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  By Kenyon Ledford

 

Cale Jackson flipped and flopped under the covers. He scrunched up the pillow, made sure his ear plugs were snug, but finally, surrendered. He ripped out the plugs and popped his eyes open. He laced his hands behind his head. The red numbers on the digital read: 2:43. The room swam in the murky darkness. He puffed his cheeks and sputtered air out his lips. Just a couple of hours, a cat nap at least. Was that asking too much?

A thud pounded the wall outside. Inside, Cale's heart did the same. The sound didn't repeat. Cale's pulse retreated. It could have been anything, he decided. A siren screamed in emergency a few blocks away. Cale closed his eyes. It was like pulling down stuck windows, but finally he began to relax. He worked the plugs back into his ears and with a sigh, turned onto his side. A person acclimated to the sounds around this house. A person acclimated to the sounds around this town. And, if a sound turned out to be someting more, the Beretta m9 lay close at hand on the nightstand, just in case.

This town. This town bound in graffiti, and infested with vermin. This town with its cop cars, with its ambulance chasers, with its liquor stores and

hookers, with its con men and crooked preachers. This town. Cale turned over again and closed his eyes. His breath came slower and his mouth slackened.

A whisper told him that it couldn't recall if he made his child support payment yet. Would he mind checking on that just to be sure? A trickle of spittle leaked from the edge of his mouth in response. A throbbing crept up on him. “Are you ever going to see a doctor about me?” it asked. Cale's leg twitched, then he began to snore.

A sharp knuckled rap jolted him back awake. Cale bolted upright. He tore out the ear plugs and listened. Nothing. Just one of those sounds. Just one of those sounds you think you hear as you're falling asleep. A fragment of a dream. Down the street a car approached, gunned its engine, and died away.

Cale swung his legs out of bed and pulled back the blanket covering the window. The crimson sky told him the sun was setting. He slipped into his sweat pants, sat on the bed and laced up his sneakers. People were having supper now, not paying attention to things. He pulled his hooded sweatshirt over his head and headed for the door. The unlit houses would be the empty houses. He paused, then returned to the bedroom for the Baretta . Just in case.