He dreamed of the overdose - of being back in the trauma room surrounded by the doctors and nurses who, this time were laughing at him - cruelly. They were grabbing his skin, pulling at it so hard they were tearing bloodied chunks of it away from his chest, exposing his ribs, his lungs, his blackened heart, covered in maggots. In his mind he tried to scream but he was unable to puncture the silence pull himself from the depths of this horrible imagery. He was trapped there being taunted, mocked, ridiculed...
Then there was his father - standing alone on a dusty, gray highway, beside his Kenworth 18 wheeler, looking away from him and into a barren, inaccessible desert. Shaking his head his father turned and walked off the bitumen into the parched landscape, disappearing from view...emotionally inaccessible.
Somewhere in the deepest hours of the night, the disturbing imagery gave way to a nascent peace and suddenly he found himself immersed in a comforting warmth.
There was an ocean. Waves breaking on a sandy shore...
A grassy hillside...
He knew where it was but he couldn't place it...
A dog - a pup - was galloping across the grass, yelping enthusiastically. A cattle dog? A sheep dog? He couldn't tell. But he knew the dog - was familiar with the sense of companionship with this dog.
There was a woman's laughter, light and breezy. He felt his heart skip a beat and he tried to look towards where he thought she was but he couldn't manipulate his field of vision. She was there though...at the very corners of his vision
Her presence, warm and pure...
And then she spoke. She called to him...
"Get the ball honey! Before it goes into the sea!"
What was that accent?!
He knew it but it's origin was just out of reach of him. The dog passed in front of him and in that instant he recognized the black and white markings, the pointed ears, the sleek body of a cross bred cattle dog. He tried to go to the dog but he was stuck fast where he stood as though his feet were stuck in pools of cement.
He reached out with his hand...
But there was no hand...
He panicked. He couldn't breathe. And as the imagery of the peaceful shore began to fade he tried once more, desperately, to look towards the woman.
And then she was there...in his arms. Her embrace sent an electricity coursing through him that was at once and foreign to him...
Yet he knew it...
He could feel her skin upon his cheek, he could smell her hair...
Rosemary and mint.
He felt her lips upon his and they kissed long and deeply. He tried to look into her face but could only see her lips as she drew back.
'I love you...'
Andy awoke in the darkness of his room, her voice echoing in his mind. The warmth of the dream, the bitterness of his nightmares conflicted in his mind until he sat up in his bed and shook them away. Yet he allowed his consciousness to hold onto the memory of her and he stared into the darkness of the room allowing his senses to remember.
Quite unexpectedly, as though it was not of his own volition, he opened his mouth and whispered...
* * *
Beck stumbled into the apartment early the next morning and collapsed down onto the sofa in the living area. He had pulled another all nighter on the building site and hadn't even bothered to change out of his work gear, his coveralls and reflective vest before he came home, so tired was he.
He felt for the remote on the side table - translation - the old packing crate that posed as a side table, and flicked on the TV. In the light from the box Beck suddenly noticed that the living room was spotless...absolutely spotless! The week old pizza trays were gone, the empty beer cans that had been piling up in the corner underneath the miniature Chicago Bulls basketball ring - also gone. The carpet had been vacuumed - there was no trace of crumbs or food of any sort on the floor. The tatty wall unit that housed both Beck and Andy's collection of books, DVDs and magazines and glass ware was neat and tidy - for the first time ever! The books were neatly arranged, as were the DVDs. Magazines - mainly copies if Maxim and FHM were arranged chronologically by month of issue.
All at once Beck was bemused, impressed and slightly disturbed and he suddenly felt guilty about having his dusty work boots on.
He got up and went through into the kitchen to find a similar scenario. It was almost sparkling. The oven and stove top were pristine - the first time Beck ever recalled seeing them such. A pair of saucepans - one large, one small sat on top both of them as equally as clean - not a trace of baked on crap in sight. The benches were had been wiped down and gleamed, the small round dining table and chairs in the corner were neat and tidy. It even smelled fresh in here.
It was then he heard the sound of scrubbing coming from the bathroom. Poking his head around the door frame Beck saw Andy - down on his hands and knees, wearing only a pair of pyjama bottoms - scrubbing the toilet - evidently the only remaining task in the bathroom which was also the cleanest Beck had ever seen it.
"Umm...good morning there," he greeted hesitantly. Andy paused and turned around.
He nodded. "What gives man? You turn gay all of a sudden"
Andy smiled wanly at the quip and dropped the scrubbing brush into the toilet bowl, collapsed back against the wall. Beck suddenly realized that Andy's stringy, greasy hair was gone. It had been shaved off so now Andy sported a crew cut similar to Beck's - only much shorter. Beck noticed several nicks and cuts in Andy's scalp, some of which sported dried and crusted blood.
"Couldn't sleep...Kept having bad dreams. Couldn't look at this fucking pig sty anymore," Andy paused pointing limply at the shower whose curtain was now gone. "I'll replace that too. I'd hate to think just how much bacteria was growing in that old one".
Beck nodded slowly.
"Fair enough man. Whatever you think is best...are you feelin' okay?"
Andy looked up at Beck and shook his head slowly.
A long moment of silence...
"But there's not much I can do about it right now...except clean.
"I, uh, rearranged your DVDs. I hope...you know..."
Beck brushed it aside with a nod.
"No problem...you did a fucking great job...I shoulda got of my ass ages ago and got my shit together"
At that, Andy chuckled - a kind of bitter chuckle - and he peeled off the rubber gloves he was wearing. His eyes drifted up to the ceiling.
"I gotta get my shit together Beck..." he said solemnly. "I can't go on like this".
Beck was struck by Andy's candor then and he leaned his head against the door frame.
"Hmm" Beck replied simply. "You know...I've never judged man because you pay your rent and your share of the bills and shit without fail...but...you're on a shitty path man. Those cock suckers who hang off you...they're wrong for you Dev. You can do a shit ton better".
Andy nodded slowly and wiped his brow.
"I gotta get some sleep man" Beck said and he backed away from the doorway, about to turn towards his bedroom when he hesitated. He glanced back at Andy.
"Nice buzz cut dude"
* * *
Andy had passed the exam - barely. He'd, uncharacteristically, turned up on time for classes that morning and attended all of them throughout the remainder of the day and the next, only skipping a Friday afternoon lecture to get to the Pub for his shift. No one at the Pub dared mention his rather stark, different appearance nor did he say much to them either. As he had over the past three days, Andy got in and worked hard, harder than he ever had at his job, maintaining the momentum that had taken everyone by surprise.
Andy ignored the repeated calls to his cell from Vasq, members of his posse and - significantly - Cassandra. Vasq had turned up at the Pub that evening but Andy asked one of the security guys to get rid of him - which they did so - eagerly.
Andy sat quietly at the end of the bar reading a text book during his break late that evening. Samantha brought a meal from the kitchen out to him.
"Thanks" he said quietly as he turned the book over so as not to lose his place.
Sm watched him as he began eating and after several seconds he looked up at her, causing her to divert her eyes away.
"What?" he asked.
"N...nothing," she stammered. "I...ahh...your haircut looks good. You actually look pretty decent without that EMO shit hanging down over your face"
Andy brushed his hand through it and nodded.
"You know," he began through a mouthful of mashed potato. "This is probably the best meal I've eaten in months? If I'd known this was one benefit of actually working I would've got my ass into gear long ago"
Samantha smiled knowingly at the comment.
"Well if you keep this up you're gonna find a lot more benefits in working here" she gestured with a nod behind her. "They're talking you know. About you. They're trying to figure you out"
Andy shrugged his shoulders.
"Nothing to figure out. Maybe I just wanna brown nose to the boss"
Samantha eyed him skeptically.
"Something happe...," her voice trailed off then as something or someone caught her eye behind him.
Andy turned in his seat as a tall figure entered the bar. A man dressed in denim jeans, a thick, woolen tartan jacket and a grubby looking truckers cap bearing a Red Bar Radio logo. A match stick he was chewing protruded from the corner of his mouth.
Bruce DeVries - Andy's father - regarded his surroundings with a dour, expression. His dark eyes fixed upon Andy momentarily...
Then he walked through the bar and disappeared through the bistro entrance, completely ignoring his son.
Samantha immediately felt a twinge of embarrassment for Andy. He simply turned back to his meal and ate a few mouthfuls silently but she could see that his appetite had already left him. Wordlessly Andy abandoned the plate and disappeared into the nearby men's room, returning minutes later to his work.
* * *
Bruce DeVries and Gideon Allan's friendship went back 20 years to the time of the first Gulf War where they had served together. Their friendship was a enduring constant in both their lives despite the failures of other, arguably more significant relationships.
Bruce often dropped by the Pub before heading out on the highway on his long haul runs. And tonight was no exception. He had been drinking there for years - or at least for as long as anyone could remember. Of course he would only have a meal tonight - no drink. He would catch up with Gideon for an hour or so and then he would leave. Seattle was his destination this trip.
Rarely, if ever, did he talk with his son. In fact Bruce hadn't expected Andy to be here this evening. Had he known - he probably wouldn't have come.
So it was significant that Bruce DeVries appeared at the bar a little over an hour and a half later just as Andy was finishing up his last few jobs. Samantha nudged Andy as he unloaded a tray from the glass washer and nodded discreetly at his father.
Andy set the tray down and wiped his hands with a towel. He looked at his father - the square jaw, peppered with a five o'clock shadow dark, the thinning hair that was graying at the temples, the dark eyes that seemed unable to look at him directly.
Neither seemed able to open dialogue. Samantha found it painful to observe from the other end of the bar where she was serving a group of regulars.
"...am heading to Seattle tonight," Bruce's voice was gravelly and deep with just a hint of a Southern twang. "be away maybe four...five days"
After a long moment Andy nodded.
"Your sister called..." Bruce continued. "Mentioned the hospital"
"Yeah...well," Andy rubbed his forehead and fidgeted nervously with his foot at a spot on the floor. "It was nothin'"
Bruce seemed unable to advance the conversation. He fingered his watch, drew the zipper of his jacket up further. The scowl was unmistakable.
"Wake up to yourself. You're a fucking disgrace"
Bruce turned, strode from the bar and was gone.
Andy stood there...as expressionless as his father had been.
Inside, he felt crushed...
Copyright © 2009 Dean Mayes