Tuesday, December 29, 2009

These Things Happen

by David Ellis

I didn’t mean for it to happen, first of all. None of it. I woke up thinking that I would spend my day organizing a closet and assembling Christmas presents and maybe catching one of the omnipresent college football games on television. I never thought this day, or my life, would take this turn. And I steadfastly maintain that it wasn’t my fault. Though I guess “fault” is one of those gray words with so many layers and meanings.

I’m not sure “accident” is the right word. I mean, what’s an “accident?” An event that wasn’t planned or intended or expected? Well, actually, that might qualify. I surely didn’t expect him at my door, though I suppose I should have. The rest of it, well, I’m not sure how to view it. Admittedly, things get a little foggy in the middle there. The ice, for example. Throw ice into a scene and the possibility of calling something an “accident” goes up exponentially. And that was part of it. My feet did slip, I do recall that. And so did his, or maybe it was just my weight pulling him down. I guess I’m not really sure. I should probably be careful here, because if I start admitting to a lack of recall, it’s going to be hard to be sure I did or did not intend to do something.

This much I can say with certainty: He’d been to my doorstep several times that I could confirm, on days when I normally wouldn’t be home mid-day. Who knows how many times he was there when I was actually gone? And always with that bag, that mysterious bag. I couldn’t very well be expected to know what was inside it, now could I? I mean, for all I knew, it could be holding a shotgun or something.

I know what everyone’s going to say. I’m not stupid. They’ll all take the easy route. But put yourself in my shoes. How could I be sure he was the person he purported to be? I don’t mean reasonably certain but sure? When the risk of error was so high? I really had only a handful of seconds to make a decision, and if I was wrong, then an assailant would be only steps away from entering my home.

And I’ll just add this one thing, and then I’ll shut up like my lawyer wants me to. He had every chance to identify himself. I asked him, twice, who he was as he approached my house and he looked at me like I was crazy. A government agent? A spy for my enemies? He could have put me at ease but he didn’t. So this guy is approaching my house and I’m asking him to reassure me and instead he mocks me and that smile, well, I guess it could be viewed in hindsight as a confused grin but I thought he was taunting me.

Anyway. I’m not supposed to say I’m sorry because it could be interpreted as an admission of guilt, but the truth is I do feel kind of bad about the whole thing. I guess the guy was just doing his job. I’m just saying, he could have identified himself. Or just plain stopped in his tracks and turned around. He could have just dropped the letters and magazines on the sidewalk and moved on to the next house.

It looks like the guy will live, by the way. He was dressed pretty warmly so the knife barely even reached his skin. I hope everyone has a happy holiday.


Libby Hellmann said...

Well done! You had me going, Dave...

Sara Paretsky said...

me, too--very cute

Anonymous said...

Very well done. Much better than the published compendium of short stories I was slogging my way through last night.

Laura Caldwell said...

Love it. Merry, merry.