Noon July 2
Not too far away
Neil opens his eyes. All he can see is a peeling green ceiling above him. He yawns slowly and rubs the cricks out of his neck. He looks down to see an old army blanket draped over him, and he is in turn draped over a tattered couch with his feet sticking off the far end. When he goes to rub the sleep out of his eyes, he notices that his left hand is bandaged. He stares at it. Slowly, yesterday’s events return to him.
“Amy!” He shouts as he starts to jump up. His legs obey him sluggishly and painfully, and he gets caught up in the blanket, landing flat on his face.
A deep voice from nearby speaks. “You seem to have become even less coordinated. I didn’t know that was even possible.” Neil raises his head to find the man who spoke.
“Uncle Bruce? What are you doing here?” Neil untangles himself from the blanket and shifts back onto the couch, instantly reassured by Bruce’s presence.
“This is my house. And it’s Coach. I aint you uncle.”
Neil gives a small laugh at what is clearly a long running joke between the two. “Not yet, but Alice is you niece, so o….” At the mention of Alice’s name Bruce’s head falls to the side, trying to avoid looking at Neil. When he notices this, Neil’s smile flees, to be replaced with anxiety again. “What? What is it! I dreamt…..it was a dream, right! A dream! Alice is asleep in the next room, right?” His voice is hysteric.
Bruce wearily stands and walks over to Neil, his face barley holding in tears. “That was no dream. Alice……is….dead…” He falls into the couch, and breaks into tears.
Neil casts his face into his hands. He stays like that for a while, trying to be a man and not show his emotion. He fails. After an eternity part of his brain forces itself into action. “What happened?” He manages weakly.
Heaving a huge sigh, Bruce collects himself. “Well, what do you remember?”
“Alice. I was holding her in my arms…..” He looks down at them in disgust, as if they were the things that caused her death. “Then…..explosion. Glass and wood everywhere. I tried to stand…to check on Aly….she didn’t respond. She….she wasn’t breathing. Our phones didn’t work. I…saw cars….stopped. I ran with her in my arms. I ran as fast as I could! Then I saw you! And then…nothing! I……” He breaks into hysterical sobs.
Bruce nods and exhales loudly.“You fainted. I got the other driver to carry you here. I took Alice’s……body. She was already dead. Her heart stopped. Like everything else. Just stopped.” He is silent for a moment, and then takes a sip out of a flask on his belt. “It was that dam pacemaker! Dam thing! When she was born, I told her parents she could live without it. Hell! I have lived with my ‘congenital heart defect’ without a machine! I Aint dead! She would still be alive!” He returns to his stoic misery.
Neil has ignored the latter part of Bruce’s diatribe. “Dead…instantly. She…died in my arms….dead…” Neil joins the sobs.
Bruce turns to Neil and senses that he is going to reach his limit soon. He collects himself and sets himself to help the only person he has left. “Neil….at least she was happy in her last moments. I know no place she would have rather been then with you, being happy.”
“But….she is dead!”
“Yes. And we….we cannot change that. We can honor her memory and live. We can honor her by helping those in need, just as she would do. You know she was gung-ho on all that charity stuff. And you are lucky to be here alive as well. When you found me you’d lost a fair amount of blood. Chunks of wood stuck in you back, shards of glass embedded in your feet, those thorns you ran through did not help either….that door you ripped in half nearly sliced your hand in half in revenge! “
Neil tries a desperate half smile. “Was it really that bad? It never occurred to me. All I could think of…. was Aly. I knew that as long..as long as I has her…everything would be good.” He swallows a sob. “We…should do something.”
“Yes. The power is out. That means the food in my fridge will go bad. It can only be saved inside of our stomachs. We should eat it all now.”
Again, Neil forces a laugh, this time costing less effort as it comes with the hope of distraction. “Yeah. Food is good. Let’s eat!” He jumps up with a need to do anything but reminisce of Aly.
Bruce takes a bit longer to rise. As he does so, he clutches his chest. Checking to make sure Neil cannot see him; Bruce reaches into his pocket and pulls out a phial of pills. Only one is left. Grimacing, Bruce dry swallows it, and slowly makes his way to the kitchen.