Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 36 Frazetta

“You're making fine progress. It would seem that your trips to the Physical Therapy Department have been very productive.” Dr. Chatterly pulled and twisted on Sinclair’s legs as he talked, observing the extent of improvement along with the pain level that presented itself in mild grimaces and flinches.

“It is nice to be able to move about. You could use some time up there too.”, reminding Dr. Chatterly of how attractive Eva was. It was purely coincidence that Sinclair reached a pain threshold and let out a yelp as Dr. Chatterly pushed on the knee joint. “Hey! That hurt!” Sinclair waited a moment as the muscles in his jaw released their tension. “Was that a hint or are you still checking out the knee?”

“The knee looks fine.”, his hands guiding the lower half of the leg out and then back again. He stopped in mid sentence; his own awkward thoughts infiltrated the open wound of his soul. He could see Eva’s face crisp and clear, floating pleasantly in a forbidden corridor of desire. Taking a deep breath in through his nostrils; he could extract her scent from out of his memory, he closed his eyes.

“I didn’t know you felt that way about me Doc.”, oozing his words sarcastically. Chatterly recovered slowly from his mind trip to find he had been softly massaging Sinclair’s leg.

“I . . . uh . . .”

“Your stuck on her, big time.”

“Can’t get her out of my head. It wouldn’t be so bad if I were single; but I’m married and love my wife. For a while it was just a simple fascination; now I have a hard time picturing my wife’s face when I close my eyes. All I see is Eva’s face, her dark hair swept back forcing me to focus on her eyes and her totally disarming smile.” Chatterly closed his eyes again as he began describing the vision. His voice broke as he admitted to himself that he was in a real jam. Opening his eyes as he turned to look directly at Sinclair, “When I realized that I was becoming too familiar I ran away. I’ve stayed as far away from her as possible here at the hospital. Now, all you did was mention her name and my mind instantly was pursuing some wild delusion that she might care for me. What am I going to do?” Chatterly sank deeper into the chair.

“Maybe you better carry a picture of your wife and look at it during the day. I keep a picture of Bev in my wallet.”, reaching over to open the drawer and grab is wallet. The black leather covering had worn a distinctive outline from the badge rubbing against it from within. Sinclair opened it, smiling to himself as he looked forward to seeing the photograhs of his family, “Have a look; these are my kids. The oldest is Bonnie, then Jennifer and the chuckle head is William.” A great feeling of accomplishment filled Sinclair as he flipped through the pages of his life. He paused just long enough for Chatterly to nod before going to the next picture. “You’ve met my wife, Bev. This is how I see her. The two had been to Olin Mills all dressed up and feeling very much in love. The image had captured their feelings for each other on paper. The red dress complimented her winter colors and the large silvery buttons seemed to act as pointers to her smile. Sinclair was looking at his young bride and for the moment he was inside the picture. Chatterly sat up as he saw a transformation taking place before him. The wrinkles were melting away one by one from Sinclair’s face as if time itself had been reversed.

“I see what you mean. She is a fine looking woman.”

“Hard to believe that picture was taken over ten years ago; seems like only yesterday.” Sinclair let his breath out slowly as he held the picture out for Chatterly to see once more.

“You paint a good picture of how life should be. I wish it were more like that for me.”, a hint of self pity surfaced as he complimented Sinclair’s family life and simultaneously found the holes in his own.

“Think about the day you married your wife. What kind of thoughts did you store away?” Chatterly looked off into space as the question focused on a particular day. Forgetting that he was a medical professional, his thoughts quietly searched and sifted the files of life. He rambled peacefully through fields holding hands with his new bride on their way to a secluded lake. They had rented a cottage for their honeymoon. A smile found its way onto his face as he too was remembering his favorite moments.

“There’s hope for you yet.”

“I suppose you’re right. I think its time for me to take some time off and get my head screwed on straight; which brings me to the other reason I wanted to talk with you.”
Chatterly picked up Sinclair’s chart subconsciously. Glancing over his notes and picking
up where he had left off, “I see that you’ve been having some interesting experiences.”

“Anything in particular or just the usual patient who talks to his computer type of stuff?”, as Sinclair waited for a more specific direction.

“I’m not going to try and tell you that I understand all the stuff that is going on with you. I’ll be the first to say that I’m at a loss trying to give you a medical explanation for the way you can communicate the way you do. My specialty is fixing bones and muscles, not . . .” Chatterly could not find the right combination of words.

“Let me guess; you want me to visit the shrink again?” Sinclair had been visited by just about every specialist that was on staff.

“Not this time; I already know that your crazy.”, looking across the page and laughing. “I read the results of your tests from the last time. Your interpretations of the ink blots were interesting. I particularly liked the one that you said reminded you of Frazzetta’s art work. You must have blown Dr. Laramore away with that one.”

“Well, it did look an awful lot like one of his posters; it was called, “The Mammoth”. Are you familiar with his work?”

“Yes, in fact I have a couple of books at home that show several of his better posters. I went back over them and I’d have to agree with you; it did look very similar to the ink blot picture.” Chatterly was moderately impressed with Sinclair's wide range of interests.

“So, who is it that you want me to see?”

“His name’s Scott Bartell, he’s done some extensive work in the area of brain function abnormalities at Baylor University. He’s expressed an interest in your particular challenge. He wants to put you in one of his test tubes for awhile.”

“ Hey, why not; he’s not into electric shock stuff or anything, right?” Sinclair waited for a moment.

“Never on the first visit.”, as Chatterly contained his laugh. “He told me that one of his classmates had done some work with plants back in the early sixties that made waves in the accepted sciences. He was cutting leaves in half and placing them on specially treated photographic paper.” Sinclair sat up as he listened more closely.

“The energy released by the leaf was enough to present a crisp image. The interesting part was that even though there was only half of a leaf on the plate, it would imprint the image of the entire leaf; not a mirror image of the half that was left, but the original whole leaf. Kind of weird stuff, huh? Anyway, the unanswered questions that came about have led him looking for similar type situations in other life forms.”

“This is gonna sound strange, but I remember having read about that a long time ago. It was in the Academy of Science monthly publication. My grandfather was a member and had me put on their mailing list.” Sinclair enjoyed being able to jump into the conversation and felt a surge of excitement. “Once I read all about some kind of sail boat that had a rigid sail made out of corrugated tin or a fiberglass. This boat . . “, Sinclair made the shape of a triangle with his hands as he explained, “. . . would go faster than the wind that was pushing it.”

“Sinclair, there are very few things about you that would surprise me.”

“So when do I get to meet your friend?”

“I was thinking that the two of you could have lunch; say, tomorrow? I went over some of the aspects of your condition; your ability to project thoughts directly into the computer along with your inability to screen out all the rest of the garbage. He was eager; more like hungry, to meet you and get started as soon as possible. Who knows, maybe you will make it into next month’s Academy of Science as a feature article.”

“Sounds good to me; but who’s paying for all this?”

“Its on the house, no charge. When I mentioned what you had already accomplished he was quite impressed.” Looking over to the computer, “He did suggest that we keep a transcript of your communications. Will that be any problem?”

“None at all; in fact all my thoughts are automatically entered into the computer. It would be just a matter of saving them onto disk.” Sinclair thoughtfully considered that the content of such a disk would reveal not only his conscious thoughts but his inner ramblings also. “I hope this guy has a good sense of humor and doesn’t get bored to easily.”, he threw in hesitantly.

“Relax, this is all confidential.”, realizing that more was involved by the concern in Sinclair’s tone.

“So far so good.” Sinclair smiled as he made believe he was watching something outside the window.

“So far so good; what do you mean?”

“Nothing in particular, just that this reminded me of the office secretary who worked on the thirty fifth floor. That’s what she heard the man say as he fell past her window on his way to oblivion.

“Uhhhh, right.” Chatterly conjured up a series of pictures to fit the story. “Isn’t that just a little too much like the story of how you got in here?”, raising his brow as he spoke.

“Have you always been this quick?”

“What’s in that stuff your drinking? Maybe I should have them lower your sugar intake. You keep this up and I will”

“So I start tomorrow with this guy Scott, what did you say his last name was?”

“Bartell, Scott Bartell. He suggested that we send all the data to his office. That way he can print it all out and have some of his lab rats sift through it for him.”

“He wants it all sent by way of the modem?” Sinclair shook his head as he tried to imagine the mountains of goble-de-gook.

“That’s what he said. He has three under graduate aces on full time. This is how they make points.”

“I don’t want to sound ungrateful or anything; but when do you figure I’ll be going home? I mean. . .”, his face winced as he tried to phrase his thoughts, “. . .I can’t see much reason for being cooped up here now.”

“I’d like to say you could go home anytime. Your healing very nicely. Chatterly pursed his lip as he looked at the last few pages of charting. “What concerns me the most is how you fall out of touch; just drift off to who knows where. I know it scares the hell out of the floor nurses. Last Tuesday after you had breakfast your vitals went off the scale; stayed that way for almost three hours. When you came out of it all you could say was how tired you were as you went back to sleep for the rest of the day. We tried to tap into that computer of yours, but it was just a maze of jumbled letters and numbers.”

Chatterly flipped a few pages more, “Tell you what; you keep your numbers level for the next few days and I’ll see about getting you home soon.”

“Is that anything like a traffic ticket quota?”

“I don’t think I quite understand. What has your staying healthy got to do with writing traffic tickets?”

“Not a thing Doc, not a thing. I was just reminded of some my frustrations with the Department.” Sinclair had been at odds with his immediate supervisors over their insistence on the issuance of a minimal amount of traffic tickets. Over the past few years
it had become blown out of proportion. They would push him to write tickets and he would bristle, reminding them that it was a violation of State law.

“Well, I still don’t see the correlation.”, shaking his head.

“Never mind. I never said a thing.” Sinclair didn’t want to rehash the subject.

“What ever . . . “, walking to the door. “. . . I’ll be in later this evening to set up that telephone link.

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 35 Fill It Again, Please

“Time for another sample Mr. Sinclair.” Maime held a small clear collection cup in one hand while reaching to draw some blood with the other.

“Why can’t you just attach a spigot to my arm? That way all you’d have to do is turn the lever.” Sinclair looked at the list of fresh holes assembled along the crease of his inner arm.

“I know just what you mean Mr. Sinclair. Its getting’ hard to find a spot that hasn’t been stuck.” Maime extended his arm as she prepared the area with a Betadine scrub.

“There’s a spot; no, you got that one last week.” It was difficult to tell where the discoloration was from the bruises or from the Betadine stain. Sinclair accepted the situation and looked the other way as the prick of the needle entering caused a momentary flare of heat sensation.

“As often as we do this, why are you always lookin’ off? A grown man afraid of this little needle.” Maime made light of his inherent fear of needles.

“Never have gotten used to it I suppose.”, looking back as the blood was being sucked out by the vacuum container attached to the needle. “It doesn’t really hurt, sort of stings and gets hot, but it doesn’t hurt.”

“Don’t pay no attention to me Mr. Sinclair. I was messin’ with you is all.”, catching his attention as she looked him in the face.

“I know.”, changing the subject, “Looking at all the used up places reminds me of a dog we had when I was growing up. His name was Gritz. . We got him in the dead of Winter. He was a mixed breed of unknown origin, maybe some Setter and St. .Bernard. We paper trained him in the kitchen. As he got larger, which he did rather quickly, he adjusted easily to the outside stage. The Lord had provided a similar atmosphere. The snow was a little colder than the newspaper, but it was white. Gritz made the trip outside and accomplished the desired results; content within his limited faculties, having followed the instructions.

“That should do it.” Maime slid the shaft of the needle out and covered the hole with a square of dressing material while listening politely and occasionally nodding or smiling. Sinclair continued his reflection. “Hold this in place while, like I have to tell you what to do.” Sinclair automatically put light pressure over the gauze packing.

“Things went along and as Spring approached the patches of snow began to disappear. Gritz began to wander in search of an acceptable location. The patches of snow became harder to find; after a while they vanished altogether. Gritz went out one day and was quite perplexed when he could find no newspaper. The poor beast finally gave in to nature.” Sinclair laughed as he thought of the expression on the dogs face.

“Remind me to tell you about the time Gritz was attacked by a room full of balloons at my little sister’s birthday party.”

“I’ll excuse myself while you ah . . .”, handing Sinclair the clear urine specimen cup.

“Hold it a little lower.”, letting his laughter punctuate the statement. Sinclair was a big fan of the James Bond movies and couldn’t resist.

“Bev must be some kind of woman to put up with the likes of you Mr. Sinclair. Now would you please behave yourself as best you can and I’ll forget that you said that.” Maime smiled and would have blushed if her skin wasn’t so dark.

“This is the third time today that I’ve had to pee in the cup. I hope I’m up to the challenge.” The words came out and he could feel a hidden anger start to resurface. When the Police Department had developed their Drug Testing Program, Sinclair had been one of the first ones chosen at random by the computer to be a “volunteer”. He had a keen awareness of man’s free agency and the struggle to balance the needs and wants of the individual with the demands of society as a unit. He didn’t mind so much the idea of having to be held accountable; it was a necessary part of the job.

What Sinclair found to be repugnant was the Department’s attitude. He had been ordered to supply a sample of his body for an in depth chemical test; however, the form that the City had designed made it look like his signature was totally voluntary. Sinclair had signed the form and added the words, “under protest” directly under his signature. He drove to the testing lab after he got off. Some eager young men hoping to become police cadets were sitting on a bench waiting to be tested ahead of him. “You guys sure you want to join?” He shook his head and laughed; knowing that their choice had already been made and that his rotten attitude towards the Department would not sway them from the path. He completed the forms listing all the chemicals that he had taken in the past month; aspirin, nasal spray, antibiotics for an ear infection and some over the counter back pain tablets.

He was led into a small room where he could be assured that only he and God would fit. He was handed two fairly large containers. One was so the lab could test for illegal chemical substances like cocaine, heroine and marijuana while the other was to be tested for steroids. Each had a strip of temperature sensitive tape to insure that the sample was fresh and not contrived. Sinclair filled the first one about two thirds to the top when his well went dry. Standing inside the cubicle for a spell it became apparent that there was nothing left to give. He placed the lid on the container and handed it to the overseer.

“This is not a sufficient amount to run the test.”, looking at the sample that he handed her.

“Sorry but that’s all I have at the moment.”

“Wait here while I make a phone call.”, as she handed him back the test samples. “You may as well dump this. We cannot accept a partial testing sample.”

“Suit yourself; but I can’t stay here all day. I still have to get home and get some sleep.” She had already turned and gone to her desk. Sinclair sat on the bench as she talked into the telephone. She motioned for him to come over.

“He wants to talk to you.”, handing Sinclair the handset.

“This is Officer Dosilmeyer, who’s this?”

“Lieutenant Masters, Internal Affairs Division. I have been informed that you are not cooperating with the test. Is this a refusal on your part?” The words came over mechanically; as if someone had opened a refrigerator. Sinclair took the phone away from his ear and looked at it. Maybe he had heard him wrong or had missed something.

“Excuse me, would you say that again.” Sinclair had been in the military. The word “repeat” meant that another round of artillery was desired so he purposely used “say again” when he wanted to hear something a second time.

“Is this a refusal on your part?”

“You have got to be kidding me, right? I mean, here I am at this lab when I should be home sleeping. I gave them what I had and they had me pour it out because it wasn’t enough. Does that sound like a refusal to you. Give me a break! Geeezzzzz ! You can’t be serious, , , , can you?” Sinclair had dealt with I. A. D. on many occasions and knew only too well that he was not kidding. The Department made sure that humor and I. A. D. would have no common ground.

“If you do not complete the testing it will be entered as a refusal. Are you going to cooperate and be tested?”

“I don’t have much of a choice now do I?” Sinclair made it a point not to let his tongue get the better of him. He thought to himself, “And they wonder why my attitude is so bad.”

“That will be all, officer.” Sinclair put the handset back on its cradle.

“Looks like I could be here for a long time. Have you got a soda machine in the building. I could use some Dr. Pepper; make that a couple of Dr. Peppers.”

“There’s one in the lobby. Just let me know when you think you are ready to complete the test.”

“Its a shame you can’t take a core sample. This is pure bull shit you know, pure bull shit!” Sinclair was fighting off being totally offensive. “I’m sorry about that last remark; you're just doing your job.”

“No offense taken. I’ll be back here whenever your ready.”

“Mr. Sinclair, where are you off to now? Are you okay Mr. Sinclair?” Maime watched as the anger spilled into his jaw. The muscles tightened and his teeth ground firmly as he thought.

“I’m all right Maime. I was just going over . . .”, he thought for a moment. “ . . . no need to bring up that. Let me have that cup; but only because you said, please.”

“They finally got the lead shielding to put in the walls of your room. They got tired of doing all the routine stuff on paper; you know like they did a long time ago, before they installed the computers. Ever since you started up its been a real test.”

“I’m sorry Maime; I missed something. What’s this about lead shielding?”

“That’s a laugh. All you do all day is send us messages on the computer so’s we can’t get in a lick of work and you want to know how come.” Maime went on to explain to Sinclair the amount of chaos caused by his random transmissions. “Every time you start to dreaming all the computers go wild. The first time it happened we might as well have shut the place down. You were goin’ on about the morning you and Bev went down for breakfast at the Hotel Galvez . . .”, Maime was grinning from ear to ear, “. . . at two o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Hold on now, I never told anyone about that. You mean to tell me that . . .” Sinclair was still not aware of how far reaching his thoughts had become.

“Every nurse on the floor stopped by to keep up with your first day of marriage. You two must have set some kind of record for late breakfast. We had to start keeping the daily reports by hand. You should see some of the charts that got filed. What a mess you made, whoooweeee!”

“So what else has made it to the “General Hospital” crowd that I should be blushing about?”

"You got nothin’ to be ashamed about. . .”, Maime got right up into Sinclair’s face, “ . . . A man is supposed to be wild in love with his wife. You got a wonderful woman to love too.” It was like Maime was proud to be with him.

“How long ‘till the shielding goes in? I’m not so sure I like being this intimate with the entire staff.”

“The first layer was put in to keep you from messin’ with the computers down stairs. They had already drawn lots to see who was going to get to do you in. We had them put up a small temporary one at the desk to protect all the monitors just to make sure it would work.”

“I bet that spoiled the fun.”

“Sure did Mr. Sinclair, but I got to say it was a whole lot better than readin’ the paper; yes a whole lot better!”

“I think I should go fill this up.”, backing slowly in the direction of the bathroom. Sinclair looked down to make sure he was wearing his pajamas.

“Oh, yes sir Mr. Sinclair. I’ll just wait out here.”

“Right.” Closing the door behind him as he concentrated on the task at hand. They had been running tests on his blood and comparing the results with his urine hoping to find out how his metabolism was effected with different medication and diet. He thought that after so many tests that there must be some kind of clue, a correlation that would advance their understanding; but as yet it had not been observed.

“Did you say something Mr. Sinclair?” Maime had not heard anything; it was her way of checking on his progress.

“No, still waiting.” Sinclair breathed out as he tired of looking at the empty cup. “Hold the presses, yes, there may be a winner yet.” A mild wave of physiological sensation focused itself in the proper area. He closed his eyes and thought more intensely as the feeling grew towards fruition. “Ahhhhhh!”

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 34 Astros

“Got some tickets for tonight’s Astro’s game. Thought you might like a chance to escape this place.” Vern pulled the paper carrots from his shirt pocket and slowly waved them in front of Sinclair. Vern’s smile was impossible to ignore, expressing the youthful spirit that was bottled up inside him.

“Sounds good to me; but I sort of doubt that they . . .”, leaning toward the nurses station, “ . . . will go for it.” The problems that Sinclair was having with his “reception” limited his mobility.

“I already took care of that. They made me promise to take you in a wheel chair. You can sit in a regular chair at the game, but they didn’t want to take a chance on you over exerting or falling.” A flash of white sprang from Vern’s teeth as the depth of his smile increased.

“When do we leave; before I wake up and this is just a good dream.” Sinclair was already at the edge of the bed and started to get up.

“I knew if I twisted on your arm hard enough that you’d come around. It would help if you got out of those pajamas and put some street clothes on.”

“Yea, guess your right.” Sinclair eased himself back as he kicked off his slippers. “Reach in there. . .”, nodding toward the closet, “. . . and hand me a pair of pants and a shirt. Time’s a wastin’.” Vern looked in the narrow upright closet. There was a blue terry cloth bath robe, a white long sleeve shirt, a bright red Hawaiian print short sleeve shirt, a pair of gray dress slacks and a well worn pair of blue jeans.

“We’ll be sitting in the mezzanine . . .”, quietly talking to himself, “ . . . wouldn’t want to get to too dressed up” He looked back at Sinclair, who was already pulling off his pajama shirt.

“The red one. . . “, without looking up Sinclair blurted out, “. . . and the gray slacks.” Sinclair reached up and felt the day old growth on his face. “I better not wear my Detroit Tiger’s ball cap.”, laughing just enough to require a response from Vern.

“Okay, and just why wouldn’t you want to wear the cap?” Vern looked back into the closet, “ ‘' and I don’t see it up here anyway.”

“Never had one to begin with. I figure the confusion it might cause . . . , you know. . ., all those women thinking I was Tom Sellick.” A deep belly laugh caught Vern just above the cheek bone.

“I suppose I’ll have to put up with that kind of stuff the rest of the night?”, holding his one eye shut as if a punch had landed the mark.

“What did you expect; and if your real good I’ll even let you buy the ‘ dogs.” Sinclair was arranging the material of his garments so that they reached down to the knees. Vern watched on, amused at the strange looking underwear.

“Ahhhh . . .”

“Some other time Vern. For now can you just accept that I wear them as part of my religious belief.” Vern quietly held his stare; then shook it off, realizing that he had invaded some very personal part of Sinclair’s life.

“Hey, no problem. I wasn’t meanin’ to stare.”

“They are kind of long, ‘ took a while for me to get used to them myself.” Sinclair zipped up his fly and put the shirt on, leaving the square ended shirt to hang outside.

“Forgetting something?” Vern questioned a numb looking Sinclair. “ . . . Shoes, you know, they go on your feet?”

“Oh, yea. I was thinking of getting away from here so much that I kind of . . .”

“Glad I’m driving.”

“Rats! What’s a matter; don’t you trust me?” Sinclair had to laugh himself.

“I would like to see the game. Yes; I’m driving.” Vern showed Sinclair the ring of keys at arms length and exaggerated the motion of placing them back into his pocket.

“No faith at all, none!”

“Go ahead, you’re not gonna’ hurt my feelings.” Vern took a look back to the night stand. “You supposed to take any kind of medicine or anything?”

“No, I don’t think so. Let me ask at the nurses station, just to make sure.”

“Wouldn’t want you freakin’ out on me half way through the game.” Vern pointed an accusing finger at Sinclair.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Your welcome.”

“Hey, I’m not the one who talks to airplanes as they pass overhead.” Vern chided a little further.

“I only listen in, and what has that got to do with the price of eggs?” Sinclair thought for a moment, looking up at the ceiling. “ Would be kind of neat to talk back, wouldn’t it?” His expression absorbed the thought as he tied the shoe laces. “This is the painful part.”

“Your just getting old.”

“There you go again, making fun of old people. Someday your gonna get yours and I hope I’m around to watch.”

"If its worth anything, I hope your around too.” Sinclair stopped for a moment as he listened to the words. Vern really was his friend.

“Comment noted and logged.” The two of them walked down the hall to the nurses station. Vern checked out a set of wheels for Sinclair and signed the book. The three to eleven crowd had just taken over and were busy checking over the paper work. Sinclair exchanged greetings in passing. Inside he was still not quite sure that they were going to let him go out of the hospital. He held his breath as Vern wheeled him to the elevator. It wasn’t until after the doors closed and they were on the way down that he felt comfortable about the escape.

“ Made it!” Sinclair breathed out cautiously. They made it across the short distance across the parking lot to Vern’s car with only one airplane winging by. Sinclair looked up, only for a moment as he tuned in on their frequency.

“Anyone you know?” Vern was only kidding as he pulled on the invisible strings.

“No, just Southwest Flight Five Seventy Two asking for confirmation on some traffic in the sector.” Sinclair let the words out nonchalantly as Vern continued to guide the wheelchair.

“Can you really listen in on them . . .” Vern studied the lines on Sinclair’s face. “ . . .or is one of my legs getting a little longer. Yes I can feel the tendon being stretched even as I walk.”

“Right on both counts. Yes I can hear; . . . or should I rephrase that . . . receive their radio messages and yes, I was pulling your leg. This time of day my reception is not at peak. Its the best time of day for me to relax. I don’t have all that excess noise getting mixed up with my conscious thoughts.”

“Well here we are; not much to look at, is it?” Vern’s nine year old Chevrolet station wagon was well on its way to being used up. The tan paint had faded and most of the fenders had small door dings.

“You must not have seen my old pick up truck yet. Maybe you have a kindred spirit hidden under the hood, we probably got some parts from the same junk yard. I recognize, . . .yes . . . the El Cheapo Deluxe hub caps.” Sinclair was having a good time.

“No, these are all original. I don’t make enough to shop at the junk yard.”

“Your pay scale sounds just like the one we have at the Police Department.” The two of them laughing at their modest income levels. Sinclair adjusted himself to fit the seat as he snapped the seat belt into place. Vern inserted the key in the tail gate lock. The electric motor whirred as the rear deck window lowered itself. He placed the wheel chair in the back and slammed the tail gate back into place. On the third attempt the latch mechanism caught hold.

“I don’t know about you, but I think we should stop by the store and grab some chips on the way. The prices at the Dome are Astronomical.” Vern was in a grove.

“Good one Vern.” Sinclair loved the challenge of coming up with one pun after another. “Having been cooped up in that hospital so long; I’ve Lasorta lost touch with things.”

“Ouch, not bad.” Vern guided the car onto the street and down to the local “Stop and Rob” store. The Vietnamese clerk looked at Sinclair as the two went to stock up on junk food.

“I know you. You are policeman who work here on nights and visit me. Where you been; I not see you in long time?” A look at the name tag, quickly enough that his poor memory would go undetected and Sinclair returned the salutation.

“Vu, yes, its been a while. When did you start working the evening shift?” Vu was hard to gauge. His smooth features made it difficult to figure his age. Sinclair estimated him to be in his late forties, possibly even mid fifties. He had rich black hair slicked back and neatly parted. It did not appear that he ever had to shave. His frame was light, topping off near a hundred and twenty.

“I got robbed too many times. The last time they tied me up with cords and put a gun to my head. I can no longer work at night.” Vu was shaking his head, not really looking up while he was talking, as if it were his fault that the store was robbed.

“I know what you mean.” Sinclair had made a few of the robbery reports. Vern had picked up several sacks of Cheetos and a large bag of peanuts, already salted in the shell.

“This ought to do it.”, laying the glutinous bounty on the counter next to the register. “You do like Cheetos, right, Sinclair?”

“Sure, they’re fine with me.” Sinclair could eat almost any kind of chips. The trouble with Cheetos was they left his fingers a funny looking orange color, but on the other hand, they were just about the only kind of real cheese product that he would eat. He could eat pizza as long as the cheese wasn’t too thick and every now and then he would sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan cheese on his spaghetti. He could hardly stand the sight of a casserole that was covered with a zig zag of melted cheese.

“Sinclair is your first name?” Vu smiled as the strange sounding name rolled off his tongue.

“It was my grandfather’s last name.”

“It is nice name. Vu is my grandfather’s name. Things are very same.” Vu continued to smile as the idea of having something in common settled in.

“Yea, I think I heard of that guy. Wasn’t he some kind of famous electronics guy or something?” Vern was wearing a grin that begged for more.

“No, grandfather was rice farmer. You must be thinking of a different Vu. It is very common name in Viet Nam.”

“This guys last name was Meter, Vu Meter.”, containing his laughter as Sinclair tried to figure a respectable way out of the pun.

“You take care of yourself. We’re on the way to see the Astros beat the Dodgers.” Sinclair jabbed quickly as Vern was paying for the snacks.

“In your dreams.” Vern just happened to be wearing a Dodger blue pull over shirt.

The ride to the stadium wasn’t too bad. They had left early enough that the rush hour traffic had not built up. Once in a while Sinclair could feel the coded information from the motors of cars that were in close; but it was not nearly as excruciating as when his reception was at its best. He reached into the bag and opened a sack of Cheetos. The first one was always the best.

“Hey! Save some for the game!” Vern snapped off then added, “How about passing a few my way.”

“That’s a good idea; can’t you get this bucket to move past these guys?” Sinclair tightened up as he shouted in the general direction of the red car that was ahead of them. “learn how to drive on your own time clown!”

“Houston’s Finest seems a little hostile towards the public today.” Vern quietly commented as he put his blinker. He looked for a way to get out of the lane.

“Your right; I should be more laid back.” Sinclair looked toward the driver of the red car who was oblivious to the rest of the world. “That jerk’s doin’ his check book.” Turning to Vern and then back at the other driver, Sinclair began to boil. “You know what you can do with that check book?” , leaning out of the window as he glared at him.

“You always this much fun in the car?”

“ Just getting warmed up. Bev says I need to ease off a little too.” Sinclair sat back as Vern managed to move on down the road far enough for the red car to get left behind.

“Hey, how many of those are you going to eat?” Vern reached for what was left of the Cheetos. “Leave me some, will you?”

“Sure.” The two of them devoured the small treat and were both licking their fingers as they entered the gates to the parking lot at the Dome.

“Three dollars.” The attendant held out his hand as one of the other attendants clicked another digit into the counter.

“Three dollars ! Cripes !”, reaching into his wallet and pulling out a five. He handed the bill to the attendant who had read the bill and was counting back his change.

“Two dollars, your change sir. Follow that row of cars ‘till you see the next attendant down on the right.” Vern drove to the next attendant and quickly judged the remaining walk to be about a quarter of a mile.

“Hey buddy, I have this guy on loan from the hospital. Is there a way you can get us up a little closer?” The attendant bent over as he listened; his hands cupped to fight off the glare of the late afternoon sun as it reflected off the roof of the car. Vern bent his body back, pointing out the wheel chair.

“Well, I’m not supposed to; those spaces are reserved for the season ticket holders.”, pausing momentarily as he tried to place himself in their position. “Just tell that next attendant down there that Joe said it was okay. If he gives you any static I’ll square it with him.”

“Thanks, I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this.”

“No problem. Enjoy the game.” The attendant went back to funneling cars down the row to the next attendant. Vern parked; having to explain once more about the medical need to be close to the front. Sinclair reluctantly got into the wheel chair and let Vern shuffle him across the street. The lines at the ticket windows were longer than usual because the Dodgers were in town.

“Glad I got these tickets in advance.”

“If you hadn’t. . . I know some of the officers out here. We could have sneaked in the back door.”

“I wish you had said that before I forked out eighteen bucks a piece for these tickets.”

“I like it better with a reserved seat anyway. Sometimes I end up sitting up in the cheap seats; not that I mind. Some of the best baseball fans sit in the cheap seats.”

“Then we both qualify, this is the only time I’ve ever had tickets close enough that I didn’t need field glasses to see the player’s numbers.” They went past turn stiles via a side gate so that the wheel chair would make it through. The ramps to the mezzanine level were filled with people hurrying to their seats.

“Programs ! Get your Official Proo-Grammms right here!”

“You want a program?”, reaching into his wallet again.

“Save your money Vern. I never was much on keeping up with the line; distracts too much from the game.” Returning the money to his wallet they continued in the procession of fans.

“Programs ! Get your Proooo-Grammms folks !” The sound echoed off the concrete walls and blended with the rest of the familiar ball park sounds. Sinclair felt the peaceful arms of his favorite sport embrace him as the doors to the main corridor opened. Vendors calling out, young kids darting in and out of the pressing crowd, the lingering cloud from a fat cigar all hit his senses at once.

“This is really great. Thanks for having me along Vern.”

“My pleasure; now where the hell are our seats?”, as he tried to make out the information printed on the ticket’s edge.

“Take a right and head for the security office. I want to leave this chair and see a ball game. If you won’t tell I won’t.”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Why don’t you . . .”

“Look, the wheel chair ramps are only a couple of isles away from the security office. We can leave it there where it will be well taken care of and I’ll only have to walk that little bit.” Sinclair was convincing; he got out before entering the office, not wishing to make an appearance in the chair. He had worked the Dome as an extra job for several years and did not want any of the officers to see him that way. Call it macho or pride, Sinclair was going to walk into the security office on his own legs.

“This is dumb, really dumb.” Vern was mumbling to himself as he stood close enough to catch Sinclair, crossing the beer slick that covered the entrance to the office.

“Oh be quiet, and let go ‘ my arm.” Sinclair took in a deep breath as he pushed the folded up chair into a corner behind the front desk. A red, almost a silvery red haired officer sat at the desk and eyed Sinclair as he entered.

“Dosilmeyer you old fool; how’re you doing. Heard about that deal you were in. Nice to see you getting around. Are you back to work yet?” Ned Sheffield had been working the desk almost as long as there had been a Dome stadium. He had twenty four years with the Department and hadn’t been on the street for at least the last ten. He worked up in Juvenile Division, day shift with Saturday and Sundays off. It didn’t hurt that the Dome jobs were run out of his lieutenant’s office.

“Not yet, but pretty soon if I have any luck.” Sinclair did not want to spend the evening going over war stories as he nudged Vern toward the door. “Keep an eye on it for me. We’ll come back for it when the game’s over.”

“Sure thing; good to see you up and around.”

“Yea, ‘ later.” Sinclair bit his tongue as he recalled how much he loathed the worthless excuse for a police officer. How was it possible for a man to show up for so many years and do absolutely nothing. The worst thing that bothered Sinclair was that somehow Sheffield had managed to convince the lieutenant, along with most of the Department, that he was a model officer. Maybe it was because he never got into any trouble; of course its hard to get complained on if you never do anything.

“Nice guy, you work with him?” Vern tossed in as he too waved gingerly back at officer Sheffield.

“What’s the isle number again?” Sinclair avoided Vern’s question entirely.

“Two forty one, row C , seats one eleven and one twelve.” They were standing next to one of the “Red Suits” who glanced at the tickets. Taking the tickets in hand as he walked down the short blocked steps to row C ; he pointed to a pair of bright orange seats and asked the occupants to show him their tickets also. The two simply got up and left via the next isle, not having any tickets to show him.

“Those are your seats.”, handing back the stubs as he continued to watch the young men who were searching for two more empty seats further around towards right field.

“My turn to buy; how about a soda to go along with a couple of hot dogs?”

Sinclair could hardly contain his desire to pitch in his share; handing Vern a twenty.

“Sounds like a winner. Speaking of winners, the Dodgers are coming out to take infield.”, Vern never missed stride.

“You call third place, Winners ; fine with me.”

“The season is still young.”

“So’s my Aunt Tilly; Vern, its the middle of August!”

“Plenty of time; after they win tonight they’ll only be ten games ‘back of Cincinnati.”

“How long have you been taking drugs Vern?” Sinclair chortled as he flagged down the soda vendor. Holding up two fingers and passing the money, the young man stopped and sent a couple of sodas toward them. “Before we inhale these; why don’t you run get us those dogs?”, handing Vern the change. “Glad I wore my brown shoes.”, grabbing the money as he vaulted out of the chair and up to the main corridor. Several minutes passed as Vern was waiting in line for service. He got four hot dogs; no sense in going through the line twice. On his way back he stopped at the junk stand and bought a couple of caps; a Dodger cap and a Detroit cap.

“Took you long enough. What you got in the sack?”

“Just something to cover up a genetic defect. Mind you now, it was all I could find on short notice.”, placing the dark blue Detroit cap on Sinclair’s head.

“That’s one more for you, and thanks.”

“You look better all ready.”, Vern had to swallow a chunk of hot dog to keep from choking as he began to laugh.” By the way . . . did you notice that while I was away that short while. . . that my Dodgers found a hole in your defenses. Is that a three spot? Yes, it looks like the Dodgers scored three in the top of the first.”

“How come you put mustard all over this? You probably got carried away in euphoria and couldn’t help it.” Sinclair was hard pressed for a positive response. They were bombing Knepper pretty hard. In the bottom of the second the Astros picked up a run on a solo shot from Glen Davis. The game progressed and they enjoyed salted peanuts and finished off the Cheetos. The more Cheetos Sinclair ate, the more relaxed he became. He did not understand what was happening. All he knew was that the extra noise inside his head seemed to abate. The game ended with the Dodgers on top three to one. The Astros left men in scoring position in the last three innings.

Sinclair was exhausted from the intensity of the game. Vern made sure that they were the last to leave as the stands were cleared after the game. They made a slow walk to the top of the stairs and waited a while for Sinclair to get his breath back. He was at peace within himself as he could only hear the normal sounds of life, just like anyone else. He could hear the kids stomping the empty beer cups with their feet to make the loud popping echo across the great spaces of the Dome. He could here the officers blowing their whistles as they herded the last remnants of the crowd out the doors. He could not hear the radio transmissions of passing airplanes or the microwave carrier waves that emanated from the announcers both. It was wonderful as the night air greeted him outside the doors and on the short trek to Vern’s car. He caught his second wind and was alert the entire way home.

“How about a burger, fries and a shake before we get back to the hospital?” Sinclair didn’t want to let the night end.

“You sure your up to it?”

“Go for it. I can sleep in as late as I want tomorrow.”

“Glad one of us can; I have to work.”

“I’m sorry; here I am keeping you away from your family ‘till all hours of the night and . . .”

“Just giving you a hard time. A friend of mine is a wheel at Jack in the Box. He’s always giving me these coupons to try out the latest sandwiches. There’s one on Long Point just a few blocks from the hospital.” Vern’s station wagon panted its way toward the exit gates of the Dome parking lot. Twenty four thousand people were in front of them as they inched forward.

“Hey lady, I know you probably spent a lot of money to get through driving school. I just want to know on what planet you got your license?” His voice bellowed as he sarcastically attacked the woman in front of them.

“Here we go again.” Vern breathed out slowly as he avoided telling Sinclair exactly how irritating it was becoming.

“Your right; I’m being an asshole again.” Vern smiled as he ignored Sinclair’s childish lashings. Fifteen minutes later they were on the Loop and breezing along. Traffic was heavy, but moving along at a good clip. It wasn’t long before they had made the Katy exit.
“Take Wirt, if you would.” Sinclair wanted to show Vern the edge of his police beat on the way.

“No problem guy.”, finding his way over another lane as he set up to exit the freeway. Sinclair pointed out the chicken shack where he had caught a burglary suspect many years before. Vern was enjoying war stories as each location held a memory, a tale of embellished un-glory. Sinclair would have made a great fisherman the way he lavishly recounted even the simplest events.

“Burger alert, Jack in the Box coming into range.” Vern turned the bill of his ball cap up as he simulated looking into a submarine range finder scope.

“Only thing better than a late night snack is a late night snack that’s free. What’re you waitin’ on?” Vern pulled up to the drive in speaker and placed the order while Sinclair looked all around the area that he was so familiar with. He could feel the street, not some weird vibration or anything like that, but he had a working knowledge of the area. He was at home working the night shift.

“Here’s your sandwich.”, handing Sinclair an old fashioned patty melt.

“ More cheese! Jeezzzzz!”

“What’s a matter, I thought the way you scarfed all those Cheetos down that you liked cheese?”

“I guess it will be okay. I’m just not used to so much of it at one time. I guess I shouldn’t complain; my head hasn’t been this clear in months. Maybe the cheese has something to do with it.” Sinclair was just spouting words, not really putting any stock in them as he shrugged his shoulders and took a bite out of the sandwich. “Not bad, not bad at all.”

“So how long have you worked this area?”

“It will be seven years this September.”

“All of it nights?”

“Yea, I was downtown for several years before coming out here. I like this much better; its more relaxed.”

“Except when your falling off balconies.”

“Yea, except when I’m falling off balconies. It happened just a short way from here. I haven’t been there since the night of the fall. Would it be all right to drive by so I could . . .”

“No problem, I would like to see the place myself.”

“Take a left at the light; its the first group of apartments on the right.” Sinclair sat alert in the passenger seat as the old station wagon approached the scene. It was all changed. There was a large chain link fence surrounding the whole complex; it had never been there before. All the apartments were vacant; there were no lights on, not even in the court yards. About the only thing that remained the same were the piles of trash that lined the shallow drainage ditch as Vern parked the car next to the hastily erected fence.

“I wonder what’s going on here. None of this used to be here.” Sinclair looked around for a way into the complex. The chain link had been poorly fastened to the upright standards; it was easy to pull it away and slid through the gap. “Wish I had my flashlight.”

“Hold on a sec’, I have one in the glove box.” Vern went straight away and found the old two cell Ray O Vac. Sinclair was accustomed to the ten thousand candle power beam from his police flash light; he had forgotten that most of the world was still using the antiques like Vern had.

“So when are you gonna’ turn it on?”, a faint yellow beam apologized quietly into the darkness as Vern handed it to him.

“Very funny, just hold the wire back so I can get in too.”

“What’s the matter Vern? Having trouble getting all those hot dogs around the fence post?” Sinclair aimed the light at Vern’s stomach and measured the opening in the fence with it.

“How about a soda?”, reaching into his pocket for some change. “ ’ Give you something to keep you quiet for a while.”

“Not from the Killer Dr. Pepper machine; anyway we just had some.” Sinclair had not told Vern the story about the machine.

“The Killer Dr. Pepper machine? Ooooookaaaaay.” Vern let the topic drop as Sinclair laughed sinfully to himself.

“I want to go around the corner and try to walk myself through. Maybe it will clear up some of the fragments that still have me wondering.” Vern was still looking back at the lifeless soda machine as Sinclair eased his way up the first couple of steps. The stillness of the night air did not have the stress hanging with his every move. It was very peaceful. There were no gun shots echoing off the brick walls, no muffled voices from behind closed doors, no chatter from a police handi-talkie mounted on his side. Sinclair was not threatened by the situation, and yet he could feel a slight desire to be somewhere safe.

“You shouldn’t be going up stairs; you want some help?” Vern awkwardly tried to assist Sinclair. The two of them made it to the second floor. Sinclair waited for the pain in his legs to ease before letting go of the rail on the last step. The night air was heavy with fog, much the same as the night that he was trying to remember. It hung lazily from the roof as the distant lights became saucer shaped blue and white dots on the morning canvas.

He walked to the door where the fight had begun and looked at the peeled veneer, just as it had looked that night. He tried to imagine the man coming out the door, pistol in hand and how he had wrestled him for it. He spun around and noticed the railing was gone. The concrete was broken where it had been anchored. He looked back into the apartment. He remembered seeing another figure, a husky male come out and . . .

“What’s the matter? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost. Are you okay?”

“I think we were pushed off that balcony. I remember seeing a man come out of the apartment just as I was getting control of the gun. We didn’t just lean up against that
railing and fall. I can almost see his face.” Sinclair closed his eyes as he concentrated.
The crow’s feet accentuated the intensity of Sinclair’s attempt to reconstruct portions of
the incident.

“Do you know what you’re saying? That makes it murder.”

“Yea, it does.” The two stood silent for a moment as the significance of the idea sank in. Sinclair looked out over the barren lot as he pondered the implications. Half a block away on the Moritz street side of the complex a car was parked, backed in. Sinclair hardly noticed at first; it was an ordinary car, nothing conspicuous. Once in a while there was a brief glint of light that would sparkle from the darkness that cloaked the general area.

“What ‘ you looking at?” Vern watched as Sinclair peered out into the darkness searching for the source of the light.

“Over there, see; there it was again.”, pointing towards the dark blue Buick. “I think we’re being watched by who ever is in that car. The light reflecting from his binoculars gave him away. There is was again; did you see it that time?”, still pointing.

“Yea, now that you mention it. Who do you suppose it is?” Vern studied the car; its lack of chrome, black wall tires and the tell tale wire on the back fender.

“Three guesses and the first two don’t count.”

“You think its a cop; but why?”

“You tell me.” Sinclair waved and smiled, a big toothy smile that reeked of sarcasm.

“Who ever it is must have seen all he wants.” Vern cackled as the two continued to wave. Off in the distance a temporary blur of red leaped from the tail lights onto the wall behind the car as the break pedal was tapped. The back up lights winked for an instant as the shifter passed from one gear to another. A splash of bright light broke through the night air and the car sulked off down the road.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Pecaw's Gift Chapter 33 / Empty

In the morning, as Sinclair awoke, he rolled his head around at the base of the neck; grinding out of the last vestiges of sleep. The motion was part of his daily return to life. Taking a few deep breaths and holding them until his chest filled to its limit, releasing each one deliberately. He sat up straight at the edge of the bed as he called to his room mate.

“Good Morning.” Sinclair greeted him aloud, knowing full well that Mr. Alejandro could not hear him. It did not matter, it made Sinclair feel more alive.

“Did you have another bad night? It sounded like you were hurting earlier” Sinclair continued the conversation as if at any moment he would get a reply. “I do wish they could increase your pain medication. I can hardly stand it to hear you in such pain.”

Sinclair carefully planted his feet solidly before standing. His own knees gave out a familiar pop.. The noise bounced around the room, laughing at him as he began his limbering up exercises. “Did you hear that last one? Sounded like the old fighter jets of the Fifties when they first broke the sound barrier.”

His thoughts were quite vivid as he remembered his youth. He and his brother had heard the roar of the engines being tested at the military base. They rode their bikes to the edge of the fence, chain link and barbed wire as far as the eye could see. A tall solid metal wall kept them from seeing the actual testing area. It was the mid Nineteen Fifties; Korea was still a hot topic. There were uniformed guards posted with fierce looking German Shepherd dogs. Then, without any notice, from the other side came a thundering that shook the ground. The air became filled with dust as the blast of power strained to free its land locked experimental engine. A few moments later the test ended and the two went home. It would take several hours for the test to be analyzed before they would start the engines again; no sense in standing around for hours.

“I got to see the Blue Angels fly over one time. No, it was some other group; Grumman, I think. I can’t remember what they called themselves. At the time they must have been about the fastest planes up there. They screamed across the sky in formation and the air exploded behind them. I still look up with a certain amount of fascination when a plane passes over; just something that gets me excited.” Sinclair continued to stretch; bending to touch the floor. He was still a good six or seven inches from accomplishing the feat. He pulled the curtain back so that he could talk face to face, but the bed was empty.

“No wonder it was so quiet.” Sinclair had been talking to himself all along. Laughing to himself as he continued the slow process of retraining his body. He pulled his stomach muscles in tighter; twisting first to the left then to the right. Each time he would look in the mirror as his own image blurred back in unison. As a cadet in the Academy he had been in top condition. The daily exercise program barely broke a sweat back then; but it was much more difficult now. It was bad enough growing old, it was doubly hard with the injuries from the fall.

“Morning Dear.” Bev brightened up the room automatically as she entered. “Are you getting a new room mate? I saw Maime take Mr. Alejandro’s card from the door. I hope everything is all right. He’s been looking so, . . . what’s the word? So tired.” Sinclair turned, then walked to the door and touched the empty window plate a couple of times.

“He was in a lot of pain last night. I bet they had to go back into that leg. By the smell, I’ll bet it was infected.”

“I’ll ask Maime on my way out. He always looks so lonely. I wish his family would come to visit him. Most of the time he just lays there in his bed with an empty stare. His eyes are so sad that I hurt for him.” Bev pulled the sheets up as she made the bed. She had watched Maime many times, it seemed so natural as she tucked the corners in hospital style.

“Speaking of empty, I could sure use some breakfast. Let’s you and me go down to the cafeteria and get some sausage and eggs?”

“Sounds good. I could use a bite myself.”, Bev quickly added as she fluffed the pillow and placed it at the head of the bed. They walked down the hall, Sinclair carrying the walker more than leaning on it. In the morning he had extra energy and the pain didn’t seem to bother him as much.

“Morning Maime. How’s my favorite black woman today?” Sinclair smiled as he greeted her from a distance. Maime avoided him for a moment, then forced a smile as she nodded back to him.

“Morning Mr. Sinclair, Ms’ Bev.”

“What's the matter? Bev knows all about us by now.” As if there were a day time “Soap” in the wings. All the while he could tell that something was wrong. Maime was too quiet.

“Nothing Mr. Sinclair. I was meanin’ to come by and talk with you later, but I guess it won’t keep.” Maime looked into the stack of fresh linens that was on the cart in front of her as she spoke.

“Is it about Mr. Alejandro? I heard him last night. He was in quite a bit of pain. Did they have to operate on him again?” Sinclair studied her features. For sixteen years he had watched human expression; it was part of the job. What he saw was her intentional avoidance. She didn’t want make eye contact.

“Is he in surgery now Maime?”, feeling around for a clue as the probabilities seemed fair.

“Yes and no Mr. Sinclair.”, looking away as she took a set of sheets off the cart.

“Maime. . .”

“They took Mr. Alejandro in like you figured. . .” Maime took a breath., “. . . but he didn’t make it.” Tears welled up in her as she choked out the words.

“I knows how the two of you had become friends these last months.” Maime cleared her throat, sniffled and wiped the corners of her eyes with a corner from the sheet in her hands.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that Maime.” Bev had become a quiet friend of Mr. Alejandro’s too. Whenever she came to visit Sinclair, she made it a point to take a few minutes with him.

“Now look what I’ve gone and done.”, pointing to the folded sheet that had been used as a handkerchief. “Now I’ve got to get another one.” Maime tried to regain her composure by scolding herself. Sinclair leaned on his walker as the truth of the matter hit home.

“I don’t know what to say.” Sinclair mumbled to himself. The excess of energy that had manifest itself moments earlier was now gone. He felt the weakness take over as he transferred his weight to the frame of the walker. Slowly he picked up and made his way back to the room. Bev walked cautiously beside him as with each step he breathed laboriously.

“Why don’t we go on down for some breakfast like you said earlier. I think it will make you feel better, Dear.” Bev wanted to wrap her arms around and hold him tightly.

“Maybe later Hun’. . .” Sinclair fought off a few tears as he plodded his way down the hall. He looked into the room that he had shared for so long. There against the far wall was where his friend Alejandro had been only the night before. The sheets were perfectly made up. The night stand was devoid of clutter. The small waste basket had been emptied and a new plastic liner was in its place.

“ . . . right now I’m just too empty to eat.” Sinclair laid himself on the bed and looked out into the endless eternities of his soul. Quietly, ever so quietly he whispered out into the air, “Alejandro, are you out there where you can hear me?”

“Did you say something dear?” Bev saw his lips moving but could not discern the sounds. Sinclair either did not hear her or was ignoring her as he continued to stare straight ahead.

“He isn’t here you chowder head. He’s dead and moved on.” “Pecaw? What are you doing here?”

“Nothing much, I’ve been here for a while. I have no idea how long; time doesn’t mean much now.”

“Am I dreaming this or are you really here in the room with me?” Sinclair began to doubt his own sanity as the thoughts came out of his mouth.

“I’m here in a manner of speaking. It would cause quite a stir if I were to show myself. You can hear me because you’ve developed a very special talent. Bev can’t hear me for the same reason.”

“Who are you talking to? Sinclair are you all right?”

“I’m not sure, let me alone for a while so I can work my way through all this.” Sinclair thought his response to Pecaw, “Does she think I’m going nuts?”

“She loves you Chuckle head. She’s worried about you, that’s all. Smile, that’s it. Let her know that your okay.”

“Do you want me to let you sleep for a while Hun? I can get the nurse if you want. Oh please tell me what to do.” Sinclair opened his eyes for a moment as he walked the thin line between body and spirit. He looked thoughtfully back at Bev as she grasped firmly to his hand.

“I’m better now, I just need some sleep.”, closing his eyes and reaching out to feel of his departed grandfather’s spirit.

“Now don’t you worry about your friend Alejandro. I had a chance to talk with him right after he died. He and his father had a bunch of catchin’ up to do. His family was waiting for him and were so relieved that his pain was over.

“How did you talk with him; he’s deaf?”

“Not here he isn’t. Its like he never was deaf, never had pain, never lost his legs. Don’t you see?”

“I . . .”

“You can hear me pretty good; right?”

“Yes sir; but this is a dream, isn’t it?”

“Guess again. How is it that you can gather all that information from the computer with just a thought? Did you think that was just a dream?”

“I haven’t got that part figured out yet, but it’ll come.”

“Then tell me how you can talk to those stupid ants. Yes, I know all about the morning chats you have.”

“I still don’t know how that works either.”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t claim to know how to do it either. It just is and your going to have to accept it.”

“Pecaw, now that Bev has left the room; could you . . .”

“No reason why I couldn’t.” The room quickly illuminated as the spirit of Pecaw became visible to Sinclair. His hair was perfectly ordered. When Pecaw had died of cancer, his body was withered and used up; now he stood as strong and fit as any man could hope to be. His waist was slim and his chest solid as a rock. His eyes flashed with a sparkle of confidence as they held Sinclair’s astonished gaze.

“Then I’m not going crazy?”

“No, maybe later on; but right now your doing just fine.”

Pecaw's Gift Chapter 32 / Great Legs

Laura, from X-ray, came into the room around midnight with the portable. Sinclair had been asleep for about six hours, or at least his outwardly appearance gave that impression. The roar of digital information continued to bombard his senses as Laura prepared to shoot some pictures of Mr. Alejandro’s leg. Not wishing to expose Sinclair to unnecessary radiation, she took one of the shielding jackets and draped it over the desk chair. The chair was then placed in between the two patients and Laura was able to proceed.

“Thank you!”, the words rolled gratefully across the room as Sinclair’s mind was granted a brief reprieve. He sat up and let his head gyrate on his shoulders for a few moments as the cob webs of noise vanished.

“Hu ?”, not sure of any particular deed that she had done that would warrant any thanks.

“Thank you for shutting off all that noise. It’s been so loud that I couldn’t even think.” Sinclair poked a finger in his ear, as if by doing so would help.

“Yea . . .”, Laura rolled her eyes sarcastically in their sockets as she nodded her head, “ . . . right.”

Sinclair peered over the top of the protective jacket and immediately felt the blast of information that was ever present. He ducked his head quickly and the noise diminished just as quickly as it had started. He raised up again, more slowly this time, as he gauged the amount of noise that he could handle before it began to hurt.

"Okay! So what’s with the peek-a-boo routine?”

“I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to . . .”

“No problem. I’m just not used to it. Most of the time I come through, take my pictures and go without anyone noticing me at all.”, straightening her posture just a little.

"It was the noise, or I should say the lack of noise. I was trying to figure out what you did to shut it off. It must be that flack jacket.”, pointing to the chair.

“So . . . the sleeping beauty has been awakened.” Pat from the nurses station was making the rounds. She enjoyed heckling Sinclair, mostly because he was a cop, but down deep she kind of liked him. She took his pulse and studied his skin color. The data was charted as she continued to talk without breaking stride. “So . . . Laura . . . has he been behaving himself or is that chair there to keep him off of you?” Her laugh was fun to hear as she tried to embarrass both of them.

“Give me a break.”, pulling a few strands of graying hair from her curled tresses. Sinclair thought carefully of what to say; his own wife had about the same delicate mixture of spent youth on display.

“I kind of like the view.”, clearing his throat as he made sure to nod a vote of admiration towards Laura.

“Cops . . . they’re all the same.”, Pat spun off. “If they’re not writing you a traffic ticket they’re lookin’ up your dress!” She smiled and pranced a little as she breathed out a deep raspy sort of laugh. Sinclair leaned back, his arm bent neatly to support his head, as he watched Pat strut by the end of his bed. He was glad to have the screeching noises out of his head, or at least most of it. He was still picking up a fair amount of noise from the airplanes that passed by every now and again.

“You still hot about that cop that wrote you last week?” Pat had been ticketed for speeding, sixty in a fifty mile per hour zone. Actually she had been going closer to sixty eight and had been given a small break. Pat was miffed anyway; nurses were supposed to get a better deal than that.

“I’m not angry at all.”, her brow taking a bend as it made an arch , “He just better not get shot while I’m on duty. It might take a while longer . . . You know . . . doing everything by the book.”

“She’s still pissed off.”, Laura injected the obvious.

“Not that I’d let something like a traffic ticket interfere with my professional duty . . .” Pat let a naughty smirk rest momentarily as her eyes flashed the hidden fantasy of sweet and total revenge.

“Yea, I think your right.” Sinclair looking down to the linoleum as he muffled his laughter, only slightly.

“Maybe I should have gotten out of the car; you know, to let him get a better view. . .”, pausing at the chair. She tugged at her greens, allowing a portion of natural skin to gradually appear. The white tube socks didn’t help; she continued to draw the loose fitting material higher until it cleared the lower calf.

“Point made, nice legs.”, Laura tossed in; wishing to move past the subject quickly.

“I da’ know, look a might thin to me.” Sinclair jabbed directly; having found a weak spot in her armor.

“Thin? What do you mean thin?”, pulling even more of the light green scrubs up over the knee as she flexed and displayed the nearly perfect limb from side to side.

“I guess I’m used to a more firm type”, making sure to cast a generous flirt in Laura’s direction.

“Thank you.” Laura smiled, an air of renewed confidence managed to ignite the roses in her cheeks.

“Delta seven five nine’r moving to fifteen thousand; have visual on Southwest’s seven thirty seven at eleven oh clock.” Sinclair’s mouth moved and the sounds came out. He could not understand why he had spoken the words; they just were there in his head.

“Say what?” Laura did a double take, extra body English as her hands accentuated the move. Her fingers curled in unison, the nails flickered as they came to rest on her hips.

“Oooooowheeeeeoooooohhh !” Sounding like a stage prop for the Kraft Mystery Hour, Pat chimed in. Sinclair tilted his head and raised his eyebrow slightly as the echo of his words reverberated in his mind.

“I tell you . . . I just heard that from an airplane that was passing by . . . Honest!” His hands flexed meekly as he tried to convince them of the truth.

“I need to get the rest of my portables done. Why don’t I just leave you two in here to sort this all out?” Laura moved away from the bed and engaged the motorized wheels of the X-ray machine. The electric motor quietly whirred as Laura guided it carefully out of the room and down the hall.

“Could you switch that computer on for me?” Sinclair could have done it easily, but wanted to include Pat while he struggled within himself.

“Sure, no problem.” Pat toggled the power on, watching his every move. She studied the shaking of his hands, ever so slight, and the serious stare that fixed his eyes to the monitor.

“Come on, come on ! Come on, come on! Why does it take so long?” Sinclair was impatient with the few seconds that delayed his viewing of the monitor, views of his own thoughts as the screen began to glow. The computer completed its power up and the information danced across the screen.

“Come on, come on ! Come on, come on! Why does it take so long?” His most recent thoughts displayed themselves quickly and neatly, light blue letters on a black background.

"I love it when you do that. I mean . . . that’s . . that’s the word? Neat, . . . no better than neat. Weird or something. How the hell do you do that anyway?” Pat had only seen him express his thoughts on the computer a few times. Most of the time he left the monitor off and let the voice synthesizer do all the work. Her words instantly appeared on the screen as quickly as they were uttered.

“I was hoping that it would catch that sound I was hearing in my head, but it’s gone now.” A distant look, a longing for peace enveloped Sinclair as he tried disparately to regain the lost moment.

“What did it sound like?” Pat quietly pushed for some clue that would let him return to the real world. “Was it the airplane or something else?”

“No. . . It was a warm feeling. . . kind of like a hug or something like that; only it came from out of the blue, mixed in with all the other transmissions.” Sinclair could not put his finger on it. He kept his eyes closed and tried to block out all his thoughts. It was like being awakened from a dream too soon. He wanted to slide back into the warm covers and prolong the feeling that had just escaped him.

“Earth to Sinclair . . .”, Pat quietly interrupted. The muscles in his face had began to relax. Each line on his forehead became smooth as the tensions of life disappeared systematically and he faded into himself. She watched as his jaw line unclenched and dropped half an inch or so. His shoulders dropped back and his arms fell to his side. Sinclair had learned to use small amounts of free time to relax. He found that even a ten or fifteen minute break, when properly directed, could be just as relaxing as a two hour nap.

“Well at least the noise has stopped.”, opening one eyelid and panning the room. The blur of color entered but did not register reality to Sinclair’s relaxed attitude. The chocolate had run the course and his system was no longer super sensitive. “I feel like I could sleep for a week and never get up. Could you turn the lights off on your way out the door?” Sinclair lay his head on the pillow; adjusting its shape slightly for a more perfect fit.

“So what do you think? Have I got a great pair of legs?” Pat was talking to herself. Sinclair was fading out of it and there she was, wanting to talk; wanting a little reassurance. She shrugged her shoulders and once again pulled up the material, just enough to clear the calf of her leg. “I got good legs . . . yea!” The screen came back on, her back to it as she continued to fantasize. She longed for someone to flatter her, to whisper soft romantic words in her ear, to peel away the course defensive veneer and find the fragile woman that was hiding inside of her.

“They really are nice. Now go away and let me sleep.” The words appeared momentarily then disappeared as his thoughts turned to other areas of expression. Pat had not seen; it might have helped her feel better about herself. She let the green cotton cuff fall back as she regained her composure.

“Hey Laura, wait up. Did I tell you about the guy at the Post Office?” Pat quickly got out the door and was back in the grove, boisterously depicting the real and imagined antics of life as it passed her by.