Limbo

 

 

 

 

 A small part of a short story I wrote back in college…..

I have no recollection on how I got here or where I was.  The old creaking, naked twin bed mattress I was lying on would certainly affect my mobility for the rest of the day.  I knew this before even sitting upright.  Then came the pain.  It began in the front of my head and soon struck like a lightning bolt into the back and sides of my neck.  Groaning, I picked myself up slowly, using the wall to guide my ailing body into a seated position. One window with plain white blinds, a bookcase, a rotary telephone and a bright blinking light….Jesus, that bright blinking light.  It was coming through the blinds, but permeated throughout the room.  It filled the room, came from the walls and infiltrated every angle the room I had in my vision.  Swinging my feet, off of the bed and onto the floor sent a blistering pain into the balls and heels of my feet.

And there was the glass.  A pile of shattered glass lying almost strategically, at the side of this mysterious bed.  I began plucking it out of my feet, and wiping the blood with my now relegated-to-painting college t-shirt.  Through the pain in my head, neck and now feet, my thought process began to try and unravel the mystery of where I was and how I got here.  It seemed quite familiar, but was very bare, almost like my buddy Tully’s frat house, although I didn’t ever remember him showing me this room.  Perhaps somewhere in between the copious amounts and whiskey we had been consuming combined with my ever growing yearning for cheap narcotics, I had somehow forgotten this hollow area of the house.  I swiped the glass aside carefully, making sure not to add yet another set of puncture wounds to my arms and legs and headed towards the window for a clue.

Nothing but that blinking red light was blaring into the window.  It was impossible to see six inches out of the window without that blinding red light, blazing through my corneas and into what felt like the deepest vicinities of my skull.  Quickly, I shut the blinds, looked away and closed my eyes.  Seeing spots, I stumbled a bit and put my right foot directly back into the glass lying next to the bed.  Now writhing in pain, I sat back down and recollected myself.  This had happened before, many a time.  Shit, just last week I woke up in the girl’s dormitory with my pants, wallet and phone nowhere to be found thanks to a overzealous night at McFadden’s pub.  Apparently, I stumbled down some stairs after ignoring the icy conditions and fractured my wrist.  A little glass in the foot was not of perennial concern, but nonetheless a bit offsetting.   When I found out who put it there, revenge would be swift and sweet.

Ok, time to go downstairs and find out where the hell I actually am.  But upon leaving I couldn’t help noticing the selection of books placed very neatly in the bookcase, the only other piece of furniture in the room.  They were children’s books, some of which were my absolute favorite growing up as a kid.  Thumbing through them, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Tully.  We had always clowned on him for being dumb, not being able to read, pronouncing words wrong and so forth.  However, flipping through some of these books, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was still doing at school.  I grabbed “Whorton Says a Who” and carried it towards the door for two reasons: 1) It was my favorite book as a child and 2) this issue would be a cornicopio of humorous materials as we all had our afternoon beers.

I couldn’t help chuckling as I opened the door and thought about Tully sneaking up to his secret infantile library to read through some Dr. Seuss.  My good mood was short lived.  I stared down the hallway before me, lit by nothing but a side lamp.  The red light,  was even brighter in this hallway and without any windows visible, this was seemingly impossible.  Down the hallway, standing at the top of some wooden stairs, was a silhouette of a Labrador mix.  It looked like Mac.

Mac was my childhood dog.  When he was nine years old he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor behind his right eye.  Within a month he was blind one eye and obviously in excruciating pain.  The tumor was spreading towards the back of his brain and was beginning to cause slight hemorraghing, giving him headaches beyond what is humanly comprehensible.  My parents rescued Mac the side of a highway intersection when I was one.  At first, they had decided to take him home, contact the ASPCA and then have him professionally placed into what would hopefully be a loving home.  I napped with Mac that first night on our couch as my parents worked the phone and my dog and I spent every moment of my childhood together after that day.  When the veterinarian told me he was having headaches, I refused to let him go.  When he went blind in both eyes, I led him around and handfed him every day.  When he cried incessantly because of the pain in his head, I tried to pet him, placed cold rags on his eyes and sang lullabies to try and make his hurt go away.  Then one day, when I came home from school and my parents had told me that keeping him alive was cruel and they had euthanized him….killed him by sticking a syringe into the main artery in his right leg and sent death shooting through his extremities into his heart.  I never got to say goodbye.

I had dreams about Mac a lot, so now this was starting to make a little bit of sense…I was asleep.  So being asleep I decided to smash my right arm into the mirror to the right of me.  No feeling.

 


Digging the Dead

“The world’s most respected biological scientists and neuro-specialists have finally come to the conclusion that the human’s brain functionality does not end in unison with the human body’s last breath.  One eight of the human brain is designated to continually process and respond to smell, touch, sight and feel even after breath, heartbeat and pulse cease to exist.  The word ‘death’ as we know it no longer exists.” 

–          CNN  News – August 23 – 2024

 

My father and I wiped the mud off of our feet as we entered our home, well after two in the morning.  My mother, cooking mitts and apron still on, rushed us at the door and grasped my grandfather with as loving of a touch I had ever seen her give anyone or anything.

“Tom, can you please grab the pot roast out of the oven and set up the table,” she said through a steady flow of heaving breaths and a steady flow tears. 

The amount of emotion pouring out of my mother scared me to the point that I would presently acquiesce myself to any request of hers.  After all, I had just spent three hours at the Hargrave Cemetery digging through six and a half feet of dirt, mud and bones to retrieve my grandfather’s apparently still somewhat alive corpse in order to bring it home.  The word corpse, according to the news, was no longer acceptable, however, and the thought of being taboo made me feel bad.  I took off my shoes, limped towards the kitchen and began to set up my newly extended family a set of plates and silverware. 

I heard my mother, through intermittent sobs, telling my grandfather how much she missed him, as she stroked his lifeless head.  Meanwhile, my father grabbed a set of his smaller clothes and began to clothe the man we had just dug up.  In doing so, he had to remove many of the maggots, beetles and other creatures that had found their way into my grandfather’s many unprotected orifices over the past two years.  At this point the smell of dying flesh and organs had started to make its way to the kitchen and I was fighting off bouts of dry heaves as I prepared our places for dinner.  I had always hated pot roast and this amplified my disgust to the umpteenth degree.

That dinner, as I remember, was as uncomfortable of a meal as I could have possibly mentally rendered.   My mother couldn’t take her eyes off of my grandfather, who had a glass of Jameson placed in front him.  On the other hand, I was finding it hard to place my eyes on this lifeless, decrepit, rotting body sitting across from me.  At 11, I still wasn’t sure what had occurred in the world of science but I had long understood the meaning of life and death.  The way things happened was so fast that nobody had properly taken the time to explain to me exactly what happened over the last 48 hours.  One minute I was preparing for basketball tryouts, and the next I was part of cemetery looting with the rest of the desperate, gravedigging families looking for their loved ones.  God, I wish all I had to worry about now was making the basketball team. 

The announcement came over the P.A. at school two days ago.  We were all sent home and never told why, nor did we care.  I remember on my way home Billy Cedeno fought Jimmy Breiden and Billy’s nose was bleeding pretty bad.  All of the kids left with Jimmy as he triumphantly walked back home, high fiving his friends and showing our classmates his knuckles.  I walked home with Billy because we had always been in the same classes and he was crying pretty bad so I carried his backpack for him and told him that none of the girls had been there to see the fight.  When we approached his home, I thought he might be in trouble for ruining his new Polo shirt.  Instead, his mother was sitting at the front door, shaking with excitement.  She brushed me aside, hugged Billy and said, “We are going to get to see your father again.”   They hugged and Billy’s nose blood smeared all over her cardigan without consequence.

They went inside and I stood there holding his bookbag in my hands, perplexed.  It was only a few months ago that my father sat me down and explained to me that Billy was going to be very sad for a few months.  Dad explained that his father had passed away and perhaps I should try and be very nice to him in the meantime while he was coming to grips with this tragedy.   How could he and his mother possibly visit his father?  I thought about this all the way to the top of my block and suddenly the reality of day became imminently clear through the blitz of cop sirens, beeping and people hugging and sobbing.

I was handed a shovel when I arrived at my door.  This was nothing new, because I had always been given some kind of a chore whenever I came home from school.  In all honesty, I was happy to  grab a shovel as opposed to a dust pan, lawnmower, cleaning product, hedge trimmer or a list for the grocery store.  My exuberance, however,  was cut short when my mother told me that my grandfather was coming home and I needed the shovel as part of this confusing mission.   It isn’t as if I had ever hated him, but as a child the smell of whiskey and cheap cologne had always driven me away from him and to our basement, where I would pretend to be asleep or playing with toys a few years too immature for me. He used to tell me about his war stories, always focusing on the most graphic and sexual parts, in between bouts of laughter and cigarette puffs.  As a child this was off-putting.  Now, for the next 5 hours my father and I would be retrieving him from what I understood to be his “eternal” resting place.  

So here I am, watching Jeopardy with my physically resurrected grandfather, who sits with a dead smirk on his face and a hand on the side of his favorite chair.  All I can think about is how I wish we had spent tonight digging up my childhood dog instead….maybe tomorrow.