Fade Out

Patrick O’Rourke’s smile was as white as an Irish Easter lily, his eyes radiant blue like the Irish Sea glistening in the sun. He was, as his name implied, Irish through-and-through. His pale skin was as pure as a freshly laundered Irish linen bedsheet. But the Catholic twenty-six-year-old’s black hair wasn’t particularly Gaelic and, typical of his generation, was shaved into a high fade with longer hair covering his crown like, ironically, a yarmulke.

A pensive man, Patrick often thought about the ugly truths of life, poverty, hunger, disease, war, and the uncontrolled anger and violence taking over America and the world. But he felt somehow removed from them, safe, and he counted his blessings. “I’m not poor, hungry, or sick. I’m so lucky,” he would tell himself, “and I don’t have to worry about my safety constantly. I’m not a person of color so I don’t have to look behind my back at all times. I’m not gay and, therefore, don’t have to deal with threats, hate, and mean-spirited laws. I’m not a woman worrying about unwarranted catcalls, crude comments, groping, and rape. I’m not obese or disabled, so I don’t experience judgmental glances and rude comments by passersby. And I’m not a Jew so I don’t get blamed for the world’s ills.

He was thinking about that as he turned on the noon news. He paused. “I’m just a lucky average white, Christian, straight dude who can glide through society without generating any unwarranted fear, anger, or hate.”

A “Breaking News” graphic interrupted his thoughts. Another transgender woman had been murdered in Washington, D.C.  He sighed. “That shouldn’t happen there. D.C.’s in the north and it votes blue,” he told himself. He shrugged his shoulders. “I could understand if it happened in Mississippi. But it shouldn’t happen anywhere.”

He rose from the couch, turned off his television with a click, grabbed his sturdy, reusable shopping bag, and headed to Kroger’s for groceries. It was his job to cook dinner for his lawyer wife, Chloe, and himself while he was on spring break from teaching at a nearby elementary school.

As Patrick parked in the sprawling lot, he glimpsed himself in the rearview mirror. He unnecessarily patted his black hair into its proper skullcap style, exited the car, and entered the expansive supermarket. He spent twenty minutes roaming the store’s aisles, referring to his shopping list, and buying items that actually ranged from soup to nuts, mushroom soup for the tuna-noodle casserole and crushed nuts to top the vanilla ice cream dessert.

As Patrick completed his shopping spree, he pushed his cart toward the checkout counters, but stopped. “Have I forgotten anything?”he thought and scanned his shopping list one final time. “No. I got everything to make dinner for my queen.” He chuckled to himself. “My queen. Queen Chloe. Oh, she would hate me calling her that.”

Refocusing on the checkout lines, Patrick turned to determine which was shortest. He was distracted, however, by a figure striding towards him. “How can he see anything,” Patrick thought, “with sunglasses on in here and the visor of his blood-red trucker’s cap riding low enough to block his vision?” He smiled, recognizing the humor in his judgmental, meddlesome thoughts, and sighed. “Hell, I’m becoming my parents.”

“Hey, Jew Boy,” the approaching stranger shouted as he neared Patrick. “Get the fuck out of this store. You don’t belong here. And take off that piece-of-shit beanie!”

“I’m not…” Patrick began.

“Gonna take off your fucking beanie?” The ranting stranger reached into a jacket pocket.

“No. I’m not a…”

The deafening, close-range gunshot blast hit Patrick in the forehead, right below his yarmulke-like hairline. His brains, bone fragments, and blood splattered the area, spraying several shoppers, including ninety-two-year-old Holocaust survivor Esther Lefkowitz. She collapsed in horror. As Eva, her granddaughter, caught her,  Eva spotted a boy, perhaps twelve, karate chop the gun from the man’s hand and a large, dread-locked Black man take the man to the ground. In the distance, she saw a security guard running toward them, his eyes gaping in disbelief. Then, as her hearing returned, she heard the voices, shrieks, gasps, and panic around her.

Patrick’s vanilla ice cream began melting. 

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Tom Nussbaum
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