A shot in the Dark




1b- Cynthia climbs the stairs to the tenement house, a gang of boys sitting on the stoop whistle and howl and try to grab her purse, or rape her, nearly succeeding save for her ability to close the door on them.

2a- the old woman greets her with a grunt, asking if Cynthia has remembered her medication. "Can't say hello?" Cynthia asks. "I was nearly raped downstairs and you don't care."

3d- Neither does Jack who comes in few minutes later, cooing over his mother first before greeting her, laughing at the boys on the stoop-- reminds him when he was a kid.

4c- Cynthia is angry and grabs Jack aside saying she can't stand living here any more, with the old woman. She wants to move, away from the neighborhood, away from the old lady. Jack says they can't move. All the old lady's memories are here (What memories, Cynthia says, she never leaves the house). He tells her to be patient. The old lady will die soon and then they can do what they want. But to Cynthia's eye the old woman doesn't look the least bit near the edge of death. She just lives on and on, as if she will live forever.

5d- But maybe there is something. How do any of them know? The old woman hasn't seen a doctor in twenty years. She tells Jack that he is being shamefully neglectful. Why not have the old woman examined. He says no doctor comes down into this neighborhood, even when they were still making house-calls. And he can't afford to take time off from work to take her. The combined expense of lost pay and the price of doctors would be too much.

6a- Cynthia volunteers to take the woman. She says she need to know the woman better, and perhaps find peace. The old woman doesn't like the idea of leaving the apartment, but Cynthia says they can afford a cab and besides, doesn't the old woman want another look at the old neighborhood?

7c- Cynthia is hoping that the doctor will find something-- anything-- that Cynthia can place some hope in. If there is a disease, maybe there will be a time limit. It wouldn't be as bad waiting out death if she knew how long the wait would be.

8b- And the journey uptown will get Cynthia out of the neighborhood, she can see how the other half lives. This crumbling world has made her think there is nothing better, no place where she can run to.

9b- but the old woman grows upset when they finally get outside and into the cab. What's happened to the neighborhood, she asks. Where's the old store and people on the stoop, and why is the street so dirty-- and why are there people lying on the ground?

10a- The old woman grows angry at Cynthia for making her come out. Isn't it bad enough that I lose my body to age, but now you want to steal my memories, too?

11d- The old woman seems to be blaming Cynthia for the loss of the neighborhood-- if Cynthia hadn't married her boy, everything would still be the same.

12c- When they get to see the doctor there is more bad news. Not only is the old woman healthy, but strong and steady, a model of what old age should be. The doctor gleefully says the woman will live to be a hundred.

13c- enraged, Cynthia steals a syringe from the doctor's counter. All the drugs are locked up, and she cannot get to them. But she figures to think of something.

14a- she is nice to the old woman as they drive back, something has snapped inside of Cynthia-- the words of the doctor making her desperate. She can picture the old woman wreathing in pain, glaring at her, knowing that it is Cynthia that has killed her.

15d- She takes Jack aside and tells him that the doctor was not as hopeful about the old woman's health as he told the old woman. Cynthia says the old woman could kick off any time.

16b- The next day, she pulls the leader of the gang aside and asks him what street drug would kill without a trace. She says a friend of hers died after shooting something in his veins, but no one knows what. The punk laughs and says, no drug lady, air. All it takes is a bubble of air and it'll look like a stroke.

17b- But this frank talk with the man seems to make him bolder and he grabs and kisses her, refusing to let her go despite her protests. When he does, she runs into the building, but he only winks at her and says there'll be another time.

18d- Jack is upset by what Cynthia told him about the possibility of his mother's death and has scheduled to take his vacation early, starting Monday-- he needs to be around her before the end. Cynthia is outraged saying the two of them around the house will only drive her that much more crazy. Besides, isn't Jack the least bit glad about the news? Isn't he waiting for the old woman to go so they can have their own lives? Sure, he says, but the old woman is his mother and he loves her. If Cynthia prefers, he can take her out during the day-- just so she can see things. Old people like to see things before they die.

19a- This moves up the plan. And the old woman watches Cynthia with that knowing look in her eye. The old woman doesn't say anything, but she seems to know what Cynthia has planned and hates Cynthia all the more for it, her eyes saying "you stole my boy, and now you want what's left."

20c- Then, in the middle of the night, when Jack is asleep and the old woman snores from her bed, she rises, and takes out the needle, and discovers the flaw in her plan. How does one go about finding a vein? How does she poke the old woman without her waking and calling out?

21c- The old woman seems to help, rolling over, exposing the inside of her shrunken arm-- the veins protruding leaving many from which Cynthia can pick. She is nervous. Her hands shake as he removes the wrapping, and then with a sudden chance she jabs the flesh and presses the plunger down.

22a- the old woman seems to react to the touch of the needle, her back stiffening as if to turn again, her eyes flutter open and her eyes show sudden horror as the air does its thing in her brain. He mouth moves as if to cry out, but no sound comes and suddenly she is dead.

23b- Cynthia stares at the body for a moment, then at her trembling hand which still holds the syringe. She goes to the window and flings it out. Who will know to look in the backyards where there must be a thousand more just like it? Maybe a junkie will pick it up and treasure it, the neighborhood doing its share to keep Cynthia's secret.

24d- Then, she crawls back into bed with her husband, wraps her arms around him knowing that she finally had him all to herself.

25d- But the next twelve hours were a nightmare. Jack finding the body in the morning set him off into a howl, then into a rage, blaming himself and Cynthia for not seeing the doctor sooner when they might have been able to put a stop to the disease's progression. But then, he says, Cynthia wanted her dead.

26a- even calming Jack, Cynthia is shaken. The expression of the dead woman's face is pure accusation, the wide open eyes staring at Cynthia, remaining impressed in her mind long after the ambulance came to remove the body.

27b- Jack gets it into his head that they should call and let the doctor know about the death. Cynthia protest asking why. Jack insists, and Cynthia reluctantly goes out to use the pay phone. She runs into the leader of the gang, who grabs her arm and pulls her tight, groping at her breasts. "You better be good to me, baby," he says. "Otherwise I might get it into my head to talk to the police and repeat the little conversation they'd had only a day or so ago-- about air in the blood stream.

28c- She promises to see him later-- after Jack is asleep, then rushes back up to the apartment where she finds Jack sitting on the edge of his mother's bed-- in his hand syringe wrapping. He is staring at her with the same hateful look that had been in his mother's eyes.

 "You did kill her," he says.


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