It is all roaring now. Roar! Roar! Roar! The world has become a roar. The world has been taken over by roaring, devouring all things beautiful and silent and innocent. Mine is the high-pitched roar of a small boy-child. Their’s is the roar of the excitable crowds. Surrounding it all is the deep and powerful roaring of the angry lions in the coliseum. The roaring all echoing off the concrete walls. Roar! Roar! Roar! My tiny roar made bolder by the backing of the giant beasts. I’m roaring to protect myself. Roar! Roar! Roar! I’m protecting myself and the lions are protecting me from the roar of the crowds and the evil growl at the back of my neck. Roar! Roar! Roar! I’m an angry lion. Roar!
The lights are on. There is my doctor hovering over me. A kindly hand on my temple, rubbing at the corner of my forehead the way Mom did when I was just a child.
“Walter, are you alright? You were roaring.”
I smile. I was roaring. I was lying here in this hospital bed, a hero and a topic of hospital conversation, and I was roaring.
“Is it the drugs?” I want to blame it on the drugs.
“It could be the drugs. Perhaps you were dreaming?”
“I was thinking about a girl in a bar. I was looking down her top.”
My doctor smiled.
“All the way to her bottom, I hope and pray.”
My doctor is funny. Especially since he has a comb-over.
“And then she kissed me.”
“Well… then… that would explain the roaring. You feeling any pain, Walter? Anything I should know about?”
“The sores on my back burn a little. And my stomach still hurts when I try and sit up. Sometimes my head throbs. Like I can feel my heart beating in there sometimes.”
“I don’t know where I start and stop. I feel like I am spilling out all over everything.”
“Oh really? Can you feel where your feet are?”
My doctor squeezes one foot and then the other with his hand. He just grabs them through the covers and squeezes.
“I can feel that,” I tell him. “But it doesn’t feel like you are squeezing the end of me. More like someplace in the middle. But I know those are my feet so that should be the end of me. Does that make any sense?”
My doctor looks fascinated.
“Well Walter, you have quite a bit of parietal lobe damage. That’s the part of the brain we believe helps you to orient yourself within the world. It tells you where you are in relationship to everything else. You may have trouble knowing right from left. Or being aware of where your body is. That‘s all stuff we‘re gonna have to work on. The goal is to get you stronger and then increase your physical therapy so you can get on out of here and go look down some more girlie tops.”
My doctor winks. I like my doctor. He understands us men.
“I like Caroline,” I accidentally confess.
“Who doesn’t? I think we’ve all got a crush on Caroline around here.”
I’m sorry I said that. Who has a crush on Caroline? I hate competition. I never win anything and I always end up feeling bad.
“I like Walter, too. My physical therapists.”
My doctor smiles. “With a name like Walter, who wouldn’t like him?”
I like my doctor too.
There are noises in the hallway by the door. Commotions and wall bangs and then a sharp knock. My doctor rises. In come pushers and pullers in hospital scrubs with shiny name tags.
And in the middle of it all- and sound asleep- Baldeeny.
There is too much going on so I close my eyes.
It was a red Firebird with a white rag top, It had run off the road and launched itself into a roll off a rock. It was so late at night that it had become early morning and I was in my street sweeping machine going around and round.
I saw the smoldering car with a rear tire spinning before I saw the girl. The car was upside down and the girl was lying next to it.
‘Half’ the girl was lying there, the bottom half hidden by the smoldering car.
Thick leaves and forests mulch had saved the girl from being chopped in half, but the fire that smoldered would burn her into smithereens if I didn’t get there first.
They say you get a hundred times stronger than you ever thought you were when your adrenaline kicks in and there is a girl to be saved. That’s what happened. Adrenaline kicked in and I leapt from my street sweeping machine and ran across broken terrain and jagged rocks to get to the girl and lift the car and pull the girl to a safe place before the fire started for real.
Siren’s came and people came and an ambulance came and there were big men dressed in fire suits and the girl had broken bones and bruises but she turned out fine.
I sat there on the curb and watched as the girl was carted off and the fire was put out and the men waved traffic through and the night changed into morning, then went quietly back to cleaning my streets before the crowds got on the roads. I too had a job to do. I had to drive my big rig around and round and the world was a dangerous place.
“One, two, three!”
There are huffs and grunts.
Six men are used to get Baldeeny back into his bed.
“Hey Baldeeny,” I say, “the old girl was here to see you.”
Out the door go the boys with the shiny nametags bouncing shoulders off the door frame one by one.
I hear him breathing behind the curtain that is closed around him. I close my eyes and listen closely.
In that heavy breathing, that in and out of not so silent air, I hear a little peacefulness and I try to focus there.
I let my lights go out.
Freaky. In my face is a round old head with a grizzled chin and old-school sideburns that seem to curl on forever.
It’s Papa Brown. There’s his familiar finger, poking me in my side. The gaze in his eyes that’s looking for secrets inside my skull that I can’t share.
Not because I don’t want to- I want to, it would make me happy to have answers to those questions- but the answers simply aren’t there.
Not in my mind, anyways.
“You awake? Your eyes are open.”
I close my eyes tight. “I’m sleeping. Go away.”
“Are you remembering?”
“What’s there? On the other side?”
Papa Brown burst into a fit of coughing. He pulls his face away from mine just in time. Now he’s coughing out of lungs that don’t sound healthy. For the first time, I see Papa Brown for what he is- a sick and dying man.
Maybe he’s not dying and just afraid of dying? All the same. He’s worried greatly about dying and he thinks I have answers that I don’t possess.
How can I?
I mean, where was I all this time?
Not here. Not someplace else. I wasn’t anywhere, which means nowhere, and nowhere has no answers for people who need answers. Nowhere. Nothing. That’s all I can say about that. Nada. Zilch. Blackness and emptiness.
What more is there to say?
Papa Brown is bent over with one hand clutched to his gut and one hand using my bed as support. He’s coughing in deep hard spasms now. There is gurgling in his coughing and his face is building up in redness and pressure and looks about ready to pop.
“I can’t help you Papa Brown“. I tell him.
I can’t do anything but just lie here helplessly and wonder when it will stop?
A nurse sticks her head in, disappears, and then returns with a wheelchair and one of the shiny name tagged dudes and pull Papa Brown back into the chair. They flip up leg rests and get Papa Brown’s legs off the floor while he still coughs and his head still deepens in its redness now gaining a purple hue…
…and they wheel him out.
I can hear him rolling down the hall, coughing and coughing until I can’t hear him any more.