Here's the second installment of my potential serial novel, The Projectionist. The first chapter was posted about a week ago so if you haven't read it, it's probably best to do so now. Also remember that I'd really appreciate your casting a vote in the upper left sidebar as to whether or not you'd like this serial to continue. Thanks!
The passage of time had done nothing to ease the pain. Porter got out of an empty bed each morning, went to an empty kitchen, made coffee that he drank alone. He worked both shifts at The Magic every day, one of them free of charge, to escape the house whose boards seemed to creak and moan in misery themselves. Other than Teddy, the visitors had stopped coming. They still gave the little consoling smiles when he met them on the street or at work, still administered the occasional squeeze of the shoulder. Worthless.
As bad as the days were, nights were worse. Exhausted, yet unable to sleep more than a few minutes at a time, he spent most of the time staring into the darkness, cursing the God who took his life and wrung the joy from it like water from a rag.
On this day, he decided to go through the stack of mail that had piled up on the old table beside the front door. Not that he cared what was in the stack, but because Alice was nagging him about letting it pile up. Porter was imagining the nagging--he was pretty sure of that--but he had discovered that what's said in the mind and soul often trumps brick-and-mortar reality by a long shot. And every time he had come in or gone out the front door for the past several days, passing the table in the process, he had heard Alice's voice: Porter Hamlin, might be something important in that mail! He ignored it the first few times, but recently he had taken to answering her. Briefly at first, then full-blown discussions on the pros and cons of mail examination. Alice's logic finally won out--nothing unusual there--and he took the stack to the dining room table.
* * *
Porter stared at the document in his hands, read it a third time, found it just as hard to believe. Your presence is hereby requested on September 12, at the law offices of H. Lawrence Walker, for the reading of the last will and testament of Alice Hamblin, of Diebold, Tennessee, said will having been executed on July 7. They had done their wills together. Updated them once a year. Together. And Larry Walker wasn't their lawyer.
He put the letter down and made his way to the bedroom closet, where he moved aside a stack of old clothes and pulled out the metal firebox that held a lifetime of important papers. Inside, their three wills--his, hers, joint--rode the top of the stack as they had for years. He opened Alice’s will, looked at the date: May 12. Then back to the letter from Walker: July 7. Two weeks before she died. Porter re-folded the will and put it back in the box. Three days to wait. Three long days to wonder why his dear bride would have kept something so important from him.
* * *
"Porter, Porter, do come in!" Larry Walker said, beaming a bleached smile that stretched across his tan, leathery face as he ushered Porter into his office. "So sorry for your loss, Porter. How're you holding up?"
Porter had been endlessly consoled for seven weeks. Every person he met was sorry. Every person he saw couldn't believe poor Alice was gone. Hell, they may as well believe it. He had the empty house, the lonely nights to prove it. He could show them the big, empty, sunken spot in the mattress where Alice had lain. She was gone, and Porter wasn't in the mood for Larry Walker's fake concern.
"Fine, Larry. Let's get to it."
"Of course, of course."
"Why do you say everything twice?" Porter felt like a jerk the moment the words rolled off his lips. It wasn't Larry Walker's fault that Alice was gone. Yeah, he was a pompous little small-town lawyer who loved to put on a big-city shine, but that was no excuse.
Walker's smile was gone, replaced by something Porter thought looked a lot like hurt. "I'm sorry, Larry, that was uncalled for."
"No problem, Porter. No...have a seat."
Porter eased into a tufted leather chair while Walker made his way around his desk and sat. A file labeled Alice Hamblin lay on the desk. A very thick file. Walker picked it up, removed a sealed envelope, and handed it across the desk to Porter.
"She wanted you to read this first."