Camera Obscura

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Larry lay on the sofa in his living room laughing at re-run of “Gilligan’s Island.” His leg was wrapped and elevated on pillows. On the coffee table at his elbow were several empty soda cans and a pizza delivery box, now closed over the one remaining piece of pepperoni, sausage and pineapple pizza. Jill bustled around the room, dusting, straightening things, obviously trying to be useful.

“You don’t have to do that, you know,” Larry smiled. “Golda was here every day while I was in the hospital. No speck of dust had a chance.”

“I know,” Jill sighed. “I just can’t seem to sit still. Do you have any wood you want me to chop, furniture that need refinishing?”

“Honey, come on. It’s just reaction. It’ll pass.” He patted the cushion next to him. “Come here. Talk to me.”

She put the dust rag on the table and sat down by him. She bent over and kissed him lightly.

“Do you realize it’s been a week and we haven’t heard one single thing about what happened?”

Larry looked pensive, then said, “It’s my guess the administration had to come up with a really good story before they break this one.”

They heard a knock at the door and Golda stuck her head in.

“I hope I’m not disturbing, dears,” she smiled a very knowing smile.

“Come on in, Golda. We were just talking about you.”

She pushed the door open and entered, carrying a large bottle of champagne and three flutes.

“I thought we should celebrate being alive,” she glowed. The beam of her smile dimmed a little as she added, “I just wish Rachel was here to celebrate with us.”

“Golda, I can never tell you how sorry I am about your friend.”

“Shhhhh. We can’t dwell on the sad things, Larry. We must be grateful that you and your lovely Jill were spared.”

Jill rose and went to the woman and gave her a big hug. “Larry is so lucky to have had you as a friend, Golda,” she said and gave the woman as peck on the cheek. She took the already opened bottle and glasses from Golda and poured a glass for each. “To Francis X. Marley. May he get what he truly deserves.”

“Here, here,” the other two said and they clinked glasses and sipped the cold bubbling liquid.

“Don’t count on it, though,” Larry continued, doubtfully. “His lawyers will have everything tied up for years to come. You know what I’d do if I were the cops?” He looked at each of them seriously and they looked back expectantly. “I’d tell everyone he died, and then I’d throw him in the darkest cell around and keep him there till he told me everything I want to know…and then some.”

Jill feigned shock. “That’s barbaric…but I like it!” she grinned.
The three laughed and talked for a while. On the television Gilligan and his friends failed to get off that damned island, again. The theme music for the local news program blared and a well-known commentator’s face appeared.

“Sad news today from Capitol Hill,” the commentator began. “The White House announced that Drug Czar Francis X. Marley was killed yesterday while observing DEA officers in one of the largest drug busts in history. Senator Marley was aboard a helicopter along with two DEA officers and the newly captured head of a large drug cartel when it crashed in the Grand Canyon, killing everyone aboard. The President issued a statement praising Senator Marley for his years of valuable work in the Senate and with the war on drugs. As a tribute to him, his plan for a Crime Stop Force in the schools will be continued and named for him.

“In a related story, J. Winston Wainright, publisher of the San Francisco Daily Journal and close friend of Senator Marley, was found dead in his San Francisco home, an apparent suicide. No reason has been…”

Jill and Larry looked stunned. Golda watched their faces as they went from glee before the announcement, to curiosity during it, to utter disbelief.

“Marley killed yesterday? And Wainwright?” Jill asked.

Golda smiled, “And they say there is no such thing as coincidence.”

“But, do you think…?” Jill continued.

Larry was stone-faced as he said, “I don’t know. But on the other hand, I don’t even care.”

Everything was grey. Grey walls, grey floor, grey jumpsuit, even the view from the tiny window was grey because it looked out on a concrete exercise area that was surrounded by more grey walls. The only color he saw beside that damned grey was the blue of the sky overhead when he got his daily thirty-minute exercise and more often than not, that was grey too.

He had often wondered where he was, but they had taken great pains to keep him in the dark. This wasn’t a tropical place because it was too cold, too often. An island? How long had he been here? He hadn’t a clue to the answer for either of those questions.

His cell was Spartan, only a cot, a sink and a toilet. There was no mirror, so he had no idea that his once thick mane of hair, which he had kept carefully dyed to a lustrous brown, was now wispy and completely white. Occasionally, when he had been “good,” a small table was brought into the cell and he was given paper and a small number two pencil with which to write. He wrote voluminously, about his life, about his work, about his incarceration, about the injustice of it all, but he now doubted that anyone read a one word of it.

“You can’t keep me here, you know,” he declared to the air. There was someone watching, he was sure of it, but no one ever answered him. He rarely saw anyone, only when they brought him food or took him out to exercise, but no one ever spoke. Not a single word.

He swung his legs over the side of the cot and rose to pace the nine by twelve room once again. He went to the window and, standing on tiptoe, reached up and tugged at the bars. He went to the door, as he did several times a day, and pounded on in.

“This isn’t legal. This is the United States of America. I have rights,” he shouted, as he did each time.

He ran his hand along the walls as if he were looking for some way to escape. He likened himself to Dumas’s Man in the Iron Mask except, of course, that he was not subjected to that kind of torture. He also thought of The Count of Monte Cristo. Dumas had a thing for incarceration. Maybe he should ask for a copy of one of them. Perhaps there would be a clue, a direction, a way TO GET OUT!

He began to run frantically from the window to the door and back again shouting, “You can’t do this to me. I’m an important man. I know the President personally. I need to talk with the President. Do you hear me?”

In another part of the facility, Francis X. Marley was merely an image on a closed circuit television screen. He looked right into the camera lens.

“I know you’re there. You think you will break me. Well, don’t count of it. I’ve had experience in breaking men. I know what a man can take, and I’m strong. Stronger than you. It’s only a matter of time until my attorney will get me out of here, and then I…WILL…BREAK…YOU!”

Marley went back to his cot and sat down. For a moment it seemed as if he were crying. A few minutes later he began his routine again, pacing the room, looking out the window, pounding on the door. Finally, he went back to look at the camera. Rheumy red eyes looked into the lens, and he screamed hysterically, “Help meeeeeeeeee!”

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