17 Dec

Mr. Darling Confronts to a Vision

Mr. Darling

    James to his wife and father 

    Jim to his friends and co-workers and 

    Jimmy to his mother 

was not a morbid man, or rather a morbid young man, since he is merely thirty-four years old and may have aged either somewhat or else significantly depending on how long this writing is delayed, in any number of ways, from reaching its audience and so Mr. Darling may very well be in his late thirties by now or even in his fifties, or else, God forbid 

    both for his sake and 

    the sake of his family

on his death bed, regardless of his present age, if not already many years interred, and so his brief forays into the realm of the macabre would surprise many people, most especially his mother, who has never yet tired of calling her son Jimmy 

    never James or Jim

    at least at the time of this writing.  

Mr. Darling is an affable man, smiling brightly whenever engaged in conversation.  He always looks his interlocutor in the eye so that whoever is on the receiving end of his kind attention feels they are more witty and appealing, more erudite and charming than they are and this allows Mr. Darling to move through his life among people who are genuinely glad to see him, whether that be Rachel 

    his wife, first thing in the morning or 

    his co-workers throughout the day 

    his father, when he was alive and 

    his mother on special weekend days with visits to 

    extended family 

        at holidays 

        for weddings and funerals

        which have begun to occur more frequently than celebration days and 

    Rachel again 

        in the evening and at night.  

James prepares his breakfast, which consists of coffee and a piece of fruit, usually a banana, and is lauded for this because Rachel doesn’t care much for coffee, enjoying instead berries blended with Greek yogurt, a packet of instant oatmeal, some wheat germ and a dash of apple cider vinegar with the Mother to start her day.  She enjoys even more the freedom to make this herself, as she sees fit, either with flavored oatmeal or plain, one or two dashes of the Mother, sometimes with blueberries and other times with raspberries, and, mostly on weekends but sometimes during the week, Rachel Darling blends 

    chocolate ice cream and 

    berries with  

        roasted pecans or 

        raw almonds 

because she’s been good all week and is getting her work done and James loves her and leaves her to her life while he pursues his own, in just the right ratio, so when the Darlings come together they find themselves renewed 

    each in the other

        every evening and  

        again at night.

James was impressed and encouraged.  He looked forward to driving to his parent’s home where the day would progress in much the same way such days had always progressed, even after the addition of Rachel.  Hugs all around and the news of the week followed by the meal.  They would take their seats then one another’s hands and bow their heads.  There was consistency in the home of Mr. Darling Sr. 

    benevolence was there and 

    expectations too

that James rarely fell short of because Mr. Darling Sr. knew men, having grown into one himself, and he knew what was in their hearts when he saw what they did and he knew James would also do what men do even as he instructed his son to do what was right.  Then James would find a way to tell his father what he’d been reading.  Mr. Darling Sr. was given the latest news about Alfred Stieglitz or Diane Arbus 

    1864-1946 and

    1923-1971 respectively  

and the novels of Geoff Dyer and John Berger, both alive at the time of this writing, and his new-found fascination for the Minor Prophets, a fascination instilled by Mr. Darling, Sr., who was the first to show James that discussing one’s reading habits was a legitimate form of conversation.  After Mr. Darling Sr. had his first heart attack James became cautious around him.  While James could reconcile the logic of heart attacks and could recall numerous instances of hearing about them, most frequently while seated in wooden pews on Sunday mornings, he could not reconcile the fact that his father could possibly be one of those whom the pastor beseeched from other such seated parishioners for prayer.  Mr. Darling Sr. became attracted to the Psalms.  The Gospels gave him comfort and hope and though he danced through the rehabilitation process, a process his doctor’s had become increasingly encouraged by, which greatly encouraged the family, Mr. Darling Sr. fell ill with pneumonia and 

    (Passed into the bosom of the Lord) said the minister

    (Went to be with Jesus, whom he knew and Who knew him) said Mrs. Darling

    (On to his next life) said his cousins and siblings and

    (Away is to where and who cares exactly) said James who

was angry at having to reconcile his father’s mortality and was tired of scratching at hope that he would somehow survive his life, which was feeling more and more like a death sentence, and lamenting the hours he could have spent with his father 

    at rehab appointments and

    helping around his home and

    in conversation at dinners and

    in conversation on the road 

    (Doing any-fucking-thing any-fucking-where) 

but that James had spent doing what he couldn’t remember now, but had had something to do with

    watching the Spartans and

    reading books or 

    taking pictures 

        that wouldn’t turn out better than they had.

Jim is inquisitive and encouraging.  He makes his rounds through greenhouse sections every day so that when he approaches no one is surprised or too much elated because they expect it, the same way they expect their paychecks 

    once a month 

    on the last working day of the month, 

when some will meet up for a cocktail at 

    Reno’s East or North 

        never West 

    or Crunchy’s

        sometimes the Peanut Barrel 

    or else Dagwood’s 

because it isn’t on campus but is so very close to campus and Jim will laugh easily and even get in a line or two that will genuinely cause some in the party to remark to themselves that 

    I had a good time and

        after all 

    there are worse places to work.  

Jimmy is deferential and dotes upon her.  He is conscious of her proximity and never fails to be within earshot if she suddenly needs something or has suddenly remembered an interesting anecdote from her daily routine, when she’d asked for sliced ham when what she really wanted was smoked turnkey, but didn’t feel strong enough to admit her mistake aloud and in front of casual acquaintances who were waiting their turn in the deli, or when she’d happened upon Jimmy’s old bus driver in the parking lot of Tom’s Foods and he’d asked after him, not because he remembered the diminutive boy amongst the hundreds of boys during the years Jimmy rode the bus or the thousands of boys composing every year he’d driven for the district, but because Jimmy had been an acolyte in the church where the Darling’s attended and where the Sanders’ had attended and it was good, Mr. Sanders believed, to ask after one’s own, or when, as Jimmy is beginning to fear, his mother will suddenly stop fixing sandwiches or relaying her anecdote and seek him out with wide eyes in alarm and disbelief, hoping to relate one final anecdote about how 

    (Isn’t it funny 

    a thing that’s never happened 

    to me 

    is suddenly happening 


before falling into the kitchen counter and collapsing onto the linoleum.  This thought and thoughts very much in keeping with this thought are beginning to assail Mr. Darling at all hours and in varied manifestations, regardless if he is 


    Jim or 

    James and 

he is feeling increasingly anxious about it.  Perhaps it is the fault of all the funerals of late he wonders and believes to be the case, hoping this belief will cause the hallucinations to leave him in peace.  However, eight months after his own father’s funeral, and after two similar services that saw members of his wife’s extended family so interred, the visions have not only not abated but have ramped up to such an incredible degree that Mr. Darling 

    believes he is going crazy.  

The visions began innocently enough and were separated by long swaths of time to make them seem like mere aberrations rather than an opening salvo, the first twinge of future labor pains or like a small cut

    on the foot while swimming or 

    on the hand while picking berries

whose penetrating object was a mystery, but would later make the limb gangrenous.  By suggesting these visions began innocently is not to say their subject matter is innocent, nor is the term 

meant to imply these first hallucinations are in some way contrary to the normal run of his daily thoughts, that they are born of some mysterious spirit, or are the result of foreign substances ingested against his will or without his knowledge.  No, these early visions are simply the result of Mr. Darling functioning as a normal human being when decisions and actions from his past rear their unflattering heads in the present and remind him of his old self in the hopes that the future Mr. Darling will be better for it.  In effect, Mr. Darling’s conscience is beginning to affect recall.  

His earliest memory of having acted in a way that now seems unthinkable to him occurred when 

he was fourteen.  Jim had recently made out with his girlfriend, a prolonged affair that excited and terrified him to such an extent that he didn’t move, but remained where he was, doing what he was doing, without so much as moving any further muscles 

    either in his neck or 

    the muscles in his hands 

to change their positions on the young girl’s hips or move them off her hips to some other more titillating locale.  He was as though caught in a searchlight and any movement would lead to his capture or else, should he advance any further, the spell would be broken and the young girl would realize it was getting late and that she was afraid of being pressed too much against 

    the town’s feed silos 

    those same silos 

climbed by a fellow townsperson later that evening or else early the next morning where he hesitated upon the small metal grate that acted as a kind of landing to consider the light of distant stars now dead before plummeting off 

    feet first


    a pool of unrecognizable mush 

only feet away from where the young couple was being inducted into the amorous affairs of men and women.  But it wasn’t the first thrill of sexual adventure that had stricken Mr. Darling’s conscience with shame, nor was it the fact that a man had taken his own life, and in such a horrific manner, leaving it to an elderly couple, who enjoyed waking early with tea and walking the breadth of the town Mr. Darling had grown up in, to find the pulpy remains of the hopeless jumper so close to where Jim and Esther had been that now Mr. Darling  

    subconsciously equates 

    sex with death and has 

        ever since 

    been wary of the one and 

    ambivalent of the other

then more obsessive about the other.  No, it was the memory of the evening a few days after the authorities had identified the jumper and released Daniel Harwith’s name to the public, mentioning only that his body had been found early in the morning by Mr. and Mrs. Schouland and omitting the fact that Mrs. Schouland had thrown up upon hearing her husband first gasp then shriek at the gruesome discovery of 

    Mr. Harwith’s ankle bones 

    swaddling his ear lobes.  

Jim had, for motives that to this day are confused because misremembered, knocked on his parent’s bedroom door and confessed to having kissed his girlfriend.  Mr. Darling Sr. waited for him to continue and his mother said 

    (Oh Jimmy, she’s such a nice girl) and 

Jimmy wasn’t sure if this was a delighted phrase, encouraging him to continue with her or if he’d done something wrong by kissing the nice girl and because of his 


        that were just beginning to announce themselves 

    and instincts

        that would make a mess of things until developed 

she had become something other than a nice girl 

    and so  

Mr. Darling performs his rounds every morning and is being reminded of past actions that strike him now with repugnance at himself and at the world whose furrow he’s found himself within.  He enjoys the emptiness of the greenhouses at this early hour before the parking lot is filled and before the plant’s unrelenting demands for water compel researchers and their graduates, undergraduates and technicians to fill the hallways with duties of their own and requests for Mr. Darling to find more pots or look at faulty irrigation systems, or else determine why a pesticide application has done nothing to eradicate the pest problem after twenty-four hours and after the economic threshold had been passed a week earlier, a term mostly used in industry where such things as economics are the driving factor in maintaining healthy plants and not in academia where plant material is grown, not for profit, but for genomes or to test certain chemical reactions upon their delicate foliage and root systems.  Before all of this becomes the minutia that make up Mr. Darling’s day he has these moments walking the somber hallways, reflecting on yesterday’s job performance and anticipating the coming day’s.  It is within these 

    quiet reflections


that Mr. Darling looks out a clear pane of glass to see grass freshly mown 

    stretching toward the light 

    of a warm spring sun and 

suffers a wave of chilled panic at the quick memory of knocking on his parent’s bedroom door, a decision 

    (No, no)

that led him to break up with his first girlfriend because, he had said, he had a dream about a brunette.  Jim felt this had been God-sent

    a sign

    an omen

    a portent of catastrophe 

that proved His displeasure at his having been with Esther, but Jim couldn’t confess this last proof, not having discovered this as a possibility to extricate himself from relationships until he decided to forgo sexual intercourse

    choosing to abstain from the sexual expression of 


        desire and 

        love until 

        appropriately wed 

explaining to Esther that his feelings for her did not warrant such physical expression because she was not his soul mate

    (But it would be awesome to still be friends).   

Mr. Darling comes to and the grass is green, the sky a brilliant blue.  He laughs to himself about how seriously he took that momentary memory and goes about his day.  He continues his days until four months later, when the football team is preparing to open their 7-6 season against UAB under a new coach, the school’s fourth in eight years.  Mr. Darling climbs into the peak of a greenhouse to replace a number of vent arms whose teeth, because they are made of aluminum and not steel, have worn down over time and will no longer catch in the gear boxes, rendering them useless in opening and closing the vent to insure optimal growing conditions.  While drilling holes and securing brackets and fitting new metal arms into new metal gear boxes, he falls into the rhythm of work that does not require strict attention to what he is doing.  His mind begins to wander.  He thinks of his mother 

    how she will fare after the death her husband 

of Rachel

    who is slogging through an entry-level government job

of the coming semester 

    when students will return and fill the campus with 

        heavy foot traffic 

        limited parking spaces 

        crowded bars and 

        varied reports on police blotters when 

like the onset of a premonition, these meandering banalities cease mid-rumination and he sees himself as he is 


    on a sixteen foot extension ladder 

    working over his head


    then as he isn’t, but might very well soon be: 

        slipping from his secure position 

        foot maniacally seeking a stable landing 

            he believes is there but 

            had never actually been there 

    body weight shifting right while 

    his left hand releases the trellis support and 

        he falls backwards 

        continues to fall backwards 

    until his torso becomes parallel to the benches 

    loaded down with the green tufts of sugar beats 

    then past parallel 

as his left shin is recruited to be the hinge, it having suddenly been thrust into such an absurd position

    straining now 

    snapping and 

    (No, oh no!)

Mr. Darling is left dangling upside down and shrieking at the far end of the research facility.  He drops the drill he’s been working with and grips the sides of the ladder.  He catches his breath.  The climb down is slow.  When both feet are safely on the ground he finds he can’t stand, his legs are shaking too much, and he bends beside a bench, soaking his knee in irrigation run-off.  The drill no longer functions, the bit has shattered.  Other instances like this occur while he is at work, but none manifest such a physical reaction of his nervous system.  Occasionally, while in 

    budget meetings and

    meetings with his staff that 

he isn’t particularly interested in, which he leads but doesn’t contribute much besides setting the week’s agenda and listening to 

    rudimentary complaints

        commiserating non-verbally 

        in the way that seven years of marriage has taught him 

his leg will spasm as though startled awake or his head will toss as if shaking off a pest or 

    in exasperation of more requests for money 

        for student labor and supplies 

        greater quantities of compensatory time     

            regardless of university policy’s strict limitations of such 

        or else how incompetent certain department’s budgetary analysis is or 

        how stupid a twenty year old has been over the weekend 

            resulting in a full-time staff member having to interrupt a family dinner                 to do the job right, the result of which is 

                the conclusion being that work time is deemed more valuable than 

                family time

                     which cannot possibly be the case 

                        but of course it is and  

in this instance the hallucination has less to do with his own bodily injury 

    although these were occurring with more regularity as 

    each succeeding scene builds upon the last 

    gaining in coincidence of misadventure and horror 

as though such scenes initially began a coping process that has become feeble to their task 

than with that of his loved ones.  Particularly his mother, Mr. Darling’s first beloved before Rachel Darling, who has wakened from her sound sleep on more than one occasion, the first time being six months ago, two months after the passing of Mr. Darling, Senior.  At first she believes the shrieking occurs within her dream, but she isn’t dreaming of anything particular that she remembers upon waking at which time she thinks the screams are coming from outside but the windows have been closed for weeks and the furnace is busily clicking on and off  then she knows the shrieks are coming from the sleeping mass beside her.  She is horrified and without any subtlety or finesse she shoves her husband’s shoulder blade then pulls her lover’s love handle at which point his right arm comes flying over his right shoulder, swinging above his wife’s head

    missing it by inches or 

    closer since 

Mrs. Darling’s eyes haven’t adjusted to the dark and she can’t be certain just how close she’s come to being struck, and strikes the leafy iron work of the headboard, eliciting further shrieking of a more direct nature with an intensity and intentionality that was lacking in his prior shrieks.  When Rachel asks him 

    not then, but later that morning 

        when they have sat down together 

    she with her smoothie and 

    he with a left hand finger between the thin pages of Malachi 

        his right had covered by an ice pack

Mr. Darling thinks 

    (I know what I’ve been so terrified of

    being the proximity of my life to

    the closeness of death

    mere centimeters within my chest

    beating and beating until the beating 


    And I can claw and I can scratch and

    I can pull my hair out and dig to the ribs

    the valves are a tyrant unto themselves)  

but he says 

    (I don’t know what I dreamt) 

and he says 

    (Perhaps I’d’ve remembered if I hadn’t been wakened to searing pain in my hand) 

which, truth be told, didn’t hurt him as much as he let on but merely surprised him, a fact he wanted to cover up, first because he felt an injury would somehow warrant him a free pass when not discussing the subject of his nightmare and second because he heard the shriek he emoted and didn’t know he’d been the one to cry out.  When he realized this was the case, even in his groggy state, he felt he needed a reason why it had come out so childish and feminine or 

    if not these descriptors then 

    one more in keeping with an antonym for masculine surprise and  

Mr. Darling did remember the dream.  At least he remembers the subject if not the content: 

    the terrible demise of Mrs. Darling, his mother and  

even if Mr. Darling does not remember the exact scenario in which he sees his mother’s final instance as a living being, he can recall now

    quite clearly 

the many more that will follow in the proceeding months 


    heart attack 

    car accidents 

        in town and country and

        upon mountain roads 

            at night 

            in snowstorms and rainstorms and 

            thick fog 

    crashing into guard rails 

    into on-coming traffic 

    then through guard rails and 

plummeting into deep ravines, the metal mass searing off hundreds of tree limbs as Mrs. Darling screams for Jimmy to help her

    for God to save her 

    for her husband 

        (For God’s sake!)

    to help her 

or else innocently sipping iced tea at a coffee house and being obliterated by a careening cement mixer, whose driver has had a 

    stroke or a 

    heart attack 

or sipping that same iced tea and being shot in the head by a stray bullet or one intended for her from the gun of a deranged person or one in full possession of his mind, because it’s never a woman who kills in this way, at least not that’s reported nationally, and wanting to make a political or religious or socio-economic point as interpreted by media outlets both locally accessible to 

the heinous act and as far from it as an academic campus halfway around the world, this woman has lifted a handgun.  But on this most recent early morning, Mr. Darling has not shrieked and so has not wakened his wife, who continues to sleep peacefully beneath the dark covers beside him.  He is up, inexplicably, after only three hours of sleep.  Though he feels refreshed and alert, surprising considering the early hour, he knows he will fall asleep again in a few minutes, but after lying awake for nearly an hour with no sign of sleep returning, Mr. Darling gets out of bed, quietly closes their bedroom door behind him, fills a glass with water and turns on the television.  The sudden flash of blue light shocks his susceptible pupils, as though he has just looked directly into the sun and when he slowly acclimates to the pixel twitches 

    by slowly turning his face 

    away from the wall 


    and toward the screen 

Mr. Darling believes his eyes have still not adjusted and have, in fact, had their physical make-up altered in such a way that he sees his father standing before him.  Mr. Darling rubs his eyes, believing the apparition to be merely a 

    sun spot or 

    the afterglow of the last

    television image yet 

when he returns his gaze to the place where his father stands, what Mr. Darling believed was an after-image or a sun spot 

    (Perhaps a remnant of shadow)

is once again the stature and bearing of Mr. Darling Sr.  He is dressed in the television’s blue light serenely admiring his son, whose breath catches, whose hand clutches the remote and turns the screen to black.  In the darkness now, spots of illumination precede his glances across the opaque living room.  Mr. Darling thinks these spots are early symptoms of a tumor, that he’s heard of these occurring and wonders if he is beginning to experience those symptoms that would necessitate a visit to the doctor’s office and if such a visit would be preferable to that of visiting another sort of doctor, one who would ask Mr. Darling what he thinks these hallucinations mean and prescribe him a dose from some unnameable chemical combination that will cease his experiencing his dead father in the living room.  When he thinks how the presence of either doctor will keep Rachel up nights and how she will mourn his pre-death with 

    sorrow-filled looks and

     unpredictable kindnesses and 

    probably anger 

        directed at him and 

        at their God and 

        at the world 


                more than likely 

            has something to do with 

            the abnormal growth 


            in her beloved’s 

            frontal cortex 

he chastises himself for having such unmerciful thoughts and sees again the stature and bearing of his dead father.  He appears more like a tree than Mr. Darling remembers, not that his father had once had flesh like rough bark or smooth or that his hair was coiffed in such a way as to denote a bird sanctuary, or even that his limbs were more limb-like than not; it is more that Mr. Darling can’t exactly remember what his father looks like, only what he felt when 

    he hugged him and 

what he smelled like when 

    he kissed his father’s hair and 

what he sounded like when 

    his wife 

        Mr. Darling’s mother  

    made him laugh and 

 this lack of detail in the stature and bearing of his father has joined with that image of a birch tree symbolic to Mr. Darling as an image of childhood that his brain frantically seeks for and decides upon when confronted with the apparition it can’t rationalize.  It is a misfire.  But with the sudden lack of bright stimuli, the emotional distress experienced by Mr. Darling over the past six months and his immersion again into total darkness, his mind must be given some sympathy for continuing to interpret visual imagery in the absence of corresponding visual input.  Mr. Darling 

    closes his eyes 

    then opens them and 

his father remains.  He moves his eyes in rapid succession 



    rolling and crossed yet 

his father still stands, observing his son’s behavior with a wry grin, a feature of Mr. Darling Sr. who was often in a good mood and who 

    while suffering from 

    the shock and pain of 

his first heart attack was still able to question the route his wife was taking to the hospital and to forget about his own mortality or else to spite it said

    (The country miles are the straightest) 

and these are the words Mr. Darling hears his father say to him in that moment of darkness and quiet.  He stares at his father, who stares back wondering, quite reasonably, whether James has lost his mind by hoping such a tactic could possibly rid him of his presence.  Mr. Darling reaches a terror pitch of panic at not being able to will this specter away and he shouts  

    (What then)

and his father reaches out to him 


as the breeze proffers a tree’s limb and  

    (No, oh no) 

Mr. Darling leans forward in his recliner to bat away the vision’s extension.  He closes his eyes and flails but his ears are not stopped and he hears his father’s voice

    (There is nothing)

unmistakable and clear and Mr. Darling claps his ears and shrieks.  Mr. Darling falls against the floor and Rachel is standing now in the hallway         

    (There is nothing)

        stunned and 

        watching from the doorway 

not wanting to get too close to James’ flailing arms or his writhing mass as he begins to locate himself on the pre-dawn living room floor.  When he calms and begins to breathe normally, Rachel rushes toward him

    falls beside him 

    petting his forehead 

    (Sweetie, there’s nothing there) and

he grips her tiny hand  

    (I should) he says and

she endures while he crushes it and he says    

    (I should have) and


* The email will not be published on the website.