Back Issues

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Story Two: Are You Sicily?

The rain fell in sheets the day they almost met. It was a chance mis-encounter, her entering a perfumed taxi cab as he exited. An awkward smile was exchanged and that was all. She was off on her way and he was off to his apartment to commit suicide. The gun blast shocked each and every occupant on his floor. They described it as a bomb going off. A war veteran in 5b locked himself in a bathroom with a service revolver because of the blast. An elderly woman suffered a mild heart attack in 5c and lastly an infant was woken from his noontime nap in 5d. The bullet hadn’t flown into the man’s brain as he had hoped. The recoil had forced the barrel away from his brainstem and toward the back of his jawbone. The bullet pushed through the bone, avoiding any vital areas and ripping into a gas line hidden in the wall. The gas escaped into the spaces between the walls and between the apartments.
The man bled out on the floor for about fifteen minutes before the police and paramedics broke their way in and started to operate on the man. The old woman in 5c however, stayed helplessly on the floor for almost fifteen hours. When she finally was found, she was severely dehydrated and she had irreversible damage done to her heart. That one event shortened her life by 2 years, meaning she’d die two months from the man and the woman meeting officially.
The man was unconscious for two days, being fed by IV and pissing into a catheter. The morning the man and the woman met, the war veteran finally put away his service pistol and called his therapist. The woman walked in, gasping silently at the bandaged man being fed by an IV. She didn’t know why she was in the hospital room or why she was holding a rose wrapped in a paper napkin. She placed the rose on the side table and wiped a tear from the man’s eye with the napkin. He awoke, breathing in sharply.
“Are you Sicily” He asked with a clumsy tongue, a stiff, motionless jaw, and a trembling set of vocal chords.
“Who’s Sicily?” She asked, wiping more tears from his eyes. They were spilling freely and she feared that it wasn’t because of damage from the bullet.
“My daughter, she was beautiful.” He said, his words hardly comprehensible and saturated in heavy breaths.
“Yes.” She lied, tending to his weeping eyes.
“I thought you had died.” He told her. “I didn’t know what to do.”
“I didn’t.” She corrected. “Are you Okay?”
“No.” He had said simply.
She visited the man every day for the two weeks that the man stayed in the hospital, suffering from some odd, severe eye infection that the doctor’s couldn’t trace. She even drove him home the same day that the old woman collapsed in the shower. The elderly woman had trouble breathing, but luckily her granddaughter had insisted on checking in on the elderly woman twice a day since they had found her on the floor, dehydrated.
“How’s college?” The man asked the woman over breakfast one morning. She stabbed at her scrambled eggs and he sipped at orange juice.
“Good. It was shaky in the beginning, but I’m doing better.”
“That’s good.” He praised. Since his discharge from the hospital his eyes had been terribly inflamed and weepy. His jaw hadn’t properly set and he had developed a shuttering lisp that the woman found endearing. She couldn’t help but smile shyly as he stumbled across his words.
“What about that boy?” He asked.
“What boy?”
“I don’t know his name.” He said.
“I don’t see him anymore.”
“You’re not my daughter, are you?” He asked, a tear rolling slowly down his cheek. She stood and walked the circumference of the breakfast table. She laid a gentle kiss upon his cheek and lied to him again.
“Of course I am.” She said softly.
“Of course you are.” He repeated, placing his hand on hers, wiping tears away with his other. He asked her to stay with him for a while, not forever, but for a little while. She agreed, figuring that he needed someone, but she wouldn’t leave her cat alone. He hadn’t known his daughter had a cat, but was happy to have it as well. The woman moved in and panicked her first night because her cat had disappeared. It had turned up outside of the elderly woman’s apartment, sleeping by the door. They had to be careful about keeping the door closed, because the cat would escape. It never ran too far, just to the elderly woman’s apartment, but the man’s apartment building didn’t allow for pets. The cat finally stopped sleeping outside the elderly woman’s apartment after a few weeks and the elderly woman stopped breathing in her hospital bed. The cat then traded one doorway for another, the infant in 5d. The woman would collect the cat again and again and again, the cat escaped.
The infant developed a wet, rasping cough that gave his mother terrible nightmares. The child held on for a full week before he died. His mother discovered the body, limp in his cradle in the early hours of daylight. When her hand met his icy cold flesh, she screeched out wildly. The war veteran was sleeping soundly, but his dreams turned to nightmares as the mother’s screams brought back memories of Afghani women ducking in terror as a man barks in Arabic and explodes into steaming, red meat and jagged bone. The war veteran awoke and let out a scream of his own. The veteran felt like he was under water and still sinking. The screams died away but the veteran still held his weapon close to his chest, rocking back and forth. A short while later the mournful paramedics left, a knock sounded on his door. The sound sent shivers down the veteran’s spine.
The veteran didn’t answer his apartment door, but slipped into a closet, as the knocking continued. There was a jiggle of keys and the rustling pop of the sticking front door. The veteran didn’t peer out of the closet at his intruder, but allowed the barrel of his gun to watch for him. Heavy footsteps creaked the carpeted floorboards like the floor boards had under the punishing sun. The wood was old and untrustworthy, and it looked down upon a bustling marketplace. When the bomb blew, the veteran panicked and the wood gave way. He fell and hit hard on the floor below, but was still conscious. He could hear the woman scream, the children scream, men scream. He could understand some of the screams. Some screamed in English.
A gruff voice called for the veteran and the veteran pulled the trigger. A heavy thud punched at the floorboards, but the wood didn’t give way this time.
The landlord lay dead on the floor; his intrusion was only out of a concern. Screams had ringed out, shortly after a death and a suicide attempt.
The gunshot from the veteran’s gun sent a wildly shock through the occupants of his floor. The mother of the dead infant dropping the phone she had, losing some comforting words from her caring mother. The suicidal father of Sicily jerked his bound jaw and caused new bleeding to occur and the girl who wasn’t Sicily smiled.
“You’re not Sicily, are you?” The man asked, spitting blood out into the kitchen sink. She smiled more, pressed her lip against his.
“Of course I am.” She lied.
“Of course you are.” He repeated, rubbing her shoulder and moving out into the hall in time to hear more screaming and a second gunshot. His fingers tingled with confusion and he stood helpless until the mother emerged from her apartment, her face soaked in tears and reddened by the pain of loss.
“What happened?” She asked shakily.
“I don’t know.” He answered, looking through blurry eyes to the opened door of 5b. The woman hung her head out from the door of the man’s apartment.
“I’ve called the police. I think there was gunfire.” She said, her fingers wrapped around a cordless phone.
In the following weeks, the woman spent time with the mother of the dead infant, providing comfort like she had for the father of the dead Sicily. Outside the mother’s apartment door, the cat slumbered happily. She had followed her mistress along to the mother’s apartment, but never took the invitation to go inside. The father on the other hand, enjoyed terrible silence in his apartment, thinking of horrible things. He thought of the smile of a young girl named Sicily, of her riding her first bike, of her stumbling through her dance recital and later confessing that she never wanted to dance again, of himself encouraging her to dance stupidly in the parking lot. These thoughts brought tears to his eyes and brought vision to his heart.
“She isn’t Sicily.” He whispered into the lonely void.
Gas had escaped silently into the walls, waiting for the right moments. It polluted the shaky mind of a warrior tormented by his past, it stole the breath from a cooing babe in his cradle, the meager reminder of structural stability in an old woman’s heart and lastly, it belched hellfire into the quiet apartment of a mourning parent.
The mother of the dead infant wasn’t able to think of a truly beautiful thing before the flames bled into her kitchen. A simple distraction moved through her mind.
What’s that knocking sound? She thought. The woman who wasn’t Sicily had thought of a rose wrapped in a paper napkin, she thought of how she hadn’t so much as breathed human air until she’d breathed the air of a perfumed taxi, she hadn’t used lips until she smiled at a miserable man. The two women caught fire, one burned like meat, spitting with fat and the other burned like kindling. The strong magic that held body together broke readily in the flames, releasing the souls it’d stolen in the later days: old woman, the wheezing babe, the tortured veteran, the heavyset landlord. The man exited his apartment into a fiery hallway, the cat hissing in terror at the crackling flames. The man scooped his cat up and walked calmly away. As the flames devoured the apartment complex, his mind turned to the moment of Sicily’s death, she had burned in an apartment fire, herself.
All his considerable magicks couldn’t bring her back, he realized. The more he fooled himself that it was her, the less of his will he’d impose upon it.
He was a good father, he thought. He wanted his daughter, but he wanted his daughter to be free.

No comments:

Post a Comment