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Thirty-five years ago, Jacob McLoy lost someone very dear to him. He longs to find her through the voices that led her away -- if only he could hear them.
Jack Linton is a Southern writer who enjoys telling stories.
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (2)
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Jacob McLoy stood in front of the bathroom mirror and watched his lower lip twitch. He told himself it was not as noticeable since he stopped taking the Amitriptyline and perphenazine, but the truth was there was no distinguishable difference. Turning to the door, he walked back into the bedroom and paused before a large framed portrait of a lovely young lady dressed in a white gown and white lace shawl embroidered with the letters "A. M." on one end. He could still hear her laughter as she posed for the photographer in Central Park on that cool spring afternoon thirty-five years ago. Those memories like the voices that filled his head were all she had left him.
He reached under the bed and retrieved a vinyl sign rolled tightly in a long white tube. He stood and pulled a black toboggan over his ears and buttoned his overcoat to his chin before stepping out the door of his brownstone with the tube tucked securely under his arm. A slight chill cut the early morning air, but for April in New York, it was unusually warm. Lights in the long rows of brownstones that lined his neighborhood street began to flicker on as he locked the door behind him. Two doors down, Jake Alexander stepped out his door, waved sharply, and hurried east toward the tiny shoe repair shop he owned near the East River. McLoy returned the wave with a half-hearted thumbs up and turned toward the subway that would carry him to Rockefeller Center.
Every morning for thirty-five years, he had left the brownstone at exactly 4:30 a.m. His neighbors thought he was going to work, and that was fine with him. The less they knew about him the better. The less he knew about them was better yet. They use to ask about the sign he carried, but now a quick wave or nod was all the interest anyone showed in him or his sign. Their lack of interest didn't bother him in the least. The voices grew faint when his life became too cluttered.
There were two people on the subway when he boarded at 4:40 a.m. One, a young man in a black suit with a tan briefcase clutched tightly to his chest, sat at the far end of the subway car staring straight ahead at the black window in front of him. The other was a black man sprawled on the floor next to a shabby blue backpack. The black man's deep leisurely breathing seemed almost too peaceful for someone sleeping on a subway car floor. McLoy stepped over the backpack and took a seat under a sign proclaiming the merits of a new off Broadway production based on a play by William Shakespeare.
The subway car rocked toward Rockefeller Center. McLoy closed his eyes to rest, but was suddenly jerked awake by a tug on the tube under his arm. He grabbed the tube with both hands and sat up straight looking wildly around the subway car. The black man his head now propped on an elbow was watching him with a huge grin imprinted across his face. "You touch my sign again . . . ," McLoy started sternly.
"Didn't touch your sign," the black man interrupted still smiling.
"Someone grabbed my sign," McLoy said. "You're the only one close enough."
"Mister," the black man said sitting up and pulling the backpack to him, "I know all about you and your sign, so why would I want to grab it?"
"How do you know anything about me or my sign?" McLoy asked.
The man winked at him and said, "I know what the voices know."
"The voices?" McLoy asked puzzled. "How do you know about the voices?"
"Man, I know you hear the voices – especially the sweet one. She's been calling you for thirty-five years." The man removed a white lace shawl with embroidered initials "A. M." from a side-pocket on the backpack and wrapped it loosely around his neck.
McLoy's eyes grew wide. "Wher . . .Where did you get that?" he stammered pointing to the shawl.
"From the side-pocket of my backpack," the man laughed.
"That shawl," McLoy continued his face growing pale, "belonged to Alexis. Where did you get it?"
"I told you," the man said, his eyes twinkling, "from my backpack."
"Don't play games with me," McLoy shouted jumping to his feet. "What do you know of Alexis?"
"No more than what you want me to know," the man teased.
"Please," McLoy begged, growing agitated, "don't do this. You have no idea what I've been through. That shawl belongs to my wife. Where did you get it?"
"Where she lost it," the man laughed. "But you mustn't carry on so, or you'll block out the voices. They're closer today than they've been in a long time, so you mustn't scare them away. If you listen close, I bet you can hear the sweet one. I bet it belongs to your Alexis."
The man unzipped the main compartment of the backpack and turned his ear to the bag. "Yes, I can hear them," he said smiling at McLoy. "Ah yes, the sweet one is calling also. Can you hear her? You best hurry though, she's about to forget your name. After all, you have taken much too long to find her."
"Why are you doing this!" McLoy screamed. "Who are you? Why do you torment me like this?" He lunged forward grasping for the black man, but before he could close his hands around him, the man dove head first into the backpack and disappeared. Grabbing the bag, McLoy turned it upside down, shook it, and banged it against a chrome hand rail. "Come out! Let me hear the voices! Let me hear my Alexis!"
"Hey, buddy!" the young man in the black suit shouted as he grabbed McLoy by the shoulders and spun him around. "Settle down! What voices do you want to hear? Who is Alexis?"
McLoy's eyes slowly focused on the young man. He shook his head and leaned back against a chrome pole. The young man released his hold on him, and he slid down the pole and sat on the floor. "I'm sorry," he said weakly. "Where's the black man?"
The young man looked at him and shrugged. "What black man? There's only been the two of us in this car this morning?"
At 5:30 a.m. two "Today Show" cameramen appeared outside the NBC studio at Rockefeller Center. A small crowd of thirty to forty people had already claimed their spots along the barricaded square outside the studio. "There he is again," the tall cameraman in a green and black high school letterman's jacket said pointing to Jacob McLoy leaning on the barricade railing. "He's here every morning like clockwork with that sign."
"Does anyone know the meaning of the sign?" asked a short stocky built cameraman.
The tall cameraman shook his head, "Not really. I've heard that about thirty-five years ago his wife went missing. They never found a trace of her. The poor guy just about lost his mind. He gave the police an off the wall story about strange voices that only he and his wife could hear, and insisted they could find her if they just zoned in on the voices."
"Sounds like a real crackpot to me," the short cameraman laughed.
"Yeah, but he's harmless enough. Be sure to zoom his sign on the next audience shot. He may be a looney, but he adds color to the program."
The short cameraman unwrapped the lace shawl with the initials "A. M." from around his camera lens. "You've got it," he smiled and zoomed to the sign. He chuckled quietly to himself as the sign, SPEAK AND I WILL FOLLOW, filled morning television screens across America.
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"Good story! I was a little confused at the end, but over all I really enjoyed it." -- John, Hattiesburg, MS, USA.
"Very good! The story kept my interest all the way through." -- cindy, hattiesburg.
"Another great one from the best author ever!" -- Susie Jordan.
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© 2000 Jack Linton
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