DEMONS

   
	
Part 3
The doc wanted to leave the wires another three weeks. I'd had enough of this shit. If the doc didn't want to take the damn pins out of my jaw so I could open my mouth, I'd get the pliers and fucking do it myself. He had the balls to come in with the X-ray, do some tut-tutting and shake his head. "Well, Mr. White, ordinarily we would be ready to proceed after this amount of time, but in your case I think I'd really like to see a little more density in the------" He stopped talking because I grabbed the lapels of his pure white lab coat and looked right into his eyes. It took him about a half a second to figure out just what I was thinking. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Lynn trying not to smile. "On the other hand, I think you've been very patient…and if you're careful, I don't see any reason we can't take care of this today." I raised my eyebrow. "And the chest tube, too, of course, that wound's progressing very nicely, too." I thought he'd see it my way. There was a little more to it than I thought, and maybe I couldn't have done it with the pliers, after all. There would always be some metal in my jaw. I could live with that. I had to be careful for a while 'cause it was gonna take a long time till it was a hundred percent again; "…no opening beer bottles with your teeth…" the doc said. He smiled; evidently that was supposed to be a joke. I didn't laugh. Then, finally, it was done. It was kinda weird, after such a long time. I opened and closed my mouth a coupla times, testing it out, and it seemed to work fine. They-the doctor, the nurse, and Lynn--were all standing there looking at me, waiting for me to start talking, I guess. Talking, hell. Lots better things to be doing with my mouth than talking. I smiled at Lynn, reached out and snagged the back of her neck. She smiled back. I don't know when the doctor and nurse left the room, but nobody bothered us for a good long time. Or at least I don't think so. Could be wrong. Lots better things to do than watch the door.
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Lynn wanted to know what had happened with the Rev, so I gave her the short version. She got steamed, which kinda surprised me, and I ended up defending the Rev to her. "Can't expect him to understand," I said. "How's he going to understand?" "He ought to give you the benefit of the doubt, anyway." "Can't expect him to." "I can." I shook my head; we left it at that. Till Lynn decided we should go to church. "What for? What're you thinking about?" "It makes it real easy for him, doesn't it? He can walk away and never see us again. He spent all that time here, and we let him into our lives, and I know how much you liked him, Bud. So now he decides we're not good enough for him, and regardless what he thinks of you now, he's known me all my life. I don't think we should make it easy for him, that's all." And I couldn't talk her out of it. So, come Sunday, we went to church. I told her afterward I was never doing that again-it was like being the freak in a sideshow. Lynn says I'll get used to it, but I don't know if I want to. She wore a new yellow dress, with a cute little yellow hat to match-in a yellow dress she looks like one of those yellow spring flowers---daffodils, I guess they are. And I told her that. "What?" she said. She looked startled. "Daffodils. Isn't that what those yellow flowers with the bell things in them are?" "You think I look like a daffodil?" "Uhh….yeah." Maybe that was the wrong thing to say. I guess it is a pretty goofy looking flower. Dammit. No way to backtrack now, though-I already said Yeah. Then I thought maybe she was going to cry-her eyes got all misty and her nose started to get kinda pink. "I'm sorry, baby, I didn't mean it bad-I just meant---" "Oh, Bud," she put her arms around my chest and rested her head on my shoulder. "I think that's the loveliest thing anyone's ever said to me. "You're kidding me." "No, it's true." She sniffed once, and looked up at me. "I've heard just about every line there is. But I've never heard that before." "It wasn't a line. I said it because…I think you look pretty in yellow." "That's what I mean." She smiled and kissed me. Well, then I had to kiss her back. I was ready to forget about church entirely. Not Lynn. She pulled out of my arms after a few minutes, and hurried us out the door. "Afterwards, baby, afterwards."
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The Rev had a pretty big congregation. I don't think he saw us at all, until we were leaving and he was standing by the door saying good-bye to everybody. Lynn walked up and held out her hand. "Lovely sermon today, Reverend Skinner," she said. He was pretty quick, you could hardly notice anything was wrong. "Yes….thank you, Lynn, happy to see you here." I didn't hold out my hand. He didn't hold out his, either. After a coupla seconds, I gave Lynn a nudge, said "Reverend," and went on down the steps. The Rev followed us. "What did Lynn have to do to get you here, Mr. White?" he said. I turned around. "You wanna get into any of this right here?" He didn't answer me. "Lynn…I'd like to talk to you alone." Lynn looked at me; I shrugged my shoulders and walked a few feet away. Not so far that I couldn't hear, though. I don't like surprises. "I've known you since you were a baby, Lynn, and I counted your parents as my friends. And I want you to know that you can call on me at any time, when you need help. I can't stand by and let you stay with this…killer…without trying to do something for you." He kept on talking real fast, just more of the same kinda stuff, basically trying to convince Lynn to leave me ""for her own safety." I must've scared the crap out of the guy. I guess all the afternoons he spent on my porch meant nothing compared to those two words written in pencil in his notebook. You woulda thought I was an ax murderer by the way he talked about me. Old Mrs. Wentworth was being wheeled past me in her wheelchair. She reached out and grabbed the sleeve of my jacket. "Young man!" She looked like she was about a hundred years old; she lived just down the street from us, and always waved when her niece took her out for a walk. I bent down. "Yes, ma'am?" "Are you George's son?" She had that shaky, high-pitched voice that old ladies have sometimes, the kind that reminds you of chalk on the blackboard. "No, ma'am, my name is Bud White. I live three houses down the street from you." "What?" By the time I made her understand who I was, and where I lived, and looked back at the Rev and Lynn, the Rev had hold of her arms, and was still talking. He was beginning to attract attention. What really worried me, though, was I could see that Lynn was getting so steamed she was beginning to tremble. When she got like that, you couldn't tell what she might say or do. "You let go of me." She hissed this at the Rev. He looked startled, but removed his hands. "You OK, baby?" I asked. "You don't know anything about Bud, or me!" I was right, she was pissed. If you didn't know her, you might not understand that. It might look to a stranger like she was shivering because she was cold, or something. Actually she was quivering with rage. And she never raised her voice when she was mad; she sounded real quiet and calm. "You call him a killer; you don't have any idea how many people he saved. You don't know how he got shot--" "Lynn-come on, let's go home. We don't need to do this." I tried to take her hand. She glared at me. "-stop it, Bud, I'm not leaving until I have my say-Ed told me what you did, how you pushed him out of the way, and took the bullets that would have killed him. And you had every reason in the world to hate Ed, but you saved his life. "You didn't know that, did you, Reverend? "And when he was in the hospital and we didn't know if he would live or die, I met some of the women who came when they heard Bud was there. Inez came, and Rhonda, and Loretta, and a couple of others. They told me how he saved their lives. "But I knew what a good man he was before I met any of these women, 'cause you know what? He saved me, too." Uh oh, I was afraid I could see where she was going with this. She'd be sorry for it later; this was a small town. "Lynn, honey, that's probably enough. I think the Reverend's got the idea." She ignored me. "You know what I was doing when I met Bud? Do you know why he should have hated Ed? I was--" I was afraid I wasn't going to get my hand over her mouth in time. I put my arm around her waist. I spoke right into her ear. "I don't think you want to advertise it here, sweetheart." She was furious, and struggled to make me let her go. I kissed her on the forehead and held on. It didn't take too long for her to realize just what she'd been about to do. Her arms came round my neck, and I took my hand away from her mouth. She looked at the Rev and said, "You see how he takes care of me?" The Reverend's forehead was wrinkled, like he was having to think too hard. "Come on, let's go home, we got an appointment, remember?" She smiled. "Just one more thing, baby, and then we can go." She turned and spoke to the Reverend again. "We all have choices, you know. Bud's choices have always been a little harder than most. He told me what he called himself, Reverend. You might want to think about why. Why would he even tell you about it?" "OK, enough's enough. Time to go." I would've picked her up and put her in the car, except I couldn't yet. And she knew it. So she took pity on me and walked to the car. The Reverend stood right there where he was and watched us. The silence as we were driving home was pretty long. "So…" I said as I turned into the driveway and parked. "When do I get my halo?" She looked over at me, and giggled. "I got something better in mind, big guy." OK, screw the halo……
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"No luck, baby?" I shook my head. Part-time jobs were few and far between here in Bisbee. I didn't think I could handle a full-time job yet, although my strength was coming back pretty fast now that I could eat solid food again. And the only thing I knew how to do was be a cop. I had a hard time thinking of myself doing anything else. "Something will come up. Just be patient; the right thing will come along." Lynn and I had already talked about being a cop here. She made a good point-being a cop here would be a lot different than being a cop in L.A. Lots of minor infractions; not much major crime. And I knew, if she didn't, that the guys here wouldn't appreciate me coming in from a big city. I'd get a lot of grief. Hadn't found anything better yet, though. "Ed called. He wants you to call him back." "I'll call him tomorrow." I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist. "Whatcha cookin'?" I like to watch her cook; it makes me feel like we're normal people, doing normal things. "He wants you to call him back tonight. He's going to stay at the station 'til you do. Stop that, you're going to make me drop this." She giggled; she giggled and laughed a lot these days. I let her cook, and I called Ed. He sounded kinda funny when he picked up the phone. "The reason I'm calling, Bud, is we got a guy that got sent down here on a real old bill….. and when I was going through the file….your name came up. I checked it out before I called you, to make sure…." "Yeah, so?" "Bud…I think…I think the guy we got in lock-up is your father…………..Bud?…..You still there?" "You sure?" I think that's what I said. I can't remember for sure. It was like there were things flying around inside my head, bumping into one another, too fast for me to know anything for sure. "As sure as I can be without an eye-witness. His name's the same-Leonard M. White. Your aunt is coming down to ID him. I thought I'd let you know. When I talked to your aunt….I had a feeling she might not get in touch with you." "No. She wouldn't." "You don't need to come in at this point. If the district attorney goes for murder one, they'll need you to testify, but for right now-" "If? If they go for murder one?" "Well, they might go for a confession to manslaughter---" "No." "You know how it works, Bud-" "NO! There's not gonna be any fucking deal." "It's out of our hands-" "I'm coming back. Don't let them do anything before I get there." "Bud, there's nothing I can-" "You hear me?" He sighed. "OK."
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Lynn wanted to go with me. I told her no. I didn't want her anywhere near that scumbag. I didn't even want him to know about her. It was stupid, he was in jail, but…I couldn't help it, it made me feel sick to think about it. What would I do if something happened to her? We fought about it; I won. I guess that wasn't the only reason I didn't want her to go. I didn't want her to see him. I didn't want her to know anything about him. I didn't want her to have any reason to associate him with me at all. He was that garbage I was telling the Rev about, and I didn't want his taint to rub off on me. I'd been trying to leave him behind most of my life. What I didn't realize then is that it wasn't possible. I probably shouldn't have taken the train. I had too much time to think.
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It had been the screaming that woke me up that night. Usually I woke up before the fights progressed to this point, but I'd just started working down at the liquor store hauling boxes after school, and I was dog-tired when I got home. When they fought, I used to go and get Norma and bring her into bed with me-she wasn't so little any more, but the fighting still made her cry. But Norma was gone. Nobody to worry about but myself, and my mother. He was crazy drunk, as usual. He was never a barrel of laughs, but when he got drunk, it was ten times worse. Usually he just hit and shoved, but one time, a few months before this, he stabbed her with a kitchen knife, and I had to wake up Conroy, the butcher from the end of the street, to take her to the hospital. I think it was an accident, I don't think he meant to do it, not that time; but after that, it was like it was easier to hurt her. I guess that was when he found out nothing would happen to him, regardless of what he did. They musta been going at it for a while, he was screaming at her about Norma, wanting to know where she was, and he usually had to work up to that. My mother never told anybody, even me, where she'd taken my sister. "What you don't know, nobody can beat outta ya," she said. And the only reason she ever gave me was "'cause she's a girl, and it ain't safe here." At the time, I didn't understand for sure what she meant by that. He was raging, yelling. "How come you took my baby away? How could you do that, bitch? She's my baby girl!" When Norma was still here, she was always "that brat"; after she was gone, she was "his baby." My mother refused to tell him anything, even when he slapped her hard. Then he said, "Well, why didn't you take the other little bastard, too, then? Huh? The stupid one--how come he's still here?" I almost didn't hear my mother's answer. She was talking real low, I suppose she was hoping I was still asleep. As if anybody could sleep through this. "They didn't want him." The old man laughed. "Well, I guess you left her with somebody with some sense, anyway. The question is, why do we want him? He eats like a horse, he don't do shit around here, he's just a big stupid pain-in-the-ass, like his namesake-" "You shush, you! He'll hear you." "What do I care? Hey, boy, you awake?" The people on the next block were probably awake. "Get your ass in here, Wen-n-n-dell-l-l. You ain't any better than that pussy brother'a your ma's. Wen-n-n-dell-l-l Stu-u-art. A pussy name. Stewie, should we call you Stewie?" I was a little afraid of him, well, maybe more than a little, I was only twelve. But you know what? I had a job, I was big for my age, and I'd had just about enough. I pushed open the door, and came in the room. "Or how 'bout Stu?" He was reeling pretty bad. Watching him, I kept waiting for him to fall down, but he never did. He put his bottle down on the table. "You like that? Stu-for Stupid Little Bastard-how 'bout that?" "You leave him alone, why're you always after him? He ain't a bad boy-" "Shut your mouth, bitch!" And he gave her a push. She fell against the table. His bottle of whiskey tipped and fell on the floor and broke. After that, everything went real fast. He was madder than hell. He picked up the broken bottle by the neck and swung it at my mother. I ran in front of her, and when he swung again, I didn't get out of the way fast enough. One of the broken points got me in the shoulder before I could jerk away. I guess the pain got my blood up--suddenly I wasn't afraid anymore at all. I balled my fist, and I hit him as hard as I could. I knocked him down. "Lord in heaven-run, Wendell, run away!" My mother looked terrified. I didn't understand. I'd knocked him down-I could protect her. I don't remember the punch that laid me out on the floor; I don't think I even saw it. He was cursing at me, he went to hit me again, and my mother grabbed his arm. Then it was like all the furies in hell were let loose in him. He threw my mother across the room. He picked me up with one hand, and tossed me toward the wall. He grabbed an apron and used the strings to tie my wrists to the end of the radiator. Then he gave "That'll hold you," he said, panting. "You think you can sass me and get away with it, My mother was picking herself up off the floor, holding her arm. She looked ill. "And as for you-" he backhanded her and she fell down again, "I'm gonna show you who the head of this family is. There ain't gonna be no more a' this shit." He left the room. My mother slid toward me on the floor, I could see now her arm was broken. She reached one-handed for the apron strings, to try and untie them. "You "I ain't leaving you!" And then it was too late. He came back through the doorway with a tire-iron in his hand. His face was terrible, red and dark. I yanked at the strings; I pulled as hard as I could. I put my feet up on the radiator and heaved, but I couldn't get loose. I couldn't help her, I couldn't save her. Nothing I could do but watch. My mother never said another word, or made a sound; his first swing hit her in the head, and she slumped to the floor. The screaming was from me.

part 2  part 4

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