Paul Bowman: A Morning Shave
Chris Deaville watched himself in the mirror.
Murderer? Did he look like a murderer?
He moved the toothbrush in a small, circular motion. Just as Jackie, his dentist’s assistant, had instructed. Upper right teeth first, thirty seconds, upper left teeth second, thirty seconds. Then proceed to bottom right, then bottom left. Spit out, rinse toothbrush under the tap. Put toothbrush in the holder on the wall. Pick up plastic cup, fill it halfway, drink some, swish around the mouth, lean down toward the sink, spit. And repeat. Look at self in mirror. Open up mouth. Move lips back. Teeth white enough?
Make judgment. Not white enough, but getting there. Marcy had never said anything to him specifically. But he knew she didn’t like guys with yellow teeth. The time she went on about that waiter’s teeth. He was a damn waiter! Who cared? She could be a perfectionist.
Was he a hater? No. No. No.
Chris stepped back from the sink and checked out his midsection in the mirror. He used to have ab muscles. Not anymore. Gone. Inch and a half of fat there.
Everything goes sooner or later. When you’re young you think you can do anything, have anything you want, do anything, anything! Get promoted to lieutenant within five years.
Everything goes to shit. Everything.
He removed his shorts, put them in the clothes hamper, pulled back the shower curtain, and turned the faucet handle to the two o’clock position. Water streamed out of the shower head. He waited for the water to get warm enough. It always took awhile. He needed a new water heater. Upgrade from a forty gallon up to a fifty-two gallon. With the trouble he was in it would be a long time before he could buy one.
The hearing was a ten o’clock. He had time for a long hot shower. Time to think. To gather his thoughts. To prepare.
He stepped into the tub and stood under the water. The streaming water felt good. Good. It was the best sensation he could have now. Eating meant nothing. He couldn’t taste food. The other guys on his shift and in the station did not talk to him much since the incident. Sleeping through the night? Forget it. Tv? He hated tv. He could not watch the local news. They got everything wrong. Wrong. Not that they cared. Cute blonde reporters looking all important and earnest. Climbing the fame ladder on his back.
His house was silent in the evenings. He did not like his new assignment. A desk job did not suit him. Some of the guys still said hello, how you doing, hang in there. Others avoided eye contact.
Chris reached for the shampoo bottle and lathered up his scalp.
The water felt good. Good.
Why did the kid have to run like he did? Why?
He closed his eyes. He could remember everything. Almost everything. That happened that night. At a traffic stop. Of course, they would say he could not recall the exact order of events. No one could. That would be asking the impossible. Humans were fallible. Memories could not be trusted.
He was screwed.
It would have been nice if Marcy could be at the hearing. To give support. Her office was three blocks away. She said she couldn’t make it. He would do it for her if the situation was reversed.
I’m so sorry, honey, I can’t break free.
Was that the truth?
Did she want to leave him? Over this? This soon?
Maybe she did not love him. And they had been talking about marriage! She was the one who suggested they move in together. He had refused. No, if you loved someone you made the commitment. You married them. Show some integrity. He had told her let’s get married. And she had agreed.
He saw the soap bar. He did not reach for it. Let the water do the cleansing. If his body stank so be it. He didn’t care.
The boy had taunted him. So hateful. Why? Why had he been so hateful? Why be that like?
And why did he have to run?
Chris lowered his head to let the hot spray hit his neck and upper back. He needed that---that feeling of a massage. He saw his long, thin, white feet.
He had been at some Catholic church a long, long time ago. An eternity. He was what? Seven? Eight? He had stood transfixed before that large crucifix on the wall. It was a bit creepy to see a man’s body, the face grieving in pain, hanging on two pieces of wood. The dead man’s feet were a little higher than eye level. The iron spikes buried in the white flesh of the long, thin feet. Little Chris had grown up to have feet a lot like that.
The hardened drops of dark blood on the plaster feet.
His toenails had a yellow tinge.
His pale legs were slick from the water. His thighs were getting too big. Soft. Not like the legs of the man on the cross. Thin and hard.
He closed his eyes. He did not want to look at his living, breathing body. He wanted to forget. Forget it all. Forget everything.
He would never forget. Could never forget.
Why did the boy have to run?
Chris gritted his teeth and clenched his jaw. He had to get through today. That’s all he had to do. One day at a time. Just take it one day at a time. That’s what the Captain told him. Mom and Dad said they would be at the hearing. He told them no. He did not want Mom to be there when the interrogation got harsh. Mean.
The guys in the station felt sorry for him, he could tell. But they were afraid to talk to him. To say hello. How you doing? Some nodded hello when they walked past his locker. That was it.
He did good work. In his entire career he had one citizen complaint. Just one. Still, they were certain to bring that up. Throw that in his face.
And, the other side would say the predictable things: our son was the sweetest child. He never got into any trouble. Everybody loved him. He went to Sunday school and attended church service every Sunday. He played clarinet in the high school band. The entire class turned out for his memorial service. He never got to live his life. His life was taken away from him.
Just get through today.
He listened to the spray of water.
His stomach had a knot in it.
When he got cleared the knot would go away.
How long had he been in the shower? Ten minutes? Longer? It did not matter. He had plenty of time. Plenty of time.
No. He did not have time. He did not understand what he felt, but he knew, somehow, he had no time left. His life had no time left.
Everything had turned to shit.
Chris turned off the shower and pulled back the shower curtain. A fog of moist air had filled the room and covered the mirror above the sink. He grabbed a white towel from the bar on the wall and wiped his arms, chest, abdomen, skipped his back, wiped his groin, his legs. He wadded the towel and held it against the glass. He moved the towel in a circle. His face appeared. His ordinary face. Calm, unworried. Maybe a little sad. No. More somber than sad.
He had to get through today. That’s all. Get through today. Get through the morning. Lunch hour. Then the afternoon.
Then go home.
He reached for the razor and shaving cream. He held the razor in his right hand and the can of shaving cream in his left. He looked at himself again. He was an ordinary guy with an ordinary face. His hairline was beginning to recede. He had a good jaw. It was covered with three days growth of stubble. It would be removed. His eyes. Dark pupils. But not the eyes of a psychopath or a killer.
Killer. That’s the word the woman had screamed. Killer.
Chris’s head dropped. He saw the drain at the bottom of the sink.
You killed him! she had screamed.
Chris dropped the razor and can of shaving cream into the sink. His hands turned the faucet handles fully open. Water rushed out of the spout.
He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t.
Chris fell to the floor, kneeled on it, put his palms on the tiles, lowered his head until it touched the hard floor. He needed to cry, sob, vomit, be someone else, be nothing. Be nothing.
He had killed the boy and couldn’t bring him back. Could not change what had happened in those few seconds. Fifteen yards away, running, running, running like hell, and he had pulled the trigger, his weapon already in both hands, pointed, aiming, someone’s voice commanding, his?, yelling STOP STOP OR I WILL SHOOT, the kid running two more steps, staggering, falling to the pavement, a silence in the night, the screaming of a bystander, the voices in his head.
The voices in his head. DSS
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