The Noon God
Living in the shadow of ‘greatness’ can be a difficult thing…
Just ask Desdemona Fortune. When her father, the magnificent J. Caesar Fortune, is found murdered inside the offices of the Faculty of Art, there is no shortage of people who carried a grudge against him.
From the lover who could not capture his affection to the colleagues whose efforts were repeatedly ignored, many resented the immensity of his literary success.
For although the ‘Man of Words’ is lying dead on a slab, his legacy will live on. But as Desdemona knows, the legacy of greatness can bear a heavy price.
In a household pummeled by the dual forces of addiction and narcissism, Desdemona must face the fact the father she loved has hurt those closest to him.
Now, as the head of a once illustrious family, she must do whatever is necessary to save her only surviving sister from the far-reaching influence of an immortal.
My mother once told me judgement was best left in the hands of God. Forgiveness was the virtue she most cherished. The older I get the more I understand the wisdom of her words.
Some days, though, her lesson gets lost under the trials of life. It was shaping up to be one of those days. A blue Corvette zipped into the last parking space. I fought back my anger and found a spot more than half a block away from the building.
It was noon when I killed the engine. The moment I stepped out of the car the August sun assaulted me. My hair felt clammy at the back of my neck. I rummaged in my bag, moving aside the library book and the black leather fanny pack I’d found one evening on the school ground.
So much for good intentions. I never did get around to dropping the pack off at the ‘lost and found’ office. I reached past it for an elastic band and twisted my hair into a ponytail. Then I tucked my bag under the passenger seat and locked the car.
The cool darkness of the Toronto City Morgue was almost a relief after the sweltering heat. The woman at the front desk told me to have a seat. I sat down and closed my eyes. I hadn’t slept much during the past week, ever since I’d reported my father missing.
I didn’t hear the Medical Examiner slip into the waiting room. My eyes flew open to find him standing near me. His slight build was a surprise. His voice on the phone had been deep and large.
“Are you Desdemona Fortune?” he asked.
“Mona.” We shook hands. His was small and twisted.
“I’m Suruj Nil.”
I wanted to shut my eyes and rest under the shade of his voice. He withdrew his hand and turned, leading me down a long corridor. I knew what waited at the end of that hallway. It was Death.
It was my father, cold and lifeless on a gurney. It wasn’t surprise that gripped my bowels as I studied his features on the television monitor. It was something else – something less tangible.
I had steeled myself for that moment. Just the same I wasn’t ready for the wave of reality that rose in my throat. I turned away, afraid I would vomit. Dr. Nil waited patiently.
Finally he said, “Is this J. Caesar Fortune?”
“Yes,” I answered. “This is my father.”
The image on the screen offered no hint of the man I had known. The essence of his greatness was gone. His jaw fell away from his mouth in loose folds. A bullet hole sat proudly in the centre of his forehead, rising above his useless eyes as magnificent and as unforgiving as the midday sun.
My father met death the way he had met life – headfirst. He would not look away from that final judgement. Thankfully Dr. Nil had cleaned the wound so I wasn’t forced to study the blood and the bits of grey matter that had been part of him. Dr. Nil turned off the screen and my father’s face disappeared. I thought, “So this is it. This is the great J. Caesar Fortune stripped of eloquence and dignity.”
I filled out the paperwork and authorised the autopsy. His personal effects – clothing, wallet and keys – were all still in evidence. I carried nothing out of that room except my memories.