The Falls

1

Jim Timmons had come from Vermont to Deer Falls, the little resort town on the edge of the Adirondacks, not for the scenery or skiing— he could get that at home—but to look for work. A cousin had told him they were hiring at Custom Veneers. Praise God, Jim had gotten a job on the hot-glue line, 10.50 an hour. He’d no sooner started in, though, than his cousin moved to Buffalo, so Jim found himself alone in a strange town. He was grateful, then, when at the end of the shift on Friday, he was invited to go along for a beer with some of the guys. 

He hadn’t been in the Red Dog Tavern more than ten minutes before he realized it was a mistake. He hadn’t worked long enough at Custom Veneers to get the jokes about the bosses or appreciate anecdotes about botched orders and accidents with forklifts, didn’t know any of the women Bob (Jim didn’t know his last name) said he should hook up with. 

At some point, three or four beers into the evening, Jim found himself sitting in a booth by himself. That’s when the fight started. Jim hadn’t known anything about it until somebody landed on his table. Then somebody else. He managed to get out from under them, climbed over the back of the booth, and was heading for the door when a cop— female—grabbed him. 

“I wasn’t—” he tried to say, but she shoved him up against the wall and commanded, “Put your hands behind your head!” 

“But I wasn’t—” he began again when she grabbed his left wrist and pulled it down into the small of his back, and then he felt something cold against his wrist. Handcuffs. The stupid woman was trying to cuff him. 

“Hey, I wasn’t, I wasn’t involved, I—” 

“Shut up! Give me your hand! Give me—” 

Jim hadn’t intended to struggle, but when the woman couldn’t seem to get the cuffs on his left wrist, then lost hold of his right wrist, he grabbed her arm, pushed his hip into her and spun her around off her feet until she was face down on the floor. 

He wrenched the cuffs from her. Then he saw her fumbling with her holster trying to get at her pistol. He’d been kneeling over her, but now he sat on her, pushed her flat against the floor, pulled her hand away from her holster, and took the pistol out. 

“Is this what you wanted? Is this it?” he hissed, laying the barrel right across the bridge of her nose. Jim was shy and quiet, in most cases a gentle guy, but he did have a temper, result no doubt of growing up with an older brother who bullied him and a younger sister who got away with murder by blaming everything on him. 

“Tell this stupid cop I wasn’t in the goddamn fight,” he said, looking back over his shoulder. There was no one else in the tavern. Not a soul. Who would tell his side of the story? He was screwed. 

“Oh, you stupid woman. You stupid, stupid woman.” Sure, he was going to take the blame again. 

He pushed the pistol into his belt, then cuffed the cop first try. Rolled her over enough to take the radio off her belt. Found her driver’s license in her hip pocket. 

“Now I know who you are,” he said, standing up, “and I know where you live.” 

She didn’t say a word, just lay there, her eyes darting wildly. She looked absolutely furious—or so he thought at first. But then he realized she wasn’t furious. She was terrified. 

“And I wasn’t even involved,” he said. A reproach. A lament. 

He went down a hallway and out the back door. He could hear voices from the parking lot in front. There was a creek running behind the bar, and he worked his way along the bank in the general direction of Custom Veneers. After a block or so he tossed the pistol and radio into the water, then came up to the street. No one seemed to be after him, and there were no sirens. He forced himself to walk at a normal pace back to his car on the factory parking lot. 

He sat in his car. His anger had left him, and now he felt empty, sad. Then came the panic. The woman cop would have been discovered by now. Customers would be questioned. The fellows from work would identify him. It wouldn’t take the police long to find out where he lived, the little basement apartment he’d thought of as drab and depressing but which he now yearned for. But he couldn’t go there. He couldn’t go anywhere in Deer Falls. 

He drove east until he hit the interstate, drove south to Albany and then west, racing the dawn along the New York Thruway. 

In Buffalo he ate Twinkies and coffee for breakfast at a 7-Eleven. He was trying to think how he could get ahold of his cousin, the one who’d gotten him the Custom Veneers job and t