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On his desk there’s a Newton’s Cradle. One of those ball bearing things, and it’s still as he scribbles and jots, stops for a moment, looks up, adds a scribble then puts down his pen.

And how are we today.

Me? I’m fine. I don’t know how you are.

I’ll ignore that for now. Terrible thing you went through. All those months. Alone with a man like Johnny Blythe.

Wasn’t as bad as you make it sound.

There’s a word for that. In my line of work.

What word would that be.

Minimization. And there’s really no need. I’ve heard it all. Nothing you say will shock or surprise me.

There’s a framed photograph on his desk, next to the ball bearing thing. A woman with long red hair, red like cedar, and she wears a silk dress the color of butter.

I pick up the picture. The silver frame is heavy, weighted.

Your wife?

Yes.

She’s very pretty.

Yes she is.

Well there’s not much to tell. Most of the time we were in the church attic. We came down at night, got food from the pantry. Went to the basement. Watched TV. Or we played board games. Parcheesi. Monopoly. He always liked to be the race car.

He never—

No.

Not once?

Not ever.

So much time. Grown man and all, one naturally wonders…

You want me to make something up?

He takes his pen and makes a few scribbles. The Newton’s Cradle is silent as steel.

You’ve heard the news, I assume.

Johnny’s dead. I know.

Are you glad?

No.

Sad?

A little.

You seem to be mad more than anything else…

The Newton’s Cradle, the ball bearing thing, it flies off the desktop, soars through the air like some great bird of prey; it crashes and clatters and the silver ball bearings swing wild without clicking.

Three months in the attic of Burning Hills Baptist. Just me and Johnny Blythe. And now here you come, with ideas and theories that aren’t even your own. You lock me inside them, assign motives to me. Seal me off and hide me away, and you do it for money. You do it to keep your cedar-haired wife in butter-silk dresses. You want me to be what you want me to be. You’re just like Johnny. The difference is, you’re not honest about it.

The doctor bites the end of his pen. The Newton’s Cradle, the ball bearing thing, is still, and I grab my purse. I march stridently, pointedly, toward what I believe is the exit.

I open the door to a bathroom instead and I don’t have to go but I sit in a stall. I do wonder why. I wonder if Johnny even knew why. Or if life only moves because something must happen. I wonder more, now that Johnny is gone and sometimes I let myself wonder why not.

 

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