly, it’s time. Kelly, get me out of here.”
Kelly always planned their vacations. She liked the act of spreading maps wide over a table, smoothing the creases with longs sweeps of her small hands. She loved poring over books that told of hidden lodges in Vermont and beach bungalows off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She looked forward to phoning innkeepers and car-rental agents and tour guides.
Harper, he wanted none of this. Harper wanted only to pile into a car or onto a train or into a seat on a plane and be gone.
Harper and Kelly were good in this way. Harper and Kelly, they loved deeply.
Harper lived life like a balance sheet, a series of debits and credits that had to be adjusted until the ledger pointed in the right direction, until the ledger added up to a kind of happiness. Kelly, she lived differently. Kelly filled lids from empty peanut butter jars with sugar and set them out for the ants. Kelly taught art to the autistic. Magnets pinned drawings of lone houses in broad fields, drawings of stick men, drawings of dawns with outsized suns, to their refrigerator door. Kelly ran from house to house, arms loaded with petitions on the whale problem, the toxic waste problem, the Bomb problem. Kelly gave money to Ethiopian relief funds. Kelly was forever ruining their expensive copper crockery by boiling eggs and then forgetting them, filling their apartment with a sulfuric stench.
Vacations were different. Kelly planned, plotted, schemed, as if drawing up blueprints. Harper ran around with white socks sagging at his ankles and a can of Schlitz in his paw.
Harper asked no questions when Kelly bought #15 sunscreen and yards of mosquito netting. Harper kept his silence when Kelly pulled their passports from a corner drawer. Harper made no mention of the ankle-high boots and thick ponchos Kelly purchased one afternoon. It was only when he was bent over a table, his pants around his knees and 2.5 cc’s of gamma globulin piercing the flesh of his butt, that he looked up at her and said, “Kelly?”
She smiled at him and brought a finger to her lips. This was part of their understanding. This was the way the thing was played.
The needle made him wince. Harper pulled up his pants and buckled his belt. He thought of the time they went snorkeling off the Gulf coast. He remembered the white-water rapids in the Northwest. He recalled the sheer face of the Arizona steppes.
Harper could hardly sit for three days.
Even on the plane to Miami he had no idea. He worked at a gin and tonic while Kelly stared out the window and surveyed coiled stretches of clouds. When they arrived in Miami, Kelly steered him toward the Aeronica counter.
Flight #507, he read, departing at 10:30. Managua, he read. He blinked. Managua, he read. A damn hippie junket, he realized suddenly. He’d seen such trips advertised in the leftist magazines Kelly received in the mail. A bunch of do-gooders off to stare at the world’s latest boil. He’d been secretly hoping for a week in a fine old hotel in Montreal, or maybe a few days of fishing off Nova Scotia. Someplace cool. A place where the air grips the lungs. He looked around. He saw pimply students. He saw nuns. He saw members of a union local, their names etched in red on bowling shirts. They all waited to board Flight #507. “Kelly,” he began.
“Harper,” she came back, turning on him with a smile. “It’ll be fun. Exciting as hell. It’ll be good for us.”
“Kelly, we’re talking war zone here. We’re talking mortars and bullets and blood. My God, Kelly, we’re talking outhouses.”
“It’s only for two weeks,” she replied.
He blinked at Kelly. He thought of the blots of color on their refrigerator door. He thought of the burnt eggs. He thought of the tins of sugar, the ants.
Then they were being loaded onto the plane.
They arrived late at night, in a sweltering humidity that made his hair stick to his forehead and his trousers bunch at the crotch. A bus took them to a house on the outskirts of Managua, where the introductions were made and they were fed a meal of rice and beans and a bitter coleslaw.
Harper stared at the members of the group. Harper ran a fork through the rice, the beans. He was afraid to drink the water.
They all slept in a room crisscrossed with bunk beds. Harper slept on top, Kelly on the bottom. The room filled with snores. Mosquitoes hovered at his ears. Harper sweated.
The next morning they were back on the bus, winging through downtown Managua. Gutted buildings, cows wandering the streets. Uniforms, guns. Women balancing baskets of fruit on their heads. The group attended lectures on Nicaraguan health care and the education system. They talked to a local businessman. They conferred with a member of the Catholic hierarchy.
Harper was bored out of his nut.
Lunch was rice, beans, and what looked like a half-cooked purple potato.
“Kelly,” Harper managed when they got a few moments to themselves. “Kelly, this is horrible. A terrible idea. It’s not too late to bag it. We could still arrange a few days in the Berkshires. A cabin next to a stream, maybe.”
Kelly grinned. “This is important. Something worthwhile.”
“Worthwhile? You want worthwhile? Give to public television. This is a damn nightmare. The food, the mosquitoes, the heat. Christ, the heat.”
Her smile twisted into a frown. She turned away and struck up a conversation with a young guy wearing an earring who grew blueberries in New Hampshire.
That afternoon they went to a beach on Lake Managua. “Free period,” the agenda read. The beach was filled with dark brown bodies. The group looked like a white fungus scattered in among all that brown. Pale bodies gone fat and freckled. Harper stared ruefully down at his own belly straining against the lip of his trunks. Kelly frolicked in the lake. Kelly threw a frisbee to a union organizer who had arms like hams. Kelly gave a priest a back rub. Kelly looked fantastic in her bikini, her belly flat and her hips a soft swell.
Harper rose and waddled to a far corner of the beach, away from all the others. He sat by himself in the shadow of a volcano. The volcano rose sharp, a sudden and frightening shock of earth straining for clouds. Harper watched the white bodies off in the distance. Harper watched Kelly racing along the beach. Harper stared up at the volcano.
He was hot. He was hungry. He was thirsty. Harper thought of Johnstone; he thought of the water pump. He thought of their Tree of Life rug. He felt a hand on his shoulder and his heart scooted up his throat and rattled around in his head in what seemed a rehearsal for death itself.
Harper turned, expecting to find Lee Marvin in olive green with a bayonet at the ready.
She was young, with straight black hair, black as charcoal briquettes. Her skin was brown and smooth. She smelled as if someone had just split open a packet of fresh seed. But the eyes. Harper looked and thought, the eyes. They were a deep, thick blue, a blue you could lose yourself in as in a vast expanse of open sea. She smiled at him. A gold tooth set far back in her mouth seemed ready to ignite and flame in the sun.
She said something, he wasn’t sure what. Spanish. He could feel the heat coming off her body, thick tides of warmth. She laughed then, a high twittering that sent a shard of electricity clambering up his spine. Harper watched her move off.
That night he could hardly sleep for the sunburn.
The next morning his group headed for the countryside. They traveled in an old school bus. The shocks were bad, the road crude. The group sang. Harper didn’t know the songs, the words. Words about peace and justice and all the rest. Kelly sang right along with them. Kelly knew all the words.
It was hot. The bus was like an oven, claiming more than its share of heat and holding it fast. Harper sweated. His tongue felt stiff and enormous in his mouth. When the bus pulled into a small village, Harper bought a plastic bag of some purple liquid from a small boy. He sat and stared at the bag.
The tour coordinator, a thin woman named Gladys, stepped toward him. She wore broad red glasses that dwarfed her face. “Like this,” she offered, taking the bag from Harper. She bit off one end of the plastic and put her mouth to the hole. “Glass is scarce here,” she said. And then, “Pitaya. My favorite.”
Harper gave Gladys a weak smile. Harper bent and placed his mouth on the bag. Harper pinched it just as she had. Juice spurted down his chin. Purple flowed across his shirt.
They arrived after dark, at a place called Saint-something-of-the-something. Harper couldn’t remember what. They would sleep on the floor of a church. For dinner they ate beans and rice and tiny white squares that were supposed to be cheese. The squares tasted like salty styrofoam. They drank water laced with iodine. At dinner Harper leaned toward Kelly. “I can’t take this much longer. I’m starving. I want a good night’s rest. I want air conditioning. I want a drink.”
Kelly scowled at him and went back to talking to a member of a lesbian cooperative from Maine who made pottery.
Harper stared down at his plate. He stared at his rice and beans. He nudged the white slab with a bent fork. When he looked up, he met the eyes of an old guy sitting across the way.
The guy stuck out his hand. “Jerguson, from Jersey.”
“Harper,” Harper said. He took Jerguson’s hand.
“Me and Willy here are going to sneak out later, maybe grab a beer. You wanna come with us?”
Harper looked at Willy. Willy had a goatee.
Willy’s head bobbed. “There’s a little place just down the street. I saw it when we came in,” he breathed.
After dinner there was a meeting. The group made plans for the next day. The group prayed. Then they formed a big circle and everybody hugged. Harper and Jerguson and Willy managed to sneak out between the praying and the hugging.
They sat at a small table in a dim room. A large woman with a gold tooth waited patiently as Willy tried the Spanish. “A semester in junior college,” he boasted when she was gone.
The beer was cold. “I needed this,” Harper said after the third beer. He felt a little better, sitting in the evening heat with his hand wrapped around a bottle wet with condensation.
“And I’ve had it up to here with rice and beans,” he added.
“It’s kind of like camping,” Jerguson said. “Just look at it like camping.”
“I’m supposed to be sunning on Cape Cod,” Harper explained. “Or surf fishing off the Carolina coast.”
Willy looked up. “The blues are running now.”
“Damn right,” Harper said. “You been there?”
Willy nodded. “Cape Hatteras. Bear Island. Emerald Isle.”
“Me too,” Harper said with a grin.
“Think we’ll see any fighting?” Jerguson put in. “Any contras, is what I mean. Think they’re around here?”
Willy shrugged. “Maybe.”
“I’ve heard the contras mine the roads,” Jerguson went on. “I mean, our passports won’t help us, we hit a mine.” Jerguson blinked into his beer.
Harper looked at Jerguson. Harper said, “I once pulled in an eight-pound flounder surf fishing off Cape Lookout.” He held his hands apart to show how big. “Eight pounds. Can you feature that?”
Harper woke up in the middle of the night. Moonlight splashed through a window. Kelly lay sleeping beside him, her face a gray shadow. Harper was lost, confused. He rose on unsteady legs and moved through the church, stepping high over bodies scattered along the floor. He was halfway across the room when he heard a dim pop, followed by another and then another. He froze, straining to place the sound. A bundle in the corner shifted, and someone whispered, “Mortars.”
Others moved, sliding into sitting positions. “Mortars,” Harper heard again.
“Mortars,” he heard himself whisper.
They woke to a pounding rain. Breakfast consisted of rice, beans, and slices of green tomato.
They had another meeting. They talked about the mortars in the night. A tall balding man of about Harper’s age said he was afraid. Everyone nodded. Then they piled onto the bus. The bus moved through town and began climbing high into some hills. Everything was green. Harper saw coffee groves. He watched stalks of corn whipped by the wind and rain.
A large truck carrying a bunch of soldiers eased around the bus. Harper watched as the truck moved by. The soldiers were young. Kelly smiled and waved at the soldiers.
By midday the rain had stopped. As they crested a high ridge the bus pulled off the dirt road. Everyone filed out. “A leg stretch,” Gladys, the woman with the big glasses, announced.
Harper wandered a little farther up the ridge. He had to take a leak. He found a spot off by himself and unzipped. When he finished, he looked around. Everything was tall grass and large stones. A small stream wound down the ridge.
Harper looked up. A rainbow cut across the sky. The rainbow seemed right on top of him. It looked as if he could walk to the edge of the rainbow in no time. As if he could touch the rainbow, take it in his arms and shimmy up it.
Harper stared at the rainbow. Harper worked his jaw.
Then Kelly was standing next to him. “You’re not enjoying this,” she said. He looked into her eyes. The brown there was rich and moist. He looked back to the sky. “I’m sorry, Harper,” she went on.
He thrust out his arm. He pointed. He pointed to the rainbow. “My God, Kelly,” he said. “My God.”
Harper was dizzy. His feet struggled up a sharp incline. Harper heard singing. His skin seemed to be lacquered in a thick varnish of dried sweat. The air shimmered as great swaths of heat rose from the ground and enveloped him. Kelly, someone, handed Harper a canteen. He unscrewed the top and took a sip. The water was warm. It tasted of iodine.
Soon Harper was sitting on a rock. He was sitting on a rock and asking someone what day it was. “Tuesday,” he heard. Harper thought on this. The word, the day, held little for him. Then he was hefting something round and smooth and cool in his palm. Harper sniffed the thing. He bit into it. It was sweet, wet. A piece of the thing tore free and exploded in his mouth, washing over his tongue. Harper bit again.
The paper made a great ripping sound there in the dark. Harper tore at it. He took a section and wadded it into a tight ball. Then he spread it flat over his knees. He wadded it up again. He did this three, four times, loosening the fibers in the paper, breaking down molecular bonds. A fist from some far-off place reached in and gripped his gut.
His bowels spilled more water. The outhouse was damp, clammy. Harper groaned. His stomach kicked again.
“Harper?” he heard then. “Harper, you OK, honey?”
Harper said nothing. Harper tore off another section of paper and began balling it up.
“It was probably that mango you ate,” Kelly called from beyond the door. “You have to wash the fruit here, is what they say.” He could hear the sympathy in her voice. A sharp stab of affection punched holes in his brain. He heard the sympathy and the pity. The guilt.
“Harper?” she said again. “Harper, talk to me.”
The guilt. Harper smiled at this, at Kelly’s guilt. He worked the paper between his fingers and grinned into the dark.
He woke far into the night. He sat up. He could hear Kelly breathing beside him. He rose slowly and made his way toward a thin shaft of silver light. He moved quietly. He felt weak, wasted. He tiptoed.
He stepped from the door. The moon was immense, a great ball of metal hanging in the night. Harper had never seen such a moon. His memory had no room for a moon like this. The moon and a hundred, a thousand stars. Stars like distant eyes. Harper stared into the sky and worked his jaw. He would forget. Harper worried he would forget. A sudden chill came over him. Harper started shaking, his teeth rattling. Harper stared at the moon and shivered. The moon, the sky, looked like a place of warmth, a nest of thick hues and rich light. A pocket into which he could slip and sit wide-eyed forever. He stood and stared, trying for something. Working at it.
A low hum came to Harper. It grew louder. Harper watched as a plane cut across the surface of the moon.
Then Gladys, the thin woman with the large glasses, was at his side. “Probably an airdrop,” she said grimly. “Your tax dollars at work.” She placed a hand on Harper’s shoulder. “You should rest, Harper,” she added softly. “You’ve been sick, and you need to rest.”
Harper nodded. He nodded at the moon, the plane, and turned to go back inside.
He felt much better the next day. “Much better,” he told everyone. The others on the bus, the priest and Willy and Gladys and all of them, came up to Harper and placed their hands on his shoulder and bent low to peer into his face. “Much better,” he told them with a grin. The hands patted his shoulder, ruffled his hair.
Harper started talking. Faces lined up and down the bus turned to look at him. Harper explained about the mango, the outhouse. He talked about the newspaper, the dark. Harper went on about wadding up the paper. He moved his hands to show them how it was. He made faces, mock grimaces. He grunted and strained. He mimicked Kelly’s voice from beyond the door of the outhouse. Soon the entire bus was laughing, roaring. Kelly, Jerguson, the steelworkers, they all giggled helplessly. Harper was funny. Harper was a hit. People cast appreciative smiles his way. Harper basked in their expressions. He settled back and joked and waited for their laughter like a return on a smart wager.
They were descending a small hill. The bus rocked lazily. Someone started singing, and then Harper started singing, too. He didn’t know all the words, but he watched Kelly and smiled at her and did the best he could.
The bus stopped. Everyone grew quiet.
Harper was still smiling, smiling from the jokes and the songs. The smile stuck to his face.
Gladys stood at the head of the bus. She began talking in low, soothing tones. People in the bus licked their lips and stared at Gladys. Harper wished Gladys would stop talking. He wanted to be on the move again. He wanted to joke and laugh. He wanted song. He would tell Kelly that maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Harper was the first to see the truck. Everyone else, the hippies and the nuns and the steelworkers, they were all watching Gladys, listening to her. All but Harper. Harper hummed to himself. Harper saw the way the front end of the Datsun pickup looked as if a giant claw had come scraping along the front grill, up past the hood, and on into the cab of the truck, ripping metal and rubber and glass into a great tangled mass.
Peasants milled about the wreckage.
Two men dragged a canvas tarp in the direction of the bus. They moved directly under Harper’s window. Harper looked. On the stretcher he saw a man. The man was thin, with dark brown skin. The man had no hands. The arms went as far as the wrists and then gave way to bloody knobs of twisted flesh. Harper looked at the face. One eyeball spilled from its socket, suspended by a thin gray tendril. The man’s pants were stained a bright red at the crotch.
Harper heard a scream. Heads turned. Everyone on the bus turned to look. Harper screamed again.
Harper replaced the water pump. He removed the fan belt and pulled the old pump free. He took a rag and wiped away the grease and old antifreeze. He put the new water pump in place, carefully lubricating the gasket before he slipped it in. The new water pump was a bright and shiny silver. Harper put on a new fan belt. He filled the radiator with one part antifreeze and one part water. He left the hood up and got in the car. He gunned the engine. It hummed smoothly.
Harper won a new account, larger than the Wheeler account.
Kelly continued to lay out tins of sugar for the ants. They bought a new toilet. They took a weekend out on the Cape in the fall. And in mid-winter they managed a week off the Gulf Coast in a condominium with brightly patterned furniture and deep blue carpet. Kelly planned both vacations. Harper padded over the blue plush with his socks around his ankles and a can of Schlitz in his fist.
Kelly and Harper followed the papers closely. They listened to Dan Rather and exchanged knowing glances. They sent telegrams to senators, congressmen. They invited refugees to their home for dinner. Harper wrote checks for groups with names like the Latin American Sympathy League and Citizens for Peace in Our Time. Harper wrote checks for public television.
At parties friends came up to Harper and asked about Central America, about politics and war. The women came up to Harper and bent close and Harper breathed their perfume and stared down into their faces. He felt the way they leaned their breasts into his arm. And then Harper talked about the heat and the war and all of it. He talked with fondness of Nicaragua, with fondness and longing. Harper grew comfortable with the memory. His stories turned richer in detail, more vivid. It was a script he came to know well. He explained and the women nodded, they nodded and their breathing grew short and the color rose high in their faces.
And then Harper locked himself in the bathroom.
They’d thrown a party that evening. A white-jacketed waiter behind a wet bar, baby shrimp on thin English wafers. Kelly in a long gown that revealed pale, delicate shoulders.
As the last of the guests were leaving, as the bartender mopped up the final spill of gin, as Kelly carted away silver trays powdered with crumbs, Harper stepped into the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror. Harper stared at himself for a long time. Then he flicked off the light, bolted the door, and sat on the toilet seat.
When Kelly pounded on the door, when she shouted, “Harper, you OK, honey? Harper, talk to me,” Harper stared into the darkness. Harper stared and made these small motions with his hands, clenching and unclenching his fists.
At 4 a.m. Kelly gave it up. She screamed through the door one last time. Harper heard the screaming, and then silence. Harper listened to the silence grow, waited as it penetrated every corner of the house.
The next morning Harper apologized. “I fell asleep,” he told her.
Kelly looked at Harper. “You didn’t hear me?” she said. “You didn’t hear the racket I was making?” Kelly shook her head. “Why’d you lock the door in the first place?” She crossed her arms over her breasts. “Since when did you start locking the door?”
Harper lost weight. He spent long hours in his office with the door locked, not hearing his secretary, his co-workers, his boss when they pounded on the door. Harper refused to go to parties, to the theater. Kelly grew restless, confused. At night Harper sat up and watched the late, late movie. He took to sleeping on the couch. He went for long drives by himself, driving away from the city, away from the horns and the people and the neon. Harper drove far out into the country, to a place of moonlight and stars and soft rolling hills. Harper began buying ten-pound bags of beans. Harper roamed grocery stores in search of green tomatoes. He found a little Puerto Rican market at the south edge of town that carried mangoes.
Kelly was waiting for him when he came home from work. She was sitting on the sofa sipping a cup of tea. Her bare feet rested on the Tree of Life carpet. Harper stared at her feet.
“Harper, we have to talk,” she said. “Harper, I can’t go on like this.”
Harper looked at her. Harper looked at her and worked his jaw. “What’s for dinner?” he said.
“Harper, listen to me.” She placed the tea on the coffee table. “Talk to me. Please, honey.”
Harper sat. He looked out the window. He stared down at the rug. He saw the way Kelly’s feet played over the water stain. He remembered how they’d worked to get rid of the stain, how they’d bought special powders and solvents. How they’d found an Arab who specialized in carpets.
“Harper, I think maybe you should see somebody. Talk to someone. A doctor, maybe.” She tore her eyes from his.
Harper stared at his wife. He nodded. Harper rose and moved out of the room, his head bobbing and weaving. He stepped outside. The night was black, a fuzzy blanket of clouds covering everything. Harper got in his car and gunned the engine. He drove.
He drove out into the countryside. The clouds grew thicker, darker. Rain threatened. Harper drove for hours. He drove until his eyes grew heavy. When the rain began pounding down, thick sheets splashing over the car and pocking the puddles of water that leaped into range of his high beams, Harper pulled off the road and slept.
He woke late in the night. The rain made a soft tapping sound against his windshield. Harper stretched, his back and shoulders stiff and sore. Harper thought of Kelly. They would talk, he decided. They would talk and it would be all right. Matters would adjust themselves. They would be OK. Harper told himself these things.
And then the rain stopped and the clouds rolled back and the moon like a jagged shard of ice stared down at him, stared long and hard. Harper gripped the steering wheel like a man at the bars of a jail cell.
He parked some distance away. He reached into the glove compartment and found the hammer. He walked toward the entrance, straining to mute the sound of his heels clacking over the pavement. A young guard, his helmet tipped low over his eyes, sat sleeping in the gatehouse. Harper slipped under the bar that blocked the way. A dog barked off in the distance, paused, and then barked again. Harper moved across the grounds. He saw the old B-29 looking cold and gray and wet in the light of the moon.
The dog barked again. Harper heard a shout, and then another. Harper started running.
When he reached the B-29 he scrambled up a set of rollaway stairs that leaned against the nose of the aircraft. He raised the hammer. It flashed blue in the moonlight. He brought it down as hard as he could. He brought it down with all his strength. The impact jarred his arm, his shoulder, his head. He brought it down again and again, cymbals splitting the night.
Footsteps echoed on the pavement. He heard shouts. As the shouts grew closer, Harper worked his arm. He heard himself whimper with the effort. Two men tore up the stairs and hurled toward him, one of them throwing a fist into Harper’s throat and the other wrenching the hammer from his hand.
A big-bellied police officer clamped the handcuffs around Harper’s wrists. The cuffs were tight, unyielding. He could feel them cutting deep into the flesh of his wrists. Harper wondered if there would be scars.
The cop shoved Harper into the rear of a squad car. The first rays of light were streaming purple over the horizon. The cop leaned into the front window of the car and looked back at Harper. Harper could smell the nicotine coming off the cop’s breath.
“You’re in a hell of a lot of trouble,” the cop told Harper.
Harper looked up into the cop’s eyes. “I know that,” he said.
An earlier version of this story appeared in Writer’s Forum.
Terry L. Toma