The whiskey was gone, as was my money. So I dance with my shadow, turning, dipping, whirling to the music in my head from days gone by when I was a young bull and full of promise. Unruly long gray hair sticks to my neck, stringy and in need of cleansing, my beard stained with three-day-old remnants of sloppy food and booze, injected and regurgitated.
I move about in ragged shoes, one sole slapping for lack of nails. In some strange way, it keeps beat to the rhythm I hear in my head, flap, flap, flapping. My dark and mysterious partner moves brilliantly with me; I decide some genteel conversation would be in order. “Just how does one ‘thumb a diesel down,’ or ‘hitch a ride on a riverboat queen’? And whatever happened to ‘Michael’? And where did Janis and Jimmie and Jim go?” She answers not.
The moon looks in through the broken window, frowning at the pitiful sadness it sees. My dark partner did her best to keep time, and didn’t complain if I stepped on her toes. “Talk to me or desist from following me around.” I took a looping swing at her, but my balance was not equal with my intent.
Finding myself in a heap amid dust bunnies, smelling the stink of a molded mattress, I began to sing out loud. “My name is Grady McFee, so don’t you bother me. I found this world I’m in, so don’t blame her again…”
In the middle I stopped to howl for approval at the moon. But, the yellow disk of darkness slipped in and out of the clouds like a secret lover on the prowl, interested only in his own adventure.
My dancing queen disappeared. My eyes left me and began to circle the ceiling. “What are you looking for? She’s not here so stop it, you’re making me dizzy.” They came back and closed their lids. I felt myself fade into darkness.
In the next instant, I was riding the top of a ghostly fog, arms bending to the wind like a goose heading south. I landed at our old house in Mississippi, sitting in the parlor with my mother, eagerly awaiting our favorite radio show. She tuned the dials carefully. With a flash of static and tone of sound, out came “Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men? The Shadow Knows.”
I began screaming, “Turn it off, Mom! They’re full of shit, they don’t know anything. They don’t even know what happened to Janis, Jimmie, and Jim!”
Just as suddenly, I was returned, and amongst the odors of old urine and rank filth came the scent of jasmine. They were hiding just under the window. My nose inhaled them, invoking memories of weeping cherry, lilacs in the garden, and gardenia trees. I tried to caress my brain.
A mind movie began to play. I watched the opening credits that said “Starring Grady and Jasmine.” The first scene was an infinite field, overflowing with blue asters that enveloped a childless couple that coupled amongst them. Him in a white suit and her in blue jeans and a paisley shirt, they moaned and groaned for the purity of ecstasy, which turned into slapping and cursing and the calling of names. When they were finished he paid her. The next screen said “The end.” All went dark again.
When I awoke, an ungodly sun sent deadly waves to burn my eyes. I covered and rolled to my side, begging mercy, not wanting to know I had lived after all. I pleaded with darkness to take me back, send me to torture, burn me in a pool of hellfire, anything, just not another day. I saw a signpost from the Devil. It said, “Lot full. Come back later.”
With seemingly no other option, I crawled to my feet, grasping a wobbly center post for assistance. I pushed on it a few times, eager to have my hopes crushed, but it stayed rigid. It was then I took note of the odor of puke on my shirt, and the dreaded urine stain down one leg of my trousers. Defeated by circumstance, hitching my britches by empty belt loops, I strode like Napoleon to Waterloo.
I held the flap of my blue seersucker jacket against my face, desperate to ward off the horde of sunbeams. With great ardor, I battled my way through the vortex of dust, like Henry Fonda in the Grapes of Wrath, twenty yards to the shade of an oak tree that guarded a rusty water pump, which I went at with swearing and sweat. When water belched forth, it escaped before I could grasp it. So back I went, slamming the handle the way I would a young girl if I could ever get one again. It suddenly became a sexual metaphor, and I managed to get my head under for some relief.
Sated with liquid, I mashed ants that crawled around the oaken trunk while I sat and gathered strength. Seeing no other solution, I began to walk down the dirt road that came from “God knows where” and headed to “I don’t give a shit.” The golden orb beat me mercilessly, the ache in my head was nauseating, and dark spots flitted in front of my eyes.
Hearing a rumble from behind, I ceased my feet from stumbling, gently rotated my head, and slapped my face for focus. The roar stopped at the same time a large metal beast came to rest beside me. Was it there to devour me? “Grady? Grady McFee, what the heck are you doing out here?”
I was blinded by the shining vision. Perhaps it was an angel come with the golden chariot. “It is indeed me,” I yelled, falling to my knees, honoring its mighty presence. “I beg of you to take me quickly.”
“Grady, what is the matter with you?” I heard what must have been the slamming of Heaven’s gate. The messenger of the Lord Almighty came to stand before me. I was surprised to see he wore heavy boots instead of sandals. “Get up off the ground for God’s sake.”
He lifted me by my pits. I dared not look directly at his face for fear of being besotted by the attendance of grace.
“Ah, you’re drunk are you? Come on, I’ll get you home.”
The spirit transported me into his machine where I crouched in awe. When it began to move, I gripped the sides in deathly fear.
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