“Fire in the Hole”

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You are aware of a few things when you wake up, mostly pain, but can guess that something has broken in your consciousness and meaning will probably never be the same.

Sky.

For a moment logic dictates that you- or your ignominious fragments- have been dumped off your balcony onto the street. A miraculous survival, or perhaps just your ghost hanging around long enough to gather a sandy handful of angst.

But no… 

Sky. 

Undisturbed by the insidious vertical growth of those clustered buildings, your view of the sky is as perfect as could be imagined. A few fluffs of cloud are mingled with a stray fart of urban smoke. Which means… you are on the roof. And you are not alone.

“Might as well wake up now, you aren’t doing so well anyway.” There’s no mistaking that croak of a voice- the old faggot upstairs. As much as you respect him, you cringe involuntarily at his unexpected presence, and then there is something curious. Instead of your face wrinkling at the cringe, your foot twitches.

You try to sit up, but the very first attempt at lifting your head causes your left arm to flex at the elbow. 

“Better lay still, there,” he says. “I don’t want you to get riled up, but that dame and her boys did some things to you that somebody is going to regret. Mostly you.” You comply, and he rolls forward on a wheeled office chair. 

His hat and the top of his weighty glasses are just visible above his hard, lined face, in the edge of your vision. “You’re lucky they decided to drop you up here. I call it my study- I like to come up here for some quiet when the neighbors get to fucking a bit loud. Lucky, lucky thing you are. I still remember all those times you left me cigarettes.” In your peripheral vision the hat and glasses shift slightly. He is smiling.

What now, you ask yourself, but the old bull faggot is a mind reader or worse. Despite your gratitude- if that’s what the feeling is- you aren’t sure you can stand his voice anymore.

“I don’t expect you to understand what they did to you, and I’m not sure I do. Let’s say you’re going to be faced with a significant adjustment to your lifestyle.” He pauses and adjusts his tie before he rises. “It seems like you should get some bedrest. Medical attention if possible. Keeping your head down- figuratively, I mean- would be a good choice for a while.” He bends down and adjusts something, whatever it is that you are laying on. “You’re just lucky all around. Lucky I could remember how to make a travois, from ranch school. And lucky I have a friend nearby who likes his privacy, and owes me one.”

The old faggot rolls up his sleeves, and as he does you can just barely see that he has a gun in his belt. That’s reassuring- you’ve heard he’s a good shot. As he takes hold of the travois poles, jostling you into some more theoretical pain, you summon the power to speak.

“Thanks, Bill.”

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