Chapter 67 of Teir -
Sweet Georgia Breeze, Part One
In the fall of 1957, when the hot dry air off the Georgia grasslands was giving way
to the cold that was coming down out of the Canada's, and John Patrick Anderson hadn't yet
asked Maddy Franklin to marry him. When Buddy Holly was still singing 'That'll Be The Day'
hard and strong on the radio, I turned 14.
That was the year Arlo Henny drowned at Penitent lake, and he was two years older than me
and had been a very good swimmer, and people just couldn't figure how such a thing could happen.
And Jackie Paulsen came to live with mama and me in the three story plantation farmhouse mama
had inherited from her daddy, out at the end of highway 25.
It had been a hard year, and now mostly done when November 12th came. It was tuesday and
supposed to be a school day, excepting that mama called the school and told them i was
sick, even though i wasn't. She said she planned for us to go to the in-door pool over in
Jefferson as a surprise birthday outing.
To get away from little ole Rochelle and run out to the big city, or at least mid-size city for something special.
Even though that fancy pool, that even heated, was still over an hour away.
"An' a little white lie don't hurt none, just so long as you don't take it into yer mind
that ya can do it any time ya want." She said.
Which to be honest I thought about, but I figured it was probably too easy to get caught,
and so i smiled and told her yes ma'am I wouldn't take advantage like she said.
That was when we ran into trouble though, 'cause even though I hadn't planned on lying, I did, and
that sort of led to a whole rash of other things that I wish hadn't happened, but by then it was
too late to change any of that.
Late morning when we finally got out of the house, leaving the key to the house with Mrs. Johnson next door so that Jackie Paulsen could get in and get dinner if mama and I weren't home before dark.
The sun was getting high and the air already hot. Mama drove and I sat on the passenger side listening to Elvis sing Jailhouse Rock, but it was an old song already and I was getting tired of it. I leaned back in the seat and hung my arm out the window, feeling the rush of wind and the sound of it whistling by the mirror, mama humming some church ballad under her breath as we rode out highway 41.
That is when I had the dream.
The one that I was dead and falling through a thin draped blue sky toward a deeper ocean below.
The wind howled.
In exactly the same way as against the mirror.
I wiggled my fingers and felt the air slide over them and tried to open my eyes, but I couldn't.
I tried hard, more than once and then tried to call out to mama... Mama!
But it wasn't sound that came out of me and slide out into where ever I was. It was just air. Just a croaking, squeaking sort of sound that you make when your scared and you feel like you are in over your head.
It happened like that when Jimmy had asked me swimming and we'd gone out to the old quarry that had hit water and had to be abandoned. When we'd swam out and he had tried to kiss me, grabbed me in the water as if neither of us needed to tread water just to keep our noses from going under. I had tried to push him away, and started to sink, my head going under and him pushing against me and i tried to catch a breath.
All I got was a mouthful of water. I gagged and kicked, catching him in the stomach and pushed back up above the water, shaking my head and trying to catch my breath.
It was like that.
Trying to catch my breath.
Scared like it was the end.
Thinking it couldn't be...
I mean, in the movies it's all...
Well... just then I thought maybe real life wasn't like the movies at all.
Nothing like them.
My breath catching in my throat and me wanting to scream.
To scream as loud as I could.
That is when...
When I caught my breath and sat up on the table.
The room was empty.
Mother and the car were nowhere to be seen.
I wasn't... who I thought...
Or maybe I was,
and this was the demented dream that invades the consciousness right before the car runs the light and the sound of whooshing wind suddenly becomes the screech and scream of rending metal.
The smooth ride in the right side of the old Buick 88 suddenly become the twisting motion of the car slamming into the old white Chevy pickup that Jed Waters had decided had enough time to get by.
The scream died in my throat as I sat up, halfway through a scream and was confronted with an empty room. It wasn't Cordele Hospital, or even Doctor Johnson's office in Tifton.
This was someplace else.
I was someone else.
I think it was the last part that made me want to start screaming all over again.
But at least that got someone's attention.
Three nurses in pretty blue outfits came through the doors carrying clipboards and worried expressions.
All except the last one, that simply frowned and put her hand in her pocket and pulled out a syringe.
"Now, now, we shouldn't be having none of that now should we?" She said and maneuvered her way past the other two standing by the door.
It was then that I wished there were windows in this crazy place, instead of solid white walls. It was true I wasn't dead, but I wondered it that were any better.
The third nurse came across the floor smiling, but her smile wasn't pleasant at all. Carrying her syringe raised as if she were a baseball player about to make a strike.
incongruously I wished that mother had never decided for us to go out to Jefferson for that swim in that fancy indoor swimming pool.
But by then it didn't matter what I thought.
to be continued