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Wandering Souls-9

October 6, 2013

     He saw/felt it again, just a sliver of movement at the tail of his eye and the slight fingering of disturbed air against his cheek and ear and in trying to quickly jerk around and look, got his crutches tangled and was going down, one more time, onto the deck, but this time Kevin, who had tracked Dewey relentlessly from the hospital to the nursing home and came to visit, a surprise, was there and caught him saying, “Whoa” and Dewey, dangling like a broken doll from his hands, said, “I didn’t know you were that strong.”
      “You okay?” Kevin said as he set Dewey back up on top of his feet and equipment.
     “Yeah.”
     “What happened, just lose balance or what?  You jumped like you’d seen a snake.”
     “You want to hear something wild?”
     “What’s that?”
     “I’ve been seeing a ghost.”
     “A what?”
     “A ghost, a spirit.  I guess that’s what you’d call her.”
     “It’s a woman?”
     “Yes.”
     Kevin looked at the floor, thinking and pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket.
     “We’ll have to go out front, you want to smoke,” Dewey said.
     “Okay.  You ready for a smoke?”
     “Sure.”
     They turned and headed up the hall toward the foyer and the big double glass doors, Kevin walking slowly beside the lurching Dewey.
     “You scared of it?”
     “No,” Dewey said.  “She’s not frightening.”
     Kevin pulled the right hand door open, held it as Dewey worked his way out.
     There was a bench out there, off to the right and cement ashtrays all flanked by signs warning everyone not to dare smoke
anywhere but in this designated area and Dewey and Kevin sat side by side, began to light up.
     “You see her all the time?”
     “No.  Once in a while.  She’s spoken to me, once or twice.”
     “What’s she look like?”
     “Pretty.  Beautiful with that long black hair, you know, running straight down, nearly to the floor.”
     “So she’s, what, Asian?”
     “Yeah.”
     “You tell your doctor?”
     “No.  Shit Kevin.  Doctors.  They’d just think it’s some kind of delusion, brain damage from the stroke or a drug side effect or something.  Just give me more pills till I can’t see anything.”
     “That’s it then.  Just something from the attack.  It’ll go away.”
     “I had a girl friend once, when I was in Vietnam,” Dewey said.  “She had that long, black hair.   Heavy, thick.  Must have weighed a couple pounds.  You know, I never thought about it then.”
     “About what?”
     “About the weight of her hair.  She used to say she wanted to cut it, that it was too much trouble, but I loved it.  She
wore it long to make me happy.  I wonder if it made her tired, carrying it?  Anyway, sometimes when she moved, turned around or got up out of bed and I was close to her, there was this breeze, her hair made it.  Her hair moving as she moved, stirring the air.  Sometimes I felt that and that’s what I’ve been feeling lately.  For no reason.”
     “Like a little breeze?”
     “Yeah, a little breeze coming out of nowhere.”
     “A draft maybe?”
     “Yeah, I guess.  A draft.”
     “Yeah.  Probably.  Was she nice?”
     “Who?”
     “Your girl friend, in Vietnam?”
     “Yeah, she was nice.”
     “I went to school with a girl from Vietnam.  You know, adopted.”
     “Was she nice?”
     “Yeah.  She was nice.  Pretty too.  Man, I would have liked taking her out.”
     “Ever ask her?”
     “Oh, no.  She wouldn’t have wanted to go out with me.”
     “You should have asked her.”
     “Yeah, I should have.  You coming back to work?”
     “Doesn’t look like it.  They’ve got me on disability.  Doctors don’t think this is going to get better any time soon.”
     “One thing,” Kevin said.  “Now you can spend more time with your dad.”
     “Dad died last year.”
     “Oh.”  Kevin was quiet a moment, pulling on his smoke, then said, “You see.  Damn it Dewey.  There’s no knowing you.  Like some damn hermit.  Why’s everything so private with you?”
     “I just don’t like to shoot my mouth off all the time.”
     “Okay, okay.  Listen, is there anybody you need me to call?  Any family or anything.”
     “No.”
     “Nobody?”
     “Nobody,” Dewey said.  “Look, I’ve got to go to therapy pretty soon.”
     “All right,” Kevin said.  “I’ll come back and see you again.”
     “I won’t be here that long,” Dewey said.
     He began to understand that he would never see her directly, that her form was only manifested in a glance or out of the corner of his eye.  She denied a straight gaze.  She was plain only in shadow and reflection, hidden by a stare or harsh light and he tried to keep his eyes unfocused and to concentrate on peripherals as he pulled himself through his day.
     “Looking good,” Miss May said to him as he stumped into the cafeteria.
     Miss May in her chair was a plump thing with thin, thin legs and arms coming out of a fat little body, the fine, slender neck and head atop her looking out of place.  She had the palsy in her limbs and couldn’t feed herself or do much of anything but sit and quietly smile amidst her jerking limbs.  She was a bright and cheerful lady in her chair with her dependency and Dewey first began sitting beside her at meals and then, as she waited for the aides to get around to her, feeding the old lady as well.
     Dewey worked his way to their table; still on crutches, but moving much more quickly, surely and the staff were happy with his progress, though he was pissed he hadn’t thrown the crutches out and gotten a cane yet.  They told him to be patient.
     He pulled his chair out, halfway fell into it, said, “Right.”
     When Miss May was up and between meals they parked her in front of the nurses station where she could see into the TV room and down the two halls; she liked keeping an eye on the place and she would talk to Dewey as he labored up and down the halls trying to get his right side to wake up.
     Miss May, looking past Dewey, smiled a bit more widely and nodded, then said sideways in a half whisper to Dewey, “Who is she?”
     “Who is who maam?” Dewey said.
     “The lady, the lady that visits you.”
     “What lady?”
     “For goodness sakes Mr. Loch.  She’s right there.  Just as pretty, such a lovely smile.”
     Dewey looked at Miss May, said, “I don’t know who you mean.”
     “You don’t see her.  I understand now.  You can’t see her yet.  You are wound too tight Mr. Loch.  You’ll never see her acting that way.  She’s here with you.  Someone you used to know?”
     “No, no.  She’s nothing to be afraid of.”
     “Oh I know that.”  The little lady looked up at Dewey with dancing eyes.  “I certainly know that.  She’s just as sweet as anything.”
     “Yes maam,” Dewey said.  “She certainly is.”
     “That smile,” Miss May said.  “Such a wonderful smile.  Makes me warm and happy.  When I was little my daddy had a bible, a big thing full of pictures.  He kept it on the coffee table in the living room.  There was one big picture in there of our Savior.  Not of any of his miracles or anything, just Him standing there looking at you and smiling.  Such a smile, full of love.  Made me feel good just to look at it.  When I was afraid of something or lonely, or had got in trouble and everyone was mad, I’d just go look at that picture and I knew it would be all right.”
      “That was years and years ago.  I’d forgotten that Bible, that picture until I saw your friend and she smiled at me.  I remembered then.”

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