Amos

[a scrap from a larger unfinished fiction piece set in 1916 Connecticut, from the 1980’s]

 …..within minutes, City Hall was buzzing like a beehive in the spring. How does this all concern Amos Woburn? Who at this very minute was licking stamps in a gas lit, paper strewn cubbyhole in Republican headquarters? His tongue seemed swollen from the effort, and his eyelids heavy. Was it the glue, he thought, or the rainy patter on the window that was making him so sleepy. At the very bottom of the political heap, all of twenty-two years and six feet and little under 12 stone and certainly no Casanova but whose mind positively reeled with ideas political, military historical and scientific. He put down the envelope—there were so many—and jotted a few aimless thought for the masterwork he’d been contemplating “The Intellectual Foundation of Our Civilization” which was to tie together—to ‘synthesize’ (Oh! such a word…)—Darwin, Thoreau, Freud, Lincoln, Shakespeare, Plato, Thomas Aquinas and of course, Teddy Roosevelt—a grand theory of the moral basis of power. This magnum opus of a decade of adolescent intellectual progress, sat only twenty three hopelessly tangled pages deep on his desk, and in his darker, nay more lurid moments of introspection seemed not much to show for a youth spent worming through books while his friends were out, uh, getting some. For Amos Woburn, at least in the context of tinyPiscquatFalls’ politics, was nothing. A gofer. A stamp-licking flunky. No matter how violent a storm swirled about Mayor O’Bryan’s succession, little Amos could rest assured that it would safely pass him by—maybe leave him a little damp, but untouched.

But then storms can do strange things.

They can drive bibles through telephone poles and leave lakes where once lay only dust. And lightning: everyone has tales of the close ones—a nearby tree exploding in a shower of sparks. Or the direct hits: a man knocked flat by a crackling white bolt, rising shaken but alive. A rarity to be sure, but some do live, and oft times possess a special magic, a spiritual dimension that was lacking before, as if to be struck by lightning was to be touched by the hand of the Lord.

So was Amos touched.

It was late, and the flickering gas lamp threw shadows of various sizes against the wall. The rain drummed steadily, and Amos looked groggily out the window, following the tiny rivulets that formed at the top of the pane and disappeared at the bottom. His mouth was full of the sweet taste of stamp glue, his lips sticky with it. The posted enveloped were piled up to one side, the much greater unposted stack was off to the other, and between the two Amos surrendered and rested his hand on his arms. Sleep came quickly.

A shot:

the window shattered and a metal file cabinet in the office was punctured with a bang. Amos screamed, more out of surprise than terror, and with a start knocked both piles off the desk, sending letters posted or not fluttering through the office. A cold wind blew in through the open window, spraying Amos with cold drops of rain. He huddled beneath the desk. Something—whether a rational thought or a much deeper survival instinct—set him listening, and his sudden extraordinarily acute sense of hearing picked up the sounds of footsteps running away. One man, splashing heavily across water-covered cobblestones. An impulse to see his assailant overcame fear and he rose and peered out. The wind-whipped rain blinded him momentarily, but he caught a glimpse of a man, his macintosh gleaming wet in the dim gas lit luminescence, trying to run across the cobblestones without falling. His arms were extended for balance, and in one hand he could plainly see a large colt revolver. It stood out black and monstrous against the dreary night. A strong gust swept through the room, shuffling papers, blowing the calendar off the wall. A chill settled in Amos’ spine. That was the biggest gun he had ever seen, and it had fired at him. But he could not make out the gunman. Amos thrust his head threw the shattered window to get a better look. The figure was gingerly stepping around a corner, unable to move with any speed on the slippery pavement. Amos felt angry—there is the man that tried to shoot me and he is getting away. He wanted to do something. Lights were showing in surrounding windows, curtains drawing back. Witnesses brought his courage surging, and Amos leaned halfway out the window into the rain and yelled. “Hey!” The escaping figure froze momentarily but then thought better of it and kept moving. “Hey you!” Amos screamed indignantly, “Stop!” The gunman quickened his step. The rain was soaking Amos, drops ran down his face and his shirt was plastered to his back. “Stop I say!” His screams brought more lights flickering to in the surrounding houses, curtains drawn back and shutters thrown open. “Stop or I’ll call for the police!”

The last threat had an effect. The man stopped. He turned round. Slowly. Amos was wondering just how he was going to call the police when he noticed the man raising the gun. It was pointed right at him. Through the rain and poor light he could not hope to make out the man’s face for the police report. But then, perhaps it would have been of no use, for right above the visor of the man’s cap, shining faintly in the light, was the emblem of the Piscquat Falls Police Department.

Amos ducked back in. The report echoed down the street. The bullet smashed into the window frame, and the exploding fragments of wood caught Amos on the head. As he lost consciousness the surrounding gaslights were extinguished and windows shut with a ragged series of bangs.

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