Saturday, October 29, 2011

Off Season: Oh, Mercy, Mercy Me

When Ryerson pulled his Impala up to the gates of the cemetery it was after midnight. The place was locked up tight, and swirling snow and fog were blowing in off the lake.

It was a huge cemetery right in the middle of the city, a beautiful place for what it was, large and well-kept and overlooking the water. Ryerson remembered standing at the grave during the service and staring out across all those headstones at the sailboats that were gliding around out on the lake.

That had been late June, the week before the Fourth of July. It had been hot and clammy, and he'd felt badly hungover and queasy in one of his brother's old suits. Ryerson had thought hard and couldn't remember the last time he'd worn a suit.

There was a small gathering of people at the cemetery that day, and he had felt embarrassed and angered by the turnout. He was also puzzled by the fact that he didn't recognize a majority of the people, including a woman with two young girls. Probably, Ryerson assumed, the girls had been classmates of his daughter.

The lock on the cemetery gates was one of those security boxes with push buttons. There must have been some code. The walls on either side of the gate were high, and made of stone. He put the white stuffed bear he was holding in his arms on top of the Impala and tried to scrub the vomit from the front of his nylon parka with fistfuls of snow.

Ryerson returned to the car, turned off the lights, and sat there for a moment finishing a can of beer and listening to Ray Price.

Then, in a burst of inspiration that rose up from out of his mind's muddle, he eased the Impala up against the cemetery gate. Holding the bear in one hand, he managed to climb up onto the hood of the car. He tossed the bear over the gate and proceeded to scramble his way to the top, where there were sharp iron points that dug into his flesh. As Ryerson attempted to feel his way down the backside of the gate he lost his grip and fell halfway down to the pavement.

The cemetery was covered with deep snow. After tromping around for a time in what he thought was the general area he managed to locate the gravesite. His ex-wife’s parents had paid for the marker, and its plainness struck Ryerson as horribly inadequate.

He brushed the snow from the stone so he could see the terrible arithmetic and then stood there for a few moments until he realized that he didn't have anything to say. He propped the white bear up against a cement container of plastic flowers next to the marker and turned away.

When he reached the path and took one last backwards glance, the bear had already been entirely obscured by the fog and swirling snow.

After Ryerson left the cemetery he drove around for a couple hours, drinking the last of his beer and listening to music. The city seemed both abandoned and paralyzed. He eventually pulled off in a used car lot on Lake Street and sat there thinking for a time and then --unthinking, really-- shut off the ignition, stumbled out into the snow, and fished around in the trunk.

Just east of the freeway he found a Middle Eastern market that was still open. The place was empty with the exception of the two guys who were working; one guy was stocking shelves, the other was behind the counter.

Ryerson paced off a couple laps of the store before approaching the counter, where he removed his handgun from the pocket of his parka. He just stood there with the unloaded gun pointed at the ceiling, and there was a moment of awkward silence as he tried to remember how such things were done.

"Be a nice guy and empty the register and put the money in a bag," he finally said.

"What is this?" the counter guy said.

"A cry for help," Ryerson said.

The man bent slightly, his hands disappearing for an instant under the counter. When he stood back up he also had a gun, and he raised it --slowly and calmly, the store's video cameras would reveal-- and shot Ryerson squarely in the chest.


  1. Once bought a 1968 Ford custom 500 at a lake street used car lot-end o'line used cars-I think.$150 for my 69 malibu and $150 for the ford.Bad trade on my part even tho the chevys tranny was shot.Oh it might have been the shady(tree) used car lot,too.Down by the old pizza shack/Nummy!

  2. He was also puzzled by the fact that he didn't recognize a majority of the people, including a woman with two young girls.