~chapter 12~
Escape!
The Corporeal Cavale Commences

There are times in life when one must breathe. I remember my sixth birthday. Before Mother won the lottery, the two of us lived in a cave near Harlem , Montanna. Every night, we would eat roadkill, lovingly prepared in a pit of glowing cinders. Our repast was humble, but we never complained. We didn't know any better. Leastways, not I, who had been raised in this manner, without a peer save for the wooden companion Mother crafted out of pine branches. And so it was that when, on my sixth birthday, Mother told me I had a father, I hyperventilated into unconsciousness. When I came to, I remember asking, “Are we not alone?”

“No,” said Mother “The world is fat with people. One of them is the man who filled me with his seed. It is because of him that your eye-teeth are growing in sideways. You shall go forth and meet him one day.” And then, from her lunch box, she removed a tattered photo of a bearded man. “This is him.”

With shaking hands I took the photo and spoke to it, “Hello, Father. I am pleased to meet you.”

Mother laughed. “Son, what you hold is merely an image of your father. Your actual father is a human, of roughly the same shape as you and I.”

“Does he have a peepee?” I asked.

Mother swatted me on the temple with the femur of a deer. I passed out.

This memory is painful. I want to hyperventilate but instead I draw a long, thoughtful breath. And another. And more until I am calm.

~~~

“Do you understand what I am saying?” asked the doctor.

“Of course,” I said, “The cactus that saved the lives of my father and I while we were dying in the desert contained hallucinogenic properties.”

“Exactly.”

I breathed deeply. “And much of what happened that night was the product of my mind run amok in a drug-induced madness.”

“Correct.”

“And it's possible that the muskrat was a pure product of my imagination.”

“What else?”

“You claim that my Father did not speak to me and that he has not, in fact, come to a full and complete recovery.”

“And…?”

“And you are a second-rate quack who makes up pernicious lies in order to justify keeping me locked in that cell you call a hospital room.”

I began hyperventilating again. Nancy put her hand on my shoulder. She whispered into my ear, “Relax. It takes time.”

I pushed her hand away. “Bring me to my father!” I croaked. My lungs fought for air. I tried to scream but my voice had no purchase. The doctor called for assistance. I slid to the floor.

~~~

When I came to, I was seated in a wheelchair. Nancy was pushing me down a hallway. My face itched. I reached up to scratch it but Nancy smacked my ear. “You're wearing a beard. It's a disguise.” I turned to look at her. She was wearing a nurse's outfit. It was fetching. “They don't want you to see Strapping. They can eat turds. Fucking lunatics. I'll get you to your father, Elk.” She kissed the top of my head. “I promise.”

She pushed me through the halls, peeking in every door. We rode the elevator from floor to floor. We found only sick people with tubes in their arms. Eventually, she stowed me in a closet and went to the front desk to ask for Strapping's whereabouts. Her eyes were wide when she returned. “He's being transferred!”

She rushed me to the hospital's rear entrance. An ambulance was parked in the pleasant afternoon sun. A man was opening the driver's side door.

Nancy asked me if I could stand.

“For my father, of course,” said I.

“Then let's go!”

I forced my unwilling legs to stand me upright. Nancy grabbed the wheelchair out from underneath me and lifted it. With a feral shout, she threw the chair at the ambulance driver. It flew like a meteor and struck him out cold. Nancy snatched the keys out of his hand and jumped into the driver's seat. I stumbled to the passenger door and climbed into the seat.

Nancy started the engine, revved it twice and engaged the transmission. We flew out of the hospital entrance with the whine of rubber on pavement. “Which way is Mexico ?”

I pointed to the left. She took the corner on two wheels. The resultant G-forces threw me so hard that my shoulder cracked the window. I heard a loud thump come from the back of the vehicle.

Nancy straightened the wheel and pressed the button that activated the sirens. Traffic parted. Our path was clear. “Go say hello to your father,” said Nancy .

I climbed into the back of the ambulance. The gurney had tipped over along with its cargo. With a mighty grunt, I righted it, rolling Strapping onto his back. His eyes were open.

My heart leapt, my spirits soared. It hadn't been a hallucination. Strapping was awake. I hugged him tightly. I kissed his forehead.

And then, with the hum of the road under my feet and the roar of the siren in my ears, my world crumbled.

For the flesh I kissed was cold. The arms I hugged were stiff. The eyes that stared at me had no pupils.

Strapping Danforth was dead. I did not need to feel for a pulse or see his breath in a mirror. Our Greatest Living Writer was now simply the Greatest.

I held the corpse and drew what breath I could, for I squeezed him tightly to my chest and my chest was taut with grief.

Oblivious to the tragedy behind her, Nancy turned on the radio. She twisted the dial until she found a Mexican station. The infectious sounds of tuba and accordion poured from the speakers. Nancy cried a rebellious “Aye, aye aye! Vamos a mexico !”

To no one, I whispered, “Let us go, then. It is my destiny.”

I am an orphan.

--Elk Undercarriage, February 2006

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