Trailing Behind Her Like Pixie Dust
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    He was not injured seriously — a hairline fracture in his left wrist and a mild concussion from the fall — but in the hospital, he developed a lung infection, which then turned into pleurisy. The doctors therefore kept him. They swathed his whole midsection in a thin and foam-like pre-wrap and then tightly wound athletic tape around this.

    “Presumably to keep me from coughing myself to pieces,” David told Dusty, who had come to visit him.

    He smiled softly. His large wet cow eyes gleamed in the half-light.

    “Are you okay?” she said.

    “Yes.”

    For perhaps the ten-thousandth time in the last few weeks, she looked at the long scar that ran seam-like down the length of his face to his jugular. It had turned white over the years. She did not know why the sight of this scar touched her so, why it always had. She resisted an impulse to reach out and gently trace it with her first two fingers.

    “But if I’m going to be here this much longer, I wish I could see the stars and the moon outside my window,” he said. “I have trouble sleeping, and it calms me to look at them.”

    “Why can’t you? See the stars and the moon, I mean.”

    “The streetlights are right there, and they blot out the night.”

    Dusty went to the drapeless window. His room was two floors up. The hospital quad lay spread out below. It was illuminated by a phalanx of streetlamps, two of which stood directly outside the glass, five feet away. They gave off a light that was sterile and white.

    She appeared at once very thoughtful. “I have always loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night,” she said to the glass.

    “Is that yours?” he said.

    “No. It’s from an English poet and novel-writer named Sarah Williams — often misattributed to Galileo.” She hesitated. “According to Kenneth,” she said.

    David watched her with pensive eyes from his hospital bed. Piano music came through his radio.

    “How much longer will they keep you?” she said. She was still looking philosophically out the window. Below, a carload of young people in a red convertible cruised past: whooping and shrieking and laughing and drinking on this, their day off, and she thought, not judgmentally but as a matter of pure observation, there was something fundamentally different in the way people experienced relaxation compared with her. She thought she should pursue this insight, that it was in some way very significant, but the music from his radio suddenly soared, and she shut her eyes, her mind pulled inexorably away.

    “Another week,” David said. “They’re worried about pneumonia. And staph.”

    She felt something hammer deep down inside her body, and her old heel injury pulsed. She took in the music. At last she opened her eyes.

    She turned back to David. She stared at his dark muscular fingers splayed like a starfish on the white cotton sheets.

    He smiled at her again.

    Her lips broke open in return, disclosing the thin blue cleft between her two front teeth.

    Five minutes later, on her way from the hospital, her black sneakers squeaking down the shiny tiles, she approached the doctor on duty. This woman had short chestnut hair and a nervous facial tick, and she gazed vacantly at Dusty when Dusty asked if the streetlights outside room 222 could be shut off.

    “No,” the doctor said, “absolutely not. Why do you ask?”

    Dusty was about to explain — explain about the stars and the moon — but then she thought better of it.

    “Thank you,” Dusty said.

    Yet that very night, just as darkness fell, the white lights outside room 222, and a few others besides, were suddenly abolished, so that the moon and the stars shone brightly through the window of his room.

    Chapter 46

    The next morning, hospital maintenance was called in to repair the lights. These men found nothing wrong with the bulbs but discovered instead a tripped circuit-breaker behind a box outside the cafeteria, which was in the rear of the hospital. This would have gone unnoticed, except in this case the lock on the circuit-breaker box had been picked. Still, maintenance didn’t think too much of it: one man reset the switch, and the sterile white lights bloomed back on.

    That same night, however, these very lights went out again, and the following evening, after resetting the switch for the second time, two men stationed themselves in the cab of a pick-up truck in the parking lot outside the cafeteria.

    Just as darkness fell, they saw a small thin figure in a mushroom-shaped cap move swiftly in, pick the lock of the breaker box, and trip the breakers. The figure came and went so fast that the two men scarcely had time to act.

    The same thing happened the next night, but this time, the men were ready.

    The small figure swept in with the darkness and tripped the breakers and turned to leave — and the men leapt from the truck. One called out:

    “Stop!”

    The figure did not stop but ran.

    The men gave chase. They barreled through the darkness. They chased after the figure, who astounded them with such lightness, such a nimble quick manner of moving — electric with life and the life-force that this body contained, like a little Spring-Heeled Jack resurrected in twenty-first century America, in black tennis shoes and a mushroom-shaped cap and a maize-yellow shirt they could not see which said RUN WILD, now ducking beneath a row of parked cars and then vanishing, moonlight and starlight trailing behind her like pixie dust.


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    October 10th, 2018 | journalpulp | No Comments | Tags: , , ,

About The Author

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning as the constant in my life.

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