Delta Delusions: Black on Black

Delta Delusions: Black on Black

Delta Delusions: Black on Black

By William Prentiss

Can sounds kaleidoscope? I remember as a child looking into the viewfinder and seeing multi-colored striations, small geometric shapes, and reticulated patterns making sense and no sense at all. I was drawn to the twisting patterns of the kaleidoscope as a moth is to the flame.

Sounds are buzzing in my ear. My peripheral vision is filled with signs warning me not to look around. I smell my own foul, sticky-sweet odor. I am afraid to breathe deeply, not from fear of my own toxicity, but from a desire to be invisible, the same way children believe a thin sheet over their face can protect them from the Boogey Man. I am afraid and lonely, even though supporters behind me send unspoken supplications heavenward, to the only One who can save me.

Why am I here? I am not sure. I had it all figured out this morning; I knew how to proceed. I am lost now in a swirl of audible and peripatetic tensions, not knowing what is, or what is to come.

I hear the lady in the black robe above me mouthing something to the fellow on my left who is wearing the three-piece suit. I didn’t know anybody still wore one. I think he is about to ask me a question, but I can’t hear him–the roar of nothing but desperation and the unknown has deafened me. My God, where are you?

Am I to stand? Is that why the suit is pulling on my arm? I don’t want to stand; I can’t stand. My legs obey no one. I see the suit trying to smile for my sake. I didn’t know lawyers smiled. Is it going to be okay?

Unexpectedly, I see the “single-thin ray as it fell on the vulture’s eye” from Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I hear the very sounds described by the insane protagonist, “A low, dull, quick sound — much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.”

Is it locally grown cotton? Does it freakin’ matter you idiot! Am I insane too? I must be.

The sound now hurts; does anyone else hear it? What is that sound, a beating heart? NO, it couldn’t be. He is dead, only the head was found in the pond.

I don’t even remember where the body is. I have yet to own up to the killing. It wasn’t even my fault. Why was he in the road, walking down the middle of the street, wearing all black?

I never saw him; I just felt the bump of driver-side tires as they thumped the life from him. I heard a sick, snapping sound. Was it his neck, legs, or my own fractured existence breaking into its final pathetic pieces?

I should have never picked him up, put him in the trunk and hid the head in my pond. What was I thinking?

It was his fault. What black person wears all black, on a black night and walks down the middle of a black-asphalted street, so near the median? Why in the hell would he do that?

I never saw him. I didn’t. But, I had been drinking; I was not high out of my mind, but I knew I smelled of bourbon and I was afraid they might think I did it on purpose. Had I not just mentioned to a group of locals yesterday how frustrating it was when folks walk down the middle of the road and almost dare you to hit them? It pisses everybody off, but we say nothing for fear of appearing racially motivated.

I can’t go to prison. I am too soft, old and my life has just gotten back on track. Surely no one would miss him. Would they? Of course they would. I took another’s life.

I never saw him though. I am sick over it. But, should I have to pay by spending who-knows-how-many years in Parchman Penitentiary? I want to do great things; I want to soar. But, I guess so did he.

Damn, I should have been honest up front. How can I stand before man and kneel before God and rectify this act? What is that furious ringing in my ears? I thought the still, small voice of God was easy to be heard and entreated. Is he trying to tell me something? Or is the devil mocking me?

The suit somehow has me on my feet. He is still smiling. I hear an audible sigh in the room behind me. I hear something about “free to go.” Am I?

But I can’t stop the rumbling scaling up my belly from deep inside my diaphragm. I think I may be sick. I begin to realize I am about to speak, and I fear I shall ruin it all. STOP the speech. Bite your tongue you ingrate.

Who will pay the child support while you rot in prison? Who will keep your wife warm at night? Who will bury your mother 20 years from now?

The quaking subsides as quickly as it began. I feel as though I am going to be okay. I am heading home to the loving arms of my wife, who stood by me these many anguished months. A soft bed and a glass of port await me. I think I will sleep for days, weeks even.

Suddenly, the rumbling erupts as spontaneous projectile vomit. It careens across the defense table in a surfer’s spray, smacking the floor with a reverberating crackle. I hear someone next to me say, “SHIT!” I think, NO! This is not happening; it’s just a little vomit.

It’s going to be okay. Maybe I should offer to clean it up. A pounding in my ears starts the melting. I am melting, in front of everyone. I don’t want to melt.

I scream out, “Help me? Help me? Help me?” Then I hear nothing but silence; it seems to linger for a lifetime, followed by a still small voice saying. “You are my child, do the right thing. I will not forsake you.”

I break free from the table, dash to the bench, and look into the perplexed, and slightly fearful face of the judge. I implore her to let me speak. She nods, while looking at the bailiff and twitching her head in my direction.

I turn and look out at a chamber full of querulous faces–known and unknown–but all raptly and expectantly seeking understanding, from me. I wipe the remainder of my stomach’s contents from my goatee, straighten the collar of my jumpsuit, take one step forward, and then I begin, “It was a dark night…

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Click here to read more about DELTA SHORTS.

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