"Cold Ocean" by Richard Burgin

The most dangerous part would be closing her door and leaving her apartment.  He opened and shut the door in one continuous motion.  It made very little noise.  He walked down the hall to the elevator, pushed the elevator button and waited, wondering if he should run downstairs.  A moment later he realized that she could call out to him and not hearing anything walk out into the hall and see him by the elevator.  What would he say then?  What could he say?

He began to run down the stairs then.  It was like running down ice.  He couldn’t think – could only concentrate on moving as fast as possible as if he were a kind of giant centipede racing for its life.

He couldn’t see a side exit.  When he reached the lobby he looked up and saw the doorman reading the sports page of the Chicago Tribune.  The paper rustled while he looked at him.  They exchanged nods and then he went out to the street.  Once he turned the corner he felt her money in his pockets and began to run.  He was scared but also strangely happy.

Harvey was right, I’ll have to come to Chicago more often, he said to himself.  It was one of the lines he’d said to her in bed that had made her laugh.  He tried to laugh out loud then, to make audible the sound he heard in his head but it sounded hollow and shriveled like a muffled cough.

Then he thought of his mother and wanted to scream but didn’t, instead dug his nails as hard as he could into the palms of his hands.

“But I did it to vindicate you,” he said to her over and over.  “Don’t you know that?  I vindicated you, didn’t I?”

He shook his head and started running, wondering if the dead understood about vindication.


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Per Contra Fiction - Winter 2006