Sunday, February 22, 2015

Somebody’s Purgatory



There was nothing but silence but in the background I heard His Favorite Gal urging him.

“Go on, talk you fool, tell him what you told me,” she said.

I heard whispering and a loud voice blurted out. 

“Hey mister, Clay’s been run off. I’m in charge now, yup, got the steering wheel of his brain and taking us all for a fun ride. You can go on back home. I got this end covered.”

Arguing took place, I think the phone hit the floor, and I was left in confusion until His Favorite Gal got on the line.

“F-it-all Ain’t It, see what I been dealin’ with here. He went off his meds already and hid them somewhere in this sty of a shit box. Where you at man?”

I took a deep breath, gave her E.T.A. and present location, and asked for clarification.

“Was that Clay?”

“Yes and no and where are ya? She asked.

“I’m 5 minutes from St. Ignace and another 3 hours from you. Hang in there and listen to me, this frequent calling is only slowing me down. I’m not taking any more of them His Favorite Gal, you hear me?”

“Now you listen to me Ain’t It. I’m about in hell here. Put the pedal down and stop wussin’ around. Yah, and one more thing, Clay is…”

“Is a pain in my balls,” I said in conclusion as the call clicked to an end.

Bewilderment arm wrestled my anger as I rolled into the toll plaza at the bridge. For all the demons Clay battled, the one hassling him was a doozy and it mystified me. I failed an explanation for the odd behavior and His Favorite Gal offered nothing for clues. Maybe Clay got into some hybrid weed or scored a bottle of gin. He favored gin. Anger took one last shot me but shame intersected unexpectedly.

Why, really, did I agree to Clay’s request? Was it brotherly love or fear I’d be found out, my past revealed by His Favorite Gal? She would do his memorial service if I didn’t and I would surely be in attendance if she chose to out me. An invisible hand pinched my guts forcing a harsh denial of the thoughts.Three sets of speed bumps massaged the car’s tires and the rumbling focused me.
 
For a week day, traffic was busy in the 2 open lanes of the plaza. Two others were closed for road repair and lack of demand. A logging truck and three cars were ahead of me. Diesel fumes, cigar smoke, and the distinct smell of hot tar slid in, through, and out of my car. 

I had all the windows down so lake air could envelope me as I traversed 5 miles of bridge that spanned the gap between upper and lower peninsulas. My act was premature, my brain obviously thrown off by concern for Clay. I should have waited until on the bridge and avoided choking on fumes.

I rolled up to the booth and was happy to see “Big Nob” working the till. Nob was a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, a fellow Anishnahbeh Chippewa. Ashinahbeh is Ojibweh for a Chippewa native. Amongst ourselves, we shorten it to “Nish Nob” or simply “Nob”. Big Nob went 230 pounds at 6 foot 3 inches. I equaled him by subtracting three inches of height and adding it to my girth.