Saturday, October 7 Of Last Year
Black polished work boots, washed soft and faded red long sleeved work shirt, ancient tattered jeans with a big U.S. cavalry buckled leather belt cinching them tight around his narrow waist, sixty-three year old Cut Race slowly stalked the hundred feet of his grass along Main Street. For all the world acting like nothing as much as an old giant Blue Heron fishing a pond shallows for frogs. First one slow leg carefully putting its foot down, then after a long moment he next while in between steps his shaggy white head tilted first one way and then the other studying every inch of ground.
But he couldn’t think of any new place to hide.
He was sick of jumping out from the pines concealing any view of house two hundred feet back and he was double damned if he was going to pop up out of the dumpster again. His bad right knee made it a chore climbing in and out and besides squatting down inside with the covers closed while he kept watch through the gap for twenty minutes meant he’d smell like week old garbage for the rest of the day.
Scratching his neck he peered up into the trees. He could climb one easily enough but he doubted he should be jumping down out of one at his age. A disguise? He had a gorilla suit up in the attic – hmmm? But if he couldn’t hide himself decently how much easier would it be to hide a gorilla?
But why hide? And he speculatively eyed the woodlot across Main Street. Put the gorilla suit on, lay down over there in some hollow in the ground and when they appeared jump up and run screaming across the road. What could be simpler? Hmmm? But then he looked at his watch. Probably not enough time to do all that. Save it for some other day.
Then his eye fastened on his aluminum boundary stake and traveled another twenty feet over to his neighbor’s neatly trimmed hedge. “Aha” and he quickly limped over to it, dropped into the mulch on his left knee and eased his right one down. Then stuck his head into the leaves.
He had a good view of the sidewalk stretching away in straight line down Main Street and unless he moved, shouldn’t be detected by anybody coming from that direction until they walked by the hedge and could be jumped from behind.
But after a minute or so on Cut an artifact on his neighbor’s grass on the far side of the hedge and it started gnawing away at his concentration. A shattered piece of grey plastic about three inches long. Obviously something chopped up by the lawn care service and he looked he saw another piece of the same plastic, then a third, fourth fifth and sixth.
But without anything else to occupy his mind it was very difficult to do and finally he snorted, pushed a button in his head and instantly the pieces of broken plastic sailed up into the air where they bumped around for a bit before assembling themselves into an arc of gray material which Cut turned this way and that until he recognized it as the top of a garden hose reel. Mystery solved he pushed another button and let the pieces fly apart and drop back into the grass exactly where they had lain.
Then Cut smiled gently remembering how Audrey reacted when he described doing something similar.
She’d laughed that tinkling laugh of hers, “it’s a hallucination Cut. You’re just letting your mind see what it wants to see.” But when Cut asked “how come it works?” she studied him for a long moment until she shook her head, “then it’s a gift too Cut. Like some people have second sight.”
But Audrey was the gift.
Instead the ability to put things together in his head was something he’d worked years for. He could remember cutting up a pancake on his breakfast plate as small child, stirring the pieces into a jumble and then trying to fix the different shaped pieces in his memory, then close his eyes and fit them back together. And he’d tried it over and over again over the years with torn up shreds of paper, a broken plate, a smashed toy. Whatever came his way. A mind game which never worked until somehow in the latter half of his career, sawn apart pieces of Ash scattered along a mile long stretch of country road jumped up, reassembled themselves into a baseball bat in his head, and he had the murder weapon they’d been searching for.
Only one of “parlor tricks” which gave the younger guys on the job the creeps. “How you’d figure that out?” they’d ask and he’d answer with a blank face.
But back in the present moment yet another issue was intruding. Just to his left the cars speeding down Main Street had slowed into a bumper to bumper barely moving parade. And then stopped dead as the new traffic light further south at the intersection of Cooper Street turned red. Tourists up from the city for the first autumn color, strangers who stared at the sight of an elderly man kneeling down with his head in the bushes then started making remarks.
“Hey old timer, whatta ya’ peeking at?” a grinning fat geek rolled down his passenger side window and laughed and Cut pulled to head out to look him in the eye.
“Your mother mooning me fatstuff” which shut that guy up but a few minutes later a woman started shouting for directions “hey meester, hey meester, where’s Leggett Road, hey meester, hey meester…” until Cut gave her the finger and then one of them got him to his feet when a long skinny arm extending out of the back window of a four door Honda made a hook shot over the top of the car and scattered Burger King Whopper wrappers and paper drink cups over Cut’s lawn.
“Okay for you buddy.” Cut got up, hobbled over, picked everything back up and stuffed it in its bag. The Honda was now about twenty cars up and knowing the new light only lasted about forty seconds he had to hustle like an idiot by hopping down the middle of Main Street. Reaching the Honda without the occupants noticing him coming up on their left he rapped gently on the rear window and leaned over to peer in with a warm smile. The window ran down and Cut smacked the teenager inside with the bag and then emptied it on his lap.
“Hey man what the f__k.” And a woman’s voice started up from the front passenger seat like one of those old hand cranked fire sirens. “Raa, “Raaal, Raaaaaaaaaalph – did you see what that old man just did to little Billy?”
But the light changed and Ralph drove.
Limping back to the hedge “damn that knee” he resumed his position.
“Ah there they were now.”
Shorts, bright colored blouses over bathing suits, towels thrown over their shoulders, flip flops slapping the sidewalk as Cut’s ten year old granddaughter Brooklyn and her friend Mary happily chatted double time at the same time.
“How does the human ear sort all that out?”
Closer, closer, closer.
But the knee wouldn’t stop hurting, Cut shifted position slightly and instantly heard Brooklyn say , “Mary don’t yell if he jumps out but I think that’s my grandfather hiding in Mrs. Avery’s bushes.”
“Oh yeah” Mary squinted, “I see him.”
Cut stood up trying to get some feeling in that leg, “you couldn’t possibly have seen me. I was as invisible as the wind.”
“The wind has to learn not to wear a red shirt and move.”
“It was a trick designed to have you look in one direction while the crew of my pirate ship carried you off from another.”
Brooklyn and her friend Mary flip-flopped up with a laugh “if you’re a pirate then where’s your parrot?”
“I do have a pirate earring in my ear.”
“That’s a hearing aid.”
“Well I can pretend it’s a pirate earring can’t I?”
Brooklyn giggled, ran over and hugged Cut, “yes you can Grandpa.”
Cut hugged her back, kissed the top of her head and with both hands held her pretty face looking up, “are you sure you want to go swimming short-stuff? It’s early October, the water’s gotta be ice.”
Brooklyn ran back over to her girlfriend and flashed him a grin, “Mary’s pool has a hot tub next to it so what we do is jump in the pool and then jump in the hot tub then jump back in the pool.”
“Is that all you two girls have to do with your life, jump in and out of pools and hot tubs?”
“You mean like what? Jumping and out of bushes instead?”
“Wise guy” and her friend Mary laughed
“How’d you know we were walking down?”
“Your Mom called and told me to keep an eye out for you.”
“Bye” she called from over her shoulder fifty feet away
Cut cupped both hands around his mouth and shouted, “next time make a little time to have ice cream with a crippled, helpless, lonely old man.”
“Come early for dinner tomorrow and I’ll show you my new pet rabbit” Brooklyn yelled back, then she ran back from the turn her and Mary made onto Duck Pond Road, and blew him a kiss.