Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fiery Waters

Meditated with my eyes open this morning. Just sat in the windows of the sunroom and watched the morning deliver itself to the world. Glorious. Just me, sacred music playing quietly in the background, a few candles, and the stark beauty of the morning. Intentionally breathed in beauty and glory and breathed out doubt and fear and worry. Feel more energized and more ready to write at this moment than ever before in my life. Am going to tackle a very tough story today. It will be included as part of Ruth's life, but it is my own, and it is one of the things Ruth would never want to tell anyone on earth, just as it is one of the things I have told only once or twice, and only to people of my true tribe, of my heart.

Reading yesterday's comments, I feel safe to tell this story, safe to share my heart with this remarkable tribe of folks following the story and helping it be born.

First, a couple of pics from the pond this morning. The one of Marvin and the Pin Duck is out of focus and too dark, but it was the best of the lot, so I'm posting it, too.

Today's story is more of Fred's death, which demanded to be unpacked after yesterday's snippet.

Love, love, and more love to you all.

Wedneday's LOTO

Ruth was peeling potatoes when Fred decided to walk to the end of the driveway to get the mail. He didn’t get out much in those days, and Ruth thought the fresh air and sunshine would do him good. She toyed with the idea of going with him but wanted the potato salad to chill before she started frying the walleye later.

A few minutes after the storm door slammed behind Fred, Ruth heard a small metallic crunch and then a large boom. What she could see out the big window didn’t explain much: a shiny red Dodge Ram pickup at the end of the driveway and hundreds of burning bits of paper floating toward the road, like a tickertape parade in hell. She wiped her wet hands on a flour sack dishtowel and hurried out the door and down the drive.

Before she was halfway there, Ruth could smell stale beer and cigarettes along with burning paper. A couple steps later, those odors were joined by the stench of vomit. She could hear someone retching but couldn’t see anything through the cloud of smoke and dust that had gathered near the mailbox. . .rather, where the mailbox had been. When she got closer, she could see that the truck’s right headlight was broken and its right side mirror torn off. The mailbox squatted on the truck’s hood, right on top of the Dodge medallion.

“Fred? Fred, where are you?” Ruth called, then peered into the truck. It was still running and looked drivable, so she climbed in, jammed the stick into reverse, and backed the thing away from the fire she could only assume was coming from Fred’s portable oxygen. A potent combination of fear and anger surged through her like a hot flash, leaving her forehead damp and her chest bright red. She leaped from the cab and yelled again.

“Damn it, Fred. Answer me.”

“Na way, lady. ‘E can’,” yelled an unfamiliar voice. Rage boiled up inside Ruth as she stomped across the road toward the voice. It was no longer raining paper, but the ground was covered with it. With every step she took, smoking bits of junk mail swirled up from beneath her feet.

When she reached the ditch, Ruth saw a teenaged boy on his hands and knees, clearly in position to throw up again. Fred was lying beside him, nestled in a bed of wild daisies, peaceful as could be. His clothes and hair were a bit singed and his head lay at a funny angle, but other than that, he might have been napping in a wildflower field.

“Oh my God. Fred?” Ruth dropped to her knees and laid her head on his chest. She couldn’t hear his heart beat and couldn’t see or feel him breathing. Thank God I brought my phone.

Ruth rolled onto her back, her head still on Fred’s chest, and fished her phone out of her pocket. She quickly dialed 911 and relayed the necessary information. After the dispatcher assured her that help was on the way, Ruth scrambled back to her knees and began pumping on his chest. Her CPR training from long ago had prepared her for emergencies, but not for emergencies involving her husband of 27 years. She pumped and breathed, pumped and breathed, but had no idea if she was doing it correctly. Not yet, Fred. Not now.

When the paramedics arrived, they immediately recognized Fred as a corpse. Two kind young men relieved Ruth of her futile task and a gentle young woman led her to the ambulance, where she offered her a drink of water and a clean cloth to wipe her streaming eyes. Ruth collapsed onto the back bumper of the ambulance, resting her head against its back door. She watched the proceedings as though from a great distance, both there and not there.

As the paramedics loaded Fred onto a stretcher, one exclaimed, “Jeesh, his clothes are burned, but he’s not. How’d that happen?”

Jared, the kid who hit Fred, replied, “Guess someone taught him Stop, Drop and Roll!”

No one wanted to laugh, but the truth of it was just so ridiculous. Clearly, Fred had been blown across the road, free of the oxygen canister. Judging by the swath of broken weeds, he rolled several feet after he hit the ground. The tall weeds, still wet from a morning rain, must have smothered the flames as he rolled. If the impact hadn’t broken his neck, he’d have walked away with a fine story to tell.

The paramedics turned away from Ruth and covered their mouths with their hands. At first, Ruth was outraged, but within a beat or two, she realized the absurdity of the situation and joined the others in guilty laughter. Jared laughed, full tilt, along with them. When the Rosemont police arrived to take charge, Jared was still laughing. The last Ruth heard from him was a muttered “Stop, Drop, and Roll” as one of the officers eased him into the back of the squad car. Ruth would forever wonder how long it took Jared to stop laughing.


Suzy said...

Brilliant, fucking brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Let's talk about this one at the end of the month. Doesn't quite have the ring of truth that some of the other entries do.

I can't wait for tomorrow morning, though, to read what you've set as your task for today.

Anonymous said...

That first picture is absolutly breathtaking. Great job. I haven't read the rest yet because I'm supposed to be working but I will because I'm hooked:)

Kim G. said...

Lovely picture! Enough to get me up early (and I'm not really a morning person!) And good for you for doing the work and keeping writing. Your characters are so interesting and the story kept me reading. Well done!

Michelle O'Neil said...

I have a feeling people are going to love or hate the stop drop & roll.

It is a little twisted, but I loved it!

Prema said...

What a view, inside and out. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Great photos Jerri. I think the darkness suits the pictures well.

Skyelarke said...

Amazing photos of the pond at sunrise. What a beautiful place to live! Your story has me about to read thru your blog b/c I'm entering in media res. I think this will now be a daily addiction for me ;-)

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I'm proud of you tackling the demons! You are brave and inspiring! Keep on keeping on!