By the time he’d gotten home, pieces of his day felt like melted candle wax; surreal images bending and merging into oblique memory. Hope began to seep into him the way Spring does winter, and Simon thought about his life going into bloom. He drove up to the duplex in the crowded, dirty neighborhood and realized this place really was temporary now, a notion he’d lost conviction behind over time as the days became uglier and the money became harder to come by. They could soon leave this grubby purgatory of chipped drywall, filthy carpets and flimsy cabinets. Seasons change. He stepped from the Pontiac, the low shriek of its rusted door announcing his arrival, and adjusted the waist of his jeans which still hugged the package of money. But suddenly Winter arrived, a first frost seizing his veins. His eyes tensed and he looked back toward the car, next surveying the neighborhood quickly. Nothing moving. No one retreating. The sun glared at him, but he felt no warmth. He held his breath.
The door to his house was open, an inch wide crack affording a thin view into the kitchen. Simon touched the doorknob as if it were going to electrocute him upon contact. He pushed the door open slowly, expecting police, agents in black suits, even Sam, his fictional business partner. He wished he still had the gun. The door creaked. No one immediately in view. Simon still didn’t breathe. He took steps as if wading into a sea filled with sharks. His head stayed straight as his eyes darted from one corner to another. Before scanning each space, he visualized a figure waiting silently for him, arms close to its side, shoulders slumped and head down. In its hand would be a silver pistol with a silencer and there would be a whisper and then darkness. Another turn of the wheel; another cycle complete. But every courageous glance he took proved the place was empty, and he was just about to allow his body to return to Spring when he saw the package wrapped in brown paper on the kitchen counter. He froze. The delivery was next to two of Alec’s cereal towers, now fallen. Frosted Flakes and Special K. They were two of the tallest. The rest still stood. (To be continued…)