Tuesday, July 24, 2012

City On a Hill (Opening scene)

        It is very, very, very difficult to find a place in the small city of Westham where one cannot see, at least on a clear night, the languid flashing red light at the summit of Klickat hill. From downtown (ever moving), to South Campus, the marina, and the quiet suburbs of Parkland, Geogria and Peabody the watchful gaze is everpresent and known by many of the older students as "The Red Eye". Through bathroom windows lined with crumbling paint, on moss matted rooftops, and damp overgrown backyards this single point oscillating in its luminosity is the constant in a town whose residents reliably flow in and out with the seasons, come and go with the years.
        Far up the side of Klickat hill, above the city sleeping in the dust of  a  September night, we find a tortured soul crying out in the midst of a chemical agony. Edwin Cross sits at his wobbling wooden desk beneath a bare hanging bulb before a heavy grit bitten typewriter. His head swirls mad, recently the noise has been growing worse beside the sanguine summer heat. He's taken up residence in this shack a little over a week ago lured by the mere $300 a month he will have to part with to have somewhere to work. It is well back in the property of a half blind old navy man who answered Edwin in monosyllabic responses around a wad of Red Man.The doors here hardly even seal and are poor guards against the wind outside, soon to become bitter cold. The walls of the shack are mostly bare dark pine slats with odd stains and smears at unusual angles. A mattress stacked on a box spring lies in the corner at an awkward angle one long end forming the hypotenuse of a triangle with two walls. Not that the mattress is used much: Edwin falls asleep at the desk, on the floor, in the park in the afternoon. He is beginning to grow thin from a lack of available food, not that he is hungry often anyways. It hardly helps that he goes on marathon walks in Westham's predawn hush around the vacant and ignorant suburbs.     
         Edwin is about to start his graduate studies in mathematics and during his first 4 four years was an outstanding student, if odd. He was loved by a few professors: his startling ability to approach problems from unique angles and his repository of esoteric knowledge and nonsequiters set him apart from the crowd. Even more of his instructors found him unsettling, a force to be wary of. Professors and students alike cringed when they recognized his name during those restless first days of each semester. His unsettling way of staring, without any sign of comprehension or empathy, when talked at. How, when answering a question, Edwin would predictably answer in the most roundabout way possible. And yet even as a rambler he always provided a gem of insight, a nugget of unusual understanding  Edwin's preferred spot in class was front row dead center. Up there (and a big man no less) he was always seen, and smelled: his full denim uniform worn summer and winter dispensed a constant memory of stale sweat and cigarette smoke.      
       Here he is now: banging madly away, jammed keys be damned, forcing out a treatise on the Masons, the coming apocalypse and how the owner of a downtown automotive shop (who Edwin is convinced is the head of a satanic child sex ring) has implanted into his abdomen cursed scrolls which cause Edwin to slur his words and lose his hair.       
       He's been like this before, briefly, each time he's come around, straightened up. Burns his paper mountains and regains contact with friends. Each episode, manic and deluded ,seems like a stress dream after the fact. Fades off into memory leaving little more that a bad taste and mild confusion.      Through the forest now and down the hill, along a row of cramped two story houses, some on the brink of collapse. Red and blue streaks pass on the ground signifying empty beer cans: the lesser casualties of a college neighborhood. Before us now is a pine green house similar in most ways to those that surround it. Windows covered with ash stained tapestries and repurposed sheets folded double. Within the scene is one of high gravity: a filthy living room beer cans scattered everywhere...

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