Midwife in the Tire Swing

Chapter 40—Ed Hobart dreams of a Lost Love

The day Ed Hobart shot himself it was a misunderstanding, not suicide. “So you shot the wall and missed, but hit your big toe.” The medical tech’s eyes narrowed and his bandage-winding paused. “Tell me about it.”

Most suicides fail on the first attempt and, having caught the brass ring of failure, are satisfied to live on. Any well-reasoned go at the hereafter usually involves disabling a vital organ; Ed had been aiming at a place high in the bedroom wainscoting. The delirium of self-will has brought more losers than winners to stand before the mourners’ bench, the given being that since the target was so hard to miss, we must have wanted to miss. Failure is rewarded with a second chance, then—Ka-Blooie! Suicides are generally without malice, the expressions of a ferment gone unnoticed for years, decades even, like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

“I shot the mouse; the wall was in the way.” Furthermore, as Ed explained to the tech as he applied pressure dressings to slow the bleeding, it was the mouse’s fault.

The tech maintained eye contact as he groped for a hypodermic syringe. “For pain. You’ll feel a pinch, that’s all.”

“Oh!” Ed felt the pinch as the needle entered his dermis, then fuzzy and warm. “Ahh...” He would talk. These guys had seen it all. “Yep, a mouse. Chewing in the wall.”

“You get a lot of things in the way, lately?” The driver revved the engine and reached to activate the siren. The tech waved him off. Silence was to be preferred. They were in no rush. “You always sleep with a gun under the pillow?” The tech spoke into a digital recorder taped to the side of his metal clipboard.

“In case...” said Ed. “My wife...”

“Ahh...” the tech told his clipboard.

“Ex-wife,” said Ed. “And the kids.”

“Ex-kids,” the tech reminded. “You were going to kill your family.”

Answer: He was not married; there were no kids. Things were fine; this was a bad dream, another of his bed-wetting nightmares, holdovers from his mother’s vindictive dry bed training. Sue was married to Jim Maldonado. But the flood gates were breached and he was awash in a torrent of his own making. Ed heard himself scream miles away behind an off-shore fog. He willed himself awake. Boo-rap, a foghorn jeered.

Awake. The sheets were dry, but the dream dissipated slowly and its wispy horrors clung. He pulled the covers up under his chin and clutched at his pillow. He searched through the bedside table and came up with a bottle of Sue’s pills. “Diazepam—huh, that’s Valium.” He swallowed two, dry. He was a loser.

In a sedative-fueled euphoria, Ed conjured an image of Sue and their never-to-be children face down in a puddle of blood, a mafia rubout as seen on TV. “No, just the mouse,” he sighed regretfully. He would be doomed to finish out his days before an always-on home improvement channel as the Publishers Clearing House truck with its oversized plywood check slithered by, seeking among the worthy dead for a last payout.

There was a scream of a rusty spring. Ed clung to the dissolving wisps of contending dreams, then forgot them. He was left with an overriding feeling of guilt but could not recall what for.

“Honey?”

The screen door slammed. Sue, Heidi, Philomena. “You there?”

“I am.” Ed hastily ran fingers through his remaining hair, combing. There was a shuffle-squeak of rubber soled running shoes against the varnished gloss of the ladder to the sleeping loft. Ed retreated to a far corner, bedclothes pulled up under his chin. He freed a hand for a last quickie-comb. There was a bounce and a thrashing of blankets followed by a snuggle as Sue tunneled through to him. “You’re naked...”

“Mmm-Hmm. Like it?” There was more snuggling. Her smell was a heady girl musk, the sweat of her ten-mile jog. The mouse rustled behind the wainscoting, inside the wall, and Ed remembered the dream.

“You bet. Sorry. I committed murder. You feel cold.”

“Because I died?”

“Because I shot you. In my dream? This is my dream. That was another dream, the first one. I thought you were a mouse,” Ed lied.

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