A Personal Choice (part one)
A Personal Choice
I loved to choose and see my path; but now―
from the hymn “Lead Kindly Light”
He had taken everything. He had grown sufficiently ruthless that he’d taken other people’s stories as well, stories they’d confided to him, in what amounted to a covenant, between a child, as it were, of his parish, himself…and the ever-present Auditor. The ease with which he’d surrendered to this expedient, when telling lies had become necessary, of rifling this treasure-house of private affairs, proved to Stanley Carpenter the depths of his own degradation.
“Carpenter,” he told the porter, who’d collected Stanley’s trunk, his suitcase, and his hand-bag. “I am only Mr. Carpenter.” The form of address was proper, in any case. Stanley wallowed a bit. He felt that God could not revere him, and if he permitted anyone else to do so, might trip him on the rails.
“Larry,” the porter said. He touched the brim of his cap, adding, “But I understand, some people over here get to be too friendly. No, sir, you let me do that.” He waved away Stanley’s preparatory crouch, from which position he’d meant to assist in upending the hand trolley onto its wheels.
“I see your bags aren’t labeled,” Larry told him. “Do you need help, Mr. Carpenter, finding a hotel? I got a card here…”
“I am visiting my niece. I have written to my niece. And she expects me.”
Larry smiled. His smile began uncertainly, but then, shrugging one shoulder, he said, “Nice when folks visit folks. You come a long way, Mr. Carpenter. Do you need a taxicab?”
“I would consider it helpful, if you would point me to a taxi. Larry…” He held Larry in suspense, while Larry, with a bag of Stanley’s tucked under each arm, and one trailing hand gripping the trolley, waited. The smile faded, and Larry shifted on his feet.
Stanley needed methodical proceedings to keep his nerves quiet. He needed to unfasten his topcoat, one cautious button at a time―or the buttons would twist askew against gloved fingers, and he would struggle, in public, over a simple task. He knew this. He had seen in minor things, as though a guardian angel with a dubious agenda lifted him out of himself, these evidences of slipping that others saw. But they did not see yet that his interior landscape had done more…
It had dislodged and slumped, and knocked away the foundation.
A Personal Choice
(2016, 2018, Stephanie Foster)