Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Short Story
1,476 words
SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015

Golden Hour

by Ed Taylor

Rejected address: unknown or illegal alias:

To Kate Chopin


“I am unhappy,” fat man A said, as fat man B at the closed door absorbed the news of the sleek black gun pointed now by A, whose other hand held fanned cards. B was security for the game, but seemed really A’s adjunct, based on B’s ready-steady gaze at A and the fat dyad’s apparent common Oceania ancestry. Tonga, Tuvalu, Palau—what was that Enya song—from Macao to Palau, or something. Sail away.

He was the object of A&B’s attention, the gun for him, and he stared back at the gun, mostly, then up at A’s tiny eyes, like buttons in the puffy upholstery of his face. The table was soft on the backs of his knuckles as he laid his cards face down like prisoners and spread emptied hands. He pointed at his chest, thought about opening his shirt. He almost laughed at the exasperation and sweat on his face.

“Look, kill me if you want, but I’m not cheating you. You’re losing because you’re playing like an idiot. At least tonight.” He, unlike A and B, was weightless, could fly.

“What’s your name, asshole,” A’s face spoke.

“Chip,” he said.

Other players at the table were just heat and breathing. Maybe under the table some different hand was on another gun: hands, guns, maybe; he didn’t know the others, had never seen them on the private money circuit.

Fat man A stared, a long time, as did Fat man B, then A laid the piece on the table, pointing the dull barrel. Heavy but maybe plastic.

“Fucking deal. Chip.”

Someone exhaled. He inhaled. He knew he could now fold a thousand hands, and the fat man would still wait for him, outside. And wait un-alone. It was in the fat hands, the face, and the quick look shot between A and B, who had loosened slightly. He was up 11,000 of mostly A’s money.

Years now, of doing this, all of this, the patients during the day, the shit he hit up in the bathroom ten minutes ago, his lives, arrived, breathless: finally—you’re a hard man to catch up to. The world spoke from everywhere, a million mouths: chips, cards, buffet, bottles, walls, the women in the vintage calendars, the bricked-in windows, the players’ closed faces.

“Ten fifty-three.” One of the others, older guy with a cigar in a silver holder, cashmere over a belly.

Police, he realized. The other guys, too. All of them. A cop game. Sail away.

The cards. The cards. 360-degree awareness. He coached himself on odds, possibilities, habits and superstitions; where he parked and how many steps from the downstairs entrance, where the streetlights were, late traffic patterns. This was how he paid, for everything. The game.

A younger guy in a hoodie: “Shake and bake, eh. Let’s play.”

But now he was having trouble seeing. The game was breaking up. Everything. Reentering the atmosphere, he thought. Falling apart.

A loud sound like tearing cloth brought him back: another jet landing. Like someone making bandages.

He was on his knees, and he could not recall his name. In this case, his training and experience in deduction and induction were no help. His father had been a doctor, too. Now his father could be an ambassador, or arrow-maker, or porn star, as he believed all kinds of options opened in death. It was a black hole; anything was possible.

He had a little daughter, he had a little wife; he had lived among knee-high creatures, trying not to step on them. They got out of the way, ran. Nothing but horizon now. Clear sailing.

He had a little secret. Med school hadn’t prepared him, for the fact that he could ask, and patients would tell him anything. Everything: secrets. He hadn’t been ready for that. Not a disease, an accretion. An element. Fire, earth, air, and something his clothes were stiff with. He was heavy.

Phone in hand. Blood in hand. He was contacting someone, something to do with the blood. Call a doctor.

Merry Christmas, baby, you sure did treat me nice. I’m all lit up. Singing somewhere, another room, Charles Brown, old blues.

There was a blood path to the door. He was a door. Opening. Or unable to close.

Once when he was a young resident he killed someone. The patient couldn’t speak, or maybe was trying, but he couldn’t hear very well then. He said, I’ll pick the door for you. Lady or the tiger. And, he chose the wrong door.

My goodness, what a big girl. So brave. So brave. She was.

He left them crying. The family around the bed. In that hall he took off his name tag, then realized he still had twenty-four hours of a shift and twenty-nine other patients to see during grand rounds.

The ward tilted, a sinking ship. He decided to see if Darvocet would help him climb to the next patient, the next eyes. To see.


So much blood in a body. So much. Toothpaste out of a tube. Can’t get it back in. He’d look at an E.R. patient and the mess, and think, who did this? Who’s responsible?

“What is your address sir. Can you tell me your address.”

“I don’t know.”

“Sir have you been drinking or taken any drugs.”


“What did you take sir. Can you tell me what you’ve taken. Sir. Are you hurt sir.”

“Yes. I got hurt.”

“Can you tell me what happened. Sir is anyone with you. Is anyone there with you. Sir. Sir is anyone else hurt.”

“Not anymore. No one.”


His hair was wet. He touched it. Occipital. Laceration. Shock is a response to trauma. The body closes off rooms, moving into the center, quieting; placing its faith in time. God is just the passing of time.

Merry Christmas Baby, you sure did treat me nice. I’m all lit up. I’m all lit up.

Cannot. Multiple punctures, superior vena cava. Carotid. Maybe. A knife too. He lost. If A, then B. Game over.

“Sir can you hear me. Sir what can you see.”



What was his secret. He could not be killed by someone else. What would kill him was when his lives converged. At that point, a star, everything would disappear, like exotic physics, and poof, him gone, he thought, on his knees. Kneeling. Kneeling. Prie-dieu. Holy mother.

“Sir can you tell me what you have on. What do you have in your pockets. Listen to my voice.”

What voice. Hear a voice. Charles Brown. Music. All lit up.

“Sir press one of the numbers if you can hear me.”

Vehicle. Location. Way. Talk. Christmas time in the city. Ding a ling. Bling bling. Fuck the game if it ain’t sayin nothin. At the starpoint. His lives would meet each other and die. When the little wife—

“Can you hear me. Press any number.”

He heard but wasn’t sure what. Bells. Church bells. He thought of his bride to be, his child to be. He saw seas, amnion ocean, the Adriatic, Caribbean, honeymoon Pacific. Where he and wife tried to swim on a San Francisco summer day and ran laughing from cold. Now there was a wharf somewhere near; he smelled the oil and fish, the ballast water, the sailors, the distance.

He was in a room, near the bay, near the runway, near planes, white bellied like fat fish he watched from the water below.

Cut the shit, he told himself: I’m all lit up. Merry Christmas, baby, he said to his wife, you sure did treat me nice.

It starts so early. Look at yourself, you’re disgusting, said the mother. I’m sorry mommy. You’re a joke, said the father, you’ll never be a doctor. Sorry. He’d been gone a long time. But now, back, released. Why. ER talk. Suicide by cop. Single-vehicle fatality.

The phone, lit up. A noise from it like bees. Then they were in the room, clouding, grainy. Pons, medulla. Numbness in extremities. It was cold. The tearing cloth again.

Then suddenly. No longer stiff. He could move. His legs and hands, knees, he was free, and he could feel it, coming, to help him stand. He wanted his wife to see, as he now did. Rising. His wife. His daughter. He wanted to tell them now; what he now knew, in that melting.

He knew what was at the star point, and that it wasn’t nothing. It is my real name, it is coming back, it is all coming back to me, he thought, and finally able, he waited for the door to open, to know and not forget.

Air grainy, a swirling, and in his ears buzzing, the low chir. Spring, it’s like spring. It is spring. Lie down in the field.


SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015

Ed Taylor

is the author of the novel Theo, the poetry collection Idiogest, and the chapbook The Rubaiyat of Hazmat. His work has appeared in a variety of U.S. and U.K. periodicals and anthologies, most recently in Gargoyle, Great Lakes Review, Southwest Review, New World Writing, and Louisville Review. He lives in Buffalo, New York.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury