Thursday, May 1, 2008

For sale: Baby shoes; never used.

Hemingway is reputed to have written that--a life in six words. Wish I were that succinct. For the past month-and-a-half I have not been able to string words together in a passable way. I read somewhere that writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair but I think there may be a bit more to it than that. Writing, in and of itself, doesn't mean much. Like almost everything, it has been devalued so that now (1) everybody can write (and read) and (2) what most writers write isn't worthy of being read. Including my stuff, for all I know.

Ah well. Here's installment 17 of Wasted Miracles.

There were cops all over the place, in the corridor, in the living room, in the bedroom and bathroom. They’d torn the place apart. The cushions from the couch were on the floor and the rugs had been pulled every which way. The kitchen was a shambles, the refrigerator door wide open and its contents spread on the counter next to the sink. She saw all this in a split second, didn’t know what to make of it and stood with her mouth open until a large black man in a tight dark blue suit came over to her and said, “Who are you?”
She didn’t say anything, looked at the black man, looked into the apartment again.
He asked, “Did you know Herbie?”
She caught the word “did.” Not “do.” “Did.”
She dropped her purse, opened her mouth in a tall oval O, covered it with her hand.
The black man seemed to slump a little, his body relaxed. He took her elbow and gently guided her back into the hallway. There was a bench next to the elevator and he sat her down. Her knees were trembling; she thought they might actually knock together. “Did you know Herbie.”
Her throat tightened, closed. She coughed, swallowed, coughed again. She felt the cushion sag as the man joined her on the bench. She looked at his face, saw nothing there she could identify save a mild curiosity maybe tinged with sadness. She said, “Herbie’s...”
The man nodded. He took a small notepad and a pen from his breast pocket. “I’m Detective Robinson. With the Metro police. Homicide. I’m sorry.”
The words hung in the air above her. She took a deep breath, ran both hands through her hair, sat silent. After awhile, Robinson said, “You obviously knew him. Any ideas?”
She shook her head no, found her voice. “You’re sure? I mean, sure it’s him? Herbie?”
“Pretty sure. He had his wallet on him. And he wasn’t exactly a stranger, you know?”
Not a stranger? That didn’t make much sense. Josie squinched her eyes shut. She hadn’t known anyone dead before and an image of Herbie in a coffin flew past her. She shuddered.
“You OK?”
She nodded, sat up straight. “Yeah, I guess. God.” She felt her entire body begin to shake, kept from trembling through an effort of will. She stole a glance through the apartment door. “I guess he was telling the truth, saying there were some people who didn’t like him.”
That struck Robinson as interesting. He made a ‘1’ on his notebook, circled it.
“People who didn’t like him?”
Josie’s mouth was dry; she licked her lips, reached for her purse, foraged in it. She found the stick of balm, ran it around her mouth, was struck by how silly it must look, quickly capped it. Robinson repeated, “People who didn’t like him? Did he mention any names?”
Now she was trembling, couldn’t control it anymore. There was a pounding between her ears like road construction. She made a conscious effort to pull herself together.

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