There is No Time to Let Your Blood Dry, Part II

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This is the second, and final, part of There is no Time to Let Your Blood Dry. Image credit: Random Google Search

A New Day

I went to town today, and the sun was out in the cold blue sky like an egg on a blue plate. The truck rumbled the whole way, made of a thousand loose pieces of rattling metal. I’ve scavenged the town for all the old car parts that I could find, including wrecks near Hopewell – which still has plenty of living people who dump their cars (with plenty of usable parts left inside them, if you know how what to do with them). After all, in the old auto shop Daddy showed me everything he could about cars. It’s easy to take care of them, to build, rebuild and retool – those old parts. I can easily do with what I can get my hands on. Tools are more difficult; I have to use what’s used up, and sometimes buy something with the little money that comes in.

Going into town can make me nervous; lots of coming and going, lots of movement, lots of people. Going there also makes me realise how poor I am. After I cash the checks, I have to be very careful about where the dollars go – very careful -and make room for food and medicine, not to mention fun things like magazines with bright colours or the new tools I mentioned just a few sentences ago. Buddy and me would talk about money sometimes. I remember once I asked him to get a job. It was a joke. Even if he could work, I wouldn’t have wanted him to. It can be dangerous out there.

The town looked nice today. The West River that ran by the end of Main Street was kingfisher against the red brick buildings, built a hundred years ago when the railroad was still active. My grandfather worked there, and raised his family in one of those red tenements. It was a classic scene. The sunset was a beautiful one, too. I’m not good at photography, and I don’t have a camera anymore, but if I did and if I were – I would have taken pictures. A lot of things in life are worth remembering, and of those things, a lot of them are images of things you should never let go of. I watched the sunset over the red buildings and the West River from the back of my pickup. People don’t look at that kind of thing. Passers-by glanced my way. What a strange man!

After living in Broken Town, you have to realize that we live under a globe of stars, under a sky, under seasons that change, tilt, whirl. In the night you can see it all, as the stars dance nightly for everyone. But today I decided to watch it in Hopewell, which is full of people, but even there the lights aren’t too bright. You can still get a good view of the show.

When I got my mail at the post office, and Charlie the postman was nice as ever, and asked about Buddy. I was about to tell him, but stopped, because something inside me hurt to think of it. I just said he was OK, but at home, and that he was sick. I don’t speak well anyway; my voice comes out squished, hard, badly mangled. It’s like when sand paper is scraped on wood, or stone on stone, a scratchy sound. It’s that hard for me to get my words out. I don’t talk that much anyway – who wants to hear me babble?

I got my usual checks – survivor’s benefits. Soldier’s benefits. Supplemental Security Income. It doesn’t come to much, and I still needed to get to the bank that day, even though it was already late. Flipping through the pile, there was something else – a bulky object in a nearly translucent lime green envelope. It caught my eye, and was unexpectedly weighty. WILLIAM BUCKWELL, ESQ was the sender, printed in bold type. He was local lawyer, one of only three in the town. I opened it.

An aunt had had died, and left me everything. The only memories of her that I had were stored in yellowing pictures, locked away in the office of the auto repair shop, along with all the other yellow yesterdays. The lawyer enclosed cash, a wad of $5,000 to cash and a bond needing my signature to draw $10,000 more. It was for my immediate use. It said that he had been informed by my aunt before her decease that I was in dire financial straits, and as the executor he had the power to make a – what was the term – a ‘fiduciary decision.’ Apparently she had a great deal of wealth, though both of us had more than lost contact over the years, and became total strangers. I started to smile, but I stopped myself. I lost a tooth on my left side a while back, and I don’t like people to see that. Just thinking of that now made me a little sad, especially remembering how my tooth got that way. Best to put it out of my mind – I thought to myself. I’d look into the money and the bond next week maybe – it was getting late and I still needed to get food. Maybe I would use some of the money for new tools for the car, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait.

The general store was full of people. Some kind of event was on, and people were watching it on the big TV that they had on sale there for the better part of a year. Something political. I don’t hold much with politics, but it’s in the newspapers. I guess it sort of seems to me like the struggles of Olympian Gods, without much room for the participation of people like me. What does my opinion matter? Millions vote, debate, quarrel, but the power seems to emanate from somewhere far above, far away.

Then it was quiet, in the dark, after they were all gone. They turn off all the lights in the parking lot by the general store, except for the ones near the old track, waiting for those trains that never come. After sky watching, I thought I heard a weird sound when I started to pull away, to drive back home. Sort of a bumping sound.

Hints of Life

Bumps and creaks are everywhere today. It’s not just the wind. I’ve been living here too long to not know every sound of this town, the way the wind is supposed to whip through the old buildings. Each and every one of them I have slept in at some time or another. I’m not an expert on much, but I know what this place is supposed to be like. Something is just not right, not still when it’s supposed to be still.

I thought it was a fox or a deer at first, trying to get in, or already inside the buildings. I know the dogs and cats would just come right on to me, but that’s not it. Maybe it’s a real wild animal – when it gets very cold, some will look for shelter anywhere. But now I don’t think it’s an animal anymore of any kind – no one new has come sniffing around some of the food I left out early in the day. If it were a hungry critter, he’d be there already. I wish buddy was still around… dogs have a sense of smell that is far keener than ours, and are good at warnings. Then I’d know.

I half wish it is a person out there, hiding in the buildings, isn’t that terrible?

It is Silent again

I was unloading supplies from the truck when I was attacked. It was a total surprise. There was no noise to warn me; it was just silence, then the pain. He hit me in the back of the head, and I crumpled forward on to the trunk of the car, terror and agony shooting through every part of my body. My brain went wild in those few seconds: I knew those sounds yesterday weren’t normal. I knew it. The thought repeated itself stupidly, insistently, absurdly, belatedly through my mind – like a triumphant brat pointing out his parents’ mistake. A bunch of good thinking about that did me. I started to turn around to look at who it was, or what it was, that just hit me. All of this, my thoughts and my turning around – it all happened in a handful of seconds that ran slowly – and I considered that it was now my time to die here beneath naked winter trees in the shadow of my old truck.

My attacker was dressed in Camo-Green, and his face was covered with the dark kind of face warming masks that people use when it starts to get cold. The ground was white with freshly tiny flakes of snow, and the sun was just starting to set over the hills – it threw a warm glow over the figure of the man even as he contrasted with the whiteness of the world around him. The moment stood still in my mind, every detail standing out. If I were a talented artist, I could paint it from my heart. For the briefest moment, we looked at each other, I saw his eyes through the mask. He raised his hand to strike me again. There was a dark, heavy looking something in his hand. It was hard to make out.

I put up my arms in self-defence despite the pain I felt everywhere and nowhere, in the shape of an X across my face. His hand and that object came down on me. More pain, sharp – blinding. Tears came suddenly, rolling down my face. Small thoughts came, in the tiny seconds.

Pain.

Today is when I die.

Pain.

He’s too strong.

Pain.

Before I knew it he punched me in the chest twice or three times. I doubled over, my back against the side of the truck. I started to go unconscious, but he slapped me once across the face and propped me up: next there was a knife in my face. I couldn’t see his lips, but I saw his teeth inside his black facemask as he mouthed the spitty words with a strange preciseness:

“Where is the money?”

I didn’t respond.

“Where is the bond? Did you sign it?”

My head was fuzzy; I could barely look at him straight in the face. I felt sleepy and warm at the same time. Blood flowed from my ear.

He put the edge of the knife to my eye, and whispered into my ear:

“I am going to slice you into pieces if you don’t tell me, WHERE IS THAT FUCKING CASH!”

I put up my hands, even though the world was hazy, and grabbed the hand with the knife. He punched me with the other hand, kicked my shin, which made me collapse to the ground, taking me with him. My hands were struggling for life, and nothing would make me let go of him, or the knife in his hands. The sun was setting on our struggle.

We paused when we heard a howl. It was a loud howl, as clear and high as a whistle, and made my blood run cold. It was a dangerous sound. The dogs had come. The ones I had been feeding, all of them. All of their names ran though my head as I glanced around – there faces were there. A big Doberman – Jackie – that I had fed in younger days lunged from nowhere, and tore a huge chunk of his leg out with one swipe-and-shake of her big jaws. I fell away, to the side before I even saw a drop of blood. Other howls went up. Many dogs were here. They joined in right away, many being ones I hadn’t seen or fed in weeks. I still can’t believe that for all the angry teeth that bit into the man, and for all his useless struggling, that not a single dog harmed me, even by accident. The dogs kill with a ferocious precision. The man screamed something horrible until his throat was gone, awash in blazes of blood. After that, when he stopped making noise, the dogs were done with him. They began to meander away as a pack, bored. During the attack I did not dare to interrupt the them in their work.

Pain returned to every part of me as the shock of what just happened subsided. I was beaten badly, I’d need to see a doctor, get to town, call someone, get help… but there was something I had to know first.

I slid over to his body. Blood caked all parts of him, his body was but rags of flesh, still trembling. He’d die very, very soon – and in silence. Air rasped into the hole that was once throat.

I unmasked him. My attacker was the postal clerk.

“Charlie…” I whispered by his ear.

His eyes opened, half opened, and he stared at me for a second that seemed forever, and full of significance. I cannot to this day tell you what was behind those eyes.

His mouth moved, though nothing came out: “Harold.” That was his final word to this world. A chill wind sprang up immediately, bringing tiny particles of snow with it. His blood was all over the half snow-buried leaves coating the ground. The chill was enough to make me think that it was only going to get colder, and that this snow was no dusting, but was maybe the first big blizzard of the year. I had to bury him before the ground got too hard or iced over, regardless of the pain. It didn’t need to be a deep grave. The dogs had already got at him. There was no time to loose.

Reaching over to close his eyes, I whispered in his ear: “I’ve got to bury you, false friend. The snow’s coming, and there’s no time to let your blood dry.”

I buried him next to buddy. The snows came that night, sure enough, and now we are chest high in acres of white. The doctor gave me more medicines a few days later to help with the pain. I’m not going to tell you I am in great shape – because I am not. They asked me about what it was, who it was, that did these things to me, I told them it was a robber. The whole damn lot in town wanted to get involved after that, but I didn’t want any of it. There’s nothing to steal in the broken town anyhow; just a bunch of old, used-up car parts and a loner who likes to feed the animals. It’s hard to trust people at all, I realise. There’s no point in going to Hopewell, anymore.

Now I don’t wish to hear my name spoken anymore. The silence is everywhere now, and I can even get some of my supplies delivered here to the broken town, dropped off. It’s better that way. The world really is a huge and frightening place, so I put myself in a small corner of it, living a life with the only true friends I have ever met.

                                                                                                            

There is No Time to Let Your Blood Dry, Part I

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Image Credit: Random Google Search Image

There is No Time to Let Your Blood Dry

People don’t know what it is to be lonely. They live beside light of those that love them, sunning themselves. I see them when I go to town: mothers and their children, groups of friends, men and women, lovers. There’s care in their eyes, the feeling that is so hard to describe. Something links these people who share embraces, laughter or tears. Fragile, beautiful, brittle – their worlds exist as pictures of what it is to be a human, normal – warm. Someone like me must handle those warm people with care, deliberately, calculating every step. Whenever I am near one of them, I feel as if I could trip and shatter them at any time, being awkward and wrong like I am. Coming into this big town means listening to their voices, and remembering lights of mine that are now gone dark. I don’t go into town much anymore. To live around those that know your name and speak your name must be a wonderful thing, but it’s just not something that everyone can have. I know it’s not for me.

Townspeople don’t know the morning wind howl, screeching through a ruined house. They don’t know the silence of a long-dirt trail road, and deep shadows thrown by huge, overgrown trees. They, who have mothers and wives, don’t wander the crazy paths that cross my abandoned town. My town – I call it a  Broken Town  – has long since died because no one remembered it and no one remained to speak its name. So now it’s gone. I don’t dare to speak it anymore. The name went the same place that my parents did, straight into a black hole somewhere. The Post Office was the last to go, shuttered 15 years ago. I don’t think maps have us on there, since the municipality itself was officially disbanded 20 years even before the post office went. No map has this place, no photos, nothing. The world has forgotten everything of the Broken Town, and forgotten me too.

They do not know what it means to be truly alone.

I feel shame and envy seeing them with happy children, happy friends, loving each other. I don’t remember what it is to hear a name speak my voice, nor do I dare to speak my own name any more than that of the Broken Town. I live underground, in a place beneath the old shop, one of the 11 buildings that crowd around a stoplight that has not worked for years. The shop used to repair autos, before the people – my parents with them – moved away to the bright city where the lights never go off, and the streets are noisy with car horns, cop sirens, people yelling, and the whoosh of air that goes through tall buildings like canyons. That place is far away from where I live, an underground place that gets deeper every day. I started digging down because it was cold, almost ten years ago now. It started with just removing some bricks in a storeroom beneath the auto shop, but then continued with me digging down into the foundation, spooning the concrete away, chunk by chunk over days into months becoming years. I’m good with wires, cables, machines and parts. All practical, technical things are so cooperative, and just need you to pay attention. That’s how they work for you best. Now the water runs and the electricity lights way down there – all the good things of this Earth but heat. When the cold comes, it’s still a problem. It’s also hard to forget the death of the buildings when I go up to the surface. They’re all standing around, like strangers at a bus stop, holding an unsaid secret. They’re also aging. Everything here is faded, except the great trees that crowd around, trees that obscure the winding decayed road that is the only way into, and out of, the Broken Town.

I go into Hopewell, a living town, to cash my cheques and get supplies. Cheques come every month. Some have my Mother’s name on them, some have my Father’s, and a few even have mine. Dad is gone now; he died in the war a long time ago, and it is not something I like to think about. Times were hard after he left mom and me in the auto shop. What did we know – back then – about taking care of engines, fixing transmissions, fiddling with oily pieces of car? This feels wrong – to tell even a piece of paper these things. Silence becomes a habit, and even while writing this I get the uneasy feeling that I am talking out loud in a place where no one is allowed to speak. Better just to forget about it, go chop wood, or sleep, lie down and look at the clouds go by and watch the sun fall. It’s late in the evening now, so it shouldn’t be long . . .

Mom used to say that God makes the clouds. But I don’t believe in God anymore. Clouds don’t mean anything. The same clouds fly over the old auto shop where things used to be fixed, and the big city where she disappeared making money – and way over there where dad died in the war, shot to death. The clouds fly everywhere, free. I like to look at them, and imagine shapes like she taught me to, but I know they are my imaginings.

Even I know that much, and I barely finished High School. The other kids called me a hick and a weirdo for still living out here, it was a long trip into Hopewell each morning just for the benefit of a few lousy classes. Still, I guess it was good to have gotten done, even if I just barely passed. Otherwise I’d be an illiterate weirdo, and that would be good for no one.

I would like to have someone say my name, but the animals I feed do not speak. The deer certainly don’t speak; they just stare, frozen like statues. Deer always run faster than you do, so no sense trying to catch them, even just to talk. Other animals, small ones like groundhogs, otters and foxes, make noises as they fumble in the weeds, smashing their little limbs either trying to run or just looking for good stuff to eat. Animals never say your name, but they do remember you.

Many strays – cats and dogs – have wandered through the Broken Town over the years, looking for scraps. They all end up visiting the one remaining human resident, yours truly. They find me pretty easily, since taking the old cans and trash from food packages is a big chore, which I do only once or twice a month. All the trash gets taken away when it comes time to load up the big pickup truck to go into town to buy more provisions for another spell in the woods. Some strays visit only once. Strange little new faces, with shiny eyes, I see them just that one time. I am good at remembering animal faces, so I know. Others come for a few times in a week, then disappear, only to come back later. Yet other cats and dogs are regulars – regular attenders. All of the animals get names, even the ones I see just once. I have a good memory, so I usually don’t reuse any names. Boxer has a missing ear, Sherlock has a missing eye, Babby is always bouncy. Wooly looked like a walking pillow, big and shaggy. Others I just name after how the day was when I met them: Bluesky, Frosty and Slick. Those guys are town citizens, as much as I am. They have the freedom to do as they please, and I don’t shoo anyone away if I can manage to give them something. I love when they eat out of my hands… they recognise their names, recognise me. It sounds so stupid to say it, and I would only ever admit it to a dumb piece of paper, but seeing them makes me happy.  Those dogs are like me, and we know all about each other. Some of them follow me around on the property when I have chores to do, and love to watch when I fiddle with the cars. It’s nice to have a kind pair of eyes on you, not everyone has the benefit.

Frightened animals always approach face-forward, slowly. They see you are a human, and they know: humans hurt, humans beat and humans abandon. Everyone is a stray for a reason. OK, maybe they were littered in the words – but it is more likely they were driven off by their owners, abandoned to the elements. That’s when they drift over to the Broken Town, looking for something to eat.

One special dog that came to me six months ago was a yellow lab, heavy of years and slow of step, still on his guard. He had a scar across his the left side of his mouth, which hung low with age. I gave him what was left inside a can of spam, and he licked it up happily – I was sitting outside the old post office when that happened, and none of the other dogs or cats were around. I guess all of these old buildings are my houses. It was warm then.

He came back the next day – and the day after that –  for more food, sometimes with others and sometimes without. I fed him. I didn’t have much, but then I needed someone, even if that someone wasn’t a one at all, but an it. He was so old. I remember the first time he came to me, and laid on my lap, awkwardly. We were friends then. My tired hand ran through his dirty coat, and I named him, “Buddy.”

Buddy and I went everywhere after that, and he even went into town where Charles, the clerk at the Hopewell post office, congratulated me on my new pet. Charles always chats with me, about the weather, or about my health. I know his name because it’s on his nametag, not because I’ve ever asked. I guess he knows mine too, since he and the other mailmen are in charge of my P.O. Box. Other people don’t talk to me much though, not even at the pharmacist where I get my medication, or when I go to the market to buy human food and animal food. People must think me strange.  I remember the stares I got when I brought Buddy to the market. Well, I’ve seen odder things in the newspapers I buy, and it was no thing to stare at.

Newsprint helps me feel connected to something, even if I don’t understand half of what they are talking about. The world seems huge and complex outside of my Broken Town and the little red pills I take to stay at peace and in health. I know I am too small to ever make a dent in it if I go out there, too awkward, to slow, and getting older too. Other people, the ones with the friends and the families, can try to take that on, the huge giant. I’ll just stay here; I know that thing ate mommy and daddy.

Buddy could never speak my name, but he stuck to me like glue. The approaching winter was hard on him though, and we do not have much warmth to spare in the Broken Town. Nothing goes there but us, and the other strays who are a constant presence. Huddling underground I tried to keep Buddy warm, but he kept throwing up. When he got weaker I began to carry him outside to go to the bathroom. The light was slowly dimming from his eyes; my Buddy was dying. It was only a few days after I realized this fact that our friendship was at an end. We were both resting deep underground where it was warm, and I had the Kerosene lamp on. Looking over the edge of the newspaper, I saw the flinty glint of Buddy’s black dog eyes as they rested on me. He stared at me a while that way, then he closed his eyes, and was gone from this world forever.

Burying my friend was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Our lives were not like those of the Happy People you see in the store or in newspaper ads. No bright sunny kitchens for morning breakfast were open for us, full of smiles. Just hunger, cold and death. When Buddy left, I started to write this diary. I used to talk to him in the long days, but there is no one but pieces of paper to talk to now.