Life is but a DreambyEMiamiRiverRat©
I had this dream one night and a few days later it came back to me. It is actually based on two separate incidents from my own life, combined with the resulting news coverage of each. I wrote it down and now submit it, for whatever it may be worth. I've been writing for many years, but only for my own self-gratification. Submitting my output for peer review is all very new to me. I welcome any and all constructive criticism that will help me become a better writer. I know I've still got a lot of 'rough edges' that could use more than a little spit-and-polish.
Although they haven't had any direct input into this particular piece of work, other established writers have helped me more than than they may know. This piece is self-edited, so all mistakes and other faus pas herein are my own sole responsibility and cannot be attributed to anyone else. Now for the story.
Have you ever had a two-story house fall on you? Well don't, because you won't like it. I know first-hand how it feels...it's very heavy. And as to the other incident? Well, don't try it at home. It will not turn out as well. I was very lucky that day.
I had recently turned twenty and was still living at home. My dad and I just had a big squabble over the fact that it was six--thirty Friday evening, I was getting ready to go out on my first date with the hottest cheerleader in school, who was now no longer 'jail bait'; and dad demanded that the lawn had to be mowed that night. Tomorrow morning at nine o'clock would simply be too late. It must be done tonight. Hell, at that time tomorrow, he'd be on the fourth or fifth hole on the golf course. What difference would it have made?
So, we argued, I refused his ultimatum, and I moved out right then; yep, packed everything that was mine and left home forever. So, I missed my date anyway.
I'd been doing a lot of work for a guy out in the country who had a stable where he boarded other peoples' horses. I cleaned the stalls; repaired the tack; fed, watered, bathed, and curried the horses. I also exercised and rode them (bareback and with tack) and worked with their owners and the vet.
My boss had told me that I could sleep in the tack room if I wanted. Now I wanted, and that was where I was going when the tornado hit.
They don't call where I live "Tornado Alley" for no good reason. That sucker tore a twenty-mile path through our little burg, wrecking houses, businesses, and utilities all along its route.
I was on a cross-county interstate connector when I came upon the storm path. The first thing I saw was a car in the intersection ahead. I wasn't going to be able to get through. There were a half-dozen high-voltage electrical lines down all around the car -- live lines, very live.
These weren't the normal street lines; they were the two-inch super lines and they were sparking, whipping and jumping around, and blasting holes in the car each time they touched it. The scene was surreal and then I saw what I'd missed. In the blink of a lightning strike, I saw a woman and two kids in the car. Holy J...us! There was no way to get them out! Sixty thousand volts is nothing anybody wants to be anywhere near. That stuff can jump ten or more feet to a ground; and that's me, standing, feet on the ground, in a driving rain.
I jumped out of my car and ran over to the edge of the road, looking for any way that I could get to them and get them out safely -- kids for gawd's sake! They were just little kids.
With no way to get near the car, I grabbed the nearest line about thirty feet from it's dangerous end and pulled it away as far as I could, over into a large grassy area. Then I returned and grabbed another and another, until nothing was near the car.
After getting no response to my yelling through the closed windows, I looked for a way in. Three of the door handles had been blown off by the electrical discharges, but one backseat handle opened. I unbelted the two kids and carried them to the front porch of the nearest house where I was met by an elderly couple who took my charges inside to relative safety.
I returned to the car and got the driver's door open from the inside. Mom was unconscious but alive. I got her unbelted and carried her back to the same house. The old fellow let me carry her in and lay her on the couch. After talking with the old couple, I went back out to my car and continued on my way, having never seen or heard a police car or fire engine. No flashing lights, no street lights or stoplights, just wind and rain.
About eight or nine miles down the road, I came across another place the tornado had ripped through, decimating an entire neighborhood. There was only one house standing and it looked like it was going to fall if anyone sneezed. Shaking my head, I was about to drive around the wreckage of peoples' lives when I saw someone waving from an upstairs window in that last house standing. There must have been forty or fifty people standing out on the sidewalk and nobody was doing anything. Nobody was even on their cell phone. What the hell?!
I jumped my car over the curb and pulled up into the yard. One look back over my shoulder at the gobsmacked people on the sidewalk told me more than I wanted to know. The storm had blown the front door off so I just walked in and found the staircase to the second floor laying in pieces...no way up, and no way down.
But, there was a 2x8 stringer with some of the stairs still attached. I kicked the remaining steps off the long board, laid it up against the second floor landing so I had an eight-inch wide walk board and went up it to the second level where I found an older man, his wife and one child I guessed would have been about eight years old and maybe a grandchild. The parents were freaking, but the kid was as cool as ice.
I told him to get his grandmother and follow me. I grabbed his grandpa and led everybody back down the board to the first floor. We no sooner got down to the first level when the whole front of the house collapsed, closing the front exit I'd come through.
I pushed everybody to the back of the house, only to find the back door jammed. After cleaning the glass out of a broken window, I put the kid out first and passed the woman out to him. I put man out next, and that's the last thing that I remember about that day...and apparently most of the next month.
When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that the walls were a pleasant light green. The second thing that couldn't be ignored was those damn beeping sounds assaulting my ears. A few seconds later, the room was full of people in white uniforms, poking and prodding and checking nearly every part of my body. I don't mind saying, I was damned uncomfortable.
I could see tubes and wires stuck everywhere on me and in me, running to and from pumps and those darn beeping monitors. I tried to move. Oooh, that smarted. Whatever hit me must have been a whole lot bigger than I was. I decided I was just fine where I was at.
Somebody was trying to talk to me but they finally just faded away. It was much more peaceful again. I needed that. I knew I was hurting; I just didn't know how badly, and snoozing was a good way of not worrying about it for the time being.
The next thing I recall was waking up with a god-awful hunger. My stomach was telling me that my throat must have been cut. I still didn't feel much like moving but at least I didn't feel like sleeping anymore just then. So I waited. About an hour later, a nurse came in and I tried to ask about getting some food but all that came out of me was a croak.
The nurse looked over and saw my eyes were open. The next thing I knew, she was out the door like she'd been shot out of a cannon. Less than thirty seconds later, some guy in a white coat was inspecting me as if I was a new-born or something, and she was giving me water from some kind of 'sippy cup'.
I managed to ask the guy in the white coat for something to eat and he told the nurse to arrange for me to get some broth. I didn't ask for broth; I asked for food. Well, she brought me the wannabe soup and I shoved it to the floor and asked again for some food. She disappeared for awhile and then some guy came in carrying a tray full of what I wanted.
There was a monster cheeseburger, fried potatoes, mac-and-cheese, a couple of slices of pizza, and a half-dozen other things that will warm any man's heart -- alright, all but the jello. Now I was going to get better and get the heck out of here.
I was told it would be another three weeks or so before they would cut me loose. In the meantime, there seemed to be a crowd of people with press badges hanging around outside my door. The nurse would let in one or two each day if I felt up to it. I knew that had to be a problem for her, so I picked a couple of pretty decent guys and a girl out of the mob to talk to, one each from the major newspaper, radio, and TV station; and told the nurse to get rid of the rest of them.
At first, all the questions were about the situation in the house, so I told them everything I remembered. They filled me in on what had happened afterward. What they told me was that the whole danged house collapsed on top of me as I was bailing out of that window. Apparently, everyone there had seen me getting squashed like a bug under a boot heel.
According to the witnesses they'd interviewed, the people who'd been standing around like zombies jumped into the game when the house fell on me. It seems that the entire population of the neighborhood had lifted the whole roof off of me, enough that somebody could drag me out from under it.
They said that two of the people started CPR on me and kept it up until the EMTs got there and told them I was just too busted up to live. The two insisted on continuing as I was transported to the hospital where the ER doc jumped-started my heart again. I'd been officially dead for nearly twenty minutes.
After hearing that, I suddenly felt pretty dang good for a dead guy. I asked if they knew how to contact those two people who had refused to let me die. I was told they would try.
The next day, my media contacts showed back up and escorted a bearded hippie-type guy and a slender young woman into my room and introduced them as my benefactors.
If I was to say that I wasn't choked up and that tears of gratitude weren't streaming down my face, I'd be the world's biggest liar. If it hadn't been for their refusal to give up on me, I would be breathing dirt right now. All I could do was to hold out my hands, wires and tubes and all, inviting them to my side. The girl was the first to speak. She got out about half of a word before she broke down sobbing.
The man next to her picked it up. "Sir, it is a great pleasure to be here shaking your hand. There are a lot of heroes in this world today, but even they agree that you stand tallest. I've read all about what happened at the house, but until yesterday I didn't know about the car."
The car? Oh, the car. "The woman and the kids, are they okay?" I asked him.
"Oh, yes sir. In fact, they are outside the door hoping you'd allow them to come in."
"Allow them? Hell, I DEMAND it!"
A tall, graceful but tired-looking woman stepped into the room, followed by two well-dressed and well-mannered children who looked no worse for the wear. She got about halfway to my bedside and stopped and just sagged to her knees, her eyes on the floor. Both kids put their hands on her shoulders but neither of them took their eyes off of mine.
Finally the young lad spoke up. "Sir, we will never forget what you did. We were so scared and owe our lives to you. We can't repay you, but I will give you a promise. If I ever have the chance, I will do the same for someone else someday. All I can do is to promise to pass on what you have given me, us." This, from the mouth of a boy no older than ten or twelve.
"Young man, I accept that as payment in full for anything you believe you owe me. Please take care of your family; they will need a man like you in the days and years to come. Please ask your mother come closer. I'm sorta tied in and can't get up."
"Mother, he wants to speak with you. Please get up."
She slowly got back to her feet and allowed her children to lead her over to my bed. Her eyes were still focused only on the ground. Her son stretched her arm out for me to clasp her hand. As I touched her skin, she almost jumped out of it, but I locked down just tight enough to hold her in place.
"Ma'am, you have raised two very commendable children who will one day step into their rightful places in this world. If I had something to do with that, then it is I who am truly blessed. Take your children and finish your job, with all my best wishes. Your son has paid all debts that you may feel due; as I'm certain your daughter will as well, in her own way."
"You may ask them of the price, or about when it may be paid; but do not press for an answer. I sense your son is the kind of man who answers with deeds, not words. The two of you, take care of your mother; she needs you. Thank you for coming to see me; and don't worry, I'll be fine in a couple of weeks."
The next morning, it was all over the newspapers, radio, TV...all of it, every word I said that day; another complete rehash of every detail of the car incident and the house event, my current state of recovery, and some very erroneous 'information' about my past history. I felt like a Hollywood movie star betrayed in a cheap grocery store tabloid.
Yes, even they got into the fray. I was, according to them, romantically involved with the lady who did the CPR (whom I've met exactly once with both of our eyes open), with the mother from the car (also just once), even with the wife of some semi-famous politician I didn't even like, and hadn't ever seen in person.
I was so disgusted that I shut down the three reporters to whom I had granted access, telling them that I was done with this B...S...; and the only way they could get me back was to find the three people from the house.
About a week later, I had just finished a grueling rehab session in the workout room and made it back under my own steam to my bed when the young lady reporter stepped into my room.
"Sir, I have a lady with me who is a very close relative of the three people from the house. I think she could help you contact them. Would you like to meet her?"
"Would I like to meet her? I would willingly kiss her feet if she can hook me up. Please bring her in."
When she stepped through the door, I was sucked into another universe. I'm no stranger to extremely beautiful and exotic women but there are some things in life that simply have no parallel. This was one of those moments. As much as I wanted to, I simply had no voice, no tongue. I know my jaw was working, but no sound was coming out. I must have looked like a fish out of water.
She floated over to my bed and sat in the chair next to me. After looking with a level, but not unkind, gaze into my eyes for seemed like ages, she turned her head away and leaned back as if in contemplation of something beyond the ken of mortal man. I stared up at the ceiling.
After about a half-hour of her sitting in silent contemplation, according to the time on the muted TV, I finally found my voice.
"I need to know. Please, what is your name? The lady reporter said you know how to contact the two older people and the child from the house. I want to know that they're okay, that this was all worth it. Can you help me?"
Her voice came over as warm honey, "They are fine and needed to be sure that you would recover. What you did was beyond extraordinary. Not the neighbors, friends, or even the firemen would go in there, but you did. You pulled my grandparents and my brother out of that house, only to have it fall on you. I am the one who owes you more than my own life. Whatever I have is yours, to make you whole as you were before this happened. I couldn't live with myself if you lost something by doing what you did without regard for yourself. I and all that I own are yours forever."
"Miss, please. I've been told I will make a full recovery in time. That, less one thing, is all that I could ever ask; and your family, I trust they are well?"
"Yes, they are all fine and stop by your nurse station every day to check on your condition. I think they are too embarrassed to say hello to you. After all, you are the hero in this, and they don't know to say to you. But, you said 'less one thing'. May I ask what that one thing is?"
"Since you have asked, that one thing I need is to know, 'What is your name?'"
"Oh...you want to know my name."
An extended period of silence ensued. I didn't pursue the matter, allowing it to settle of its own weight. The weight finally broke the camel's back.
"I will tell you, but only on one condition. Please promise that you will tell no one, NO ONE, else my name."
I nodded, "You have my solemn vow I will tell no one your name."
"I'm Christy RandStadt."
Holy..........!!!! She's the author who just released her tenth straight NY Times best-selling novel and she's already at number one again. I have all of them at home, except the most recent one. I should have recognized her from her pictures on the cover jackets.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. Perhaps it would be better if I just call you 'Missy'. I would very much hate to slip and break my promise to you at an inopportune moment."
"Yes. I would like that."
Looking down at my arms, I said, "Missy, I've been sort of tied up lately, do you think I could give you the money to get me a copy of the newest novel? I've read all of your others that I know of and have them in my library, but I need the one just released to keep me warm at night in here and my mind off of all these wires, tubes, and needles."
"I'll do better than that. You just sit tight. Take a nap or something. I'll be back as soon as I can."
With that, she was gone; as in vaporized. The next thing I knew, I was being rolled out on a gurney and into an ambulance. Nobody would answer my questions about where I was being taken or why. As I was strapped in and locked down, I had no choice but to simply lay back and wait for whatever was inevitable.
After about an hour-long drive, the vehicle finally stopped and the rear doors opened again. This time, my straps were undone and I was helped to my feet by the EMT. Two guys outside helped me down and kept a light hand on my arms as they walked, and I lurched, up the steps to what appeared to be some kind of old mansion. I figured that it had to be some kind of upscale nursing home or something. I could not have been more wrong.
The front double doors swung wide open and a staff of five or six took me off the hands of the ambulance guys. I tried to look back over my shoulder to say thanks, but I was whisked inside and the doors were closed before I could even open my mouth, and dropped into a wheelchair.
This place was amazing. Massive art work was everywhere, Arabian rugs on the walls as well as the marble floors; statues and busts on pedestals, paintings, sketches, lithographs and prints. Everywhere I looked was perfection.
I was pushed over to a door where a couple of workmen were packing up their tools. "Good day sir, welcome home, sir." I just nodded.
The fella I took to be a butler pressed a panel on the wall and the door retracted into the wall to reveal an elevator. We stepped in and he pressed the "UP" button. I quickly found myself looking down a long hallway where two more maids in white awaited by yet another door.
When the butler and I got there, the doors were opened to a huge suite fit for the kings of Araby. I remember thinking that at least six people could sleep in that bed without touching each other, even if they rolled over in the night.