JIM IN PARIS
Jim stood on the balcony, his chiseled features chiseled into his chiseled face as if by a chisel. He didn’t have the chisel with him, as it was back in his studio, on the table near the marble sculpture. He looked out on Paris. It was a foggy, rainy morning. “To get to the hill, you first have to take the path,” he mused.
“The path is narrow and lined with trees that are so dark they could be purple, and so dense that it feels as though you’re walking alongside a brick wall. You can’t see in and you hope that no one can see out.”
Jim lit a cigarette. “The first time I went up the path,” he thought, “it was terrifying. I could barely take a full breath, let alone put one foot in front of another. If I had to run,” he remembered, “I wouldn’t have remembered how. Besides, I was loaded down with fifty pounds of equipment that clanged and banged with every step. I might as well’ve been carrying a refrigerator on my back. But after the first month the path became fascinating.”
Jim wondered what the hell he was doing in France. He had left his job in Indiana. It was still back there, in Terre Haute. Then he remembered that the company had moved to South Bend, so his job wasn’t back in Terre Haute anymore. But it was still back in Indiana. He hated the insurance company, but he still missed it. His disapproval haunted him like a cursed ghost. But his disapproval of what? He realized right there, right then, that he disapproved of his very disapproval of his former life. It still hemmed him in like a crowded grave.
The truth was that he had moved to Paris for wrong reasons. He might’ve thought he did at the beginning, when his plane landed and he thought that his move would be some kind of life-altering experience. Now the hill that looked so promising wasn’t like a path at all. It was rocky and gray with no growth and no place to hide. It looked like a giant bowl of uncooked oatmeal. It looked like a place you could easily bury fifty bodies and no one’d know.
JIM MOVES BACK TO INDIANA
Standing on the crest of the hill, he did something. He picked up the gun and released the safety. He hadn’t handled the gun n a while. and it felt strangely heavy, unwieldy even, as if he was trying to hoist a manhole cover with his bare hands. It pressed down painfully on his shoulder as he peered into its sights. The man was standing at the edge of the lake, and he was peeing. He had his hand on his hip and he was leaning backward in a posture of bliss, and his face wasn’t all that different from the face Jim’s father had drawn on that tree three years ago.
He observed the man in the crosshairs. He was 1.1 miles away. He was five feet ten inches tall. He jiggled himself dry, buttoned up, and started to walk leisurely along the edge of the lake back to the prairie. Soon he was 1.2 miles away. Then he turned in towards the plains, towards the high grass, and just when he was about to disappear for good, Jim put his finger in the proximity of the trigger.
*I borrowed heavily from”A Brief Encounter with the Enemy” by Said Sayrafiezadeh which as published in the Jan. 16, 2012 issue of *The New Yorker*. It’s not plagiarism if you give credit, is it?