Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Improbable Contrivance (or: To Arms)

And he confided further, "In those days, I didn't understand anything. I should have judged her according to her actions, not her words. She perfumed my planet and lit up my life. I should never have run away! I ought to have realized the tenderness underlying her silly pretensions. Flowers are so contradictory! But I was too young to know how to love her."

A yawn interrupted her and Casey closed Utah Memorial Hopsital's copy of The Little Prince in her lap. Twice she cracked the tightness in her neck before settling her feet - warmed by the fluffiest pink slippers the gift shop had to offer at $3 a pair - on the edge of the hospital bed. She studied the ridges and valleys Joe's legs formed beneath the teal-colored bed sheets, her eyes acutely scanning him for the slightest jerk or twitch.

The machine to her right sputtered again, causing her heart to skip a beat and the air to choke in her throat. After a moment it settled and resumed its metered hum, but she swore - up and down and across her life - that Joe coughed every time it did this. She considered calling the nurse once more to check the wires that connected Joe to this clearly deficient device, but the fact that he continued to breathe - just as before - settled her to keep waiting.

"Wake up, bitty," she mumbled.

"Hey," came a familiar voice from behind.

Mali rapped twice on the doorframe before striding in. Parker, his hands woefully shoved in his pockets, approached soon after. He appeared shaken up, though mostly just damp from the rainstorm outside.

"Hey," Casey nodded before embracing Mali. Mali clutched at Casey's shoulders and then was still - waiting for Casey's tears that would not come. After an uncomfortable surplus of moments, Mali tentatively released Casey and offered a perplexed look.

Parker, however, broke the unspoken exchange when he inquired, "Is he going to die?"

"Parker!" Mali hissed. Parker winced at her scolding and edged away from them.

"He's going to be all right, he's just out right now. The doctor said he'd probably wake up before dawn, so I was waiting up with him."

"Oh," Parker responded, sounding strangely disappointed at the news.

"So what happened?" Mali pressed.

"A car," Casey replied.

"Whose car?"

"Someone's car -- an asshole's car."

"Gordon has a car?"

"Not Gordon's car. Where is Gordon?"





"Not sure."


Mali raised a hand to stop her and produced the envelope and the letter from the deep wells of her coat. Casey snatched the contents from Mali's hands and studied them. When she finished, she peered up at her friends, her mouth hung agape.

"What the fuck?"

"Language!" Parker insisted.

"That was sort of my reaction," Mali nodded. "The 'what the fuck' part, at least."

Casey sank into her chair and held a hand to her forehead.

Baby girl, when it rains, it pours - and when it pours, God's shitting on you.

In all the furor of Joe's accident, Gordon's disappearance, Mali and Parker's bewildering predicament, and now the advent of an unseen stalker following her halfway across the western United States, Casey felt decidedly numb toward the death that dwelt within her. She had read, years ago, that women who get abortions will often feel a hole inside themselves - a missing piece of what once was, now hollowed and left empty.

As Mali returned her attention to the screen of her device and Parker continued shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Casey bit at her lip and wondered why she didn't feel empty.

"Okay, so," Mali began, squinting at her PDA. "Immigration's offices aren't too far from here."

"I can't walk anymore," Parker whined.

"We could get a taxi, or maybe take a bus. I wonder if people still work the desk at immigration holding cells at four in the morning?"

Parker sighed and leaned against the nearest piece of furniture to illustrate his passive-aggressive point. To his later dismay, the nearest piece of furniture -- the sputtering box of wires Casey had tussled with all night -- toppled over, bringing Parker to the floor right along with it. Wires pulled free of Joe's body, speckling the bed and walls with tiny constellations of blood. Parker screamed for help as the tangle of wires threatened to consume him, his writhing only serving to entangle him further.

Casey, her eyes as wide as dinner plates, shouted for a nurse. Mali simply stood there in silence, awestruck.

"You fucking idiot, you're going to kill him!" Mali finally managed.

"Kill who?" Joe hoarsely mumbled as he rubbed thick, sticky sleep from his eyes.

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