THE JANUS IMAGE -- Excerpts

12/20/2012

Big Marvin Mercer looked back and forth between the Lofts, thinking about his heart problems, his lower back, that the wild idea forming in his cranium was outrageous. Marvin, you wouldn’t. He heard a dim line of T.S.E.: And indeed there will be time to wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Of course not, but where is the down side to pocketing ninety large? Bye bye crooked sales meetings. Sleep again, gentle Marvin. Faust meets Marguerite.

He shook himself back to reality to hear Carrie Loft saying, “What we want is action.”

Mercer leaned back and put on a very serious look, although he was an inch from giggling at them and at himself as well. “Let us say, hypothetically, that this Mr. Iconoplast, as you call him, might do something for the Lofts.”

“That’s your business isn’t it? she said.

Mercer shrugged “It still needs definition.” He paused. “If there is a problem, you want it solved without knowing much about how it is solved — unless I have to kill somebody.”

***

As the big lady stood there in her bib overalls and straw hat, Nell Mercer leaned back from the tractor’s wheel and said, “The fact is, Mrs. Siddon, I gotta admit I made up a couple of little things so I could get in to see you. One of them – I don’t really have a potential one-act play based on my night with Donald Trump.” Nellie tried to smile. “I’ve never had much of a night with anybody.”

Mrs. Siddon stood in front of the barn, like a queen about to lop off a head. “How bleak for you. I laid my first gentleman when I was fourteen and never regretted it, although I’m sure he did. Of course, it was my uncle, or maybe my father – I’ve never been sure which, though I lean to the former – and he’s been paying through the crotch ever since – or was until he got himself killed a few years ago. Amazing what a little white powder will do to an apple martini.”

***

The lake was down the dark grassy slope. Mercer and his buddy Ted made its edge in less than a minute. Behind they saw flashlights coming closer. The light of one hit Mercer. There was a shout. At the lake, finger docks jutted into the water.

Mercer whispered, “We swim across.”

Ted said, “Are you kidding? I couldn’t make it out far enough to drown.”

Mercer exploded with a word. Then he saw something beside one of the docks. “Ted. Quick.”

A canoe was riding in the still water. Mercer released lines. By the time Ted was in the bow, the flashlights were less than a hundred feet off.

Ted cried in a whisper, “Christ, you’ll swamp it.”

Mercer’s foot went to the keel's very center and he was in. The paddles were in the bottom. They were adrift now a few feet from the dock. The men splashed in after the canoe but fell short. Behind, they heard more shouts. Splashing. Cursing. They paddled. When they were two hundred feet from the dock, they could see another canoe coming after them.

Ted said, “What is this, last of the Mohicans?”

“Keep paddling. If they don’t know how to handle a canoe, they won’t get anywhere.”

“I suppose you do, 0 mighty warrior.”

“I went to camp.”

“At the camp I went to, all we ever did was wait for mail.”

***

The distinguished Mr. Crone chuckled as Nellie made notes. “I still madly love Polly Siddon and madly hate her. I might add that, after Edgar's role in their little triangle was neutralized, Polly still offered me little more than sops. I felt like Joseph Cotton when Valli walked him by.”

Nell did not know Joseph Cotton. So, with a mystified frown, she said, “Thanks for coming anyway. Good to clear away a lot of negative, especially about the daughter.”

Crone shook his head. “Daughter Joanie? If you would enjoy risking life and limb, I can put you in touch with her. She lives somewhere over in the wilds of New Jersey. I’ll leave you directions.” The unrequited lover scribbled a note on how to find the lady and then said, his eye still on his notebook, “Have you had dinner?”