Even though I knew Larry was thrilled to have his own apartment, he looked angry as he showed me around the place the human resource center’s social workers had set him up in. Larry was good-natured but always looked mad because of how his eyes were crossed, one of the consequences of the ham-handed forceps that pulled him into the world forty-odd years ago.
Larry’s apartment was a converted shoe store on the north side of the railroad tracks from the square. The picture window that once displayed wing tips and pumps gave plenty of light, which bragged how clean Larry kept the place. He even got a calico kitten he named Root Beer. I don’t know what became of it.
I noticed several alarm clocks, which was strange because Larry couldn’t tell time. He nodded at a clock near the television and said when that one beeped, he knew it was time for bed. Others, he explained, reminded him to shave, eat breakfast and leave for the center’s workshop.
I was Larry’s supervisor. He chopped capacitors for transistor radios. Sometimes he’d cut a batch too long or short. I’d dump his output in the defectives bin. Larry would smile and usually say something like Sorry I’m defective, boss. I’d assure Larry it wasn’t him, just those particular piece parts. Sure, boss.
Larry never blamed his poor vision for his mistakes. To better understand how he saw the world, I once crossed my eyes, chopped a capacitor and nearly cut off the tip of my finger.
The only time I saw Larry truly angry was when he was still living at the dorm in the center. It was a Monday morning. Larry’s temper was parched underbrush, and anything anyone said was a cigarette flicked from a car window. I had to isolate him in the break room. I later learned his brother had failed to show for a promised visit that weekend. I’m not sure why, but I’d never thought of Larry having family.
After moving into the apartment, Larry set his sights on getting a red Beetle and an operation to fix his brain so I could teach him to drive. I knew both were impossible but couldn’t help rooting for him.
Instead of a car, Larry got a three-wheeled bike. Straps gripped his feet in the pedals, and a squeeze horn squawked like a mallard. I saw him riding all around town. His eyes were still angry-looking, but he always had a big smile. Why not? His own place. His own transportation. Even his own cat, for God’s sake.
The newspaper account didn’t say if Larry was headed north or south on his bike that Saturday. Was he hurrying home, hoping his brother would be there? Had an alarm clock sent him off on an errand? Had his distorted vision caused him to misjudge the speed of the train?
Apparently a small crowd gathered around Larry before the ambulance arrived. I used to wish I’d been there to close his cross eyes. Now I’m glad I wasn’t. At the end of it all, Larry deserved to look mad as hell.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous print and online journals including (mac)ro(mic), Fictive Dream, Pithead Chapel, Moonpark Review, and Literally Stories. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.