Overnights, 2001. He sits cross legged at the entryway to his riverside home. The portico protects him from the rain though he’s splashed by drops exploding onto the pavement. No one ever asked him about rain. No one asked if he liked it. He prefers not to say. Inside his home he makes food and eats it while watching the evening news. What he’s most afraid of is someone finding him out. Maybe afraid is too strong a term, it’s more like vague worry. After eating he washes his dishes and changes into uniform and leaves for the bank. The afternoon guard nods on his way out. An orange sunset like sorbet through the bank’s entrance windows. Shameful, he thinks, how easy it is. The focus remains. He moves through the bank lobby with 12 cameras following him to the meager room of security boxes and inserts the two different keys, rotates them, opens the door. A vault of 32 anonymous steel boxes. There is poetry in security. He pulls the blade from his pocket and slices the outside of each forearm, finger-painting blood onto the facades of the boxes and then, in a final act of protest, opens up each forearm artery, feeling no pain, grinning at the deep dark liquid draining away from him.
Black milk, 2016. Someone else, some other time woke alone and hungry, the cold wind sabotaging the walls, the floorboards. He thought he might be dead. He slept again and dreamed of fire, fire covering everything. He saw a bear on fire, running. He woke sweating and seriously ill to a knock at the door. It took two minutes in his weakened state to crawl and greet his friend checking on him in the blizzard. They arrived at a hospital within the hour, two nurses leaning over the patient. Bring that larger hose back around here, he heard a female nurse say, and then he was sedated to nothingness, not even blackness. Not even a place. He woke three days later. His friend said: …medically-induced coma to drain fluid from your head. They drained fluid from your heart. Viral infection. How did I get infected? the patient asked. They’re trying to figure that out, said his friend. It could be some bacteria or parasite inside you caused the infection. Or the parasite caused your immune system to backfire, to turn on itself. They’re ruling out probabilities. Who? asked the patient. The doctors, man, said the friend, looking around. Who else? Wait, are you all right? Hold on. You don’t look good. Hold on. Nurse! Nurse! Doctor!
Mayonnaise sky, 1979: The Cherokee stood watch at the front glass door. Two men in suits sat in the front seats of a parked black Lincoln at the far end of the block. The morning fog had lifted and milky sunlight coated the city. The Cherokee watched the men in the car and scanned the street. Paulie nearly soundless behind him counting and sorting bills at his desk. The Cherokee knew never to interrupt Paulie when he counted money. Twice this morning the Cherokee vomited uncharacteristically into the bathroom sink. His woman told him he was getting older and to see a doctor while he was in the city. She knew he carried a gun for a living but she didn’t know he’d used it to kill people. The black Lincoln crept away with the two suits inside. What do you see out there? Paulie asked, scooping banded stacks of worn bills into a backpack. Nothing, said the Cherokee, still, his eyes on the sidewalks, the cars, the road, the building windows, the rooftops. He reached for the shotgun out of habit and pinkied the barrel. A motorcycle growled up the street, howled past.
Last one, Paulie said. He hefted the backpack full of money off the desk and dropped it onto the floor next to three others. A fluorescent light blinked. Paulie began to fill another backpack with the last of the counted and banded cash. The Cherokee knew never to ask Paulie which drop would be first. Let’s go, Paulie said, scooting his chair back and lifting two backpacks of cash onto his shoulders. He motioned for the Cherokee to pick up the others. The Cherokee grabbed his shotgun and the bags of cash by Paulie’s desk and walked toward the back of the store to the other guard at the alley exit.