thrice great hermes
by stanley lieber
both of his parents were dead. étienne found out about his mother when a message arrived from his sister. he had cut up his fingers at work, so when he went to type in his reply, the cuts, still not healed, had started to bleed again, which made quite a mess, which was all very dramatic and stupid.
all he could do was go to work. on the way, in the truck, he listened to an audiobook about the new york developer robert moses. obviously, this guy had never taken a swing at this town. the book was over sixty hours long. étienne was confident there would be no mention of indiana, or more specifically of the little place where he made his living. no news was good news.
at work there was nothing to do. he had left nothing for the tail end of the week. he would sit in his rolling chair and accrue benefits.
what was it he’d written down? there was nothing in his mind but the drone of the machines. he might have fallen asleep if there had been anything to let go of. he noticed that, because of the injury to his hand, he was now holding his pen in exactly the same way he had observed his father holding his own pen, when he was a child. "i’ve written so much the muscles in my hand don’t work anymore," dad had said. something like that, pops.
étienne tried to understand it all from his mother’s perspective. dad had refused to promise that he’d stop seeing the other woman, so, really, she had had no choice. for the rest of her life she had faithfully enumerated his father’s many faults, ones that étienne must never, ever, emulate. don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t be lazy, don’t spend money recklessly, don’t destroy the foundations of trust within your own family by promoting an unrealistic standard of evidence with regards to matters of cause and effect. étienne had added the last stricture on his own. nobody, including himself, had lived up to his expectations.
mom had told him once that she thought he was too hard on people, and that he took it out on god. all of that was over, now. étienne hadn’t left god. god had left him. there was nothing to believe in, and therefore nothing to be angry about. there was no point in dredging any of this up now. mom was in no position to listen, or to argue.
here came the exhaustion.
étienne drove home and went to bed.