Boundaries of Loss and Redemption Pt. 4

IV.

            His mind slowly became aware of his body, and he didn’t chance move, not even to open his eyes for fear of ushering in waves of pain he was sure to ensue the moment he did. Smell came to him. An acrid smell of cigarettes and wood chips, the processed, mouthwatering aroma of Hamburger Helper mixed with faint insinuating hints of patchouli oil; all of which told him he wasn’t in a hospital.

He tested his eyes, opening them to a room lit with a lamp hanging by a chain from the ceiling, whose stained glass pattern cast a yellowish pallor that hid from the corners of the room. He was laying on a couch, 80’s style with a blanket layed over it sandwiching him between it and a crocheted cover. He knew he was in a trailer, the small “room” he was in now led into a tiny kitchen, counter piled with days’ worth of dishes, while a too narrow hallway extended along the wall behind him just aside a cheap aluminum door.

His headache was gone for now, comforting him a bit, but he was confused on why he should be in someone’s home. Lifting the quilt, he inspected himself to see what condition he was in. He might have laughed at the pink sheep pajamas he was wearing under different circumstances. The material was stretchy and seemed to be able to accommodate his thin frame well enough, save the length; the too-short garments ending halfway up his calves and forearms.

The table next to him sported medical supplies. Gauze, Triple Antibiotic, alcohol, and vials of something in a box with a package of syringes next to it. That worried him. Someone dragged him off the path and just started shooting medicine into him. Great.

The pain in his side bit fiercely when he sat up, the stitches in his back pulled as the skin stretched with the effort, his ribs throbbed and head swam. He sat on the edge of the couch thinking he just needed to escape. A wave of nausea caused brought up his gorge, and he hung his head trying to reorient while staring at meat and noodles pooled sickeningly on a cheap worn rug.

The sound brought footsteps from the hallway, prompting him to try and stand, to get out as fast as he could, but his body betrayed him, legs giving way and he crashed heavily.

She came over to him, bending down. The Rat Queen, white dreadlocks hanging down between her legs as she squatted next to him, looking down.

“Fuckin’ Seriously?”

“What?”

“I didn’t spend all this time trying to make you better just to have you screw yourself up again.” She just hovered over him, his blurred vision disorienting, but enough to see she was more annoyed than concerned.

She grabbed the blanket, wadded it up and put it under his head.

“Stay.” She commanded, complete with the hand signal and authority of a traffic cop.

No argument.

He closed his eyes, not moving, managed to ask through the heaviness of the exhaustion a healing body induces, what the needles were for.

She answered from the kitchen. “Doxycycline. You needed it, since I’m pretty sure you contracted Psittacosis from that bite.”

His mouth felt dry, he fought sleep but knew he would succumb soon. “I’m allergic to Penicillin…”

“Doxy isn’t in that family. You’re not allergic, I gave it to you yesterday morning.”

She returned and squatted down again, looming like a gargoyle. The Rat Queen lifted his head and put a glass of water to his lips. He drank. He tried to stop halfway through.

“All of it.” And the glass tilted without hesitation. He finished it, pretty sure she would just keep pouring even if he closed his lips and refused. That done, she reached under his arm and began lifting him without comment or warning.

He complied and assisted, making back atop the couch.

“You need rest. Don’t get up, I don’t want to have to clean up your puke again.” And she set to the task of doing just that, grabbing a bottle of Pine cleaner and a terrycloth towel from the counter.

He hated the scent of Pine cleaner. It reminded him of his childhood; 70’s pattern linoleum orange, which attracted cockroaches his parents called “Chinese Beetles”. One of his chores was to get up an hour after lights out, when everyone was in bed and the things came crawling out of whatever nook they hid in to escape the light of day. His father’s flip-flops, (called thongs back then) served as the best weapon against the things. He learned to turn the hallway light on just off the living room – enough light to see by, but not too much, since the beasts reacted like vampires to the light of the kitchen suddenly flaring on, fearing to burst to ash in its revealing luminescence.

Pine Sol was the cleaner of choice back then, and the scent rose from the floors, cleaned in his mother’s daily nuclear duty to combat any nature that invaded the home. The Chinese Beetles popped satisfyingly with each whack of the footwear. And like the Rat Queen, the child he was set about the task of pouring miniature amounts of golden pine liquid over the mess and swiping it up with a  towel.

He mostly closed his eyes, trying his best to appear sleeping, while keeping his eye on this woman. She was young, but aged. Eyes blue and haunting, thin frame, emaciated, though not to the point of anorexia, an exhaustion to the skin as if it were tired of being worn.

She cleaned his mess and then left the room. A door, squeaking in multiple tones on its hinges in a two note polycophonous harmony – open and close. She didn’t reappear, but the notes lingered with him into a deep sleep of sorrow and loss.

***

Night, the time of crickets and primal fears. He didn’t know what time it was. Didn’t know where he was, other than the foreboding cave of the trailer he still rested in. He didn’t feel feverish, and as he felt for his stitches he realized he was swaddled in another blanket, patchwork quilt design like his grandmother used to make. The wound felt harder, less swollen and he now sported an incontinence garment beneath his pink sheep pajamas.

Little light came in, the shutters concealing what little might come from the windows, only a reflection of some light, flickering like a candle from the hallway, casting strange shadows on the walls of his small room. There was movement, the shadows danced and he internalized a lucid dream, ready to accept them as a reality of their own; no different from his half memory of life before, or hallucinations or knowledge of reality. He gave the shadows names as he lay there for hours, growing uncomfortable with the fleeting hardness of his presumptuous knowledge of reality.

He discarded his Rorschach analyzation and Latinized categorization of his shadows in favor of more meaningful nomenclature. Forma incomposita, became dream, qui mortem became Hope and Semper amare became Social Lies.

The light went out and he lost his shadows. A door opened again, silently as if on freshly oiled hinges. He felt her silent presence inter the room and he lay silent, forcing his breathing to mimic that of a healing man until she left through the front door, the sight of her in a multi-layered Tulle gown, simple and flowing, caught his breath her body a silhouette against the blaring sodium light of the trailer park. In her hand, she carried a carpet bag with a sturdy handle, all of which quickly disappeared through the portal, door shut and locked before he could bring the scene in accord.

He had to know. What was this woman doing? He checked his phone for the time, but the battery had been removed and was nowhere to be seen. He took his time sitting up, thankful that no waves of nausea hit, and the pain in his body had lessened to tolerable. Getting to his feet was strange, as if he hadn’t used his legs for some time, the muscles groaning to life as blood pumped and squeezed into them.

He fumbled in the darkness to the door, guiding himself blindly along the coffee table and walls. The door cracked open a bit so he could see the surroundings and catcher her form before it vanished down a ravine on just past the other trailers. Barefoot, he stepped gingerly over areas of cut dead weeds and rocky patches, his breath creating puffing clouds of steam in the frigid air of what he hoped was still November. He removed the pink pajama top despite the cold, sacrificing comfort for dignity, though not a soul was in sight to see. Next was the incontinence garment, which he ripped away, and tossed in shreds to the ground.

Were his heart not racing, awakened after the rest of days, he would have felt the cold more keenly, and though his skin reacted, contracting over muscles that to his impression, had become more defined than last he noticed. He had lost weight, the weight of thousands of days making pie charts and sipping coffee, of a life of sedentary stoicism, work without purpose, motion without passion. However long he had been asleep had been long enough to eradicate years of the quintessential modern American lifestyle.

No wanting to lose his quarry, he made for the ravine, a path made of broken sidewalk squares arranged haphazardly led down to the path he recognized well. He had passed this trailer park many times on his walk, hardly giving it notice. At the bottom, a chain link fence interlaced with dead vines was cut and wound back on itself on each side to allow passage. She moved south along the path, toward the cottonwood, toward the bridge.

Once she disappeared around the bend, he moved from the protection of the fence and jogged down the path.

He glanced to the Cottonwood, slowing down to the silent brooding gaze of familiar eyes. Minerva stood, the air of consternation hanging tangibly in the air about her. He was torn between Minerva and following the Rat Queen to discover what she was doing, and as sensing his indecision, Minerva called to him in her low call – the one she reserved just for him, shifting closer to him on the greeting branch.

He had no rabbit for her today, no glove for her to perch on, he had nothing to offer but his attention. The look in her eyes turned to imploring and he could not leave, not if his house was burning or a strangled cry resounded from the trail. He was as tied to her as he was his own body, and he understood then what love was again.

Without the fear of risk in his actions, he approached her and stroked her feathers, careful to avoid the subject of her tether. She moved closer, and he spoke the words of love and beauty, words that would, in his life sputtered insincerely from unpracticed lips. Words of beauty and honesty, words she was unaccustomed to, words that made her uncomfortable, but enjoyed hearing nonetheless, words Bible Bob may have spoken long ago, but had forgotten how to speak, perhaps ones that had been erased from his vocabulary with alcohol and time.

Pushing the vagrant from his mind, empathizing with this amazing and intelligent creature for enduring his apathy for so long, he reassured her that he would be there for her. That she had, in the short time he had known her, become an important part of his life. She did not return his love, he knew, but he also believed he was important to her.

Time passed, and despite the cold, he stayed, half-dressed to just be with her. But when the hour grew late and he hadn’t seen the Rat Queen re-emerge on the path, he grew worried that she had already returned to find him gone. He was content to move on and just walk home, but it dawned on him that his phone and keys were still at her trailer.

Stupid.

            Minerva stepped away from his caress and prepared herself for flight, leaving him with one last look of perfection before taking off. As always he remained to watch until she disappeared from view; the cold instantly took hold and he began to shiver. Presently, a light misty drizzle fell over the scene as he stood in thought; no thunder or lightning precipitated the weather, it was simply not there and then there.

He left to retrieve his belongings and arrived at the trailer, noting the lights were still off. He quickly entered, grabbed his items and an old coat on a coatrack against the back wall, then left. He knew his car was likely still parked at the entrance of the trail in public parking so he made his way back down the familiar path.

The bridge.

It stood not in its normal symbol of nature, but instead hung metallic and menacing despite the efforts to make it fit in, a challenge to the night and perceptions he had become used to associating it with. He approached carefully, looking about, expecting some terror of the night to emerge from its dripping beams. Instead, as he crossed, he looked to where he saw the Rat Queen before; to where she now stood, opening the carpet bag on the banks of the Creek and releasing white rats into the chilling waters. She looked on as they floated downstream, one after another, some disappearing in the turbulence of the rocky draws, others swimming to shore to disappear into the brush. He moved to conceal himself better behind the Jesus Beam, the crass graffiti fading and dripping into oblivion, washed by the gentle but increasing rain – rain without wind.

She removed the red-eyed creatures with a single scoop of her hand, brought them up to her lips and kissed them on their head before tossing into random points along the increasing flow. They dropped into the water with a splash alongside fat drops that hit the stream. She was both a part of this nature and removed from it, like the bridge. The creek cried upward, the rats swam to escape. He watched with a sense of discord that was strangely alluring, reminding him of when he used to sneak out of bed and hide in the hallway, watching the rated R movie his parents put on after the kids were in bed. Something he was fascinated by, but was forbidden.

She was undoubtedly insane, and she had been his caretaker, pumping him full of who-knows-what during his convalescence. After releasing what was to be the last of rats, she knelt down to close the bag, ceremonially clasping it then holding it to her chest. Water cascaded down her dreadlocks, over her face and sealed her clothes to her nude form beneath, the white material becoming transparent. She stood and looked slowly up to the bridge, right into his eyes bored into him with the silent communication that his observation was known. A moment only then she turned on mud caked feet to vanish through the winter brambles, a single set of footprints in her wake.

Hallucination, delirium, exhaustion – a tired mind he must put in perspective, and he walked to bring his mind in accord, but it didn’t come. His mind had changed, and he didn’t know if he wanted to live in the world of numbers and order; he considered what he had sacrificed, one type of insanity for another. Now these events made him feel; opened him to a world that almost made sense.

The confusion lasted the trip home, his mind splitting down near infinite paths, working to determine conclusions, and the only thing he could come back to was, as impossible as it seemed, Minerva cared for him, and he loved her. It made no sense, he questioned it, knew it was not feasible; but there it was.

When he opened his front door, he smelled death and knew where it came from. The stink of the Beverens filled the house, the rot accompanied by the loud buzzing of flies, dozens of them agitated at the disturbance of his presence. He covered his mouth and made for the nursery. Flies by the hundreds, a sound he had never heard before and never wanted to hear again, hit him; the smell too strong for the plain covering of sleeve over face. He coughed as the room exploded into motion, black forms moving like a cloud, landing on him, crawling into his ears, trying to enter his covered nose. Swatting and convulsing to keep them off, he broke for the window and opened it, smashing the screen out, futilely waving at the flies to vacate.

The rabbits were dead, covered in maggots, spawning new generations of carrion. HE ran to the garage and retrieved a canister of bug spray, returning to spray the poison in the air and on every surface. He held his breath and squinted, spraying until every creature had either escaped through the window, or lay twitching on the hardwood. A layer of black insects carpeted the floor, the buzzing had receded to the occasional death throes of toxic wings flapping for life.

He left the room for the shower, closing the door and turning the water to hot, jumping in immediately while it heated, undressing as the water flowed over him, sloshing the clothes with a wet slap to the tile. He scrubbed with a bar of soap, exfoliating poison and dead skin with fingernails, while the hot water kicked in, steaming his body, filling the closed room into a sauna of decontamination. He shaved his head in the shower with his razor, noting that his face had been shaved recently, since the light hair had barely formed stubble, which consequently came off as well.

An hour in the shower, rinsing, washing, scrubbing, scratching, shaving. Breathing the steam became labored, his skin red, the water turned cold and he shut it off. He dried himself off, afraid to leave the bathroom. With its closed door and fan, the stink of death had been evacuated, leaving the smell of steam and Old Spice. Outside would be different.

He wiped the mirror and looked at himself, noting how his weight loss had toned him, causing flesh to sag a little around his mid-section like a woman that had given birth. Stretch marks – wounds of self-indulgence. He trimmed the last bits of hair he missed in the shower, applied deodorant and aftershave, cologne. Trimmed finger and toenails.

Then there was the task of taking care of the wounds. There was beneath the sink a well-stocked store of medical supplies. Strong Isopropyl Alcohol and gauze. He lit a candle above the counter, above the mirror, one that had sat, gathering dust for more than a decade; hoping the scent would combat any decay that seeped into the cracks of the door.

The alcohol opened, volatile gas escaping, the cool liquid soaking cotton balls that burned his wounds, evaporating and drying them. He rubbed the alcohol over his body, one cotton ball at a time. His head burned when applied to the freshly shaved surface, but he did not wince. He felt unclean, saturated by death and life, one and the same, hoping the chemicals would take it away. He was methodical and precise, working with his eyes closed, not wanting to look into the dark sagging pits of his eyes. And it wasn’t long before he reached toward the large bottle of alcohol and caused it to tip, the liquid splashing against the counter wall. Fumes and liquid ignited. He opened his eyes, curious, watching the blue orange fire spread with the liquid to drip in roaring drops to the tile where it pooled at his feet.

He supposed he should react, grab a towel and beat the flames; anything to combat the menace. But a strange sensation came over him. The thought of a cage, rattled with filth and shit, rusted and broken, a prison of once-love that stood in monument to something, something he couldn’t set into words. He backed away a moment as smoke began to waft from the bubbling paint; turned his back when they reached the nightlight painted with the image of a daisy. And there on the wall before him, dancing in the shadow of his own body, was the void form he identified in the Rat Queen’s trailer: Semper Amare – Social Lies.

It was bigger and angrier, the concept seemed to reach from the walls to draw him in, though he was its creator and he recoiled, coughing and falling to the ground as liquid fire pooled around him, spreading along the grout in fingers of flame that seemed drawn to him. He knew he should leave, preserve his life, but he did not want to go into the house, to face the flies and the stink of his children rotting in the next room; to soil his body with the entropy of his soul.

He inhaled smoke and collapsed to the ground, crawling to the bathtub. He had made love to her here once, warm water cascading over their bodies as they forgot reality. He delved into the memory, letting the world fall away, coughing through burning tears of ash and anguish.

The heat increased, the smoke plumed and rolled. He covered his face and waited, words coming to his mind that hadn’t been invented yet, rolling in emotions that seemed to have finally destroyed him after years of suppression.

A crash of splintered wood startled him, wood that had caught fire. Hands wrapped around him, lifted his limp form and he almost thought of fighting them, pushing them away; yet he couldn’t muster the strength. He was carried over a shoulder, like his father would have done when he was a child while telling him what a heavy sack of potatoes he was.

He coughed and breathed in heavily the stench, he felt the cold, the wet air of the earth envelop him, the pokey roll of soft grass as he was deposited on his own Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis) lawn; head coming to rest on a recessed sprinkler head.

His eyes were opened with a thumb, flashlight shining in each alternately.

“Sir, is there anyone else in the house.”

Coughing. “No.” More coughing.

Though light blinded, he caught the nametag of the Officer – Buhle.

A series of questions. How many fingers? Are you ok? Can you tell me what happened? Do you have any pets? (Not anymore). All interspersed with statements of reassurance. An ambulance is on its way (sirens in the background) you’re going to be fine. I’m going to stay here with you, the fire department is on its way.

He looked around at the crowd that had gathered to watch his house burn. The neighbors had their garden hoses in hand, spraying their houses to make sure they didn’t catch on fire next. Sprinkler systems were turned on manually in the houses all around, an oddity in this section of suburbia in the era of emerging automation, some were searching for a way to turn them on, not knowing exactly how to do it. Their heads turned this way and that, jerking about for someone to help them figure out how to make their lawns wet.

He looked around for a moment. The officer was gone, and he watched as billowing plumes of smoke rose from his house. Everything would be consumed, antique furniture passed down through generations to him, the last member of his bloodline. His computer and backup drives full of digital memories as real as his own. Wedding photos, maternity videos, crayon art he drew in kindergarten, houseplants she grew from seed, a plaster handprint the size of a mouse. The beautifully framed diploma she was so proud of when he graduate with his PhD.

The flames were now visible on the roof above the bathroom, the smoke flowed in various colors; greens, orange, red, grey and black. He watched with a dead heart, tears from the smoke flowing down blackened cheeks as he rested his head on the flat sprinkler head, the only sprinkler not active in the neighborhood.

The officer arrived to pull him further from the growing conflagration, placing a blanket under his head and one over his body. The nametag was reflecting in the firelight; Buhle. Why was the man here? How did he arrive so soon after the fire started? His mind didn’t have answers, it didn’t want answers. It simply wanted to shut down, and it did, to the sound of distant sirens interfering with the crackling roar that had served as his prison.

***

He woke with some memories. People putting a mask on his face. Loud sirens and blaring lights. A glimpse of a big red truck hooking a hose to the fire hydrant down the street. Doctors giving commands in tongues to the people around them, all in teal scrubs and latex gloves. These were fleeting memories, partial and incomplete, the kind he wished his life would have been like. Maybe big pharma had created a pill to induce selective retrograde amnesia, he would ask about that.

“You’re awake.”

The sound of the woman’s voice drew his attention to the side. Now he was in ICU. Single occupant, more expensive equipment, still the same blaring Mercury tubes floating everywhere. More tubes in his body; at least the beeping heart monitor was set to silent.

“Hey.”

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine.”

“You got quite a few people concerned around here.”

“I’m sure losing a patient was quite a stress on the administration.”

Avè pursed her lips, pausing to decide what to say next. “Well I was concerned. You’ve been on my mind since you left. We weren’t sure you would survive, with everything that was going on with you.”

“Nothing I did was because of you.”

“Ah…” Though she tried to hide it, he thought a weight was lifted from her.

“Look, I don’t want you to talk about anything you don’t want to, but I would personally like to know what happened. Why you ran off and where you’ve been for two weeks.”

That got his attention.

“Two weeks?” He couldn’t hid his surprise.

“Yeah, you spent days here recovering, then up and disappeared for thirteen days. Officer Buhle stopped by your house each night after his shift to see if you had stopped by home. Someone found your wallet down the trail, or their dog found it or something. Anyway, it looks like your credit cards and ID were taken, I’m sorry.

He smiled to himself. He never used them anyway.

“It’s a good thing Kerry stopped by when he did. He saw smoke and came in just in time to pull you out…” An uncomfortable pause. “About your home, I’m afraid it’s gone. There was a problem with the fire hydrant. By the time they got it worked out, the house was completely engulfed. They managed to keep it from spreading to your neighbors.”

“It’s okay”

“You just lost your house. It’s not okay.”

“Today it is.”

She sighed, sensing depression. What she didn’t understand was he wasn’t depressed. He was in love again and that meant something. The memories of his past were a depression that had held him in stasis, inhibited his potential and stopped him from dreaming. Now he was free of that, not of the pain, nor the sorrow, but of the need to keep it so close to him; to harbor it as a part of his being. He felt as if he would not be identified by it anymore.

“I’m guessing you don’t like hospitals.”

He shook his head no.

“Well, I would like to be able to help you get out when the doctor clears you physically, but there are a lot of people that think you are not mentally ready to leave. You were on T.V., you know. Channel 5 ran your story when you left and even posted your picture for a few days. Now your house burned down. I think a lot of people will believe you did that on purpose. That maybe you were trying to kill yourself in that fire.”

He felt exasperated, giving her a sidelong incredulous look. “That was a stupid accident, I wasn’t trying to commit suicide, or burn my house down.”

“Then can you give me something? You don’t have to tell me everything, but since you aren’t suicidal or murderous, I don’t have to reveal what you tell me; in fact I’m bound by ethics to not tell others about it. But since I kind of knew you before all this, or during it or whatever, I would like some closure.”

He thought for several minutes, the both of them remaining in contemplative silence; her hoping he would open up; him trying to decide what to tell her that would not get him thrown in an insane asylum. The more he tried to put his story into words, the more it sounded too fantastical to believe. He was in love with a feral owl, who was already taken by an abusive alcoholic. Yeah, that would not be part of the conversation. The Crazy Rat Queen, who for some reason took care of him, apparently for almost two weeks for no reason he could fathom. Was he really asleep for two weeks? Did she drug him to stay asleep for that time? Did she inject him with narcotics? He closed his eyes at that thought, knowing the hospital would surely have done tests. If his blood came back positive for Cocaine, he might go to jail. Did she use dirty needles, did he have AIDS now? He had to know more about this woman and her part in his story.

As for Minerva, she would only ever truly be his if Bible Bob released whatever hold he had on her. And it looked like he was going to be spending more time on trails at night. He would have to be more careful, perhaps protect himself better.

First, he would have to get out of the hospital, and Avè was the one who he would have to convince he wasn’t crazy.

He began talking, telling her again how he had come to befriend an owl, how the owl had been eating the rats in the area, released by a woman addicted to Cocaine. He didn’t want the owl to eat the rats since he was pretty sure she was feeding the rats Cocaine as well. So he had raised healthy rabbits and was bringing those to her, and like a handler, used them to form a friendship with her.

He was worried that the rabbits he was raising would die when he heard he had been in the hospital for days, so he had to leave and since he assumed his car was still by the trail head where he was attacked he took a cab down there. He did want to see if the owl was ok, so he went down the trail to see if he could find her, but he passed out.

He woke up and was on an old ladies’ couch. She seemed as if she was suffering Alzheimer’s or dementia, but had apparently taken care of him. He left there and retrieved his car, then headed home. His rabbits were dead, and he was cold and miserable. He cleaned his wounds with alcohol and remembered spilling it. He lit a candle just before the shower to clean the smell of dead rabbits from the bathroom and guessed that the alcohol caught fire.

That’s when the officer came in and pulled him out. He added that he was panicked and thought he was going to die.

“Altogether, a miserable week.” He concluded sardonically, closing his eyes and shaking his head slightly in mock disbelief. “And since I haven’t shown up to work for the better part of a month, I guess I don’t have a job now either.”
“Well, Officer Buhle found where you work and told them what happened. Both Times. I’m sure they put you on medical leave, so I wouldn’t worry about that. If you like I can follow up with them and give them an update.”

He honestly didn’t care about his job. Pie charts, organizing data, emails, water quality. There was nothing creative about what he did, nothing passionate inherent in his sense of self-satisfaction; which seemed fine until recently.

Avè’s eyes moved about, downcast, looking at nothing in particular as she put the pieces into place. “So everything is just coincidence? I don’t mean to pry, but you have been dishonest with me before.”

“That would be because I don’t generally like psychologists.”

“Well if you want someone else, I can go get Helga…? A wry Cheshire grin crept onto her features.

“Heh, yeah, no thanks. I may not like psychologists, but you seem nice. Let’s leave Helga where she is.”

“Alright, I’m going to go write a bunch of technical stuff. See how much work you make me do?”

“At least I help you pay the bills.”

“Yeah, right. I’m going to send in Officer Buhle. He’s been waiting around for you to wake up.”

“Isn’t he off shift?”

“Yep. I’ll see you later.”

Officer Kerry Buhle entered in plain jeans and a light-green plaid button down shirt. The first thought when weeing him like this was that the man didn’t carry himself like a cop, he walked more like a normal person. Though he was undoubtedly tall and strong, there was a humility in his walk, a self-assured intelligent nobility that didn’t come close to bordering on vanity.

“I wanted to see how you were.” His voice was noble and resonant. A born leader.

“You kept me from dying, and you risked yourself to do it… Thank you.”

“Well, I’m just glad I was there in time. You seem like a nice guy.”

Uncomfortable silence.

“Look I know it probably wasn’t my place, but when you went missing I looked up your record. Not even a traffic ticket. But I did find that you were married, and I know what happened. I’m sorry.”

He lay in the hospital bed looking at the officer for a moment before closing his eyes.

“I don’t talk about that.”

“I.. I know, I just wanted you to know. If you need anything. Someone to talk to, a cup of coffee. Well, I’m here and I care what happens to people.”

Kerry placed his card on the table next to him. “I wrote my personal number on there. Use it, doesn’t matter what time it is. Just don’t think you don’t have options.”

Next to the card, he placed the black wallet that was stolen. “We pulled prints from this and have a warrant out for the guy that took it. The other guy is still in the hospital. He had to have surgery to repair his throat. Looks like you saved your own life too. I wouldn’t imagine someone would fight that hard to stay alive just to commit suicide by lighting his house on fire. The fire department agrees that it looks like an accident. Be careful in the future, ok? Your councilor can help you with finding arrangements for a place to stay for a while, your insurance should cover it.”

“Take it easy, I’ll come by again to check on you tomorrow, as long as you don’t pull another Houdini. For my sake and stress, it would be nice if you didn’t.”

He nodded his head and with that, the officer left.

Left with his thoughts, he travelled down the paths of imagination. Potentialities of risk. He was free to do anything now. Everything was lost and he knew what he wanted. It wasn’t all up to him though, and that brought complications.

He thought back the words of Winston Churchill: “Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.”

Never.

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