The story of a young girl growing up with the tortured spirit of Elijah Pretzer, and healing his soul the way that doctors at Chased County Insane Asylum couldn't...
And so life intersected...
Playing in the woods in the back of my apartment building was the only thing I could do on any day. Mum didn’t believe in television, or in spoiling her kid with gifts of toys, especially the new tricycle brand my friend Jimmy would show off. Who needed it I thought, all I had and could have to keep me happy was an almond cookie once in a while, my tiny stuffed pony, and the woods. I was anxious to wake up every morning as a little tot, and I strung up my imaginary saddle to go a-stomping through the leaves with my trusty pony, Cowboy. Before I went, I checked the cloudy sky to smell the signs of rain, and then I held old and beaten cowboy in front of my face, and galloped into the bare and gray trees with a mighty “yee-haw!“ I ran into the woods without a tired breath, treading through the crispy leaves, frosted from the morning, their trees sleeping for the season. The little gang of squirrels in the neighborhood would sometimes chase me around their territory, and rarely so would the one little black squirrel, who was bullied and bitten so often by the others that he would often stay put. I would stomp them away with a sneer, and they would tremble before me, the most fierce and bravest cowgirl in all of Chased County. So I galloped onward deeper and deeper into the old woods and found an old flight of concrete stairs. I skidded when I found them, and stayed hidden in my safe shelter of the remaining trees as I studied the old and rotten stairs, descending into an open field, a wide one with lots of space for horses if an old massive building wasn’t smack in the middle of it. I froze to study the utter openness and silence of the place, the wind has ceased, and the grass all around was either gray or charred. The open land chased away the other side of the forest, and seemed to run half way across the world, the building ruling it. It too was colorless, but massive, with more windows than I could ever count, even today, and half of them had been stained brown or broken. I looked again at the stairs while placing Cowboy at my heals. Moldy, cracked, and rusty were they, with a long two by four at the bottom and a rotting pumpkin on the top, a crude face had been drawn with shoe polish. I didn’t know at the time those stairs led to hell, or its waiting room. So I crept down them one step at a time, taking glances at Cowboy, sort of telling myself that my little stuffed horse would save me if anything went wrong. By the time I descended the last step, I had already felt several drops of rain on my nose. And when I began to think about running home, screaming to mum, I swear the old scarecrow at the bottom of the stairs was chuckling at me. I inhaled and kept my breath in as the rain began to fall heavier, then began to bombard the entire field, forcing me to scuttle for shelter in the old building, standing so tall. My shoes sloshed in the wet grass until I reached the steps of the building, also made of concrete, and in no better shape than the other ones. I barged into it; afraid I would melt from the water, and fell flat on my face when pushing the metal doors in. I looked back at them on the cold floor, covered with paint chips and paper, to see the doors were painted yellow at a time, and starting to rust over, being topped with dirty black vines curling around the knobs, and a rudimentary spray paint drawing of a man’s privates. After studying it for a minute, I worked myself up and held my tiny fingers up to my lips, looking about to the festering world around. The place smelled to rotten meat, rain, and electricity from the wires hanging from the ceiling. A quiet moaning from what I thought was a machine sounded in the halls, bouncing off the ceiling, sounding quite similar to my radiator that I put all my jewelry I made in summer camp on. The walls were stained with blood in some places, especially in the little rooms I explored, and shit in another. I ran down the little hallways, reading all the graffiti on the chipping paint, my curly hair bobbing up and down. I swept past the windows that were open to the air, closed off with metal bars, and I stood and listened to the rain. So many halls had stairs connecting them, miles and miles of metal stairs, I thought. At the top of them laid more rooms, bathtubs, cages, and cells. The tops were closed off with chain linked fences, and made into little boxes to ostensibly keep people inside. I huddled in one of them to take a nap, and then continued to investigate my discovery, what I declared to be my new playhouse. From the largest grouping rooms to the tiniest cells I skipped, spun, and explored. I found dozens of cloth white masks, and gardeners gloves in a little wooden box. Before I discovered the final room, I knocked myself over in a pile of books which all had to do with the same word. I had trouble reading at that age, but not many people even under the age of ten would know the word “lobotomy“.
Someone began to cough at the end of the hall, in the very room I wanted to see. Only a single cough, and a quiet one, one that I wasn’t too sure was a cough or a sneeze. I escaped the pile of books and skipped to the room’s door. “Bless you!“ I sang, excited to see who was there. When I landed in front of the door after jumping, to my surprise the only things in the room were the frame of a bed, a wheelchair that looked about 90 years old, and a tiny window overlooking the whole world. I heard the cough again. I stood very still, and then my heart skipped when I saw a tiny little flash of white mist, as small as a butterfly, wave over the bed frame then disappear. I walked very cautiously into the tiny little room, stepping on an old Great War propaganda poster by mistake. When it made the crinkling noise, the little wave of white flashed again over the bed, like someone’s hand was showing me the door. I stood straight and smiled. “I know!“ I said. “You’re invisible, aren’t ya?“ I miss being ignorant. The whiteness flashed again, and instead of being petrified I laughed. “Hello!“ I giggled, while climbing onto the bed frame and sitting on the edge, thinking someone was next to me. I swung my legs, and crossed my arms. “I’m a cowgirl, you know,“ I said proudly, or what I thought it was. “My horse is waiting outside-“But then I gasped when I saw the white that would whoosh over the frame appear and remain still. Someone’s face was hovering still above me, and only his face. His face was hazy, transparent, and gaunt like the face in the moon. I kept myself from falling off the frame as long as I could, and his face kept as still as possible. But with only a blink, I collapsed, and the face went back into the walls with a flash. My heart thudded, but I didn’t understand what had happened. So I stood back up and leaned against the wall to stare at the bed frame. I sat there for quite some time, telling him to show himself again, and that I liked him, and asking if he liked me. I tried bribing him, saying I’ll get him a piece of my mum’s special chocolate if he gave me a smile, or that I would show him my special sneakers, and how they can light up if I hit them hard enough. I didn’t fear him, because I sensed a gentle person, I sensed a patient person on the bed frame. But as it began to get dark, I gave up and just talked to him. I talked about silly things as any young person would, playing with things I found, exciting lies about my misadventures, and how much I liked strawberry frosting on my birthday cake every year. I twiddled my thumbs the whole time, and then I looked at what I was doing, and got the urge to suck my thumb. “Can I call you Elijah?“ I sensed it fit him. It was a name you had to be careful saying, to me. It was to be said gently, lovingly, starting with a blush, then to sigh the name away. “Cause my daddy’s name is Elijah, but I never met him.“ I could have sworn I saw his smile, and I sworn I could have seen his shoulders, and a hand to his lips.
Days later I had told mum I wanted to go play in the woods again. “You’ve been playin’ in the woods every damned day.“ She groaned while sprawled on our couch, her head on a gentleman I didn’t know, which happened often. With each of mum’s little boyfriends she brought over, she told me to call him Uncle this or that. I had an Uncle Ricky for a few months, an Uncle Fred, Uncle Vladimir, and my favorite, Uncle Spazz. But for the past few months, especially after my fifth birthday, mum didn’t bother to give me anymore uncles and stopped caring. The man she was laying on looked very much like a woman, if he grew out his hair I would have defiantly been fooled. Mum had been calling him “Buddy“ for a while; I myself hadn’t been calling him anything. “I still wanna go, mum!“ I whined. “I found a big ol’ thing of rocks and if you look over them, I can see a farm with horses on it.“ I lied. “What ever happened to that horse toy I bought you? You haven’t lost it have you, clumsy girl?“ “Clumsy girl.“ Buddy nodded and repeated as he stared out the window, out in his own little world, like where I wanted to go. “Cowboy? He’s in my room.“ I remembered him on the steps, but I was too afraid to descend those stairs and pass the old scarecrow again to get him back. I trusted he would stay put, but I hoped he wouldn’t be mad at me for leaving him to freeze. I ran upstairs to my room, painted pink and blue with roses all over the wall, and grabbed a few stuffed animals out of my bed, along with a jug of iced tea out of my ice box. I then crept into my parent’s room to sneak into her Godiva stash, and carefully took two out of the smallest golden box. I took the most precious chocolate for myself; a white sea-star stripped with brown milk chocolate, and filled with raspberry jam. Chased was scarce of them and Godiva stores all together. I took another, one that I knew mum and Buddy weren’t fond of; a chocolate shelled truffle, with the shell in the shape of a clam. I hid them both in my hand with the other things. “You aint gonna loose all that shit, are ya?“ Mum sat up when she saw me try to escape out our door, and Buddy crossed his arms in agreement. “You’ve been lossin’ a lot of shit lately.“ “Oh no, my friend Mr. Woodcarver has been watching it, Elijah Woodcarver.“ She sneered. “Elijah, that’s a quack’s name, you hear? This freaking Woodcarver guy better watch his step with you or I’ll kick his ass. Anybody named Elijah is a quack but a weak quack, like your daddy.“ With my head out the door and my arms full of goodies, I snapped, “Mr. Woodcarver’s really nice! He’s the fella who raised those horses.“
I skipped my way to the old gray building I had been visiting everyday for about a week, even after school I would stomp down there without even telling mum. The run across the field took forever and left me exhausted when I pushed through the old metal doors again, glancing at the drawing of a man’s privates every time I entered I shook my head, thinking never the matter, and called for my friend. “Elijah!“ I made my way up the fifth flight of stairs in the old place and down the darkest hall to reach his room. I had given him sheets and a quilt for his empty bed frame, I had covered up an old and dried up brown stain, what looked like a massive coffee spill, with a blue towel, and I moved the old wheel chair by the window. I had decorated it with pipe cleaner flowers Jimmy had made for me, and wrote on a folded piece of paper, “Elijah’s chair“, which I put on the arm. Jimmy helped me spell that, too.
I threw all of my stuffed animals I had brought onto his bed, which I didn’t dare sit on in fear of falling though the sheets. “Elijah, are you here?“ I got a response with a cough from the wall behind me, and then complete silence. I smiled and spun around, but I saw nothing. “I brought you some old toys, you can hug them when you go to sleep or get scared. “ I explained. “See I don’t need them anymore ’cause I’m getting big, and I gotta be a big girl without ’em.“ I looked back at them with a hint of remorse, until I caught a white flash out of the corner of my eye, and saw a brief smile from my Elijah. I smiled too, until I felt something sticky in my hand, and forgot I was carrying the chocolates. I opened my hand in fear to see they had melted and stained my skin, feeling mushy and disgusting. I worked the former clam shell truffle onto the little window sill for Elijah, and liked what was left of my sea-star off my hand. I wiped it clean on my pant-leg. “I snuck a chocolate for you.“ I said sheepishly, waiting for a sign that Elijah was upset with me. I heard nothing, and I saw nothing, not even a hand showing me the door. I waiting, staring at the melted clam, then back at the wall. I suddenly heard a very soft chuckle from down the hall outside the door, so soft and so darling it could barely be heard. I looked outside the room to see nothing, but then I heard it closer behind me, but still saw nothing. “That you, Elijah?“ I shouted down both directions of the hallway. I cautiously walked down the hall to where I first heard the peaceful giggles, and that old pile of books caught my eye again. I had organized them into little piles against the wall to keep myself from tripping. I looked at them for a bit, not really bothering to look at them before, maybe I didn’t think it mattered if I didn’t know what “lobotomy“ meant. I felt Elijah wanted me to see them, or what was between them at least. After sifting through about five books in the pile, putting them down of the floor behind me, I found an ancient piece of yellowing paper. With a date on it, written in brown ink. I couldn’t make out the month, for half of it had been watered and smudged out, but I could tell it was one of the “ber“s, the twenty ninth of one, in 1916. I couldn’t understand dates back then, but what was there when I flipped the paper over I understood perfectly. There I saw a yellowing photograph, one of what looked like some kind of army camp, I could tell because Jimmy was really into them. He would describe what they looked like, and what they did, and where the soldiers would go after their training there. A small crowd of men seemed to be laughing in the foreground, and completely in focus, the sharpest and closest thing in the photograph was a bright young man. He had darling face, a large and sharp nose, and big beautiful eyes. His ears were prominent, too, and his shoulder was sort of in a casual shrug as he looked beyond the camera to an old friend far away. I loved his short black hair, cut so neatly and classically, I loved his uniform and the little badges of it, and I loved that his essence was caught perfectly in the picture. An air of sensibility, humor, and gentleness. I especially loved his smile, one that I thought I had caught white flashes of. “Elijah!“ I shouted with delight, not believing what I had found. “It’s you inst it?“ The quiet laughter returned all the way down the hallway, even beyond the staircase. I felt a brush of chilly air on the tip of my nose all the sudden and I spun try and see if he had touched me. I looked back down at his photograph, and sworn I could have just seen him laughing there.
It was around my twelfth birthday that others discovered Elijah, too. Especially mum and Buddy who had stayed by our side for a good long while. I still went to visit Elijah every day, rain or shine, through lightening storms and blizzards, sickness and health I ran to the building every day to be with my friend. I told my friends about him for years, all through sixth grade too, which I was just beginning. I had called him Mr. Woodcarver to Jimmy, too, and kept up that story for a long time. I bonded with him every day, although sometimes I couldn’t even see him. It was perfect for a game of hide and seek, I thought. In the winters, I would sip hot cocoa as we watched college football together, re-runs that we were never tired of. And in the summer time, I would run in and out of the building with handfuls of fire flies at night, and I would let them go inside, to light up the place. We chased the little glimmering stars of orange, green, and yellow, watching some escape out of the holes in the ceiling, back to the heavens. In the spring, we would hunt for white cabbage butterflies, and we once found two at once, flying side by side, and I saw a flash of him smile, and he saw a long while of mine. When winter came around, the snow would pour into the ceiling holes, the doors, and fall inside from the open barred windows. I would collect icicles out from them, and hang them around our hallway until they melted, and soaked the floor. I knew he enjoyed them while they lasted. “It’s been over five years, missy,“ My mum sneered while I was on my way out the door one day. “And I’ve never even met this Elijah Woodcarver, the quack.“ My hair had grown longer, my face more like a woman, but sadly, I was beginning to look a lot like my mother, minus the bags under my eyes. Although I wasn’t much taller than five years ago. “Well you never bothered to meet him, huh?“ I said. “You wanna see him?“ I pulled out the photograph of Elijah I have been keeping in my pockets ever since I found it. I handed it to mum and she studied it, but she did what I dreaded and turned it over to see the date. “Young miss, this man is over one hundred years old!“ I paused. “That’s just a date,“ I said. “That’s when his dad was born, he wanted to remember.“ Mum studied the bright and young face in the picture, turning it over and snuffling at the bright young man inside it. “His name’s Elijah is he? Elijah Woodcarver, then? He looks nothin’ like your father, but he still looks like a quack. “She looked to Buddy who was de-shelling a hard-boiled egg on the kitchen counter, made of marble and white wood; it was about the nicest thing in my house. I gradually made my way outside, with only the photograph this time, and silently sneaked behind the new apartment buildings that had been built in practically a snap of one’s fingers. They cleared out a bit of the trees behind it all, but that made my journey seem shorter after all. Elijah’s property stayed the same, besides the fact that I had been sweeping inside the building. So as I finally found my minimized woods, I heard a few crunches behind me, like deer’s footprints in the leaves. I didn’t turn around to see it, I had seen them all over the place all my life, and when you see something that often, you stay a little unimpressed. But it wasn’t a deer that was following me. I came to my second home at last, walking beside the stairs instead of on them, and smiling at the former scarecrow, guarding the ashen grass. The pumpkin had fallen off and rotted into the ground about two years ago by then, and it was my mission to try and make another one. Half way across the field I saw Elijah waiting for me in the highest window. I saw a white and misty silhouette of his head and shoulders, and perhaps his smile. I waved and began to jog towards the doors, but I was stopped by a sudden cry for me. “What in God’s name are you doing?“ I turned and saw Buddy tripping all over himself, his boney legs collapsing on his with every other step. “Don’t you know this is tresspassin’?“ “It’s just an old building, Buddy.“ I said, backing away slowly. “Elijah lives here.“ “What are you talking about? This hospital has been abandoned since the 60’s, clumsy girl!“ I paused and looked back at the building, then back at an out of breath Buddy, struggling to retrieve it again. “A hospital?“ “Chased County Insane Asylum... you say someone’s in there, now?“ He stood straight and began to walk around it. I could only follow him, praying that he wouldn’t go in. “If I knew you were going here the whole time I would have let the State Troopers get ya.“ He barged in the metal doors, holding my arm firmly. But immediately his dominance melted when he entered, and I imagine if he had a tail, it would be straight between his legs. He froze, and his knees buckled as he scanned the halls, and the utter emptiness of the place. I heard that moaning again, like my radiator which I now but pictures of Jimmy and I on, like I heard so many years ago. The place was dark and colorless when he entered, but small breezes moved some pieces of paper forgot to sweep up. Buddy, dropped my arm, straightened himself, and cleared his throat. “Hello?“ He snapped, trudging head on into the hallway. “Hello, anyone here? It’s against the law to be hangin’ ’round in here!“ He told me to lead him to where Elijah would spend his time, and how old he was. I didn’t know the answer to his second question. He told me everything about the hospital. The metal beds I found, what looked like operating tables, where I used to sit and draw things for Elijah, were used to electrocute people to drive out the madness. The chain fence at the tops of every stair case, were I took a nap when I first explored the place, where to keep the patients from jumping off. The white cloth masks where for the patients that saw things that weren’t really there. And the cages I found every once in a while, where I thought pets and other animals were put temporarily; I didn’t know the patients themselves were thrown in there. We had gotten to the finale hallway at the very top, and by then, nothing looked the same, and I was afraid of what Buddy would tell me next. He then tripped on the pile of books I so carefully organized. I tried to help him up, but he shooed my away, and picked up the one I always but on the top; a leather bound red one that had that word in its title, and only that word, “lobotomy“. He held the book in absolute terror, his mouth gaping, but he dared to open the pages; I never have. He only took glances at each one, and threw it across the hallway, breaking the spine of it. “What the hell did you do that for?“ I snapped. “Tell me you’ve never looked at this shit before, you’ve never, right?“ Buddy had a spark of panic in his eye as he scrambled himself back up, clinging to the bars on the window. “No,“ I said. “What’s a lobotomy anyway?“ He didn’t answer me, but made me continue leading him to where Elijah was, and when he said no one was there, I had to figure out a way to prove him wrong. We stood there for a while, and Buddy panned the room. I had put Jimmy’s old mattress on the bed frame, which was too small for it, but he gave it to me anyway to help the cause. I had left food and offerings on the windowsill, and hung many drawings of mine; I was getting quite good at drawing. I had brought in my old night stand and on it a fiber wood encrusted television I had hooked up, and bought at a garage sale for ten dollars. I had covered the old wheel chair in crocheted blankets and a quilt pillow, and his bed was decorated with stuffed animals I had owned. I hung posters on the walls, posters I though Elijah would like. I had bought some Van Gogh prints for a few bucks at the High School store across the campus, and in the largest and most empty space I hung my most colorful crochet blanket with pushpin, which was mostly to cover up a massive and rotting hole in the wall. “I’m sorry Elijah...“ I said under my breath. Buddy looked at me as I began to clutch his tiny arm. “You should have told your mum and me if you wanted to re-do your room. You didn’t need to trespass to do that, hun.“ He breathed. I then shook my head and scanned for any signs of Elijah. “No, it’s for him, Mr. Woodcarver. He lives here and he’s really lonely.“ “Sweetheart, there’s no one here,“ he groaned and squeezed the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb. “Jesus, I didn’t know Schizophrenia was contagious-“he sucked in a breath when seeing a while and misty face hovering above the bed frame. I was terrified for the first time n my life, because Elijah had a stern expression, and I was afraid he hated me. I wanted to run to him, to hold my arms out and embrace him, to cry in my friend’s shoulder; but I forgot everyday that I couldn’t touch him. Buddy began to tremble and hyperventilate; he backed slowly away, clinging to me as Elijah’s face suddenly disappeared. He fell backwards, his heart beating and about to jump out of his chest, I thought. “This place is damned,“ his voice shook, “Now I’m going mad!“ He jerked when suddenly a door I had never bothered to go in angrily swung open, and slammed the old knob right against the wall. It stayed open, and the door stood solidly.
Buddy called the police back at the apartment, and I knew I had it in for me from mum, and the law. So I stayed in the hospital on the bed and cried and wished Elijah would show me his face. I wished he would have forgiven me while I sat there, and I think he did. We were both dreading what was going to happen to us, or what they would say about us. I tried to pull myself together; I didn’t want to look like a fool to the police. So I wiped my eyes, fixed my scarf and hair, and sniffed up all the mucus I could. But I had to sit for just a few minutes more, for when I turned my head, I saw Elijah sitting next to me on the bed. He showed down to his torso, although he was still misty and white. He was as thin as he was in the photograph, with large ears and prominent cheek bones. I could only see the ditches for his eyes, and how the darkened all else. He looked frail, cut, and bruised, but alive. He looked at me, or at least I thought he was, and then slowly reached out his hand. It was sharper and more detailed than all else, probably because it was closer. He looked s if he wanted to touch me, but as I waited for my face to feel something caress my skin, I felt nothing at all. I knew and could see very well he was wiping a tear away, he got it too, but I couldn’t feel anything. Mum smacked the place Elijah touched me when I came down to meet the police, Buddy, and her. “You’ve got the nerve to lie to me, you little bitch.“ She growled, and the officers, who were obviously pushovers from doing nothing about my licking, told her to tone it down. “This building has been here for over one hundred years,“ Buddy pointed at the highest point of it, twirling the buttons on his sweater, still in a bit of shock. “It’s a fire hazard, a safety hazard, and it’s a place of malpractice, it’s gotta be torn down.“ I wanted to shout at him, and kick and scream, unless I wanted another smack from mum. So I stayed put. “Now, now,“ said one of the officers who stayed with us, as the others began to inspect the old decrepit hospital. “The land owner said he won’t press charges for trespassing, the kid didn’t know. “ He turned to a man as boney as Buddy, an older man. He wore a Shaker’s hat, a plaid shirt under a hunter’s jacket, and jeans and shining black boots under a silver and turquoise belt buckle. He smiled at everything; he smiled at the officers, the hospital, and me. “I used to come here and fool around when it was still in business too, younin’.“ He was obviously from the deep South, a Texas man, maybe. He didn’t scare me as much as I thought he was going to, he had an essence about him that was gentle like Elijah, but I also smelt an unbelievable amount of wealth in his breath. “My Granddad owned it way back when, and he would tell me things about the most fanatical patients.“ He said, leading me to the doors to take a look inside with all the officers, their flashlight’s blazing. Mum followed us, but poor traumatized Buddy stayed put. I wanted them all out, I prayed for Elijah to come and scare them all out of the place so we could be alone together, watch football like old times, and fiddle with pipe cleaners, too. But he was hidden, and I knew it. The land owner lead me to a hall I seldom went in, one that I didn’t really bother exploring, especially at the time a few years ago I could never see the remaining picture frames on the wall. He skimmed them, and stepped on the very one he was looking for. The frame was heavily damaged, like someone had been throwing it about. “Here he is,“ he smiled, shaking away the broken glass, and hiding his hand in his sleeve to pick of some black mold. “This is him around...1919 I think. Dr. Walter Marksman the third. He had a bunch of stories to spew when I came ’round to visit. He was an old timer then, though.“ He handed me the picture, and I realized he looked a lot like the land owner, only his eyes were sunken in, his hair was thicker, and his essence was deadly. “Heard ya have a photograph you found here, can I see it, huh?“ I nodded sheepishly, and handed it to him as he mumbled to himself how I wasn’t much of a talker. He inspected it, the date, Elijah’s face, and every little corner on it. He sighed and shook his head. “This thing used to have a frame.“ He moaned. “Yup, I remember this guy, Granddad told stories ’bout him, too.“ “Was his name Elijah? Elijah Woodcarver?“ I shuddered saying it, the full name had begun to roll of my tongue and slip into my heart. The officers then called him over, calling him “Foxy“, and saying they had found a few things move by themselves upstairs. He sighed again, and rubbed his left eye, poor old Foxy looked exhausted. “His name was Elijah alright, good guess, youngin’.“ He began to walk towards their voices. “But their ain’t a guy named ’Woodcarver’ who ever lived in Chased.“ He then told me to meet him outside on the porch in a few minutes. When time had passed and he had came out, he saw me inspecting every window for Elijah, being so incredibly happy that I knew his real name the whole time. He stood silent for a little bit. “Looks like we’ve got that ol’ spirit here again. He’s been wandering around for years, scarin’ the other patients I remember, poor guy.“ He motioned for me to come over, and then tried to light a cigarette. “I suppose he don’t remember me.“ I furrowed my brow, and wrapped my arms around my knees. “Tell me what happened to Elijah.“ I whined. I watched myself then, because Foxy told me I sounded like I wanted to bawl. He managed to light his cigarette, and smiled for his mistakes. “I didn’t like ol’ Eli’s story, it was too sad for me, I guess I was pretty young too.“ He puffed rings into the air, and I watched them fly away with the blue jays ahead. “He was a doughboy, and a nice guy. He was known for laughing a lot, and bein’ real loud. So he was excited to come home and be a war hero when he was gettin’ shipped out, with his unit and all.“ He was surprised by a ray of light coming out a top window from one of the officer’s flashlights. He then sighed in relief and rubbed his leathery face with his palm. “Only two fellas in his unit came home, a friend of his who’s face was burnt to a crisp, and himself. A nurse had to escort him ’cause he was too shaky to go anywhere.“ He cleared his throat. “So his folks took him home, and were damn tired of his shakin’ and his tappin’ on everything. He hadn’t said anything for weeks, and he would always reach his arms out like he wanted a hug, like this, see?“ He held both his arms out, pointing to a flock of Canadian geese. Our minds both wandered as we stared at them, and how they would glide. “Not ’till my granddad got a-hold of ’im. Not ’till then. He saw him as an easy case, but they went too far to try to cure him and just made him worse. The poor guy was shocked, tied, caged, and put into these real hot or cold baths for hours. Oh, but he became an animal, by golly! He would grunt and snort and scream, so they had to lock him up and tie him to the bed sometimes. But one day they tried to get him in an icy bath, and the guy was goin’ bonkers, he didn’t want to freeze to death I guess. But Granddad compared him to a wolverine when he told me. He was snapping and yelling and crying, so he had to order his assistants to get a hold of him.“ I clung to myself in tears. They had beaten his head in with Walter’s old golf clubs, and killed him. I felt sick, really sick like I wanted to vomit my guts out. Because I could practically see that day. Elijah screaming for warmth, and comfort as the doctors hit him repeatedly like they were being attacked by a rabid dog. I could see the blood, I could hear the cries, and I could see the aftermath. From that moment, I could never look at his photograph without seeing a bloody mess, or without getting a lump in my throat. “Granddad said he’s been hangin’ around, too.“ He sniffed. “I was hangin’ in his office one day and I saw a shadow without an owner inch along the wall...he hates my Granddad you bet ya.“