The avenues at night become long straight tunnels, shaped by hangnoose bursts of orange sodium lamps. Traffic lights blink in random contradiction, nulling all possibility of timely progress. For twenty eight blocks the four-lane Louisville shrinks to its dim drawbridge conclusion.
Above everything here the sky is a huge black sun, blotting out the heavens. Shadows beneath blend into shadows of deeper distinction. Movement is covert, minimal.
At the end of this particular tunnel the drawbridge and river divide the small city into unequal halves.
The early-seventies vintage Plymouth Fury idles in the slow lane, on the fringe of a used car lot. The driver leans slightly out of the window, elbow pointed, watching the light in front of him as if the color sequence were a matter of specific interest.
Green yellow red green.
He has been driving for three hours, entirely within the limits of the municipality. Tonight a construction roadblock on the bypass and general uneventfulness elsewhere edge him into a routine patrol of the usual thoroughfares. A truism: if nothing is happening here, he must be missing something elsewhere.
Billboards, signs, neon flashing lights: competition for the eye is fierce. All sorts of commercial enterprises along the avenue. Yet he retains the traffic signals in view, patient and focused. Red, green. The Fury advances intermittently. There's nobody out tonight, nobody.
Red. The Holiday Grille to his right. It has been some time, maybe years, since he has eaten there, and like the patient undergoing shock therapy, something fuzzy and dark and unremembered hovers about the location. He knows this: there are patrons here who wear suits.
Then, on past. "Louisville, going on seventh, sixth, fifth, whoops--red light at fifth." He narrates his own progress. The most he makes at a time is three blocks, before the lights--again.
Red. On the corner of a finance company parking lot, sudden frequencies. Boom-boom-bssshh. In the left lane beside him a low-rider Monte Carlo pulls up. Mac looks earnestly at the face looking back. The window on the passenger side scrolls jerkily. The Fury's windows are already down.
He watches. White teeth in a dark unlit face. Mac smiles back, the edges of recognition gnawing at him, not quite coming. Someone he knows? Who? What can Mac call him?
The face laughs at another face, which belongs to the driver. "Hey," Mac calls, pleased by the interchange, its very existence.
"Ahh. . .yeah. Right." The passenger grins; the driver chortles.
"How's it going there?"
He tries again. "Aint much going on tonight, is it. Seen some cars at Lazarre's Point earlier, but they headed out. Probly going to Moon Lake."
The answer is a grey pistol held out rigid between the Monte Carlo and the Fury. Then a shot. For the immediate Mac cannot hear anything. The white teeth still flashing. Mac knows he felt a breeze, like a fly. The Monte Carlo blasts through the red, down and across the drawbridge.
Green. Mac leaves the car in park, makes it to the Finance company lot, retches on concrete. For a while he coughs and spits, then squats with hands on knees. Red. Green. No other cars come by, on any of the four lanes. The Fury's still idling. He gets up, clomps back in the driver's seat. There is no sign that anything ever happened. No glass, no hole, no blood. Mac settles in. Red again.
Green. Finally go. "Hudson, Stubbs. Coming up, Roselawn." His voice a little quivery now, not unlike baseball narrators after a ninth inning turnaround.
Sixth street ends. Perpendicular opens Forsythe avenue, with its median of ancient dark trees. Across the way, a city park. Once more he crosses for a run-through: cars are weeknight sparse, no mysterious interior goings-on. The swimming pool, lights off; the handball court; swingsets and slides and mini-golf course; the infamous restrooms--a scene of embarrassment he'd just as soon forget.
He knew more about stuff like that now.
Past the P ark, all the way out past Deborah Drive and then crossing Forsythe again to the Bypass, down fast food row and beneath the interstate to motel row and then right on Winnsboro Road, left on Burg Jones, around the zoo, up Jackson to St John, right on Desiard, left on Lamy Lane, cutting through the new neighborhood to Forsythe again.
After turning on Oliver road, heading back toward the crux of the city, there's a television broadcasting service and the old shopping mall. At times he has seen local newscast celebrities drive the few blocks along here on break for meals.
He drives on. Once again passing used car lots, following Louisville. There are more filling stations, then shopping centers and a lumber yard. Houses.
Then he pulls over, stops. As though remembering for the first time. He looks down the tunnel of Louisville. Maybe twenty minutes has passed since he was here. Was that a Monte Carlo crossing down there near sixth?
A terror crossed with poignance.
It feels like a reduction in the physical space of the world--the allowable world. He's never not driven past something, even cop cars, lights going, spooky sirens howling. Never been afraid of wrecks, fires, floods, of ogling the unfortunate and oozing hit-and-run pedestrian. But he can't go down there now. A few things had happened for sure, but nobody has ever actually shot at him before, as far as he can piece together.
He remains idling by the Sho-bar, its dirt-surface parking lot eroded, pot-holes like the havens small animals make for themselves when it is time to die.