It’s understood the truth can not be told. At best we see what passes by the peephole, a monocled distortion barely glimpsed through a fog of curved glass, apprehended but incommunicable. Times are tough for the honest man with a story to sell. In reaching for the universal, he will suppress the details, and leaving out the details lose the truth. When the parents leave their toddler in a closed car for seven and a half hours of a summer afternoon and evening, we must be told, in degrees Fahrenheit, before we can begin to share the story with anyone else, how hot it got inside that car. If no one takes or tells us that temperature, we will invent. We also need to be able to say how many other children the couple has and whether they were in the apartment with their oblivious parents on the afternoon and evening of our particular catastrophe also unaware, or whether those children, if any, attempted to rouse the parents from their stupor, if stupor they were in, or whether the entire sorry lot found a way to ignore the muffled cries from the 160° interior of that car in the parking lot just outside. If possible, we will also want to know what melted. And we will need to characterize the stupor, now that it’s part of the story: was it drunken? the natural state of the mentally underendowed? Or was the word used inadvisedly: a reporter’s invention, an editorial flourish, or a simple accident of grammar, sparse vocabulary, miscommunication? A child has died. Father has a red beard. These are details. Mother drains off half a coke, tops off the bottle with rum. Somewhere in all the noise the truth coils sleeping. Baby reaches for a bottle.

Copyright ©1999 David Hodges

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