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Wandering Souls-4

October 1, 2013

The pain spoke to him as he walked past the main gate and saw that Kevin wasn’t there, in the guard shack.  Dewey and his anger knew Kevin would be inside the warehouse office, the warmer, drier warehouse office.  Theoretically, this made no difference.  Theoretically, the monitors in the warehouse office and the remote cameras made the guard shack redundant.  Theoretically, inside at the central desk you could maintain the base’s security and it was the guard’s option whether he waited between rounds in the shack or office, but Dewey didn’t trust the theory, felt that being out in the guard shack kept him alert and ready to respond.  Dewey rarely went into the central office, even on breaks, and resented Kevin doing so.
“Still raining huh?”
“Yeah.  Before you leave I want to make a round, let you see if anything moves while I’m out there.”
“There was nothing on the quarter after.  Not time to walk it yet.”
“Close enough. I’ll make it quick.”
“All right Dewey,” Kevin said.

But he didn’t make it quick.  He walked slowly along the fence to the old piers and the back gate.  Through the boathouse
and the two other warehouses, the old barracks and mess hall.  He wore an old Army surplus poncho from the office in the rain and it was like walking around in a small room, the rain thumping onto the poncho sounding like it was hitting a roof.  In the hood Dewey, who insisted on walking his rounds no matter what, was effectively deafened by the roar of rain on his head’s roof, blinded by the runoff from the eaves.  He looked hard and poked around with his flashlights beam but could really barely see to walk.
And when he got back, saw that Kevin had left while he was out leaving a note, “Had to go. Meeting someone,” the pain chimed in again fingering his ribs and making itself a home.
The pain, when it was bad, was centered in his chest and echoed in his left arm and up his neck into his jaw.  When it was bad, the pain, he walked it like a dog, up and down, up and down.  And he spoke to it.  “You shit,” he said.  “You fucking shit.”
That night, after Kevin left, he was walking his pain in the depot building waiting for whoever it was who had been breaking in, wanting to catch them and break them some, just a little, before the police showed up, as alway, too late to do anything but take them away, if he was there to hold them.  He
knew he had to be careful, not to hurt them too much.  Sometimes, when the outrage was in him, he had trouble keeping himself in place.  He couldn’t have another assault beef without doing time, judges and lawyers had told him that and the agony checked in suddenly pushing his ribs out and pulling the blood from his face.  Not trusting his legs he sat, on the floor leaning against a wall and pulled out a Lucky Strike cigarette.  He lighted it, inhaled deeply and said to his fucked up heart, “There you bastard, take a hit of that.”  And as he spoke he looked up into the eyes of the black kid, the tall, thin black kid in a knit cap looking at him from across the loading dock, peeking up over a pile of boxes at him and Dewey was up then, running, saying, “Motherfucker, motherfucker when his chest fell in on itself silencing him, he thought forever, toppling him, the pressure surging up through clavicles and neck and into his skull until he could feel his soul spewing out the top of his head and he hit the ramp, hit the ramp’s slope so hard enough to bounce, bounce and hit again and slide, slowly, feeling each tiny lump and pit in the concrete and they passed, finally the gritty surface of the slab catching at him halted his descent and he lay looking up into the rafters, seeing there an astonishing intricacy of line and shadow, light and dark and
thinking he’d never realized how many shades of black there were when he heard a voice, a woman’s voice speaking another language, a singing tongue of tones and rhythms quiet, clear and serene voice coming through, not over the sound of his own frenzied and unsuccessful attempts to pull oxygen into lungs made of concrete, saying to him, “Don’t worry. Look up.”  Then the boy’s face suddenly plunged into his narrowing vision, a thin face, the fine work of the skull evident under the smooth, taupe skin; a long nosed, carefully shaped face you’d expect more on a Greek statue than on a break-in punk, the face under the pulled down knit cap saying to him, “Shit man.”  Then being snatched away and, looking up, he heard the kid say “shit man” again, this time from far away and followed by, from even farther away, the sound of breaking glass and slamming wood, but Dewey didn’t worry about that or the continuing struggle of the organism on the slab, that mass of biology he seemed to have less and less attachment to, as the lady had told him not to.
He felt attracted to the play of light and dark above him, obsessed by it and wanting nothing more than to join it, to observe and learn and take part.  Reaching out, he felt he was getting closer to the shifting patterns, seemed to have made a pact with gravity rising like a curl of cigarette smoke,
understanding at once that oxygen was no longer a care for him and that he could feel minute shadings of light and dark on his skin, realized he was about to breach a new and unexpected reality when the lady touched his shoulder and he heard her singing voice for the second time.  “Not yet,” it said.  “Be patient.”
He fell back into his ringing skull, looking down across his frozen chest, feeling the chill of oxygen pumping into his nostrils.  They were poking him or pinching him or something, and calling his name.
“Dewey, Dewey, wake up!”
“Dewey, look at me,” and he did, into a very white and blotched face, a woman’s face but not the lady.  A woman in black combat fatigues fussing with something and he felt the straps around his head and the weight of the oxygen mask on his face and a tugging presence in his right arm he understood was an IV needle.
“You’re going to be all right,” the woman said.  “We’re taking good care of you.”  He was elevated and moving, the white faced woman in black walking fast to keep up and he understood he was on a gurney, bumping and lurching out of the warehouse, to an ambulance he guessed, strapped to it like one of those
storybook trophies hunters bring home tied to a pole.  He looked around as they came outside into the hard, fake light of the security lighting and saw another woman, this one slightly beyond youth and Asian; a slender and short woman with hair darker than the night hanging straight to her waist, a small Asian woman in a long ivory dress who smiled at him, lifted her right hand and Dewey knew that was her, the lady, and thought she was the most lovely person he’d ever seen.  The white faced woman in black told him, “We’ve got you now Dewey.  It’ll be all right.”
Mumbling under the mask, Dewey tried to say, “I know,” but the woman in black told him not to try to talk.

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