"It was a day for celebration in the Smith household. Ians blindfold had been removed at the ophthalmologist's; his eyes had healed! A trip to McDonald's was deemed appropriate. Off the family drove, across town, eventually pulling in through the golden arches. Half buried under fifteen inches of fresh snow, the floodlit playground was devoid of footprints, its Jungle Gym, swings, and slide outlined poetically in unalloyed white. Inside, business was slack, for some reason. Not on account of wintry weather. Despite the heavy snowfall, streets had been plowed, rock salt liberally scattered. It was a weekday, true, but schools were closed for the holidays, and 5 PM was dinnertime; the place was usually packed. Undaunted, Adam ordered fries, Cokes, and Big Macs all-around from a team of teenage cashiers (chockfull of smiles and pimples) who rang up the bill. Decked out wall to wall with promotional ads, come-ons, and Seasons Greetings, the fast food joint had a festive airdampened by its dearth of paying customers (like a birthday party called off because the guest of honor died). Returned with bags full of plastic-lidded cups, straws, condiments in foil, cardboard packets, wax-paper-wrapped entrees, and a giant wad of napkins, Adam distributed supper like Santa doling out gifts.
Ann dove in with a vengeance. It seemed like ages since she had eaten her favorite food. Meals at home, of late, had tended to favor vegetables. Yuk! She hated vegetables. Ian did, alsoor used to; now, he claimed (just to be obnoxious), they suited him fine. He had taken to sniffing at everything (likewise obnoxious), before he either ate it (noisily), or turned up his nosethe way he was doing at the moment, making a snooty face as he caught a whiff of his double-decker burger. More surprisingly still, he shoved the Big Mac away! Amazed at her good fortune, Ann (without objection) added Ians reject to her pile, chowing down with gluttonous gusto, unconcerned about anything save her tummys elasticity until, that is, she realized two more burgers lay disowned, Mom and Dad exhibiting the same distaste as had her twin. Self-conscious, of a sudden, Anns globular gob of beef stuck midway in her throat. Sloshing it down with a slug of cola, she tried (in vain) to reinstate her appetite.
"Finished, dear?" her mother asked without a trace of condemnation, making Ann feel guiltier about relishing such gross cuisine. (Why had everybody ordered the nasty ol burgers in the first place, if nobody wanted to eat them, she wondered in sulky self-defense? And what were people staring at; blue was a natural color for a human beings eyes.)
Determined not to cry, Ann challenged the few amber looks cast in her direction, before noticing Moms, Dads, and Ians had gone catatonically blank. Mortified, she forbore the (recurrent) interlude, waiting for her family to snap from its trance.
"Are we off, then?" Adam rose, breaking the silence, seemingly unaware any lapse had taken place, nonplused by his daughters inexplicable rush to stay their departure.
"Dont leave me, Daddy!" Ann pleaded into the pleats of her fathers pants, hugging his upper thighs for all she was worth.
Exchanging a search-me shrug with his wife, Adam made a stab at quelling their daughters sobs.
"Who said anybodys leaving you behind? Were a family, Sweetie, arent we; all for one, and one for all?"
Words were insufficient; Ann was disinclined to be consoled. So Adam picked her up and carried her out to the parking lotwhere the Jungle Gym (heretofore abandoned) was dotted with blue-black crows.
Back at the house, sequestered in the den, whiskers eerily aglow from the computer monitors Technicolor radiation, Geezer ransacked the Internet for news of his AWOL tribehampered only by the cumbersome (misnamed) mouse (moose might have been more apt, considering the effort required for a chipmunk-size monkey to maneuver it). Surely someone at the Lab had remained on-line, even if the facility itself had been disMANtled. How else stay apprised of the Antidotes course? Yet the words "Not Found" kept coming up after each and every entry Geezer madenot surprisingly; a Guinea Pig (his lowly status pre and post inoculation) was seldom privy to access codes at mission control. Being a Curious-George, he had eavesdropped, of course. What else was there to do cooped up in his cubbyhole-cage? Tidbits passed nonstop (much like data on the Information Highway) that Geezers mind reached out to sample (discarding most, absorbing all-too-few), this form of psychic filching a reprehensible misuse of Simian gray matter. Still, how could anyone expect cooperation from a subject under-the-influence of some anthropocentric dwarf? Proto was to blame for Geezers occasional mischief; moronic midget contamination had been responsible for conduct deemed "untoward."
Just look at it. Humanity! No other species bombarded itself with such a plethora of obsessions, distractions, the Net a perfect exampleits clutter, alone, indicative of brain waves run amok.
Geezer, paws on the keyboard, called up field upon diverse field (fungi to flamingos, polo to pornography), an astronomical glut of facts and frivolities, little, if any, of which would rescue Mankind Man-unkind a better moniker. Not that Simians, juxtaposed, were all that benevolentexcept in adopting precepts that promoted Communal Accord. People, on the contrary, chiefly promoted themselves (when they werent murdering one another), monopolizing the planet like Jekyll upstaged by Hyde.
Heterochromia: a change, usually a lightening in pigmentation of the iris, associated with certain neurological disorders
was Adams latest entry in a folder designated "OWL-EYES."
Two weeks ago.
(So, the patriarchs interest in epidemiology had begun to wane.)
Geezer scanned the clues thus far assembled.
None appeared too incriminating.
Extinct Monkey Is Found In Mountains
Who could have been so careless at this momentous stage?
no details of the species and did not indicate just how many had been found.
Geezer probed, trying to locate the articles source.
He pulled it up. There was no telling how many others had done the same, no knowing whom among them had added two plus two as had Mr. Smith (who failed to believe his daughters "farfetched" story, irrespective).
An e-mail address appeared.
Dare the exiled Lab Rat hazard a cryptic note?
Not just yet; the family car returned, its tires compacting snow on their "crunch" up the drive.
Geezer, logging off (as tedious a process as logging on), grappled with the mouse, climbed aboard, jumped to make it click, then reproduced these motions through a time-consuming sequence that only was half completed as the garage door lowered
two thirds completed as boots were stomped in the adjoining kitchen
four fifths completed as Ann crossed the hall, homing in on a hunch, heading straight for her fathers (infiltrated) sanctum.
"I KNOW YOURE IN HERE," Anns voice piped from where she stood, barricading the dens threshold, its oaken panels clapping, with a "THUNK," to shut Geezer in!
Despite her tender years, this child was a worthy adversary. Geezer (who might have chosen a better refuge, given a few more precious seconds) hoped Anns powers of perception (and intuition) were less keen than his
(as she peeked under the desk)
an unschooled neophyte surely not a match for Simian acumen
(under the easy chair)
though Geezer was, by all accounts, woefully unskilled
(under the davenport)
utterly inept when compared to his former mentors
(proceeding to dislodge tomes, at random heights, from the far walls bookshelf)
unaccomplished even with respect to a simple BLINK
(halting cocking her ear straining to detect a paws imprudent step, a tails incautious flick, a whiskers unconsidered quiver tiptoeing back to the desk fingering its still-warm console zeroing in on a European coffee cup turned upside down laying her palm over the bowl-shaped domea handy place to hide, or an ideal trap).
"Ann, you know youre not to play in your fathers study!"
Evelyn, her head protruding through doors she had just precipitately parted, drew an urgent look from her on-the-prowl child.
"Close those, Mom; hell get away!"
"Wholl get away, dear," Evelyn asked without complying? "Not that monkey, I hope."
"But I catched im this time. Come; hes right under here."
Ann indicated where she dearly hoped and prayed the monkey had sought asylum, both her anxious palms now laying siege to the overturned vessel on top of which her mother added a third.
"If we lift this up together, Ann, and nothing is underneath, you must promise me you will never pretend like this again."
"But, Mom "
"No complaints. Ive had just about enough of your tomfoolery. Either promise me this minute, or well leave your fathers things exactly where they are."
Ann, aware that such an oath was absolutely binding, freed one hand from the cup and solemnly crossed her heart
as Geezer (safe inside the lampshade) let out a sigh of relief.
Adam, aghast his Pontiacs high-gloss finish had been marred by rock salt, had stayed behind to wax and polish it back to a condition he called "cherry" (auto lovers enamored of sexually charged nomenclature). Purchased before its owner became a husband, a father, an executive atDupont, Adams Trans Am Deluxe had managed to avoid the slightest ding, the tiniest scratch, its purring V-8 engine tuned to the same perfection that kept its metallic finish lustrous, its upholstery spotless, its every accessory fully-functional and showroom-floor pristine. Pride, possessiveness, and plain hard work maintained the indubitable "classic," which Adam would no sooner part with than lop off his testicles.
Irregular, then, it was not that he labored long this December evening, enclosed within the frigid (though fully moisture-proofed) garage, lingering over the wide-tread wheels and custom-fitted hubcaps
in whose effulgent chrome he saw his face grow sedate
as his body, stretched out horizontal to the bumper, skirt, and spoiler grew quite content to bear the concretes adamantine plane
his whole left side benumbed
gone fast asleep
pins and needles in his arm becoming less
and less pronounced
and less uncomfortable
the fog, from his sluggish exhalations, starting to ebb
scarcely clouding his reflection
lending tranquil clarity to eyes held positively fixed
Strange; they once were blue, Adam recollected dreamily, not these amber warning lights, flashing on and off so sluggishly; whose are they?
his question frozen in the ice of a catalytic stare
since, all this while, he had left the motor idling.
It was Ian who first detected the carbon monoxide fumes, caught their noxious stench long before he ventured into the make-do gas chamberwhich spread its rank necrology, once unsealed, throughout the house. Never having beheld Deaths face (in human guise, at any rate; exterminated insects did not count), the youngster failed to recognize its characteristic gape. Daddy must be playacting, he presumed, when Adam lay immobile after one, two, three exploratory nudges when his eyes, looking straight ahead, refused to blink when he would not even wipe away a glob of stagnant spittle.
"Holy Mary, Mother of G " was Evelyns gasped reaction, one she smothered with a dish rag brought abruptly to her face, transferred to Ians as she collared him, pressed the door-hoist button frantically, rushed the lad outside, raced back to switch off the ignition, then hauled her husband by his ankles under the stars of a frostbitten night.
"Hows come Mommys smooching Daddy here in the driveway," Ann asked Ian, as she joined her under-clad brother in the bitter chill.
"ANN," came her mothers urgent call (she spoke between said smooches), "CALL 911," re-clamped her lips over Adams slackened mouth to fill his lungs from hers, "SAY OUR ADDRESS," inflating them, "SAY DOCTOR," gulping air, "WE NEED A DOCTOR," while the corpse still lay inert, her efforts, "HURRY," earning no response, "RUN, RUN," no 'actual' recovery; the rising/falling ribcage gave only a counterfeit sign of life, a false hope mourned by the would-be widow in dizzy desperation:
Who gave you permission, Mister Husband, Mister Family Man? Who gave you the right to leave your wife, forsake your children? Who put suicide in our marriage contract? Who said, fine, drop dead, just stick a tail-pipe down your gullet, take a dragvoil�; no problems?
Evelyn tried to work a miracle, pumping Adam full of that which he had deigned to let escape
the Kiss of Life deficient
Death would not be cheated
not by dint of love
or overwhelming will.
"Her said theys coming," Ann reported.
"Good, good job," her mother sputtered, "Now take Ian " who had disappeared, "What now; where IS your brother? IAN!" peddling up behind her on his tricycle, he returned "Escort your brother " tracing ovals on the driveways snowy surface "to the Joness " leaving three-wheeled tracks "Right now!" as if oblivious "tell them Mommy needs their help" to what his orbits circumscribed.
"Come on, Stupid," Ann commanded (taking Ian for an idiot; even she could see the situation smacked of something dire). She grabbed his hand. He left his bike. They tramped next door.