“A Most Particular Darkness”
Augustus shuffled away from the bar after his rousing discussion of the inefficiencies of nineteenth-century whaling came to an abrupt end.
It truly never even began.
Frankie figured that a drunk jawing on about whales and scrimshaws would drive off the few customers who were left, so he told Augustus it was closing time.
It was no matter.
Augustus hadn’t contemplated the practicality of whaling enough to form a strong opinion.
Up until a few moments ago, he was set on putting his house up for sale and heading straight to California to dig around for gold. And then he started to think about whaling and its big ideas, and all the golden opportunities it could bring.
But he needed to compress, and slow down a bit. No need to head off to the shores of Nantucket, at least without a clear sense of direction.
So he rose from his bar stool and headed out the front door, finishing off his pint before he stumbled out into the night.
From outside, he noticed the bar closer resembled a shack than some sort of mediocre example of brick and mortar twenty-first century architecture. It was isolated, off the beaten path, and shoddily built with aluminum siding.
I’m aware that “off the beaten path” was one of Augustus’ favorite phrases. He didn’t say it too much.
But he liked the phrase whenever he came across it.
He heard a voice, not a whisper, but a loud and drunken voice, calling his name from inside the shack.
He turned around and looked back at his watering hole.
A fairly large sign that read “Frankie’s” in illuminated letters hung above his head. The “F” was out and it now read “Rankie’s”.
“Augustus!” called the voice, again. The door swung open and out stumbled Hal, struggling to put on his jacket.
“It’s late—or early, I guess. Too early to be walking alone.”
“You live toward my place?”
“Yes, close by.”
Augustus didn’t know exactly where Hal lived, but figured it couldn’t be too far away, or else Hal would end up being the one walking home alone when he probably shouldn’t.
There’s so many things to worry about these days. It’s not like it had been back when Augustus was a kid, after all.
Now there were gangs and mass murderers and pedophiles, and they were all out there somewhere in the dark. Maybe they weren’t in this particular darkness, but they were out there somewhere.
And that’s a fact.
Maybe I’m being presumptuous again, but many humans seemed to believe it was better when all anyone had to fear was mutual destruction by angry old white men.
I try to understand.
But off into the darkness the odd couple marched, with only the occasional automobile headlight lighting their way.
Home wasn’t all too far away and the sidewalk would lead them right to Augustus’ doorstep.
“Frankie’s a good guy, ain’t he?” spouted Augustus.
His words abruptly broke the serene silence of their drunken trek.
“Oh, yes. I think,” responded Hal.
“I think, too,” said Augustus. “Doesn’t seem to say much, though.”
“Seems to speak when he wants you gone,” countered Hal.
“The nerve of that guy,” said Augustus, as he shook his head and focused harder on the ground beneath his feet.
“How much further?”
“Not much. Just around this bend.”
The road took a hard left turn ahead, and Turnabee Place was just beyond.
On the night the odd couple left Frankie’s and walked back home, Augustus was indeed correct in calling it Turnabee Place. But later, he will rename his street Whirling Place.
He renamed it because he could.
And it’s undoubtedly more fitting, and I credit Augustus in this particular matter.
But that’s all the jumping ahead I care to do right now.
“Turnabee Place is my street,” said Augustus.
“What’s a Turnabee anyways?”
The odd couple continued to stumble onward, while nothing of note occurred, except for Hal’s insistent tying of Augustus’ shoes.
That was odd even by the odd couple’s standards.
But they were to the driveway, now, and they pushed their way through the overgrown trees and bushes. He would have to trim the jungle eventually, and his mailbox needed some fresh paint, too.
Might as well start tomorrow.
It’s funny the way things seem to go, if you’re not in on the joke.
Hal left Augustus, laces securely knotted, at the front door.
“I believe you can take it from here, my friend,” said Hal.
He’s done it many times before, after all.
Hal left him almost unnoticeably, until Augustus fumbled his key as he took it from his jacket pocket, and dropped it off the porch. Hal turned to help him look for it, but Augustus waved him on.
“I got it. I got it. I’ll see you later. Okay?”
“Yeah—later, Augustus,” said Hal, as he walked away from the house and down the driveway, and back out into the dark.
Again, Augustus hoped he didn’t live too far away, but I’m aware Hal Holloway did not, in fact, live nearby.
Augustus picked the keys out of the bushes below the porch, and turned back toward the front door.
He inserted the key, turned the handle, kicked the bottom of the door twice, smacked the door thirteen inches above the knob with his left fist, making sure that his index finger’s knuckle made contact first, and proceeded to walk inside.
As Hal figured, he had indeed done this before.
The Sweetbriar residence wasn’t much of anything; not now at least. It was his mother’s before she bit the dust on Christmas Eve’s eve.
He had no job, so he had to sell most of the furniture and china in order to pay for all the pale ales, even when they seemed to always come right back up.
I wish I could’ve given Augustus a tip or two about proper money management, because he never seemed to get his money’s worth.
But it was a three-bedroom, two-floor brick home, unlike the aluminum siding of the bar he frequented too often. Augustus didn’t deserve this much and he knew it—just liked to forget it.
He eventually undressed and fell on to his bed, falling asleep quickly and soundly, with no voice whispering to him to tell him to go away.
He wouldn’t hear the whisper if it tried.
At times like these, Augustus was at peace, if only momentarily.
But could he sense the significance of this humdrum peace? I’m not the one to ask, but if I had to guess I’d think he understood.
And I’d think that was good enough for him. I’d think that he loved the way his mind was at ease when he slept, and all his troubles relieved, if only for the night.
He likely appreciated the short break from the outside world, and all its chaos, and decisions, and responsibility, and madness.
But I could be wrong.