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The Return of Jack Collier (Chapter Five)

The Return of Jack Collier

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay


Last week’s entry can be found here.



Chapter Five: Learning to Walk


            The first step was not the hardest. The second step wasn’t the worst either. The fifty-seventh step was a breeze. The one hundred and eighty-first step though, that one was a bitch. That was the first time I fell down. I banged my jaw on the wooden rail to help support myself, bit my tongue and bashed my knee so hard it was black for a week. However, I didn’t scream or cry or let anyone help me up.


            When they came running I told them to back off and let me get myself up. It was hard, because my knee was already swelling and my mouth was filling with blood, but I did manage to get all the way back to my feet and complete the last three feet to get to the other side of the bars. I didn’t walk any more that day, but I’d sort of proved something to myself. I proved that I can get up again on my own and finish the job. That was the important part.


            I still couldn’t walk on my own, and I needed the bars and canes to walk, but I could walk a little. I was making progress though, and that was what was important. So long as I could do more today than I could manage yesterday, then I was moving forward. It was frustrating sometimes, because it would seem like I wasn’t getting any forward motion, but I think I was improving every day. It was just very, very hard.


            The pain was receding though, and I didn’t have to spend my nights biting down on a pillow. I was having semi-regular visits with Debbie and Karen. Not together, I’d still not seen the two of them together. I knew it wasn’t the same person with a wig and a change of outfit though because Debbie would have to loose nearly half a foot and probably something like forty pounds to be Karen. Debbie isn’t heavy, she has curves and rounds though, while Karen has always been slight and small. Between the two of them you sort of have the perfect woman, they’re tall and short and slim and curvy and blond and brunette, which is just the sort of woman that both Groucho Marx and I crave. Actually, I was thinking that maybe what I crave is… but never mind that for now.


            There wasn’t any more hospital room hanky-panky, but there was a more relaxed feeling to our meetings. Karen and I were able to fall into an amicable relationship, which rebuilt a lot that was torn down after… after. I don’t know, Debbie didn’t mention it and I’m not sure I want to go into it, but there is a reason that Karen never came back to me and I never went back to her. I’m not sure Debbie knows about it, but she knows that we were leaving well enough alone. I went to the wedding, but it was too strained and she was too busy to get anything done.


            If I hadn’t been hurt like this, we’d probably have spent the rest of our lives thinking the one was still so pissed at the other that it defied description using only the English language. Italian or Sicilian might have enough words to cover the imagined level of vitriol, but you might need one of the Slavic dialects to help out.


            Face to face though, the anger wasn’t there. She wasn’t mad at me, or planning to do things to my genitals with a pair of pruning sheers, which would have been justified seeing how I treated her. She was the sweet girl that I did wrong, but was willing to forgive me if I would agree that I wasn’t mad at her either. While she may argue the point, my reason for suspecting long burning rage was greater than hers. She might not have been blameless in what happened between us, but it was clearly my fault. Still, it wasn’t anything unforgivable, and it’s not like I hit her or otherwise physically hurt her. We both said nasty things to each other though, we were both cruel, and I suppose if we both accepted culpability, then that was enough.


            Still, she came around a lot more than she probably should have. I have no idea what sort of people Angela and Pete are, but I can’t imagine they were that happy to find that she was driving from Ypsi to where ever this hospital I was in was. Gas isn’t cheap after all, at least it wasn’t when I became confined to my own mind. She kept coming to see me though, and we kept talking and it was almost like the old days. Only things were a little different now, because this was the mother of two children and a wife to two people. I sort of felt a little like I should have been waving Brenda and Eddie goodbye as we talked, because I sort of understood that song completely now.


            While we were talking, I could tell she was trying to draw me out. She was being clever about it, but not so clever that I couldn’t tell what she was doing, but clever enough that I didn’t mind. We talked about the old days, we talked about what had happened in the years between that day and this, and she got me to talk about a few things I hadn’t even talked to Debbie about.


            “Do you remember getting shot?” she asked at one point, not quite a non-sequitur, but it was a bit of a leap. I suspect it was meant to surprise me.


            I thought about that little fourteen year old girl, ten days from her fifteenth birthday, with the gun in front of her. I saw her pick up the gun and fire four times before realizing what she’d done and dropping it to clasp her hands over her mouth in order to stifle a scream. I remembered clearly, but I felt a deep and abiding need not to let on that I could remember. So I lied, which is always the best way to start a new relationship. You’ve got to get your lies in early so you can build a proper foundation on the bullshit.


            “No,” I shook my head. “That whole day is kind of a blur.”


            “What about that day in Stony with the baby oil?”


            “Did you think she missed that part in her story too?” I asked.


            “She said you missed it,” she smiled. “Said you noticed it right away.”


            “It was an interesting day, and one that probably should be recorded for later readings. When I’m old and gray I think I would like to remember that day.”


            “You don’t remember it now?”


            “I remember everything,” I said, showing my cards. “But it would be nice to have the details written down if my memory ever fails me.”


            “Except the day you got shot,” she reminded me. “You don’t remember that.”


            “I remember I fucked up,” I said. “I remember that I didn’t do something right.”


            “That bothers you?” she asked.


            “I left a lot of things unfinished,” I said with a sort of shrugging gesture. “And I left a lot of things done wrong. Like you and me. That was done wrong. Through a combination of stupidity and youthful inexperience I fucked up the first great love I had.”


            “I was your first love?” she smiled at that and then frowned. “Wait…”


            “You and Debbie,” I said, before she could get muddled. “Together, you two were my first love.”


            “We were?” she asked, the smile broadening.


            “Yes,” I nodded, “and I fucked it up.”


            “Well, not all by yourself,” she assured me.


            “Not all of it,” I said. “But I managed a good part of it by myself. Particularly the screw-ups, those are mine. I own them.”


            “But what do you intend to do about them?” she asked. “You’ve never asked for forgiveness, or even said you’re sorry.”


            “Saying sorry won’t fix it,” I said.


            “You want to fix things?” she said, crossing her legs and putting her hands on her knee.


            “Not quite,” I said.


            “What then?”


            “I intend to put things to right.”


            “Put to right?” she asked. “That sounds an awful lot like ‘git mah shootin irons’ sort of talk.”


            “Not entirely,” I said looking at her. “Part of it is just making sure I don’t hurt you ever again. I’ve got to make up for the harm I caused you, and make sure I don’t do it again. When you and I can be friends again, real friends, then I’ll consider that I’ve put us to right.”


            “What about lovers?” she asked.


            “You’re with Angela and Pete,” I said.


            “Pete and Angela understand that I can be in love with people besides them. Even that I can love people away from them, without them,” she said. “You don’t imagine that Debbie and I go home and us three girls gang bang Pete do you?”


            “I hadn’t really thought about it I guess,” I said, and decided on a bit of honesty. “I hadn’t really considered that you might still be… what’s a good word, active with her?”


            “That our relationship didn’t end because I started a new one?” she asked, and I sort of knew we’d been knocked back a few steps. “You don’t stop loving someone just because you’ve found someone new to love. That’s how this whole poly thing works, Jack. You can love more than one person at a time.”


            “I have been around this particular block before,” I said.


            “Fuck,” she whispered and put a hand over her eyes. “I just did it again, didn’t I?”


            “A little bit,” I said.


            “I get so used to just having to leap to the defense,” she said. “Schools, friends, colleagues who you think would understand. I’m sorry.”


            “It’s okay,” I said, smiling a weak and feeble smile at her.


            “I shouldn’t be lecturing.”


            “You were talking about something important,” I consoled her.


            “We’re supposed to be talking about us,” she said.


            “Well, it’s all tied together isn’t it?” I asked.


            “Yeah, actually it is. Since I never actually stopped loving you,” she said drawing a finger across my cheek. “I was hoping that one day we could pick up and actually restart.”


            “We’ll see, maybe,” I said. “I’ll have to figure some things out first.”


            “I understand,” she said, and I sort of thought I was going to make her cry again.


            “I do love you though,” I said kissing her fingers as they came close enough to my mouth for me to get them.


            “Oh yeah?” she asked.


            “Yes,” I tried to think of how I could convince her. “I never wanted to leave, but I was stupid and I thought I needed to.”


            “Okay,” she said and then the conversation shifted away from that topic.


            I was thinking a lot about all the walking away I’d done in my life. A situation is done, I get paid, and I walk away. The situation becomes a total clusterfuck, I manage to jump clear before the whole thing explodes, and I walk away. Some of the most beautiful women in the world fall for me, and because I’m an idiot, I walk away. I’d decided that maybe for a change I would walk towards things, and see if maybe I couldn’t put them right instead of just getting clear. There is a lot to be said about getting oneself clear, but there is even more to be said about not having to. There could be something to be said for getting in there and working out the issue.


            Then there was Jill, poor little Jill that I had promised to get away from all that. I’d promised I would take her anywhere she wanted to go. It wasn’t exactly my fault, but I hadn’t taken her anywhere, I’d left her there. I raised my hand and rubbed my forehead, which was a trick I’d learned recently. If you gather up enough strength, you can actually touch your head. I thought about her and I thought about the world outside and I sort of thought I’d like to see it.


            I could get discharged if I could walk, or when they were sure that there wasn’t anymore physical therapy that would help me. I sort of wondered if maybe I couldn’t get myself home and finish the process on my own. I thought about that for a couple of days, while my legs built up strength and the world flashed by like a strobe.


            One night I was sitting in my room, with the strong but silent cabinet as my only companion. I’d gotten used to the fact that cabinet wasn’t going to say anything, and that if things got to being very hard for me the AC unit would start to leak over my eyes, but it hadn’t been leaking much lately. Strange that they would have an air conditioner on in winter anyway. I looked at a chair, about ten feet from my bed, that had my pants folded over it.


            I wondered if I could get up, and if so could I get there. It would be hard, and I might fall down if I tried it. I had no cane or walker, but I had a pair of pins that were supposed to work. I didn’t know if they’d take me across that great expanse though, maybe it would be too far.


            So okay, Jack. You’re a tough guy. You’ve been shot by a confused little girl, fallen into a coma after Michigan threw a rock at you, thought you were a cowboy and then a futuristic detective before waking up to find yourself in a hospital and weak as a kitten. What does all that amount to? Routine. All part of the service ma’am. Four hours a day with the orchids, three years in a coma. No talking business at meals, and no falling down on the job. You’ve got friends, and they’re depending on you coming back and giving them an answer to a few things.


            The girls are depending on you getting back to what you used to be, to being the A1 tough guy, the toughest sumbitch in the whole Metro Detroit Area if not the baddest mofo on two legs. If Jack the cat comes looking for the crown, you’ve got to be able to take him. So it’s time to prove to your friends that you’re worth a damn. Sometimes that means dying, sometimes that means killing a whole lot of people, and sometimes it means doing something really tough, like putting on your pants.


July 23, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment