DEMONS

 
    
Part 1
Everybody has demons (that's what Lynn calls them): things that wake you up in the middle 
of the night, things that can take your pleasure in life and turn it bad, things that 
suck the happiness out of anything, everything-if you let them.

Some of them you can see---you can arrest them, or shoot them, or at least beat the living 
shit out of them.

Then there's the ones you can't see.  Those are the hard ones to figure.  Lynn says 
sometimes you don't even realize they're running your life until they knock you down 
and run you over.  

She's one smart lady.  Don't know what she sees in me, but she's seen me at my worst and 
she still seems to want me around.  I'm not a genius, but I'm not stupid enough to argue 
with her about that.

I would have, once, if my jaw hadn't been wired shut.  When I woke up in the hospital, she 
was sitting right there next to my bed.  I think I probably would've driven her away if 
I'd been able to open my mouth. 

I hate women beaters.  I hate them.  If I thought I could get away with it, I'd line 'em 
all up and walk down the line with my .38, a shot apiece, emptying and reloading, till 
they were all on the ground.  I know a few women who'd help me.  And maybe give the bodies 
a kick afterward.

And then I hauled off and belted the woman I thought maybe I loved, the only person in the 
world who acted like maybe she could love me back.  Hard to figure.  Maybe I wasn't any 
better than the scum I wanted to put down.

I'm not the kind of guy who'd stick his gun in his mouth and pull the trigger.  Just not 
something I'd do.  But when I woke up the first time in the hospital and saw her there, 
saw the purple bruises on her cheeks…I wanted to shut my eyes and just…stop… I guess I 
thought it'd be OK to go to sleep and never wake up.  Better all the way around.

The next time I remember being awake, it seemed like there was an awful lot of noise.  I 
think it some of it was Lynn yelling, but I'm not sure; I don't remember that very well. 
All I remember good is how damn bad my chest hurt, and how hard it was to breathe.  I 
kinda wanted to stop breathing, but I couldn't seem to.  I was just glad when somebody 
came with a needle to stick in my arm and put me out.

Once in a while at first I wondered if I was in hell.  I never expected to walk away from 
the Victory Motel.  Maybe I bled to death there on the floor, and this was my punishment.  

It kinda made sense.  I know I've done a lot of stuff God probably isn't gonna like.  
I couldn't move much, my chest and my face hurt like a sonuvabitch, I couldn't talk-man, 
that was scary-and I had Lynn's face to remind me why I was there.  Pain, fear, and guilty 
as sin.  Yeah, coulda been hell. 

I slept a lot, thank God.

Once when I woke up, Lynn's head was laying on the bed next to my right hand.  I could 
move my fingers a little, touch her hair, that silky soft hair that mussed so easily.  
I didn't mean to wake her, but she sat up, looked at my fingers on the bed.  She leaned 
over and kissed me.  I couldn't kiss her back.  All I could do was look at her-I wanted 
to tell her, I wanted to let her know how much---

"Shhh," she said.  "I know."

I wasn't too sure she did.  

"Everything's going to be all right."  I had to look away-now she was lying to me.

"No, it is," she said.  "I'm going to stick around until you're feeling better, and then 
we'll talk."  Her hands clenched around a fistful of blanket, then smoothed it out again.  
Her voice got real quiet, like it does when she 's saying something important.  "I hurt 
you.  I didn't mean to, but I did.  And if you can't forgive me, then…" she took a deep 
breath, "….if you want me to go later, then I will.  But for right now, I'm going to 
stick around."

I had to close my eyes, I couldn't look at her.  I don't think I could have said what I 
was feeling even if I could've talked.  She said later I don't need to talk, she always 
sees it all in my face.  I don't understand it.  My mother used to say just about the 
same thing.  Must be a woman thing.

She hugged me the best she could without disturbing the bandages and the tubes.  "Don't 
worry," she whispered.    I moved my fingers, and she took my hand.  I held on and didn't 
let go.

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She was there a lot, not every minute, but at least every day. She says she talked to me about a lot of different things, but I guess I was drifting in and out, and most of the time I don't remember her talking at all, much less what she talked about. But I do kinda remember that's when she started talking about demons. I had a lot of time to think later, and I've decided she's right about this. There's demons you can see, and there's the ones you can't see. 'Course, mine turned out to be both.
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Bisbee was sure different from L.A. I guess I expected it to be pretty much the same, only smaller. But there was more of a difference than that. For instance, in L.A., if you give somebody the finger, you usually get one right back. Or worse. Not in Bisbee. When we first got there and got settled in (Lynn's sister Patty had found us a house to rent), I was still too weak to be much help with anything; the ladies were putting up wallpaper, and moving furniture, and mostly I just got in the way. Lynn put a chair outside for me to sit in, and she'd bring me lemonade or something once in a while (when she needed a break, I think). And everybody in town got a good look at the bum sitting in the shade while his woman worked herself to death. I'd never lived in a small town before; Lynn told me everybody was just interested. But it pissed me off after a while, all the gawking and staring, and I couldn't even tell them to fuck off. And I was going nuts just sitting there in that chair day after day. So when this old guy walked by with his stupid-looking poodle, and stopped and stared, I gave him a good long look at my finger. I was almost hoping he'd say something, or do something, I didn't care what, anything at all would have been fine. "Oh my God, Lynnie, your boyfriend just flipped off Reverend Skinner!" Patty. Dammit. Lynn rushed out, stopped to kiss me tenderly on the forehead, and growled quietly, "You're gonna pay for this, mister." And then ran down the sidewalk to the old guy. After I heard, "You'll have to excuse my husband, Reverend, he's just gotten out of the hospital and he's not quite himself…." I stopped listening. I'd heard that whole spiel before. And then what does she do? She brings the old geezer up on the porch and sits him down next to me, and says, "I know Bud will enjoy the company. Thank you so much." She brought him a glass, and she went inside. Great. Thanks, baby, I thought, this is just what I need now. As it turned out, though, it was just what I needed. The old guy turned out to be pretty interesting. He wasn't preachy like I figured he would be. He told me about when he was in France in WWI; he didn't come right out and say so, but I got the impression he pretty much stunk as a soldier. When he came back the next day, he brought some books. He read to me part of the time-Kipling, I think it was; the rest of the time, he just talked. Maybe I was what he needed, too; some of the stuff he told me in the days after that were pretty private things. Maybe he forgot I was going to get the wires out someday; maybe he was just too trusting. Don't know. One day, he pulled a notebook and a pencil out of his big coat pocket. "I've been monopolizing the conversation," he said with a smile. "Maybe you'd like to say something to me." I shook my head, and shrugged. What would I talk about? I hadn't done anything in weeks besides sit here on the porch and lay in a hospital bed. "Little Lynnie tells me you were a policeman." I nodded. "I imagine it's very gratifying to spend your time helping people." I didn't know what to say to that. Sometimes it was easy to forget about that. "How did you get hurt?" LYNN TELL YOU? I wrote. "She said that you were shot, but not how it happened." DIRTY COP. "Another policeman shot you? That's horrible!" The rest of the day went like that. He kept asking questions, and I kept writing. I didn't lie to him. Whatever he asked me, I told him the truth, if I could do it with 2 or 3 words. By the time he sat back and said he had to go, I was exhausted. He seemed really upset, especially after he asked me if I ever killed anybody, and I wrote LOTS. While he was putting on his hat, and retrieving that stupid dog's leash, I wrote, YOU OK? "Yes…yes, I'm all right…I see that I wasn't prepared for some of the answers you gave me. And so casually…I appreciate your honesty." WHY ASK? "I'm getting to know you, son," he said. "You've had a very different set of experiences in your life than I have, and while some of what you've told me makes me shudder, I find I want to hear more about it, if you don't mind telling me." He sat back down next to me. "What's the matter? Is there something wrong?" NOT YOUR SON. "No, no, I'm sorry, perhaps I'm being too familiar. Never having a son of my own, you know…. Are you and your father close?" NO. "Have I worn you out? I'll go; and come back tomorrow, if you don't mind an old man bothering you every day." He closed up the notebook and put it back in his pocket. "Ever since Mrs. Skinner passed on, I sometimes find it hard to fill up the time. I'm enjoying our conversations, Bud." He patted me on the shoulder, and he left.
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It was strange, living in that house in Bisbee. Lynn decorated it up real nice, lots of flowers and bright colors and things setting around, real sweet. I'd never lived any place like that. My old man didn't like any of that "girlie shit", so we didn't have anything pretty like that when I was a kid. My aunt didn't go for that kind of stuff either, and the foster homes….well, they didn't bother. I felt funny there; I liked it, but sometimes I felt like I didn't quite belong. And living with Lynn was strange. She cooked, she did the laundry, she cleaned up after me. She helped me get dressed and undressed, she changed the bandages and cleaned the drainage tubes that still stuck out of my chest and face. She slept by herself. And I wasn't going to write her a fucking note to ask her why. Hell, I already knew why, anyway. I never have been able to figure out women who want to sleep with the slimeballs that smack them around. There are some that do-but Lynn was too smart for that. She promised me she would stick around until I was better, and she was keeping her promise. I knew that. What it came down to, see, was that I missed her. She was right there every day, but she wasn't with me, you know? I spent more time with the preacher than I did with her. I missed kissing her. She was a great kisser, we used to spend hours-well, long minutes, maybe---just kissing and nothing else. I didn't expect there was gonna be any kissing in my immediate future, even after the doc unpinned my jaw. Shoulda let her go right away, instead of hanging on so long. Mighta been easier to give her up entirely than to see her all the time and know she wasn't mine anymore. Or maybe…no matter how much I wanted it…maybe she never had been mine. "Let's go up, Bud, I'll help you get ready for bed." Couldn't. I wanted her. Not just sex, but…her herself, next to me, being with me….wanting me too. Wanting someone you know you can't have is one thing. Letting her know, and hearing her refuse is something else. I didn't know why tonight was different, but tonight I wouldn't be able to keep it to myself. Tonight she'd be able to tell. "Bud? I can't stay up-Patty and I are going to look at a couple of vacant stores early in the morning." I tried to wave her off, tell her to go ahead, to leave everything till morning, but she crouched down beside the chair and took my hand. "Bud, honey?" I pulled my hand away. And made the mistake of looking at her face…God, she's beautiful. She takes my breath away. "What is it, what's the matter?" There was a strand of hair just next to her eye-I couldn't help myself, I reached out and moved it with my finger, barely touching her……. Enough of that, I thought. I was just torturing myself, anyway. I stood abruptly and slowly walked around her to the stairs. That's how I did everything then-slow---so she didn't have any trouble catching up with me. She took my arm and helped me up to the second floor. The whole ritual in the evening-getting me undressed, washing everything (me included) and doing everything else that needs doing with the tubes and the bandages--takes about 45 minutes. She was standing next to me when we were all done, I was sitting on the edge of the bed in my shorts, she'd been touching me and she smelled so good….I stopped thinking, I guess. I leaned forward and rested my forehead against her and drank in her scent. Torturing myself. "Bud?" Her hand, cool against the skin of my neck; her voice, soft and warm---I was lost. "Baby…." I wrapped my good arm around her thighs and held her close. After a minute she pushed against my shoulders…..I let her go. I lifted my legs up on the bed and covered myself up without looking at her. I lay my good arm up over my eyes. I waited for her to say something. I don't know what I expected, something I wouldn't want to hear, probably. But she didn't say anything. Looked like she was just going to ignore it. Guess I should be grateful for that. I closed my eyes and waited for her to leave. The rustling noises sounded like maybe she was picking up my clothes to take them downstairs. I took a deep breath and wondered how I was going to get to sleep. Not that it mattered. No reason for me to get up in the morning. And then she slipped, naked, in beside me under the blanket, pulled my arm down and around her, and she looked into my eyes. "Don't you know me?" I wanted to kiss her so bad, it hurt. "Don't you know me, baby? Don't you know what I want?" I let my hand travel down her body, down her sleek backbone. I closed my eyes and concentrated on her skin sliding against me, her breath against my face, her hair lying on my shoulder. "You make me feel like a real person. That's all I need; that's all I want. Well, except for this big fella here maybe." She touched me there as she said it, and then she giggled for just a second. That sweet sound always made me smile. Her teeth closed on my earlobe, her tongue played with it, and I shivered and made a noise. She always knew just how to get to me, although tonight she didn't have to do much besides just be here with me. She whispered, "I know you have things you want to say, baby; and I want to hear them. I was trying to wait until we could talk. But maybe this is better….This isn't going to hurt you, is it?" she asked. "I don't want to hurt you." I wrapped my arm around her hips and answered her question the best way I knew how.

part 2

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