My focus lately has been on final edits, formatting, and the cover for my upcoming novel. Because of that, I’ve been neglecting to promote the short stories I currently have out. So for today, here is a chunk of my latest short story, “Noon”, a tale about a man who has lost his shadow. And no, he’s definitely not Peter Pan.
At noon Edward lost his shadow.
No pain accompanied the parting, but he felt something peculiar, a draining of energy, a slight dizziness. The sun beat down at him with a typical Miami fury, making the hairs on the back of his neck damp against his pressed white shirt. Around him, lunch goers marched on, oblivious to the change in him, dashing to cross the busy intersection. Clouds were already starting to gather overhead, a prelude to the monsoon that would drench the streets in the late afternoon.
The morning had been a disaster. A fight with his wife this morning—-well it had almost been a fight, except it seemed all she had done was complained, and all he’d done was try to get ready for work. Then later, a guy with a strange accent had called to complain about his cellular service and yelled at him for over an hour. He’d sounded familiar. Possibly the tenant upstairs who always played loud music at 1:00am. Edward had escaped for lunch down to his usual spot at Moe’s Deli, then he’d found a hole in his pocket had eaten all his change.
As he stood on the corner, taking a draw from a cigarette, Edward felt something sinking through him, like a bad burger, only worse–a leaden weight of his spirit, draining right down to the hot pavement and merging with his tiny shadow hugging close to his cracked leather shoes. He blinked and watched as the shadow detached itself and just walked away, a spot of darkness dodging between pedestrians, all foreshortened and compact. It dodged around a street performer playing steel drums and crossed the street, heedless of traffic, heading towards the projects.
Edward lifted each foot, searching for a remainder of shadow beneath him, but there was nothing; just pavement, sunlit as if he wasn’t there. He glanced in the window of the deli and swallowed a hard ball of fear. His reflection was gone too; he could see the parked car behind him clear as day, but not himself. He felt kind of hollow, empty. He kicked a rock into the gutter, yelping as an old man shoved past him to cross the street.
Great. Just great.
A glance at his watch warned him that lunch break was nearly over, and he debated whether or not to return to his office–could one claim a missing shadow as a disability? This could be real bad. What would being shadow-less do to him?
Edward hurried to cross the street as the signal changed, sweating with the heat of the day and the anxiety rising in his gut. What would his wife say? Things were rocky enough with her. He passed a doorway to an apartment building where several young men and women were listening to hip hop. As he approached, a pretty girl with long braided hair and even longer brown legs crossed in front of him and put her hand to his chest.
Only five minutes before he was due back at his desk, Edward calculated. He tried to brush past the young lady, but she grabbed his collar. “I saw it, your soul. It a-running back to the one who stole it. Somebody put the voodoo onto you.” Her voice was low and grave, the black pits of her eyes drawing him in. The world dimmed around him. He staggered.
“It was my shadow, not my soul, and I don’t believe in voodoo. Let me go,” he said, trying to pull free. The woman smelled of chocolate and coconut, an intoxicating combination.
“Don’t matter what you believe. Somebody wants you dead. You go a whole day no soul, you will be. I’d be a looking for my enemies, I was you.” She let go of his shirt and smiled, chuckling, then turned away from him and settled back on the top step, crossing her legs in a demure way that only made them more alluring.
Edward could barely make out her next words, muffled as she took a draw of whatever her friends were smoking, “You decide you need some help, you come back here and maybe I help you. For a price.” With a wink, she turned to her companion, a young man with a haircut like Spike Jones and a matching attitude. They began kissing.
Edward frowned and inched away. The others ignored him. A bell on top the tower of Gesú Cathedral began to ring, signalling that lunch hour was over, and he was late.
Well, he was sick, dying maybe, so there was no point in returning to work. Dead by tomorrow, from lack of a shadow? It must be a joke they were playing on him, that was all. He desperately wanted to believe that, but his racing heart refuted it. What if it was real? He’d seen his shadow walking away. Perhaps he was just hallucinating. What he needed was advice. His wife, while not the loving, sensitive woman she’d been when he’d first married her, was at least a sensible woman. He’d ask her.
A short bus trip later, Edward stood outside his apartment complex and punched in his security code to the access gate. It was quiet–just the sound of a mother and her toddler up in one apartment, and some reggae playing somewhere higher up in another room. If Caroline wasn’t home, he could at least grab himself a nap. Maybe he’d wake up and find the whole thing had never occurred.
He’d first been attracted to Caroline because of her beauty—that and her extremely efficient business sense. Christ, but the woman knew how to squeeze the most out of a paycheck. She wasn’t the greatest cook, which was okay, because the sex had been great. Of course, that had been the first thing to go. He’d tried fixing things, offering her gifts he couldn’t really afford, but lately it had been nothing but complaining. He worked too much, she said. But he also didn’t make enough.
They’d started drifting apart.
The apartment was empty. As he entered the breakfast niche, Edward’s nose twitched at the smell of stale coffee. Caroline’s purse was on the counter and her cup was still on the breakfast table, half-empty. Caroline abhorred dirty dishes; she’d never leave one out. Edward called out for her down the hallway, in case she was at Marge’s, their eighty-two-year-old neighbor. No answer.
Instead, the music from upstairs grew louder, until Bob Marley was practically shouting down the pink stucco walls. Edward took a broom from behind the fridge and thumped it against the ceiling.
“Can’t you leave us in peace once in a while?” He shouted over the music, then jammed the broom back against the fridge in disgust. He thought he could hear laughter . . . a man and a woman.
This was simply too much. First the awful call this morning, then his shadow, now his wife mysteriously was out–he was going to go up and warn that fellow that if he didn’t turn down the volume, he’d call the police and have him arrested. He’d seen the guy–dark, handsome, young, with a coterie of young admirers. Edward didn’t think he even had a job, though he seemed fairly well off, at least by his fancy clothes. A slacker, living off rich parents. He was going to teach the young man a lesson.
Taking the broom, Edward marched up the stairs in the courtyard, trying to ignore the dazzling pattern of light and shadow made by the palm trees. Still no sign of his shadow. He had to stop twice to catch his breath, and the sunlight seemed to almost burn. As soon as that music was turned off, he was taking a nice, long nap. He rapped on the door, trying to maintain his anger. His limbs were leaden.
Several minutes passed; he knocked again, then after what seemed a calculated delay, the door slowly opened.
Caroline, wearing only her white lace bra and panties, her brown skin slightly damp with sweat, answered the door. She gazed not at his face, but at his feet where the afternoon sun shone brilliantly against the pink stucco of the building, highlighting his absence of shadow. She smirked and raised her head to look into his eyes with a detachment that made Edward go cold.