There are things which Amos Waters knows. For example, he knows how to sew a button on a shirt, but more than that, he knows how to keep the button safe in the pocket until he gets in from work and sits down under the dangling bulb in his house, his back hunched to the task, his knees held straight, his feet, still burrowed into the worn and cracked leather of his boots, slightly pigeon-toed. His fingers are not nimble, but they know how to persevere. They know that if they persist, the thread will emerge through the eye of the needle. He’ll place the button and move the needle up and down through the four holes until it is secure. He’ll fold the shirt and place it with the other three, one of which he wears only to church.
Amos Waters knows, too, the angles of a prison cell. They’re not all that different from the angles of his room. There’s the sink and the toilet, a small mattress, a table, a chair, a light that was once adequate, when his eyes were young, before they’d been misted over by all the things Amos Waters knows. It’s white, the prison cell is, covered by years of filth, and it provides pasture to thousands of cockroaches, which Amos came to see as his charges. He was the good shepherd, tending to the build up of lard issued from sweaty pores, set down, layer upon layer, on the spot where he leaned against the wall, passing seconds and days and years among the tick of his charges as they ate his grease; his body given for them.
Amos Waters knows the flavor of injustice; how it tastes like a mouthful of blood on a hot summer night, how it wells up inside, and spills out over broken teeth and through bruised sinuses. It’s metallic and deep, nasty like the insides of a fresh-killed pullet that has to be dressed for someone else to eat. Amos drinks in that taste, and his eyes look out in the dimming light to the nothing that was supposed to be God.
There is something Amos Waters doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what went on up there in the heights of Babel, when men, united with power and purpose, came close to touching God. He didn’t see the faceoff because he was down on the bottom, the back upon which the one climbed and built, then another upon that one, and another, and yet another — thousands upon his back, as he stood strong on the bottom. It didn’t much matter which one emerged as victor, man or God, because, either way, he was still on the bottom, sweating under the weight of it all.
Amos Waters folds his shirt, and places it in the drawer, then he pulls the chain to cut off the light. He sits back in his chair, his hands on his thighs, his back straight, as seconds and minutes and hours go by. He says his prayers, there in the stillness of the dark. He says, “Lord, another day gone, another circle of the sun. Look on old Amos Waters, and old Amos Waters look on you. Amen.”
Errid Farland’s stories have appeared in The MacGuffin, Barrelhouse, Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, storySouth, Pindledyboz, GUD, and other great places. She owns www.ShowMeYourLits.com, a website which sponsors a weekly flash contest. She lives in a literary hyperbole: the Inland Empire, on an Estate.