The Paved Road, Part Two


Eddie Sylva sat in what was mostly darkness, illuminated only by a candle next to his inoperable lamp. Similarly unavailable were the refrigerator, washer, dryer, television, phone (he hadn’t been able to find, or uncover in the darkened closet, the old one), uh, stereo, laptop, printer, clock, toaster, and undoubtedly various other electric devices of lesser renown. He could see his breath. A huge quilt covered everything but his head, which wore a Houston Texans stocking cap of unknown origin. Someone must have left it at the house. Inexplicably, he couldn’t sleep, so he squinted and read a Dick Francis novel, having finished off Elmore Leonard.


Reading was fundamental. Nelson DeMille was on deck with, perhaps, a William Manchester biography in the hold. Eddie felt like Abraham fucking Lincoln, scribbling on the blade of a shovel with chalk. He’d read somewhere that Lincoln did that, huddled out on the Indiana frontier in the family log cabin. He didn’t much care for living vicariously, though. It was strictly by necessity. He wasn’t as honest as Abe but was in the neighborhood of being as cold. It was eerily quiet, the house absent the various electrical hums that normally went unnoticed. Eddie noticed their absence. He missed the single beep that signaled the opening of the front door. He even got up and opened it. Yes! A beep! A goddamned beep! Praise the Lord for emergency power. He wished to hell he had more of it, as much as his late grandmother would’ve wished he used the Lord’s name in vain less often. He prayed, though, not for selfish items such as the resumption of modern conveniences but for shit like forgiveness, world peace and the continued glory of the United States of America. Maybe, if Jesus was suitably impressed, He’d unzap the electricity, but he knew the Son of God had plenty to do, and living up to the Old Man’s legacy was a bitch. Eddie also hoped Jesus had a sense of humor. Like millions, he was banking on that. He figured he had a chance to get through the Pearly Gates if he could only get St. Peter to crack a smile. Just a smile. A grin.

All Eddie had to sustain him was the distant drip of the shower faucet, which he had opened just a mite to keep the pipes from freezing. At some point in the midst of deluded religious images, Eddie realized he had either fallen asleep or this was the weirdest, and only weird, novel of Dick Francis’s career. Being asleep, and realizing, asleep, that he was, was a new experience. Cold air was an hallucinogen.

Sunlight returned in the morning, more noticeable than normal because the snow reflected it. The sun had no effect on his electricity, though. The water was still running, affording him the luxury of flushing the toilet. He took a pain pill. He heated some soup, not that broth bullshit, but real soup with noodles and tiny chunks of chicken. Once that pain pill kicked in, Eddie was of a mind to eat a few saltines, even if he did have to crumble them in the soup. It wasn’t love, but it wasn’t bad. He turned on the iPhone for a few minutes, just to check the weather forecast and reply to his mother’s text message inquiring to make sure he’d neither frozen to death nor caught his death of cold.

Fine, Ma. Comparatively.


Even though it still was twenty-five degrees, some of the snow was melting, thanks to God’s blessing of ultraviolet light. Eddie figured that, by noon, he might even be able to get one or both of his vehicles moving again. He decided he’d go exploring, maybe see if the power lines connecting his house to relative convenience had fallen. He opened the blinds in his bedroom – he’d remained in the recliner all night – and put on jeans and work boots, a tee shirt, flannel shirt and parka. Layers. He found some gloves in the utility building, then returned to the house, got his pistol out of the closet, and loaded it. A hungry coyote might be out there, a pack, even.

A couple hundred yards behind the house, he failed to note the presence of a snow-covered limb and fell heavily. His mouth hurt. Great. Here come the false teeth. He sat on a tree stump to get his breath back and wondered where the hell the tree went. He looked up and found a squirrel staring at him. Eddie shot it. Perhaps that would give the coyote something to munch on instead of his leg. He went on a killing spree, stalking another squirrel, then a rabbit, and, finally, a cardinal. He killed four timid creatures with his six shots and trudged back to his house, confident the carnage would distract the pursuing beast. Or beasts.

It was survival of the fittest here in the land of Lincoln.

TO BE CONTINUED

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