Cassidy

“What you’re telling me—” I knew already to call it ‘what you’re telling me’—“legally speaking, is it public knowledge?”

“Does this feel to you like a public con—”  A crash of glass and a hiccupy jolt of his head cut him short; he looked at me while his legs gave.  I caught him as best I could; he took us both down.  He had been gesturing with his arm, a leaning little wave commenting on the Spartan décor and barred door of this warehouse office twenty miles from either of our homes.  Now there was a hole between his cheek and ear, one on the backside too, neither much bigger than a fingertip.  When I tried to stop them, they sprayed like a sprinkler.

Whatever he hadn’t finished telling me, he’d never go public with it.  He’d been privatized.  Except for the part I’d heard.  I stayed low, out of sight of the window.

His eyes sparked back to life as if they’d drawn a heaving breath.  After that, his breath caught.

“What’s the name I need to know?” I asked.

“Cassidy.”

Such an understated gesture, I thought as I ran–through the main part of the warehouse, then the back lot.  That leaning wave, taking in our dire-appearing, and in fact dire, circumstances with what could be taken for humor but was really grace.  Such an understated gesture, met by extreme overstatement.  But the lean might have been what preserved him for that last word.

Later (they haven’t gotten me yet, and I can’t choose who to ask first about Cassidy, so I’m mostly just holding my breath, configuring offensive and defensive schemes but mainly lines of retreat), I asked the coroner who’d taken him in and gotten him ready for the undertaker what that part of the brain the bullet went through was.  David’s left side over by the ear.

“Temporal and parietal lobes,” he said.  “Part of the cerebral cortex.”

“What’s there?” I asked.

He put his own brain to work.  “Memory.  Language.  Processing information.  Comparisons…”  As he went on, something else came to mind.

“Irony,” I said.

He nodded gravely, then allowed himself a polite laugh.

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