Every now and then, one sees things in which the brain cannot assign value. Still, the brain fires synapses and translates the sight into that which can be defined by the words and images to which it had been previously exposed so that it may file the images away as memory.
Think to your discovery of a word. Then think to the thought of that word prior to your discovery. It had never been present until your ears took notice of it. Still, the word exists. And by the proof of seeing it on a page amongst other words, it clearly had existed prior to your discovery. In fact, with a minuscule amount of research, you can learn the etymological history of the word to further prove that it existed in the past as well as the present and will move into the future. Think further to now having knowledge of that word. It becomes a part of your habit and you become receptive to the sight and sound of the word. In fact, the word presents itself more frequently until the word is as common as any other in your vernacular.
Now think to the strange occurrences of sight and sound and taste and smell and touch.
A person walks through their days seeing things they cannot connect with any other thing they have seen in the past and therefore cannot assign value to the sight. Until they truly see it.
There are numinous people walking amongst the masses both fearful and fascinated, open to the sights and sounds and feelings that others cannot see because they are clouded with ignorance and indifference. Those open to the dehiscence of the universe are the ostranenie. And when they share with others their perspective, there is an immediate reaction to insulate our thoughts from theirs with the cloud of perceived normalcy. But, just as a change in temperature causes the formation and dissipation of fog, so too a change in reception changes perception.
Chapter 1 - Habits
Her name was Anne Marie, but everyone in the neighborhood called her Ree. She knew Sevy when he walked into the bar whose name was long forgotten even though it had been in Ree’s family for decades. The bracket that remained over the door was evidence of the heavy sign, once a beacon for the neighborhood to come and quench their thirst before the days of prohibition. The white walls were covered with handwritten announcements held by scant pieces of cellophane tape. Mirrors hung haphazardly behind the bar allowing the bartenders to watch every corner of the joint even when their backs were turned.
The lighting was shockingly bright for a neighborhood tap room. It was the most important reason Sevy liked coming to this particular tavern. He was cautious about people being in the shadows around him. He explored many of the neighborhood dives to figure which would accommodate his emotional needs as well as his penchant for mild dipsomania. He always returned to Anne Marie’s.
She thought it was convenience that brought Sevy around. He lived ten houses down the block. Sevy knew he preferred the indifference she displayed toward his quirks and never heard her ask forgiveness for the words from her mouth. It occurred to him when he was deep in thought and in the middle of his cups that he could travel the world and still come home to Anne Marie’s. It wasn’t the place he locked himself away at night, but there was an ease into which he settled although no one would believe it from his behavior.
The watering hole was as narrow as the street. It was a corner property, but no bigger than the other row houses along the streets of South Philly. Sevy sat perched upon a stool with his back to a windowless wall knowing he could see every movement within the bar. A shift of his eyes allowed him to see both the front and back doors along with every seat in the place. He knew the regular barflies and the women who came to take advantage of their drunken wallets vomiting dollars they couldn’t afford to lose.
Sevy knew the kids who would come in with dark glasses asking discreetly for a six pack of cheap beer and walked out quickly before anyone noticed they were underage.
He even noticed the folks outside who walked along the sidewalk never coming in to patronize the bar.
Ree pulled the tap for a light pilsner filling a glass mug for Sevy. She said no words to him as she placed it down on one cocktail napkin and placed a second napkin in front of him.
Sevy picked up the mug and looked through the liquid. He eyed the beverage from rim to base and thought consciously that the beer looked clear of debris and would be safe to imbibe. As usual, he took it all into his mouth in almost one mouthful and didn’t let go of the handle until it was finished. He placed the empty mug back on the bar for his barmaid. She knew the routine. Picking up the empty mug without comment, she stuffed it right over the scrub brush in the sink to wash any residue away and display her work on a mat used to aerate the clean glasses before reusing. Sevy watched her work in silence and only after the mug was sitting clean and drying did he speak.
Sevy asked, "Did you read the newspaper this morning?"
Ree shook her head in negation.
Sevy moved his head to warn Ree he was going to whisper his words, looking left and right assessing the other patrons of the bar before relating the information he remembered from the newspaper to his bartender. "You didn’t read about Fletcher?"
Ree leaned on the bar and smiled, "Darlin’, if it ain’t happenin’ in South Philly, I ain’t wastin’ my time wit’ it."
Sevy’s brow furrowed.
Ree knew her words would not stop Sevy from talking. They went through this routine almost every afternoon. Sevy always had something he wanted to discuss. And Ree let him talk.
"Fletcher was killed in London."
"England?" The wrinkles on Ree’s forehead seemed to curl into a smile. She knew the deluge of words was coming, most of which she would not understand.
Sevy pursed his lips holding in his reprimand for not being more aware of global occurrences. He nodded as he reached into the briefcase he carried to pull out a newspaper.
The briefcase was soft Italian tanned bridle leather with an oversized brass buckle holding a lock.
He read from the front page, "Fletcher had been helping to control a small demonstration when shots from an automatic weapon were responsible for what would become a fatal stomach wound." Sevy looked up to his bartender and confidant. "They are calling it a murder. Listen," Sevy was reading the article aloud but no longer cared if anyone else was drawing in his words. "Woman Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher, 25 died soon after the shooting at Westminster Hospital." Sevy paused and took out a journal and a pen as he said, "She did not die at the scene." He paused before saying, "Westminster Hospital," and then took another long silent pause before continuing aloud, "Horseferry Road. That’s almost two miles away from St. James Square." Sevy picked up the newspaper again and said, "There was a protest at the Libyan People’s Bureau. Yvonne Fletcher was on patrol to control the demonstration and gunfire came from an automatic weapon. Ten other people were injured. What happened to them? Who are they? Now the Libyans have diplomats trapped inside Britain’s embassy in Tripoli." Sevy wrote notes in his journal. He transferred the words from the article as well as making notations of his own opinions on the matter.
Ree looked at the clock and asked Sevy if he was ready for his second beer. Sevy looked up from his book and papers. He nodded and waved his pen at her before closing his eyes, again furrowing his brow to help untangle the thoughts that seemed to be twisting into a morass within his head.
Sevy rubbed his fingertips against his forehead to relax the muscles. He looked up to the tin punched tiles of the ceiling. He put his things back into the leather briefcase and as his hand touched the metal of the buckle to secure the contents, two people he had never seen before walked into the tap room. A woman he estimated to be thirty-five years of age and her companion who was visibly older from the looks of the silver streaks in his hair but whose skin was pale and smooth as porcelain. They sat at a back table and looked around.
Sevy reached in his lapel pocket and pulled a soft pack of Lucky Strikes. He lit his unfiltered cigarette and slid his fingertip over the light green circle surrounding the red center of the pack.
Ree placed another mug of pilsner down on the bar over a fresh cocktail napkin and Sevy nodded in silence. She placed a red plastic ashtray on the bar and lit one of her own cigarettes after placing an additional napkin within Sevy’s reach.
Sevy questioned while nodding to the couple who had taken a place at a table in the back, “Are they from around here?”
Ree shook her head in negation, "I’ve never seen them before. They just ordered whiskey. Didn’t even have a preference on which one." Ree walked away from Sevy knowing her whisper would incite another question in her friend’s head. “No one orders just whiskey here.”
Sevy took out his journal again and started writing. Ree rolled her eyes. She knew her regular customer was sitting making notes on those things he thought were unusual. She busied herself with side work waiting for the afternoon to pass.
Sevy nursed his second beer. With every sip, he wiped his fingerprints off the glass and wiped a napkin around the rim to clean any residue from his mouth.
The foreign couple motioned to Ree and she attended them quickly to discover they wanted to see a menu and freshen their drinks.
"I can get you something from Ralph and Rickey’s but we don’t have a cook in here right now."
Ree returned to the bar and opened the register to pull from under the cash drawer a takeout menu from a sandwich shop across the street.
She leaned in to Sevy and asked if he wanted some food as well. He declined but whispered to Ree, "See if you can find out what they are doing here," as he motioned toward the unfamiliar duo.
When he snuffed out his cigarette, he folded it within a napkin that sat before him and after touching the folded napkin several times to assure the item was cool, he stuffed the pack into his briefcase.
"They just moved into the neighborhood," Ree reported. "They said they moved in down the street." Knowing Sevy's next question, she continued, "What street? I don’t know yet." She placed the takeout menu once again before Sevy and said, "Let me get you a sandwich honey."
Sevy nodded. He was interested in watching the newcomers. He listened as Ree dialed the sandwich shop and ordered four meatball parms. Sevy never would have eaten a meatball from an unknown source but both Ralph and Rickey were in the neighborhood as long as he could remember and the two brothers cooked for him as frequently as he cooked for himself.
Sevy walked down the street to his home looking intently at the sidewalk cracks as his feet passed over each one. He walked past his house to the stop sign and then crossed the street to walk back assuring no one was following him. When he was directly across the street from his house, he leaned up against a street light pole and lit another Lucky Strike. He stood smoking and dropping ash at the curb as he looked at the front of his house and his fathom green Chevy Camaro. There was no movement from within. The only person who lived in the house was standing outside looking at the exterior brick. When he smoked half his cigarette, he snuffed the edge on the light pole and held the short fag in his palm.
Sevy stepped off the curb and looked south to see there was no oncoming traffic and crossed to the steps leading to his front door. He depressed the button on the handle of the storm door assuring it remained locked as he left it. He reached into his jacket pocket to reveal a key case that looked to be a leather wallet. When unclasped, there were six hooks allowing Sevy to carry all the keys for his home in a tidy package. He opened the screen door and again went through the testing process to assure his house remained locked while he was out. When he was in his home, he secured the doors again engaging the locks.
Sevy pulled the newspaper from his briefcase again looking at the article recounting activities in London and Libya. He read the words over and over again while sitting at his kitchen table.
Woman Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher, 25 was fatally shot during a protest outside the Libyan Embassy at St. James Square. Fletcher was deployed as part of a patrol of 30 officers to control the small protest at the Libyan Embassy. Eleven people were struck by ammunition from a Sterling sub-machine gun that came from the first floor of the embassy. Fetcher's fiancé remained at her side while transported to Westminster Hospital where she died within the hour.
Sevy read the headline again: Murder of London Officer. He looked at the word murder over and over again. It was not an accidental fatality in the eyes of this journalist.
Sevy pulled the journal in which he had been writing and the pen he used to write. He placed the pen back into his briefcase and opened the journal to a fresh page. He walked to a hulking piece of furniture separating his living space into two specific rooms. The desk was made by the Derby Desk Company in Boston Massachusetts in 1809 from the wood of a walnut tree. It belonged to Sevy’s grandfather and became Sevy’s when he passed away. Sevy placed his hands on the tambour and slid them from top to bottom to feel the ribbing of the interwoven wooden slats under his fingertips. He always ran his hand along the desk in this manner before exposing the innards containing the compartments for his personal things. He slid a drawer toward him and pulled a mechanical pencil made from metal and black glass. Depressing a button with his thumb on the pencil, he pushed forward a small piece of red lead through the chamber. Satisfied with the contents, he placed his hand on the drawer to hide it again under the shutter of the roll top desk. But, as his hand reached to slide the wooden slats into position, he heard voices outside his door and stood frozen with his hand hovering in mid-air. Sevy could not discern the words but remained twelve feet from the door. A muffled laughter erupted. The only words Sevy could distinguish were, yes I will. He wondered who will and what had they been willing to do?
When the air again was silent, he moved to the front of the house, and nudged the drapes slightly with his fingertips. He looked to the front street to find an absence of people. Whoever had been speaking had gone. He looked through the small crack he made in the window dressing to the south and to the north but could see nothing out of place. He stood for a full three minutes without realizing the time that passed waiting for activity before his house. There was nothing.
When Sevy moved from the window, he walked to the door and disengaged the deadbolt lock. He reengaged the lock. Over and over until he had completed eight cycles of unlocking and locking, then walked through the room to the kitchen, tapping the arch of the doorway as he passed. He flipped the light switch to illuminate the room and spread out the newspaper to cover even more of the white speckled formica surface of the table.
Sevy went to task underlining words he thought were integral to the article about Yvonne Fletcher. Murder. He noticed the word murder only once. The word was used in the headline but not the body of the article. He read the article over and over placing a small dot under any word that began with the letter m. He then took the fresh page of the journal and filled it with all those words. He looked for the words to make sense. He looked for a pattern that could be configured differently to unravel the mystery of the article. He found nothing. He turned the page and wrote all the words he had underlined. Sevy expected the words to swirl before him creating reason. The words remained still on the paper.
The phone rang startling Sevy into motion. He rose from the vinyl seat of his chair and pulled the receiver from the base that hung on the wall.
"Hello?" He questioned in a relaxed tone and then stood quietly for a moment listening to the caller. Sevy replied, "Thank you. I’m on my way."
He looked at the time on his wristwatch. It was 7:42 pm. The sky was letting pink light wash over his home. When he hung up the phone, Sevy went to work folding the newspaper and returning it with his journal to his briefcase. He returned the mechanical pencil to its home within a compartment drawer behind the shutter on his desk after performing the habitual stroke of the slats. He walked through his house and illuminated the light on some lamps while he extinguished the light from others that had been on. When he was satisfied with the state of his home, he went to the front door, disengaged the deadbolt only once. He pulled the handle to close the door and then turned the key locking and unlocking the deadbolt from the outside eight times and then again performed the habit on the storm door before stepping from the front. Visually examining his house from the roof to foundation, he seemed to mentally record the changes in the shadows on the bricks. A heavy sigh was the last habit in which he engaged before walking north on Seventh Street.
I will post Chapter 2 - Dead Bird Season February 2. If you pledge even the lowest tier of support, I will make available all of the chapters taking place in 1984 to you in a preview.
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