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Crumple Zone

By Philip N. Brown


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Lynn pinned the telephone between her ear and right shoulder.  I began cleaning kitchen, hoping to catch one side of the conversation.  She didn’t move, and only said things like OK, yeah, and alright. 

She said good-bye and I asked her who she was talking to. 

“My dad,” she said and leaned against the refrigerator, arms crossed.

“Oh,” I said as I emptied the dust pan, “What did Joe have to say?”

She paused, spun her wedding ring around her finger, and said, “I don’t know what is going on.  He was different.”

I began emptying the dish washer and waited for her to continue. 

“He’s changing, I think,” she said.  “It’s not just age either, you know?  It’s like he had an epiphany, and now realizes how important his family is.”

“I think he knows how important family is.  He tried to run me off, remember?”

“Tony,” she said as she dropped her hands by her side, “yeah, maybe he does, but you couldn’t tell by the things he says, or doesn’t say.”

“What did he say?” I asked.

“That he loved me.”

I paused, holding four plates in my hands and said, “Oh.”

“I thought maybe he was going to say he was dying, but if he was sick, Mom would have said something,” she said, wiping her eye with a finger.  She continued, “He asked if they could come down for Easter.”

“Does he want to take me to church?” I asked, trying to conceal a smile.

“Don’t start,” she said, sounding testy.

“No, I’m not.  I wouldn’t mind going.  I’ve been to mass before, a bunch of times.  How different could Mormon mass be?  Maybe a little more blonde…”  She caught me smiling.

“Yeah, but they’d hold an emergency baptismal in your honor, to wash the brown off,” she said.  She wiped both eyes now on the backs of her hands.  I went to her and put my arms out.  She turned her head against my chest as I put my arms around her shoulders.

A moment passed and she said, “So is it OK?  Can they come?”

“Well, yeah, of course,” I said.  “Josie and Camille are going to go crazy.  When’s the last time they were here, Christmas, what, four years ago?”

She nodded, and said, “He kind of scared me.”

“What do you mean,” I asked.

She said, “He talked like he was dying and wanted to say good-bye before it was too late.  I always imagined I’d hear it only once, and on his death-bed.  I didn’t like hearing it over the telephone, it seemed, I don’t know, cheap.” 


The next morning I fed the dogs and chickens, and started breakfast.  While it cooked, I woke everybody up, Lynn first, then the girls.  I opened the bedroom door, and slid across the tiles until I stood beside her. With a finger, I gently pulled her hair over her ear, exposing the pearl earring I gave her when she went back to work.  I bent over and gently kissed the edge of her ear.  With the back of my hand, I stroked her check.  She stretched, curled and stretched again.

“Morning, Baby. Sleep well?”

She groaned through a long stretch before going completely limp.  I kissed her forehead as she squeezed the back of my arm.

In Josie and Camille’s room I turned on the light, and positioned myself in the middle of the room.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen,” I said like an airplane pilot, “Come on, it’s Saturday and we have to go to the North Pole.  Santa is waiting for us to round up his reindeer.  He needs reindeer cowboys,” I made it up as I went.

“Daaad,” Josie protested, squinting her eyes in the light.

Camille chuckled from beneath her Pooh Bear covers and said, “He’s silly, it’s Thursday.”

“Come on girls, rise and shine, let’s get ready for school. Don’t dawdle.”

I stepped into the hall.  The smell of Lynn’s soaps and shampoos reminded me of times when we’d gone to fancy dinners, our first date, our honeymoon and things like that.  If it weren’t a work day or a school day, I would have climbed in the shower with her. 

After breakfast, the girls brushed their teeth, checked to see they had everything for school, and then we walked to the bus stop.

“Here,” I said and handed each of them a piece of gum.

Josie said, “We’re not supposed to have gum on the bus.”

“It’s alright.  You’re only taking it to school.  Then you can do what you want with it.  If I were a little boy at school, I’d trade it for something at lunch.”

When I returned, Lynn asked, “They said they’d call today, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, “about three, they said.  Hopefully it will be good news, hopefully they’ll hire me.  I don’t like you having to drive all the way to Tucson everyday for work.”  I looked at my watch.

“It’s time, honey,” I said.

“I guess so,” she sighed, came to me and said, “Give me a kiss-bye.”

“Be careful,” I said after kissing her.  “Got any requests for dinner?”

She waited a moment, gave me another kiss and said, “More of that.”

I stood and watched her tail lights dip over the edge of the driveway. 

After Lynn left, I watered the trees in the back yard.  Like cancer, summer’s heat had crept in sometime in the past week.  The fruitless mulberry trees we planted made dense shade, but their leaves were curling.  I stood under their canopy as I watered and looked to the other side of the narrow valley. 

The animals had found cool places to wait out the heat of the day.  The birds were quiet, holed up somewhere dark and cool.  The dogs panted in freshly turned dirt beds.  The tall eucalyptus trees stood silent, not a leaf moved.  Only the turkey vultures braved the heat.  They thrived on it. 

From the first time I saw them, I enjoyed watching the vultures fly. I like to see them making big loopti-loops.  And when a thermal takes one low, its vast wing span sends an enormous silhouette across the valley floor like a fighter plane.  Some people are freaked out by it, they think it’s ominous, I think it’s beautiful.

I finished watering when I heard a phone.  The crushed granite crackled just enough to drown out the ring.  I stopped mid-step, turned my head, and strained to hear if it was my phone; it was.

I ran into the house, leaving the French doors open.  Please be about a job, I thought.  I picked up the phone and heard a click on the other line.  Damn it, probably just a telemarketer wanting to sell long-life light bulbs anyway.  I put the phone down but hadn’t let go when it rang again.

“Hello?” Could be the same person that just called?

“Is there a,” the woman paused, “Al Gonzalez there?” Gonzalez was spoken with a remarkable Caucasian accent.

“Nope, sorry lady, wrong number,” I said and hung up the phone. Al Gonzalez, my initials, A., L., Antonio Luis.  It was always good for a laugh.

The phone rang again.  My God, what now?  After two rings I answered.

“Tony, oh man, I’m glad you’re there. Listen, shit…”

“Brad?” Why was Brad calling me? I hadn’t talked to Brad since…since he got too drunk and flirted with Lynn.

“Yeah, it’s me, Tony. Listen, there’s been an accident. Some snowbirds were driving around not watching where they were going, gawking at birds or some shit. I just left Garretts and saw it. It was right there in front me.”

Why the hell he was telling me this, what did I care? “Yeah, shouldn’t the snowbirds be back in Wisconsin or where ever by now?  So it was a bad one, huh?” What the hell did he want?

“Yeah, I think they already took her away, the Volvo is torn open.”

The Volvo, our Volvo, Lynn’s car?

“You there buddy?” Brad asked after a moment.

“You mean,” I paused, “Lynn’s car?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I…I know it is,” he stammered, then more quickly, “Christ, it’s her car, it was her!”

“Where, how bad? Where was it, Brad?”

“Right here, on the overpass. But Tony, listen…”

I didn’t.


Pools of oil and antifreeze with islands of various colors of glass and plastic bore witness to the violence.  The severity of the accident and the dimensions were beyond my comprehension.  The vehicles had been moved, but I could see where it happened.  There were shards of glass and plastic strewn randomly around the over-pass.  Blood puddled beyond the largest pool of anti-freeze.  The blood looked slick and dark.  But it wasn’t Lynn’s blood, she had been stuck in the car.  The wishbone frame caved in around her, keeping her safe, that’s what happened. That’s what they were supposed to do.  That’s why they had to cut her out.  Then it struck me, the tire tracks – there weren’t any.  They had to have seen her, had to have hit the brakes.

I looked at the smashed suburban, Michigan plates.  It didn’t register, nothing quite fit with what was possible. 

A female officer came to me and said, “Sir, you have to…”

“Lynn. Where’s Lynn?” I stepped from my truck and it rolled away.  She grabbed at the door, but it tore from her hands.  The truck sped up.  The officer with cupped hands said, “Watch out!”   It rolled over the curb and stopped in the embankment.

“Don’t you move,” she said, before yelling, “Everybody OK?  Someone turn off that truck.”  Then back to me, grabbing my arm above the elbow, “Come over here sir, let’s have a talk.”

She led me to the sidewalk, across from the section they’d petitioned off from traffic.

“Where is she?”

“Sir, have you been drinking? We’ve already had one...” I cut her off as she brought out a pair of hand cuffs.

“No. Lynn, she’s the one in the car, the accident, my wife.  Where is she?  My wife was in that accident. Is she OK?”

The officer paused, the crease in her brow relaxed.  She said to me, “You are,” and paused, collecting the name, “mister,” another short pause, “Gonzalez?”

“Yes, and my wife is Lynn.  She was on her way to work.   I want to know where she is.”

She paused, then looked at me and said, “Stay here,” and left ignoring my objections.

I waited on the curb.  I heard talk about the crazy asshole and the truck, then the talk grew quiet.  I wanted a cigarette, though I hadn’t had one in twelve years.

A shadow grew around me. “Mr. Gonzalez, please stand up, come on.”

I squinted my right eye and peered up.  “You know where Lynn is?”

“Please sir, stand up.” He waited, then said, “Alright, I’ll sit down.  I’m Sergeant Hernandez.”

He sat beside me, too close.  He wore too much cologne.  I wanted to talk to the lady cop, she was better.  She brought this guy over, which meant something worse than Lynn just going to Holy Cross for precautionary reasons.

“Can I call you Tony?”

“Don’t call me anything, just tell me where she is?  I want to go be with her.”

“Tony,” he paused to check his heavy looking watch, “That suburban ran right into your wife, well her car.  I don’t know what they’re doing down here this time of year, but they weren’t paying attention and they need a light here, but…”

“She’s been taken to Holy Cross,” the lady officer said.

Sergeant Hernandez looked up at her as I stood.

“How is she?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Gonzalez, there was nothing they could do for her.  They tried for nearly forty five minutes.” She said it, just like that. There it was, bold-faced, a lie.

I didn’t say anything.  The two cops didn’t move.  The stinky fat-ass just sat there, and the bitch cop just looked at me, wearing a stupid, ‘we’ve done all we can,’ face.

“Sir, would you like me to call someone for you, someone to give you a ride?  We’ll need to take care of some things later, but right now, let’s get you away from here.”

I didn’t need a ride, I’d take my truck.


“No, where’s my truck?”

“In the ditch, it looks stuck. We’ll have some tow trucks here, I’ll have them take it to your residence if you like.”

Lynn was what I’d like.

The lady officer drove me home.  She talked, but I didn’t listen.  Then she asked if I had children, not plural, but I, me.  I didn’t answer.

When we got to the house, she walked with me to the door, talking about the unfortunate things I had to do and how sorry she was for me.  As I opened the front door and stepped in, she said, “Mr. Gonzalez, if you need anything…” and I shut the door.

I remember hearing the school bus pull away, and then Josie and Camille entered the house.  They giggled as they skipped into the kitchen. When they saw me, the giggling died.

“What’s the matter Papa?” Camille asked.

Pulling up with a handful of my shirt until she had a knee hitched over my leg, Camille climbed in my lap.  I swallowed her in my arms, almost violently and began to sob.  I startled her at first, but then she laughed, thinking I was tickling her.

Josie said, “What’s wrong Papa?”

I couldn’t tell them, not yet.  What would I say? Didn’t matter anyway, I just couldn’t.  I knew it was proper to call Lynn’s family and I was shirking my duty.  I couldn’t though.  If I told, it would be real. It couldn’t be real. It was a bold-faced lie.  The crumple zone protected her.  The paramedics had taken her to get a few stitches and then she’d be at work.  She’s such a trooper.  She’d come home later tonight and it would be fine.

Camille wriggled and writhed, trying to get away.

“Did a coyote get Chicken Jane?” Josie asked. Chicken Jane was her favorite hen.  I shook my head yes, and they both came to me, close against me and we cried.  Eventually I controlled myself, put them down and told them to go play.

I sat at the table while they played.  I didn’t move, didn’t think.

“Is it dinner time yet?” Camille asked.  I looked at the clock and it was just past 6:30.

“Yeah, ask Josie to make some PB&J’s, ok?”

They ate in the living room and watch Cartoon Network.  The television provided the only light in the house.  I watched the shadows of their round little heads cocked up at the television stretch into the dining room.  

After they brushed their teeth for bed, I said, “Your mother won’t be here to tuck you in tonight, but go ahead and get in bed, I’ll do it.”

Camille asked why not and I told her, “She’ll just be late, that’s all.” 

The next morning Josie pulled on my sleeve, waking me.  I lifted my head from the table then wiped my lip and squinted at the morning sun slicing through the open blinds.  I rubbed the back of my neck and pivoted my head from side to side. 



“Someone is outside.  Are we late for school Papa?”

I patted her head and told her to brush her teeth.  She said, “But I’m hungry.”

“Well, have breakfast then, whatever you want.”

“Can I have…”

I stopped her, “Yes.”

Rafa, the tow truck driver, had his hands shoved past the wrist into his pockets and stared at his feet which he used to poke at the gravel.  He’d already unloaded my truck, though I hadn’t heard anything, not the truck or the dogs or even the roosters earlier.

“Rafa,” I said.

He shook his head, and said, “Triple A?”

“No, What do I owe you?”

“Sixty,” He looked at the gravel he was kicking, and then said, “I’m sorry about what happened yesterday.”

“Papa?” Josie said, standing bare-foot on the side walk, at the corner where it bent around the edge of the garage.

“Go back inside darling,” I said.

“Can I have...”

With more emphasis this time, I said, “You heard me, now get on in the house, hurry up.”

I waited to hear the door close before reaching in my pocket and pulling out three twenty dollar bills.

“Keys in it?” I said as I handed him the cash.

“Yeah, just sign this,” he handed me a clipboard with a release form on it.

I signed and went inside.  The tow truck beeped methodically as it backed down the driveway.  It was an annoying, machine-like sound.

Inside I called Josie.  “Josie, do me a favor will ya? I’m not feeling so good.  Will you take your sister and feed the dogs for me this morning?”

“Papa, are we in trouble?”

“What? No, why?”

“I heard that man talking to you and it sounded bad and you’re acting all mad. I didn’t mean to miss the bus this morning. I’m sorry.”

I put my hand on her little head, and felt her fine hair.   It lay flat and soft, a little tangled.  I ruffled it until it poked up through my fingers.

“No, that was about the truck, it broke yesterday.  Don’t you worry about school, I’ll take you in a little bit.  Get Camille now and go get started please.”

“OK Papa, is Mom up yet?” she asked.

The little muscles at the end of my chin danced, but I bit down hard, forced a swallow and said, “She left for work a while ago, hurry on now.”

I walked to the kitchen, noting how hot the sunshine made it in there.  I’d have to hook up the swamp cooler soon.

I opened the refrigerator door. Right in front of the orange juice sat Lynn’s coffee creamer.  The little bottle on the biggest shelf, right in front of the things I needed to get at, placed exactly where I can’t slide the juice around it without spilling the creamer.  I almost recited, “Hun, the creamer is right in the…,” but didn’t.

I closed the door softly and opened a cupboard to get a glass.  I filled it from the sink and rummaged through another cabinet looking for ibuprofen for my neck.  The fat white bottle sat centered behind the cabinet door.  I grabbed it.  As I pulled it down, my eyes fixed on a fresh bottle of Jack Daniels.  My tongue grew wet from beneath as I stood holding the cabinet door with my left hand and my right on the counter top with a 300 pill bottle of ibuprofen in it.

The phone rang. I stared at the bottle, filled with warm, tempting escape.  It rang again.  I closed the cupboard door, popped the top off of the ibuprofen, and threw four pills into my mouth, then chased them with a gulp of cold water.  The water hit my empty stomach hard, followed by a rising metallic taste in my mouth.  The phone rang again as a cramp twisted my stomach.  I put the glass down, and leaned on my hands against the counter. The phone rang again, followed by a mechanical male voice saying, “Please leave a message, after the tone,” then a long “beep.”

“Mr. Gonzalez, this is officer Drewer,” it was the lady cop. “I would like to speak with you this morning. Please call me at,” and she left her number.

As she left the number I thought, why doesn’t she leave me the hell alone?  I clinched my stomach and scurried to the bathroom. I left the water and four pills in the toilet.  Leaning against the porcelain, one hand under my shirt on my stomach, the other draped along the edge of the toilet, my forehead resting on my arm. I thought of Lynn’s coffee creamer in front of the orange juice and the milk.  The creamer could stay there forever, I thought.

The smell of Camille’s sun-drenched hair filled the room as she entered.  She asked, “What are you doing?”

I sat up straight, flushed the toilet again and stood.  I walked past her and told her to come on.  I’d take them to school.

“I didn’t eat breakfast yet,” she said.

“Thought I told you to have whatever you wanted. Why didn’t you eat?”

“You told Josie.”

“Get a breakfast bar and get ready, ok?”

When I got back home it was almost eleven o’clock. I went straight for the cabinet with the ibuprofen...and the Jack Daniels.  I set the ibuprofen on the counter and pulled out the Jack Daniels.  I unscrewed the lid and sucked down three or four large gulps. It hit my stomach like the water did, but the cramps never came. Instead, warmth flooded through me.  While closing the door, I saw a bottle of Vicodin in the back corner. My neck did hurt like hell, so I grabbed it and took two, chased by another gulp of Jack. No hit in the gut this time, just a slow burn. I decided to take another pill just incase.

I went to the living room and sat in my chair.  The ceiling fan hummed and the sun blazed a patch of the carpet, making it look white instead of tan.  I looked at the love seat.   Lynn would sit there and read books to the girls, or play Old Maid while I watched football or basketball or baseball, hockey in a pinch, whatever was on.

The phone rang again.  I took a hit from the bottle, now down past the top of the label. It rang again.  Lynn would sit there, legs tucked under her, knees pointing out and say to me, hell, I don’t remember the words, but she’d talk. The ringing stopped, the mechanical voice came on, then the beep.  This time, a man’s voice, very formal, saying something about stopping by the court house, room 203.

I drew hard from the bottle, my eager throat guiding the way.  My hair began to tingle, my eyes felt heavy.  I them and tried to picture Lynn on the love seat. I tried to imagine the last thing she said to me, not goodbye, but the last thing besides that.   She said, more of that, and was talking about me.  I tried to hear it.  Then I replayed memories of her running fingers through her hair, and of her laughing, of her smiling.  The longer I sat with my eyes closed, diving deeper into memory and deeper into Jack Daniels, the more real it seemed.  I could hear her speaking to me from the love seat.  I could hear her voice, she spoke to me.  Then the phone rang.

I took a hit.  It rang again, another hit.  The lady cop left another message, this one not as cordial as before.  She said “urgent.”

“Don’t you come over here, bitch,” I yelled before taking another swig.

“Damnit. Lynn, don’t go, I’m coming right back.”

I leaned back in the chair, closed my eyes and refocused on Lynn doing what she did.  Her image would come, then fade when her voice came to me.  Then I’d smell her, but not see her at all. And I could never feel her, never.  I tried to get back, and as I neared the point before the lady cop called for the second time, the phone rang.

I kept my eyes closed, but sunlight seemed to break through and the world looked pink and blue.  The answering machine beeped, a man spoke, but my eyes remained closed, though things grew brighter.

It was broken, useless.  I opened my eyes, squinting to filter the light.  I rolled the Jack around in the bottle, watching it sway side to side.  The sun had drifted to my legs and heated my jeans.  I put the bottle on the floor and rubbed my palms against my thighs down to my knees hard enough to make my hands burn.

“Lynn,” I said to the room, “hurry up, OK. If you’re not here, I can’t make it alright. I can only make it alright for you. I can’t do it without you, I can’t do it alone.  Your dad was right.  He was right all along.  Damnit, Joe, I’m sorry.  Please, come back, they’ll need you.”

The phone rang, but I didn’t wait for the message, and didn’t take a drink.  I stood slowly, thought about falling back into the chair and trying to get back where I had been, and almost fell anyway, but took the bottle to the kitchen.

I grabbed a glass, the bottle would be too big.  I poured it half full and headed for my bedroom, wanting to shower.  When I opened the door, I nearly dropped my drink.  The room held her, as if she was there.  The bed looked like Lynn just pulled back the covers and had gotten out of bed. She could be in the closet or bathroom. I could smell her. Her lotions and soaps, shampoo and hair stuff were all in there air, like she was wearing them right then. I could see what she’d been doing, too.  Her robe was draped on the back of her reading chair in the corner.  A paperback copy of “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” sat on the chair.  An old photo of us on vacation in the Wasatch Mountains poked through the top.  I leaned against the door jam, my face grew wet, but in silence.  She was in this room.  She haunted it.

I went into the girls’ bathroom and showered, taking my drink in with me, setting it on the window ledge while I used all the hot water.  It’s much safer in here, I thought.  The soap smelled different, the toothbrushes and toothpaste were different.  It wasn’t Lynn in here, it was Josie and Camille and they were just at school.  I could change things in here, and they’d put back to normal.  It was OK to be here.

Naked and wet, I walked back to the kitchen to refill my glass and I heard a voice on the answering machine say, “Tony, Brad told me what happened.  Listen, we’re coming over.  If you’re really not there, then we’ll wait until you get back.  If you are there, we’re coming in, so don’t try and hide.”

I didn’t want Gabe and Maricella there, they had no reason to come, no right.  If people starting nosing around, the place would start to smell like them, they’d move her things, change things from how she last used them.  They’d touch things she touched last.  They would put the creamer inside the refrigerator’s door.   Their smells would cover hers.  They had no right to come, no right.

I went to the telephone, yanked it off of the wall and threw it without aim.  It smashed through the window behind the love seat and it felt good.

The triangles of glass hanging from the frame behind Lynn’s favorite sitting spot stopped me.  Serves you right, you shouldn’t have left, I thought.  Hot blood rose in my face as I forced streams of breath through my nose like a bull, fueling my anger.

I stumbled upstairs and into the extra room.  I yanked clothes from the closet, exposing the small door to the crawl space above the kitchen.  A shoe box sat in the crawl space.  I grabbed it and dropped it on the table by the window, slid the window open and pulled the screen out, bending the aluminum frame.  I dropped the box onto the roof, then stepped out.

Near the edge of the roof, I removed the top of the box. A heavy wood carving of an English Mastiff rested in tissue paper.  I bought it for Lynn’s birthday present, which would’ve been in about a month. I took the carving from the box, tossed the box aside and cocked my hand back.  I wanted this thing to fly as far from the house as I could make it go.

I cocked my arm back, leaned against my back leg and lost my balance, almost falling through the window.  I counter-balanced by leaning forward, but too far.  I never stood again.



I told Joe to come get the girls. I couldn’t take care of them anymore, not like this. Not without Lynn.  I think I did the right thing, but sometimes I’m not so sure.  This is no life for a kid; that’s for sure. Jim Beam is barely a substitute for Jack Daniels, much less a mother.

Joe said, “I cannot begin to imagine what you’re going through, the adjustments you have to make.  I miss Lynn, I miss my daughter, and I know you miss your wife, but I think you could handle it better, I would. Listen,” he continued, “I’ll pray for you, and you pray too.  It’s probably a good idea for us to take care of the girls while you get back…” he was going to say ‘back on your feet,’ I know it, but looked at my chair and said, “used to things.”

“Praying is a waste of time. I never bought it before and I sure as hell don’t now. God has already done enough, don’t you think?”

He punched me, I think it was a hard one, but I couldn’t feel it.  “God isn’t to blame.”

“Well I sure as hell didn’t kill Lynn.”

At first, they’d send letters and pictures and stuff like that.  I hid the refrigerator behind the pictures drawn in crayon on lined paper.  The pictures were three and four deep in places where I had a strong magnet.  I’d sit and stare at them for hours.  I’d pick one off of the fridge for a closer look.  I’d study the shapes and colors and imagine Josie and Camille at a table, hunched over like miniature versions of Lynn, hard at work on this picture, for me.  I don’t know where they are anymore.

Last week Joe called.  He asked if I wanted to come up for Josie’s graduation ceremony. I told him no.  What good would it do?  He said Josie would be upset, but he said so for my benefit.

Once a week the van comes by and takes me to what I call Cripple Club.  The VFW hall filled with carts and chairs and walkers looks like a display hall for a kid’s damn erector set creations gone wild.  For three hours a week I sit there drinking grape Kool-Aid and eating generic wafer cookies served by women in home-made shawls.  There’s always plenty of bitching and moaning to listen to, and occasionally I’ll join in. But mostly, it’s a sad scene.  There are a bunch of broken people with broken spirits, being prodded to happiness and content.  Find peace in Jesus and shit, the women in nurse shoes with their hair up in buns would say.  Hell, even some of the cripples join in the cheer-fest now and then.  I don’t know why I go.

Sometimes we do stupid crafts.  There’s even a writer’s club.  Some cripples wear this strap on their head with a stick poking out of it.  It’s like a pointer, with a little rubber stopper on the end.  They use it to peck around on the keyboard, so they can type.  No thanks.  I’ll just peck along as long as I can with my good hand.  When I start erasing too much with the backspace, I know it’s time to quit.  No dick strapped to my forehead, thank you very much.

I don’t sleep well, no matter how much I drink.  Often I wake from a recurring dream. In my dream, I see Lynn in the desert.  She is walking away from me.  She doesn’t seem to be moving fast, but she is. I call her, tell her, “stop,” but she keeps going. I try to hurry, but can’t.  I look down and see that I’m in a motorized chair, and have no legs.  I’m not sure why this bothers me, the only good my legs do me now is provide a convenient place to strap my piss bag.  But it does bother me; I should at least have legs in my dreams.

I look back up and can barely see her.  I throttle forward as fast as it will go, but I crash, and roll into an arroyo with the cart.  It’s so real I can feel the sand and stickers on my face and left palm.  I crane to see Lynn, but she’s gone.  I scream to her, beg her to stop and come back. Each time, it works the same way. I call and call, but no answer.  She doesn’t wait for me and she doesn’t come back. I start to get mad but the fight is gone out of me.  I lay there and cry.

Dirt cakes on my face as I weep.  A lady from the Cripple Club comes by with a plastic plate of cookies and offers one to me.  I see turkey vultures in the distant sky, riding the thermals, and the tears stop.  The vultures fly the same way, up and down and around, over and over again in the dream, but never coming closer.  I watch them and wait. I wait and wait.  The desert is suddenly filled with wheel chairs and motorized carts, and children dancing around them, playing Ring Around the Rosie.  The vultures swirl on the horizon, the kids dance, sing, fall and disappear, only to sprout like sunflowers and it starts over again.  The lady bends over, says, “Wanna cookie,” and then before I see her stand, bends over and says, “Wanna cookie?”

And nothing changes.  It goes on forever, like a CD player skipping on a song’s last note.




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