Cables, a short story

Sleep. Adam found it to be the undisputed master of all living men and women and it lay its tyrannical hand on him now. The book in his hands was on the verge of slipping away. The train roared as it always did and the gloominess outside the window pressed him deeper into a melancholy doze. His head drooped and his eyes burned with special acuteness. Just as he was about to close them however, the train slowed. Sleep’s spell was broken as he hit his head on the seat in front. Incoherent words could be heard from the announcement system.

He was home.

With great effort, he dragged his indolent frame from his seat. It took an equally monumental effort to swing his book bag onto his shoulder. These difficult tasks completed, he strolled in languid fashion out of the train and towards the stairs. No he could not take the stairs, they were quite exhausting. A quick glance at the elevator. DO NOT USE it read. Adam groaned.

His parents waited outside in a shabby car – not that its shabbiness mattered to Adam. He saw the utility of things, not their outward form and in this, he prided himself an insightful and non-materialistic individual, clearly a level above his peers. He fancied himself a hero too, for did not Thomas Carlyle say of the hero that “ .. he looks through the shows of things into things.”? Adam looked into things quite often, an intellectual man – though a part of him did yearn for a personal car. He was a college student after all.

Adam took the wheel – the first time he had done so in a month – and adjusted himself in the seat. His parents asked him questions and made an effort at conversation. Their words were wind, passing through his tired mind. It was evening and that general gloom following that inevitable hour pervaded the station, morphing it into a dark and unwelcoming place of shifting shadow, swaying lights and eerie silence, disturbed only by the occasional bus rolling by.

He gently pressed the gas and the car lurched like a sick horse. It made a pathetic sound, and proceeded to move. It was then that Adam noticed a man waving furiously at him. He stood on the side of the road and came closer. Adam slowed.

“What are you doing dear! This be a mad person Oh go go leave him.” his mother said in her rough tongue. She was an immigrant and the plainness of the stranger manifest in his gray hoodie, baggy pants and unnatural gait disturbed her greatly. She thought him a beggar or a trouble maker. Adam had stopped and the man stood now opposite his window.

“Cable! Yo man you got a cable?” He wrung his hands wildly and made desperate motions.
“Ma car bro you can help me out?” Adam spied a car several feet in front of him. Its hood was up. But his mother did not seem to understand.

“Go!” she protested. “Go! You are very tired and I fear this man means you harm! Go go dear lord go!” She became rather incessant and loud. Adam hesitated and a fire suddenly ignited in his heart. Did he even have a cable in the car? He could stop and check. It would not take long. It really would not. But what to do about his mother and what to do with himself? Adam furiously weighed his decisions in a manner of seconds, but as he did so, some unknown impulse acted on him. Perhaps it was the impulse of fear. Perhaps that of annoyance or indifference. Perhaps even that of cruelty or selfishness. Whatever it was, Adam slammed the gas, and sped away, leaving the man gaping.

“Is there a jumper cable in the back?” he asked his mother. She nodded, quite ignorant of the purpose of the question. As he passed the stranger’s car, a wave of regret flooded him for what he had done. The remorse grew as he got closer to home until he felt almost drowned. But he would not be consumed by it. Being the supreme intellectual he was, he left the car and entered his house. And in that short time, he had substituted regret with indifference, softness with coldness and pity with arrogance.

It was unfortunate – what had happened. But it could not be helped. Nothing could be helped. Comforted by such callous a thought, he darted straight to his room and fell onto his bed.

His sleep comforted him with nightmares.

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