Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sneak Up

Cutting into town, I looked for a place to park. I grabbed the first business building after crossing the train tracks and put the car at the far end of the lot. It was unseasonably warm at 78 degrees so I left my light jacket off and rolled up the sleeves of my blue plaid shirt. Walking away from my car I chirped the alarm. The tracks were 20 yards away so I hopped on them and headed for the dams.
Things had changed. The layout of the area was altered and dirt trails were paved. The improved paths offered a smoother surface and I swung over to one when at first chance. I was hoping to sneak up on Clay if he was at the river. I’d seen his moods, important when planning to approach or confront him.

A small new bridge crossed the river where the first of two dams, and Clay, should have been. A girl, college age, came my way and was about to pass so I spoke to her.

“Miss, where’s the dam that was here?” I asked while motioning to the river.

Pausing, she looked at me with a pleasant smile, one of those that silently said, “Oh look, the poor thing, he doesn’t recognize his surroundings anymore.” When she noticed I was sincere and not confused she offered a few words.

“I’ve been here several years and there has never been a dam here sir.”

She continued on and I heard laughter coming from under the bridge and recognized it. I made my way around the barrier fence toward the sound. Sure enough, it was Clay. I faked a cough and he looked away from the ground he was staring at near the water’s edge. His eyes met mine but there was no connection, no recognition. 

He looked bad. Gaunt, pale, and palsied, Clay truly seemed missing from his body and mind. Squatting low while resting skinny ass cheeks on his heels like a little boy might, he poked at something with a stick and paid no attention to me. 

“Clay, hey Clay, how you doin’ brother?”

Giggling like an adolescent might, he looked to me with a gentle smile. Three or four more of his teeth had vacated. Alcohol and poor hygiene had evicted them, or a brawl, maybe two, had gone thug on them.

“You are not my brother and my name is Jovee. My brother is away at school. He’s in college at a university in Lawrence, Kansas. See the shirt he sent me?”

Wow, he was gone. I had never seen him break with reality so completely. I peeked at the shirt, coffee stained and thin. The logo on it was a silhouette of a Native wearing a western tribe headdress, war bonnet I heard it called. It identified the shirt as legit and having come from the university in Kansas. The school served only native students. I would know. Heck, I attended it.

“Well, nice to meet you Joey. My mistake for calling you my brother,” I said in as friendly a tone I could muster.

Clay held his position but was quite aggravated.

“Not Jo-ey, Jovee!”