Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Keys

The morning air was cold; the iron-grey hues of daybreak stained the constricted, pallid sky demarcating the leafless trees and black silhouettes of the city's skyscrapers against the backdrop of the chilled air. Down on the street in the city's grand park, a man lay crumpled under the regnant branched of a large tree; he'd slept yet another night beneath its sheltering boughs. Slowly he opened his sore eyes and saw above him the low branches, a network of antlers cold and bone-like, and at once he felt himself pinned down, prey to this indifferent entity. He cleared his throat; it's rawness burned him and made him think of scorched flesh. His head was pulsing with sharp pain as though an angry prisoner was inside, hammer in hand, trying to escape by pounding through the cage of what was his skull. His breath was sour and acrid, he could taste still the cheap thin wine. It seemed to him that every nerve of his body was firing at a terrifying rate; was his heart beating so fast in an attempt to break through his chest wall and also escape? He lay there trying to calm himself. Finally, he rose up laggardly, swiping away the leaves and debris from his damp clothing. He pulled the collar of his black overcoat up over his ears and scuttled cockroach-like across the park. At last he reached the arched gateway and stepped out onto the white cement of the sidewalk. The paleness of the cold slab beneath him turned him dizzy. His white hands, trembling, searched his pockets for keys. Had he lost them? No, they were there. His fingers squeezed around them. He had a quick, sharp desire to free himself from them, drop them right there on the walk or toss them into the trash. Useless, abhorrent, smug little pieces of metal; maybe tomorrow.
He was supposed to be in court at 9 am. He looked furtively at his watch; it was 9:07. He would be late. He walked with purpose, his head slightly bent, across to the Courthouse and began to climb the cold marble steps. Near the heavy over-sized doors, a well-dressed man puffed nervously at a cigarette, looked with irritation at his watch, and then at the man ascending the stairs. He dropped the cigarette and with the heel of his shoe, ground at it angrily. At last his lawyer reached the final step and the two men entered the stately doors.

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