(Post image is a portrait of Sir Isaac Newton by Jean-Leon Huens)
“We should go do something,” I tell him. “We should just jump in the car right now; head to Idaho or Bolivia or Finland or somewhere that ain’t here. Just go, man…”
“That don’t make sense,” Jimmy’s raspy voice squeaks out in a whisper. “Pretty sure we can’t drive to Finland,” he says. He’s pretty sure, anyway; he ain’t positive, though. There’s something to be said about Jimmy not being positive. He’s the smartest kid I ever knew. Smart the way a lion is brave. That’s Jimmy, man. But right now Jimmy ain’t positive about being able to drive to Finland. That shakes me to my bones like old men shake in the cold. No. Maybe it’s the pain that makes me shake. I feel my arm; it’s all sore and bruised. My lip’s cut, my body aches. I know I’m lying here on the floor; I know I hurt, I just don’t know why.
“They once thought light was made of particles, you know,” Jimmy cuts into my thoughts of discomfort. “Corpuscles. People forget we once thought light was made of these little tiny particles instead of being wavelengths. Newton thought that! He was soooo wrong,” Jimmy howls. So wrong. I think to myself that this is all wrong.
“We should get out of here, Jimmy. We should just go get in the car right now and drive.”
“To Finland?” Jimmy asks.
“Finland? Fuck Finland, Jimmy! Forget it. We’ve just got to get out of here,” I repeat like an alarm clock; Jimmy keeps hitting my snooze button. “Horrible feeling about this; I’ve got a terrible, terrible vibe, man.” Jimmy’s smiling at me now. He has that Alice in Wonderland cat smile. What was that thing’s name…Cheshire. A Cheshire cat grin – ear to ear.
“We ain’t goin’ nowhere,” he tells me with that ridiculous smirk. Jimmy is leaning against the wall, a little dirty but not a scratch to be seen. His stringy blond hair falling down in his face; his pearly white teeth piercing through his thin lips. He has a strong jaw line whose bone moves a little when he speaks, and a large crooked nose from the breaks he’s had playing sports for years – football, basketball, hit by a pitch in baseball. Otherwise, he’s pretty as a picture.
“Jimmy,” I say, “why am I beat to shit and you look like you just walked off a movie set?”
He laughs. “Like Redford or McQueen, right? Hell, guy,” he tells me, “I’ve always been a better looker than you. That ain’t nothin’ new.”
I take a look around the room: a large metal door, dirt floor, two cots, a pot for a bathroom, a brown stained sink, a light shining down from high up in the ceiling. “It ain’t the Ritz in here,” I tell him.
“Well, we ain’t here for the room service,” Jimmy replies.
“Wait, wait,” I ask, “why are we here, Jimmy?” He stares at me cockeyed like a bulldog that doesn’t understand his master.
“You mean, you don’t remember?”
“Well, I just asked you didn’t I, Jimmy?”
His arms are folded as he questions me. “Where’s Billy?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I mutter. “Billy’s right –” We were alone with our dirt floor and two cots and metal pee pot and sink with the brown rim. “Billy!” I shout. “He’s probably just in the next room. Billy! Billy!” Someone bangs against the door like they’re trying to break it down.
“Quiet in there!” A voice dark like the night sky commands.
“What is this place Jimmy? Where the hell are we?”
“Photons. They have properties of both wavelengths and particles,” is Jimmy’s reply. “Isn’t that crazy? How can a thing so small impact our universe in such a way? Photons, moving at 670.6 million miles per hour, 300,000 kilometers per second. The light crashing into things, bouncing off of things, giving us a path to see in the otherwise dark crevices of the world. Photons, man. I understand that and Newton didn’t. Ain’t that somethin’?”
“I don’t think that’s the way it went down, Jimmy,” I reply. “I know you’re smart and all, but you’re no Isaac Newton.”
Jimmy snaps. “How do you know? You’re locked away in some room with a dirt floor with no idea what this is all about, and you’re trying to judge me?”
“Where’s Billy?” I ask him.
“I don’t know,” Jimmy grins. “You tell me, big man, big shot, King of the Scene. You tell me where Billy is.”
I think, I think long and hard, like I’m doing long division in my head kind of hard; like thinking is the only way I’m gonna live, eat, breath. “Jimmy, I ask, is Billy…dead?”
Jimmy snickers. “You know what else is crazy? White holes. Some profs think that at the end of some black holes there’s a white one where the matter that was supposedly collapsed in the black hole is actually just emptied into another region of space. If that don’t beat all the super stupid shit I’ve ever heard! It’s one place, then, instead it’s somewhere totally different. How is the matter supposed to navigate in the vicinity of that kind of gravity without being smashed to bits?” Jimmy yells. “What the hell kind of mad scientist mumbo-jumbo is that?”
“Jimmy!” I scream. The same knock comes across the door, so I lower my voice. “Answer me, damnit! And enough about photons and Newton and space and time or whatever the hell! Just answer me, you ass! Is my brother dead?”
Jimmy gives me the bulldog glare again. “Am I your brother’s keeper? Cain asked that of God, you know. Being a smart ass to the Lord isn’t gonna go well for a guy. Just ask Cain about the Mark.”
“Jimmy!” I scream in a whisper now. “Where is Billy? Is he dead?”
“You don’t remember the light?” Jimmy asks glaring down at me. “The hot blinding light. It was there for so long in your eyes – you wondered if you were traveling through time. I remember the light. I flipped through the air like….like a spaceship rotating on its axis. Space – the final frontier,” Jimmy puts on his best Kirk impression when he says the line. “Lightweight, light as a feather, light like the day is lonnnnnng. Come on, Federation! You remember! Come on now! You killed Billy, now they’re gonna kill you, boss! An eye for an eye. You know how that goes. Billy ain’t here so you can’t be either.”
The blinding light? I focus on the thought. What was at the other end of the light…what was it…? Light…lights….truck lights? “A truck!” I scream. “I didn’t kill Billy! We were hit. Hit by a truck! On an dirty country road. The truck driver fell asleep at the wheel! I might have been distracting arguing, I didn’t kill him any more than –” Jimmy’s face goes dark. It’s a summer storm coming in over the hill when it just turns dark out of nowhere. His eyes go hard, his lip curls.
“Any more than what? You had something else you wanted to say, partner?”
“No,” I tell him.
“No, no,” he insists. “Go ahead and say what you had to say. No more than what?”
“I didn’t kill Billy,” I tell him. “We were driving, the truck hit us, Billy didn’t have on a seatbelt.”
“But why did you hit the truck, you asshole?”
I’m not going to answer him. He stares at me with that same angry snarl, and I am not going to answer him.
“You were arguing,” he tells me. “Billy wanted to go home, and you wanted to stay out longer. Instead of heading to your house you were taking a shortcut to some late night hole-in-the-wall. A truck driver fell asleep at the wheel on what is usually a deserted dirt road. Now your brother is dead and is never coming back and you’re here breathing in all the good Lord’s air and you don’t even remember killing him.”
“But I didn’t kill him!” I scream. “I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t kill him –”
“Any more than you killed me?” Jimmy lunges towards me on the floor, stopping only inches from my face. “Any more than you killed me who lay asleep on your backseat? Is that what you’re trying to sputter out, you pathetic excuse for human being? You kill your brother and his best friend and you think you can just get away with that?”
The door to the room flings open. Two men dressed in all black – pants, boots, military blouses, hats, masks – come charging in. They scoop me up under my arms. I resist, I plead for them to stop. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…they don’t listen. They drag me away, they are going to drag me down to Hell with me kicking and screaming the entire trip. “Where are we?” I shout.
“An eye for an eye. It was there in the light the entire time you just forgot,” Jimmy grins as he leans against the wall. “Particles, wavelengths smashing and bending and twisting like the twisted metal car they reflect upon.”
As the masked men take me away I can hear one of them complain about me. I think they speak another language I can’t understand completely. Sounds like English but complicated. He says something about disorder and delusional…psychosisisisisisis or something and persecutory. He talks about me driving and an accident, I think. He hisses like a snake. I can barely understand the sounds. The doc has something for him, the other one says. “Keep your big words to yourself,” I shout as I fight. It’s futile; they just keep dragging me to see Lucifer.
In the room I hear Jimmy shout to me. “It was photons, though!” He howls in a demonic laugh as his voice quietly fades away. “Photons! Photons! Photons, the entire time! Newton was a dipshit!”
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