The Safe Man: A Ghost Story

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With their paint peeling off in short chipping flakes or long curled strands depending on age, depending on brand, depending on the time of year. Moss and mold find purchase in the topmost layer of river silt, in crumbling concrete, in cedar shakes and aluminum siding. See the pilings listing in the river, split from age and the unrelenting damp, sucked at by the current and the tides.

See the old buildings up for lease, the family businesses closed. The new stores opening, flourishing, slowing, folding, spreading out in concentric rings from the dead center of what used to be a logging town, until you hit the outermost circle of newly built box stores sitting fat on the land like new kings of the floodplain. See the tree farms like peachfuzz over naked rolling hills.

He thinks about suicide so often that it becomes another autonomous system, like breathing. He can imagine concrete rushing up to crush his bones as if the street is a giant hand. Every time he drinks, he wonders if he has the guts to take a handful of pills and let fuzziness go to unconsciousness and then death.

Or just keep drinking, so fast that not even the urge to vomit up poison can save him. Sometimes, he puts his hand between his teeth, pointing his index and middle fingers at the roof of his mouth. His fingers taste faintly salty, but he imagines them cold and steel, imagines running his tongue across the oiled barrel, holding his finger on the trigger and squeezing. It is his pornography. It is a release but afterward he feels no better, drowning in a rush of the wrong neurotransmitters. He used to cry when he was younger, but now he just lies on his bed with his hands behind his head and stares at the popcorn ceiling.

He felt too sophisticated for his hick hometown, but he misses it sometimes, feels lost. Admits to himself that maybe some part of him belongs there with the shitty janitorial job he wanted to believe he was too good for. He has started to think of suicide as the ultimate breakdown of evolutionary tendencies.

This, despite the fact that bad biology analogies make him cringe. No, he does understand. They say: Go to Africa or Haiti. Go to China. Go see people with real problems and help them. As if people in the impoverished nations continents of the world exist to make him feel better.

As if they are not human in their own right, but an exercise in self—aggrandizing pity. The others cut through the island like old—time roads, clear and broad and tidal like the estuary. The slough was mud—brown, the filthy bile duct of this island shaped like a liver, situated between the cow field and the sheep field. But the invasive milfoil grew too thick and so the state came in with herbicide just like they had on the other sloughs.

Everywhere else, the plants died and the water ran clear. But in this slough, this useless little ditch, the water turned black and sluggish like tar. For weeks, the only ripples were from wind tunnel river breezes, and everyone kept their livestock and children away. But we are drawn like moths, each to our own personal flame. Did I let you to push me to the hottest point, where my self blistered and began to burn? No, I stepped back and I washed my hands of you and pretended that I could stand on both sides of the fence.

That I had no part of your leaving. The last I heard, you were living in a car with some girl. That was years ago. Are you still alive? Are you safe, or am I just talking to another ghost? I am always talking to ghosts….

Went looking for those artists who lived too fast, winking out like the fireflies that made me scream in Kansas. Did you find your hero, pickled, circling the urinal, puke—choked to a super—star death? You followed him into square bottles and slammed fists and heart and mouth and dick against thick glass to the sound of a tortured guitar having penetrative sex with a pawn—shop amp. Did you go out in a blaze of self—destructive glory the way you promised, or do you still linger, getting too. I learned your secrets secondhand. Who am I kidding? You might almost think his bones were hollow.

Like a smacked up, screaming, gear—smashing bird. He throws himself at us with that guitar in his hands, giving us amplified feedback, the sound inside our heads. Look, he is a lonely king in a sold—out room and he is pacing the cage of his skull. Admit it. Because he was doomed.

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Because falling stars leave longer imprints on the retina. Because he was pale and skinny and angry. You can always blame the money. Or the drugs. Blame rock and roll. Yes, the woman. Just how fucking hard is it for you to believe that he loved her and she loved him? No one asked the woman if she wanted a husband or a martyr and no one asked their daughter if she wanted a father or a god. You broke your vinyl and burned your flannel and got on with it.

Did you get what you wanted? Oh, you have kids! And you listen to Bieber with them, and they listen to the Beatles with you. And the only way they can fight back is by being even more commercial than you are, by spending your money on overpriced faux—punk merchandise with cute pink flowered hand grenades and a bandaged, bleeding Hello Kitty packaged to be edgy. Our older brothers and sisters raged this way, and our parents did too, before it was time to settle down and get serious, to pay our war taxes and send our youth to die in the jungle, in the mountains, in the desert.

This is for my older siblings. This is for me. This is for everyone who took their conscience into the back yard and shot it like a rabid dog. I talk about suicide the way an addict talks about junk. Walk out on the frozen bay.

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Wipe away the snow. Cook it down to perfection and submerge into the inky, lightless, brackish depths. Someone always finds the bodies. They fall from bridges like rain and wash ashore on remote islands, ruining holidays with their polished white ribs and rotting flesh and tennis shoes. This is where he pulls the trigger.

Nobody hears the gun go off. If a man kills himself and there is no one watching, does he truly die? The Forgotten. Truth or Die. Flesh And Blood. Patricia Cornwell.

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The Murder House. Sycamore Row. The Night Stalker. Unlucky Private Paris. The Fix. Solitude Creek. Jeffery Deaver.

The Safe Man: A Short Story (2012)

Erasing Memory. Scott Thornley. Private L. Depraved Heart. The Survivor. Vince Flynn. Some Degree of Murder. Frank Zafiro. Mightier Than the Sword. Jeffrey Archer. The Fallen. Field of Prey. Colleen Cross. Good and Valuable Consideration. NYPD Red. Broken Promise. Linwood Barclay. Gold Mine. The Night Fire. October The Late Show. The Burning Room. Two Kinds of Truth. The Black Echo. The Last Coyote. The Black Box. The Black Ice. Trunk Music. The Lincoln Lawyer.

The Crossing. The Reversal. Angels Flight. The Overlook. The Concrete Blonde. The Narrows. The Closers.


  • A Ghost Story?
  • This is a Ghost Story.
  • A Ghost Story!
  • A Ghost story from the past about a church near Tuscaloosa, Alabama;

The Wrong Side of Goodbye. Suicide Run. Angle of Investigation.

Reward Yourself

Chasing the Dime. Void Moon. Nine Dragons.

The Safe Man

The Fifth Witness. Echo Park. Blood Work. A Darkness More Than Night. Lost Light. Blue on Black. The Gods of Guilt. City of Bones. Murder in Vegas. Mulholland Dive. Red Eye. Dennis Lehane. One Batter One Pitch. Harry Bosch Novels, The: Volume 2. The Rag. The Secret Society of Demolition Writers.

Marc Parent. In the Shadow of the Master. Los Angeles Noir. Denise Hamilton.



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