Saturday, August 7, 2010

Two Paragraphs from The Unknown Man Story.

When he knocked on our door two days later, a jaunty little
tap-tap tap-tap-tap, I didn’t open it. I looked through the
peephole. "I’m the unknown man from the news," he identified
himself. I looked closer; he certainly resembled the man we
had seen on TV, even with the fish-eye view. The kids peeked
through the curtains on either side of the door. He apologized
for "pestering you unannounced." I was struck by his use of
the phrase "pestering you unannounced." It made me feel safe.
I thought about opening the door. No psychotic killer would
employ such a phrase. Then I imagined him butchering all of
us, me asking with my dying breath, "How could you have employed
the phrase 'pestering you unannounced'?" and him responding:
"It never fails!"


If people saw us and didn’t know, they would have thought we
were just a normal family out driving around. Somebody might
have questioned why I, the woman, was behind the wheel, but
that wasn’t as big a problem as it had once been. The side
of the unknown man’s left shoe tapped a tune against the bump
in the floor. I wondered what he would be like when his mind
cleared up. Would he be as calm and earnest? Calm and earnest
went underestimated in the world. And maybe knowing who you
were was overestimated. Would he remember us helping him?
What if he were a millionaire, a billionaire, who had soured
on humanity and gone undercover to find a good person, a good
family, who would be kind to him without knowing he was rich.
I wondered what he did. I bet it had to be something that
required a thoughtful and good-natured personality. I peeked
over at him. He was watching the sights of the town go by,
as alert as a dog himself, but a calm dog. He had a kind of
a neutrality or objectivity to his cheerfulness that appealed
to me. Some lucky woman and family were missing him, and I
felt sorry for them. And envied them. And, actually, resented
them a little, for losing him in the first place and causing
this uncertainty and turbulence in our life.

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