The story so far:
The blood of Caroline’s wound still stains my favorite shirt. A slashing spray of coppery red, on a white canvas rock concert tee background. A large gushing spout starts down around the navel and then progressively gets smaller as it continues up, across the lips and tongue of the Rolling Stones logo, finally ending in several tiny splatters at the neckline.
I refuse to ‘shout’ it out.
On Saturdays I still wear it around the house. Like I always did before.
I can just hear my wife’s sultry, gravely voice echoing down the hallway from the bedroom…
‘Baby, when are you gonna throw that old ratty shirt away? That concert was so long ago!’
She knew I never would. She didn’t really want me to. The Stones concert was the first time we made love.
Had sex. Screwed. Did it. **** like racehorses.
Tristan was conceived that night.
Each time now that I walk down this hallway, our hallway, and I hear her voice and I pass this mirror…I always pause and gape.
‘My favorite shirt…where did that stain come from?’
I know though. I’m not losing my mind. I was there and I will not forget. The sounds and smells of torture and rape and…
…and murder. The accident.
And no matter how many times my minds eye buries the truth and conjures up those wonderful old memories…playing them out around me like some acid-trip kaleidoscope, ‘this is your life’ virtual reality… ‘I WILL NOT FORGET!’
They are gone. My loved ones. Are gone.
I’ve taught myself to accept and move on.
Sometimes I do stare at the face in the mirror. The one sitting above my favorite shirt with her stain.
I note that the creeks of wrinkles that once creased my forehead have now deepened into troubled sinewy rivers. Below them, my eyes, reduced to slits by my endless squinting.
Caroline again…arching her dark pencil thin eyebrows, ‘Dez, you look like Ichiro baby…please put your glasses on.’ Then giggling.
I don’t even know where they are now. My glasses. And I don’t really care.
Deep set bruise purple and blue rings surround them with force and my eyes seemingly surrender. I’m not sure how I can even see out of them anymore. Sometimes, I do just close them completely and imagine that the strands of hair that hang lazily down to my cheeks are actually hers. Although she would never allow her hair to get so greasy.
She would never allow mine to get so long. When was the last time I had it cut?
My mouth, perpetually hangs open at a lazy slant, as if I’m in awe of something extraordinarily dull. My nostrils don’t flare anymore. My lips don’t bend up. My face is unshaven. My body limp. My toes and feet are bruised, dented and stubbed from walking into and on, the hundreds of kid’s toys that litter the floor of our home. I refuse to pick them up.
And the bloodstain on this shirt…well, I refuse to throw it away.
If I tilt my head just soooo…I can clearly make out the Angel of Death in the portion of the stain that blends into the bottom lip of the logo. Yep…right there, to the side of the tooth…just above my heart. Laughing at me. Taunting me. No matter how long I stare at him…internally willing him…he refuses to come to me.
Or does he?
I think back to the visit from the Preacher. Two days ago.
I had been getting on okay in the weeks prior to his visit. The voices had stopped. I had my appetite back. Things seemed to finally be making sense again. I was even wearing shoes.
After all, it has been over eleven months now since the accident. Will be a full twelve in a few days. On Halloween.
But the Preacher…he made me see things…feel things. Made it all seem so real again.
For a spell there…it was as if the last eleven months of sorrow had never happened. The blood never flowed. The dead were again alive and my shirt had no stains.
But it only lasted for a moment…and then it was gone.
After it had passed I looked the Preacher dead in his eyes…and I saw evil.
And all the wounds were there once again…and fresh. The skin still raw and oozing with yellow crusty puss. The blood still gushing forth like molten lava. My family…all three beautiful volcanoes…erupting at once. And me no longer dormant and sane.
“He’s no preacher of God that’s for sure.”
I walk into the kitchen, trying to shake the mood that’s following me. I step on a little green army man and its bazooka jabs into the tender arch of my bare foot. I don’t even cringe. The pain is like a fresh scent.
‘Why did you come to visit me Preacher man?’
I run my finger over the bags of candy I bought and dumped unceremoniously on the kitchen table.
M&Ms. Always Nikkis Halloween favorite. Of course, Nikki loved all candy. Typical four year old.
Not Tristan. He loved to dress up and he loved to go ‘trick or treating’ but he hardly ate any sweets.
He would storm in the back door…always an hour later than everyone else, and dump his booty out on the table for all to see.
‘Take what you want and enjoy it…for it will be your last.’
Then he would pull out whatever class of weapon his character wielded.
‘Oh, stop it now Tristan ya here! No playing with your sword thinige in the house.’
‘It’s a light-saber ma.’
‘Whatever young man…put it away. Your scaring your sister.’
‘No he’s not!’
Nikki…always standing up for her brother. Especially when he gave her his entire bag of candy.
Then Tristan would race down the hallway and admire himself in the mirror for another hour or so. His outfits were always so elaborate.
One Halloween he dressed up as a Klingon. Made his own costume from scratch and won every contest he entered.
Last Halloween, he was gonna be a Reaver.
His favorite show…
I feel like crying. But I wont.
‘What the hell did that crazy Preacher do to me?’
Too many days have already past with me cooped up in this particular misery. This paranoia.
No more. And I refuse to allow another holiday to come and go without participation.
This year I will pass out candy.
I will leave my porch light on and I will stand by the door and I will pass out handfuls of delicious chocolate bars and butterscotches and…
A loud bang from outside…and then distant laughter. Kids?
I’m reminded of my childhood in Detroit.
October 30th. Night before Halloween.
Depending on what part of the world you live in…Hell night. Cabbage night. Gate night. Mizzy night.
For me…Devils Night.
I’ve thrown a few eggs in my time. Lit a few fires.
But here…in Hot Sulphur Springs, Co? I mean, there’s barely enough people here to form a touch football game on Sunday.
I know everyone in…
More noise. Clattering. Running. Around the house…toward the back door.
I bet it’s the Martinez kids. Two boys I think…just moved here from San Bernardino, Ca.
“Well I’ll give them a scare…”
I move toward the backdoor…stepping on play dough and Star Wars action figures.
I can hear the laughter…right outside the door.
My fingers on the lock...I hesitate…
The Preacher. What if this is his doing? What if Evil is right on the other side of that door.
“Okay, seriously”, I mumble, “Your not crazy Dez. It’s just some kids pulling a prank.”
I turn the lock. I palm the handle.
I prepare myself to give them the fright of their young lives…
I turn…and pull…
I see two figures…about five feet out into the shadows. No more than four feet high. Kids all right.
Still…my plan dissolves…
“Hey! I see you…there.”
“You the Martinez kids?”
A snicker. Sounds familiar. Maybe the Allen kids then? From over on Boulder road? I’ve heard them in Church…joking around.
I reach my hand over and flick the light switch for the back porch.
Their bodies illuminate. Their weight shifts nervously from foot to foot. They smile…shyly.
My mouth… perpetually hanging open, now in awe of something extraordinarily magical. I brace for the impact…it comes…
“Hi Dad…were really sorry about the noise.”