It’s happening again

5 January, 2017 — Ann Arbor, Michigan

By the time Bill Geisler wakes up for his new work week, it’s four-thirty in the afternoon and sunset is only a couple hours away. He sits on the edge of the bed to collect himself, then forces himself to get up and open the light shades. Westering sunlight flows into the room past the heavy iron gratings that he has set into the frames around each window. The gratings are one reason he has never invited anyone to visit this place. It would be difficult to explain the reason for such heavy duty anti-burglary measures in a third-floor apartment.

He prepares coffee for himself using a press-pot at the kitchenette’s ancient yellow formica counter, and finally sits at the table that he keeps in the windowed bay on the apartment’s north side. This position lets him see what remains of the afternoon’s brightness, although the sun itself, falling toward the Earth’s cold horizon almost due west this close to the spring equinox, is already hidden by the “senior apartments” building on the other side of Fourth Avenue.

Senior Apartments, Geisler reflects, is a much nicer euphemism than Hostel where the City Sends Old People to Die if they Can’t Afford Anything Better.

He sips coffee while his Taiwanese palmtop takes forever to boot up, grateful that he can still afford this luxury, and that he has so far been able to buy the beans a couple pounds at a time from a man in Grizzly Park. Smelling the hot liquid, Geisler looks at the cloudless sky to the west.

The days are getting longer now, and that’s good. He at least has this time to sit and have coffee, go down to Kwan’s place to get his dinner-for-breakfast, and walk to work while there’s still a little light in the sky.

The few people who know him are sometimes confused that his lifestyle seems designed to avoid the day. That’s not it at all. He loves the daylight and wishes it would never end. The problem is he can’t sleep unless the sun is up. Bill Geisler has not slept at night for almost thirty years.

It will be thirty years in another couple of months.

The machine finally finishes coming up and connecting to the city’s wireless service. Geisler’s computer is a black rectangle not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. It’s not very powerful, but he has a decent screen and keyboard connected to it. The browser opens right up to his email page, and there’s one of the alerts from the search service he pays for, waiting for him right at the top. Somehow he knows that it’s going to be real as soon as he sees it. Clicking, he reads the article.

Northfield police report drowning in shallow water

4 January, 2017

Northfield police reported the drowning death of a man near U.S. 23 Sunday. The man, unidentified by police pending notification of next of kin, stopped his vehicle at the highway shoulder sometime between midnight and five a.m. Tuesday. The car was in good condition, with fuel. The victim’s body was found in marshy land near Frog Lake, east of the highway, drowned in spite of a water depth in the area of only three inches.

Police report no sign of alcohol or drugs, but speculate that the man may have become disoriented.

Geisler reads the story twice, then puts down his coffee to turn on the printer. His hand shakes as he sets the cup down. He doesn’t print many of the articles he receives because he can’t afford the toner and you almost can’t get it any more no matter how much you’re willing to pay. But for this story, he will make an exception.

When the page emerges from the whirring printer, Geisler reads it again. Then takes an unlabeled manila folder out from the wide, shallow top drawer of his desk, and removes the only sheet it contains. This sheet of paper has another story he printed out just a few days ago.

Northfield police report death of farmer’s dogs

30 December, 2016

Ben Liebert, an organic vegetable and poultry farmer, reported to Northville police that his four dogs drowned Wednesday night when they became alarmed at a predator and set off in pursuit. All four dogs drowned when the ice beneath them gave way on Monahan Lake.

Bill Geisler turns off his printer and sits looking at the two stories. After some time he realizes that his coffee is cooling down, and he drinks the remainder absently, his eyes returning to the stories sitting before him in the darkening apartment.

He has been waiting for, and fearing to see stories like this for thirty years.

“It’s happening again,” he says to himself.

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