A Knife In the Dark – 6

“Letting Sleeping Beasts Lie”

It had taken over two weeks to gain the strength, but at last I could walk — albeit slowly — without the accursed walker. Among the things stored in one of the back rooms was a crook-end cane, and I was happy to learn I could get along with it and speedier as well. Being an incidental dewdropper, I wanted to do some walking outside of the house, away from neighboring eyes and in a place with something to see.

Fortunately, a means of conveyance was just outside my front door.

A glossy sign glued onto the back of the squat orange car declared it “The Beast.” I couldn’t have agreed more, but what interested me was the freedom to go anywhere I chose. In my recollection, motor cars had outgrown the imitation of the carriages they were replacing. The more I thought about sleek styling, spoked wheels, and glass-with-gold accents, the more pathetic The Beast looked: a modern Tin Lizzie. No, the word I’d read for these colorful polymers was plastic, so a Plastic Lizzie, then.

I had a try at it. With instructions from my telephone research, I identified the correct key for The Beast. Place your key in the ignition. Your ignition will be located to the right of your steering wheel, just behind it. Done. Turn the key all the way to start the engine. There was a click and a cranking sound just before the engine came alive; the successful self-sustained combustion of the engine jarred me into releasing the key, allowing it to slip back into the “run” position. Why did I think it would have been more complicated than that? Of course, the vehicle was pointed in the wrong direction…

After an hour of trying pedals and figuring out the shifter while still not moving, it became clear I needed instruction. I might have possessed a license to drive, but I had either lost the skill or was thinking too hard about the task at hand. The Beast’s incessant dinging mocked my ignorance every time the key was inserted, before or even after starting it correctly. What did it want from me?! Using my right leg to push pedals instead of walking also caused it to ache — something else I wasn’t used to — so that was enough of that.

A quick telephone search of “places to walk” suggested a helpful near me and provided a map — all the information in the world, just for the asking. There was a place north of here called Kemah Boardwalk, so I reached out to Amos.

“You don’t wanna go there in the summer,” Amos explained after I climbed into the back of his taxi. “Too crowded, too hot out, and too expensive.”

Disappointing. “I require a locale to walk comfortably for a few hours and sit whenever I need to, preferably with things to look at while stretching my legs. I seek a recommendation.”

Amos chuckled. “You sound like a damn college professor. Extra wordy, y’know?”

“Noted.” His assessment was out of line, but it wasn’t wrong. “Your recommendation, then?”

“Baybrook, probably.”

“Is that in a different city?” All these Texas towns seemed to run together.

“It’s a mall up in Webster, about half an hour from here.”

“What’s in there?” I wasn’t familiar with the term, and my inflection on the last word gave me away.

“Stores and restaurants, lots of ’em. Old folks walk laps inside for exercise out of the heat and rain.” Amos turned toward me from the driver’s seat with an eye of suspicion. “You’ve never been in a mall? Where’re you from?”

“New York,” I answered without thinking. I wasn’t sure why I had said it, and I wondered if it were true.

“Guess it’d be different up there.” He eyed me through the rearview mirror. “We’re going to the mall, then?”

“We are,” I nodded.

“You got it, Professor. And I’ll even drive past your favorite hospital so you can give ’em a one-finger salute — no extra charge.”

Continue Reading In Chapter 7

Or start from the Beginning

. . .

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