The Silence & The Howl (§.27)

CHAPTER 27


She found Harmon in his room, staring at a series of drawings affixed to the wall. In the center hung a meticulously detailed graphite illustration of a young dark-haired woman with handsome mediterranean features. Harmon’s eyes shimmered with strange intensity from where he sat in statuesque silence in the middle of the spartan room, on a stiff wooden chair, spine arched, hands upon a sketchbook and it on his knees.

He said nothing as the woman entered the room, the sound of charcoal upon paper filling up the aural void.

“Heya.”

Harmon waved briskly in the woman’s direction without looking at her, his eyes fixed on the drawing, his hands moving across the surface of the cheap faux-leather-bound sketchbook, tightly clutched in his pale, scar-worn arms.

“I’m not bothering you am I?”

“No. Just distracting me. But I could use a little distraction. Couldn’t sleep?”

“Nah. Drank too much coffee at the cafe probably. Stronger than what I’m used to here.”

“Its pretty potent. Andy back?”

“No. Still out with the boys I guess. Probably got blitzed and spent the night at Jake’s house. Something of a habit for him.”

“I see.”

“I wanted to thank you.”

“What for?”

“For suggesting the cafe, introducing us to your friend, taking us all out to eat and paying for the food. It was nice. Andy needed that.”

Harmon nodded, “No problem.”

She moved forwards, hands in the pockets of her cotton pajama bottoms.

“Whatcha drawing?”

Before she could position herself behind him to view the illustration, Harmon softly shut the sketchbook and turned in his chair.

“I never show my work before its finished.”

She rolled her eyes and then offered him a beer.

“Wanna watch a movie?”

“Sure.”

He took one last look at the portrait upon the center of the wall and rose methodically, placing his drawing upon the small and only table in his temporary domicile.

They moved to the living room, Harmon taking up the same spot in which he had sat when last he and Lyla were still talking, however infrequently. Marla sat down beside him, just where Lyla had when they’d watched Andy’s strange horror film. Harmon couldn’t remember how much time had elapsed since the four of them had watched the movie. All sense of temporal continuity had left his mind. Marla snatched up the remote from the battered wooden coffee table and snapped the ON switch. The news played. A young, smartly dressed woman with asiatic features stood upon a dock, close to the camera. Behind her stood a massive oil rig, rising from the industrial architecture surrounding like a massive alien starship, bright with flame.

“-were able to contain the fire. While initial reports speculated the blast might have been caused by a methane bubble in the drill column, Anton Schmidt, a spokesman for Synnefo Consortium Heavy Industries, dispelled the theory and told me, in a interview just a few minutes ago that the source of the explosion has been determined to have originated from a detention device planted near the drill column.”

A spray-tanned and whiskey-bloated man in a navy blue suit with a silken red tie appeared upon a secondary feed to the right of the female reporter.

“Are you saying this was an act of terrorism?”

“That what it looks like, Joe.”

“Astounding. Absolutely astounding. Alright. Thanks Ling.”

The woman nodded turned from the camera as a crowd of men moved swiftly past her, towards the blazing oil rig.

“Thanks Joe-”

The feed cut out.

“I’m Joe J. Turner. Up next-”

Marla changed the channel as Harmon ran his hands from thighs to knees, spine curving as he bent forth in reverie.

“I can’t stand the news.”

Harmon turned towards her with a quizzical expression, “Why’s that?”

“Its so fucking depressing.”

“Good news is no news.”

“Rather not have any in that case, everything is depressing enough as it is,” she took a swig of beer and flicked the channel again. A film in early color played. A hideous amphibian monster attacked a woman in a pink bikini on a mist-covered beach as a melodramatic score, slightly too jubilant for the content, roared from the speakers.

“What’s got you down?”

She sighed and went lax, he head lolling against the couch cushion, her eyes wandering about the ceiling.

“I dunno. Its not one thing. Andy’s depressed. Doesn’t know what he’s going to do. For money. For a career. He can’t even decide on a hobby. Whole area is filthy. Trash everywhere. Drug peddlers. I thought it would be nice to get away from the city… but its precisely the same. And, oh, I don’t know… I just thought I’d be doing something interesting at this point in my life. Something better.”

She took a swig of beer and looked to Harmon expectantly.

“There’s no use worrying about that.”

“That’s easy for you to say.”

“What do you mean?”

“You never seem worried about anything. Didn’t seem to care at all you got fired. And by telephone. Didn’t even have the good grace to tell you to your face.”

“There’s always another job that needs doing.”

She shook her head.

“How is it you always manage to stay so calm?”

Harmon thought hard upon the question before answering.

“I focus.”

“On what?”

“On my art. I had long considered drawing and writing a hobby. A pleasant diversion. I figured I’d be working construction for many years. Maybe I still will… but I’ve had time to reflect. To reconsider. Now I understand the importance of crystallizing my thoughts; of channeling my attention; of pairing away my delusions and examining my mistakes; of elaborating upon my fantasies that they may become realities.”

“What have you been fantasizing about lately?”

Harmon turned and fixed her with his gaze, his expression opaque. Harmon imagined Lyla weeping, on her knees before him, laying bare her transgressions and begging for forgiveness. Honest and unabsolved. Desperately seeking reconciliation.

“About what I’ll be doing once I leave.”

She reached out and touched his arm.

“I hope you don’t feel pressured to leave. We don’t mind having you around.”

“I appreciate that, Marla. But you two are building a life together, and with all the problems Andy’s been having… I just don’t want to get in between that.”

She smiled and ran her hand down his arm, rolling her head over the couch cushion towards him.

“You’re so sweet. Oh hey, I meant to ask – that drawing. In your room. That’s Lyla, isn’t it?”

At the mention of the name Harmon straightened and answered flatly.

“Yes.”

He took a swig of beer and focused his attentions to the screen and the cop-drama unfolding before him.

“I thought so. Its really nice.”

“Thanks.”

“Wish someone would draw me.”

“Would you like me to?”

She smiled broadly and leaned against him.

“No,” she craned her neck up towards his face, her hands drawing about the back of his neck, “Right now, I want you to kiss me.”

Before Marla could taste his lips, Harmon shoved her hands free and withdrew and rose. He stood a moment, starring at the wall and then glanced at the woman over his shoulder.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Harmon, I’m sorry, I… just thought that-”

“I’m not disloyal.”

“I thought you and Lyla had broken up. I mean she never comes around and…”

“And what about Andy?”

“I wasn’t thinking. Harmon, wait, where are you going? Harmon, wait.”

The front door slammed shut and all was silence.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 22

§.22


Harmon pulled into the parking lot of the northeastern shopping center, its glassy, odd-angling facade shimmering with the solis like molten crystal. He squinted against the glare, put on his sunglasses, checked his wrist watch, exited the vehicle and headed for the pet food store. It loomed a story above every other building, its name, Erma’s Pet Emporium, stood out against the whitewashed and rain-stained walls, glowering from behind illuminated red plastic like the palled embers of an otherworldly fire.

Lyla was finishing her shift when Harmon strode up to her.

“How’ve you been, Bluebird?”

“H-Harmon…”

“Why haven’t you called?”

“Harmon, I’ve gotta close up here… can we talk later.”

“Can’t multitask?”

“Look… Harmon…”

“You’re making a very serious face.”

“I just need some time alone.”

“By ‘alone’ do you actually mean ‘alone,’ or just ‘away from me?'”

“Harmon, its not like that. Its hard to explain.”

She closed up the register and waved to her manager who waved back and then made for the exit, purse over her shoulder.

“Why I wish you would at least try.”

“I just need some time…”

“For what?”

Lyla paused in the middle of the parking lot and looked down at her shoes, unable to muster a cogent answer. Only one lone car moved against the stillness of that barren field. The wind twined her hair about her supple features like liquid night as her eyes narrowed with sadness and her hands went tight about her purse string.

“I can’t be with you anymore, Harmon.”

“Big difference between can’t and won’t.”

“You don’t understand.”

“You’re right about that. Suppose you won’t explain. Though, one thing I do understand is fidelity.”

“I don’t want to have these awful talks anymore.”

“When you didn’t return my calls I assumed as much. Though I never thought of our conversations as ‘awful.'”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it. I meant… conversations about being together.”

“Do you love me?”

Her wide eyes betrayed considerable surprise. Shortly, they disclosed tears.

“I don’t know.”

Harmon nodded to himself, a confirmation of a long held suspicion. He turned and looked towards the setting sun and spoke flatly.

“I remember when you first told me you loved me. More clearly do I remember when you told me you always would. You know what that makes you?”

“What?”

“A liar.”

Lyla straightened, a new resolve hardening her round and delicate face.

“I’ve got to go.”

“Course you do.”

“Goodbye Harmon.”

“You really don’t care, do you?”

“Of course I care.”

Harmon turned full around, hands in his pockets and his eyes dire and incandescent with the stellar sphere’s light.

“Just not about loyalty.”

He could see that it was the last straw for her. She sniffed and wiped her eyes, opened the door of her rental and back out of the lot.

“That’s alright,” Harmon declared to the sky as Lyla’s car melded with the midday rush, “She’ll come to care. I’ll make certain of that.”

*