Five | Beating The Paper | Eryk Pruitt

Scoop Cover

 
 
 

A t four o’clock that afternoon, Miles was still in his boxers, and the paper was still on his lawn.  He had not moved from the sofa in better than an hour, and he felt he had no reason to do so.  He was thinking, and in his half-drunken state, he felt that was more important than getting the paper.

It knew.  Of course it knew.  It knew I would never get to Stan in time.  That’s why it was Stan’s picture in the Obits and not some other guy.  It also knew that Mitch Leavelles the actor would be arrested.  Or that MiniCel would take Lewis and Dane.  Or that I would win the Lotto.  When the paper was printed on whatever damned press was haunted enough to print it, it had known that.  It knew, somewhere deep in the confines of the press, that I would be standing in line at Vickers with a slip reading 4, 11, 16, 24, 30 and 41 filled in with a pencil.  It knew.

Want to know what the weather will be like?  I can tell you.  And not some meteorologist’s educated guess, I can tell you exactly what it will be like.  Want to know if that Boeing 747 will make its way to Chicago or not during an impending thunderstorm?  I can tell you that too, just check the front page.  Where’s that tornado going to hit in the Midwest?  What about Senator Sturm securing a seat this year in the primaries?  Just open me up and I’ll tell you everything you ever wanted to know… and more.

Miles closed his eyes.  His brain pleaded for aspirin, but his legs wanted rest.  After all, they had supported him during his pacing fit an hour or so ago.

In black and white.

His mind raced relentlessly.  He tried to force conscious thought from his head, but if flowed through his being like wildfire.

If the paper says it, it’s true, or it will be.  Come on, buddy old pal, look at it with some sense of sanity.  I just won the Lottery.  I got the cash.  I never have to work again.  I can spend my life on cruises, on airplanes, on trips to the Orient… I could buy my way onto Wall Street and into the hearts of thousands of young women like Brenda.  I got it made in the shade.  For me and my omnipotent paper, the sky is the limit.

But one day, and I know It will happen… it has to happen… I’m going to open that paper and whose face will grace the Obituary section, but mine?  Huh?  And you know what?  There won’t be a damn thing in the world I can do to stop it.  After all, if the paper says it, and it’s in black and white…

Miles sat upright.  His eyes were wild.

But it’s impossible.  It hasn’t happened yet.  There is no fucking way in the world that a paper can print something if it hasn’t happened yet.  No way at all.

But Miles knew, much like a reporter knows that in order for a theory to be accepted as fact, he would have to prove it.

He rose from the sofa to retrieve the daily paper.

 *

Indeed, it was Friday’s paper.  Miles knew now that every Thursday, he would receive Friday’s paper.  It was accepted.  It was… comfortable.  In the most disturbing way, it was comfortable.

He read the front page as he sat on the toilet.  He read the Metro as he drank his morning

(evening)

cup of coffee.  He read the Business on his sofa which was still warm from his vigil that ended only a half hour ago.

But he wasn’t really reading.  The articles rolled off his brain like water off a duck.  He was searching.

His eyes took in every printed word.  Every word that was intended for readers of the Lawles County Tribune tomorrow morning.  Not a word went unnoticed.  Normally he read with precision, but that morning it was a maddening precision.

I’m sane I’m sane I’m sane I’m sane I’m sane I’m sane I’m

He forced the thoughts into his head, eyes foraging the words until the thought became accepted.  The words eased into his eyes and he shat them from an invisible orifice in the back of his head.  They were unwanted,  not what he was looking for.

I’m sane I’m sane I’m sane I’m

And it was nowhere to be found.  It wasn’t in today/tomorrow’s paper, so it wouldn’t happen.  Miles shook his head and thrust the thought from his mind.

No!  They don’t know it’s going to happen.  That’s what it is, buddy old pal.  They don’t know.  It’s not in here not because it won’t happen, but because they don’t know

He scoured the paper some more, just to be sure, but as he predicted, it was not there.

I could do it tomorrow.

Miles shook the thought and smiled.

No, I can’t.  The paper will know.  It knows everything.  By tomorrow, it will know.  I must do it today, because if I wait until tomorrow, the paper will find out and print it, and then I can’t back out.  It will already be in black and white, and then it will have to happen.  Then it will be unavoidable.  I have to do it today while the paper doesn’t know.  While it has no idea.  I have to prove, at whatever the cost, that the paper is not…

Not what?  Evil?  Supernatural?  Clairvoyant?

Miles put the paper in the trash can.  He no longer needed it.  After all, he had read it four times.  He threw it away because he was convinced that it wasn’t in there.  Nowhere.

On Thursday, April 25, 2011, Miles Del Riccio, Texas’ most recent holder of an unclaimed lottery ticket, locked his door.  He had spent the last hour cleaning the house he had inherited from his parents, and pleased himself with its spotlessness.  It was beautiful, he thought to himself.

For reasons unknown even to himself, he unplugged the clock, freezing it forever at 6:42pm.  He set the clock next to the plastic trash receptacle that the paper would lie in for the next seven days.  Miles thought about reading the paper a fifth time, but dismissed the thought.  Too many other thoughts had crowded there.

(im so sane im so sane im so sane im so sane im so)

He was dressed in his normal attire for a morning at Anderson and Blades, but he had no intention on entering the building again.  He had more important things to do.

He had to beat the paper.

Although he didn’t know what time it was since he had unplugged his clock, it was 6:54pm when Miles Del Riccio stuck the .22 revolver’s barrel into his mouth.  His father had given him the gun when he left for college ages ago.  It was for protection.  Miles wrapped his lips

(sanely)

around the muzzle and closed his eyes.  He was calm.

It wasn’t in the paper.  No sir.  I’ve beaten the paper.  Nowhere in the paper did it say “Miles Del Riccio, prominent broker kills self in Tucker home,” did it buddy old pal?  Nowhere.  And I’m sane, too.  Sane with a newspaper that will always arrive before I go to work.  I asked for the paperboy to stop delivering it late, didn’t I?  And he stopped delivering it late.  He started delivering it early.  A whole day early.

In black and white.

They were the last thoughts racing through his brain as he pulled the trigger and expelled them through the back of his head along with the rest of himself.

 *

On Monday, April 29th, Glenn Silvers noticed the three papers from the weekend still untouched on the front of Miles Del Riccio’s house.  He prepared to toss the Tuesday paper out of the driver’s side window of his mother’s minivan when he stopped in mid-throw.

That’s funny, he thought sourly.  Bastard always complains about his paper coming late and he doesn’t even bother to collect them.  He stopped the car and stared at the house.  The door was shut and there was no movement this morning.  The sun still slept under the horizon, and a bird called lonely chirps to no one.

Glenn grimaced.  “Bastard probably went out of town and forgot to put a hold on his paper,” he said to the empty minivan.  He stared at three papers lumped next to the sidewalk a final time before easing the car up to the next house where Port and Sally Perkins lived.

“Fuck it,” he muttered as he tossed the paper intended for Miles Del Riccio into the Perkins’ yard.

And Glenn Silvers continued on with his paper route, thinking nothing more of the newspapers in Del Riccio’s yard.

 *

Sally Perkins retrieved the paper for her husband Port just like she did every morning.  Normally, she made eggs and toast for him as he read the morning paper.  Normally, he would not speak much until the paper was finished, aside from pointing out stories that interested the Navy retiree.  Normally, he would toss out the paper when finished, knowing Sally could care less about the goings-on in the world.

This morning would be no different for Mr. and Mrs. Port Perkins, neighbors of the Del Riccio family for nearly thirty years.

“Holy shit, Sally,” Port exclaimed excitedly through a mouthful of scrambled eggs.

“What is it, dear?” she asked with scant concern.

“They found that Del Riccio kid, Miles, dead in his house, “ he reported.  “Suicide.”  He cared only distantly.  When that kid, Miles, had been a boy and his parents – God rest their souls – had been alive, he was a terror.  Since moving back in, he kept to himself and that’s how Port liked it.

“Oh dear,” Sally said.  “That poor soul.”  She hardly knew Miles, but had been dear friends with his mother who, if she remembered correctly, had been caught by emphysema.

“Yep,” Port said.  “Says here the receptionist at that brokerage he works for found him dead yesterday.  Been there for days.  Shot himself right in the head.”

“That’s terrible,” Sally said softly.  She was glad Elinda and Greg had passed before this could happen.  They would have been devastated.

Port thought nothing more of it.  After all, that’s how he was.  He would not think about it again.  Instead, he turned the page and something else appeared noteworthy.  But Port Perkins hadn’t noticed that instead of it reading Monday, April 29, 2011under the paper’s banner, it read Tuesday, April 30, 2011.  After all, Port never felt like he needed to check the date.  Knowing that the paper would arrive on the right day had become a thought to him that seemed… comfortable.

They also had no way of knowing that Brenda Riggins, the receptionist at Anderson and Blades, would not come knocking on Miles Del Riccio’s door for another three hours and twenty-one minutes.

 
 
 

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