By Robert Brian Mulder
I didn’t know how long the young man had been standing there, outside my office, framed by the doorway, staring at the floor. I rose, gestured at the chair opposite my desk. He nodded and sat, hands pressed together, fingertips flexing like a spider on a mirror.
“This thing that has happened,” he said. “It was not me. I do not know who or what it was, but it was not me.”
I leaned slightly forward in my chair, looking at him now—his face floating above the framed photo on my desk. An evening in October or November. Three, maybe four years ago. My wife and son, biking in a neighborhood park where red and yellow leaves lay scattered in the grass and beneath the oak trees and on the sidewalks.
“Have you told your mother?” I asked.
“Yes, yes. I have told my mother.”
“And your father?” I asked. “Have you told your father?” His eyes, pale, the left badly bloodshot, remained fixed on the empty space that hung before him.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I have told my father.” Then he paused, hands still pressed together, his gaze shifting to a narrow window where a bee, black-enameled, bumped against the glass.
“What did your father say?” I asked. The young man began to fiddle with his tie. I had never seen him wear a tie before. He was rolling up the silk tip with thumb and forefinger, the backside pale blue—the belly of a fish, flashing in dark waters.
“He fell down,” the young man said. “My father fell down. We were walking home from the market in our village, and when I told him, he fell on the side of the road, his bag of oranges spilling in the dirt.”