The groundskeeper waved his
hand over the stare of the motionless man on the bench.
“Dead,” he muttered and glanced across
the street at the hospital complex, a small city twinkling in the dawn.
Vince Dooley was on the 6th
floor. He was all skin and bones. It didn’t look good.
Meanwhile the inconveniencies.
Vince observed his wife Evey sitting
next to his bed. What a great set she had; if he could only get his
mouth around them one more time.
And a cigarette. One more. Just one.
The nurse shrieked,
“You’ll blow us up!”
One more of something
was magic. Like another day.
Emily, his niece, had been badgered by
family to come say goodbye. With tattoos, a nose ring and an attitude
to piss off the Dalai Lama she was way off message as far as her elders
Emily sat indifferently and bounced her
foot and chewed gum and waited to be dismissed. She had been
the sweetest of things as a child. Ach, why ever grow up?
His voice gone Vince blinked discreetly
at Emily to get her attention. It took several tries but she finally
responded and stepped next to the bed. Vince crooked his finger. Emily
leaned over. He whispered. Emily nodded affirmatively, crept
her hand into her purse and tucked a cigarette and matchbook behind
The two beamed at each other as if
theirs was the heist of the century.
It was long into the
night. The graveyard shift was slaphappy from the unbroken
croon of the seriously ill wailing a collective protest at the whole
Vince yanked the oxygen tubes from his
nose and the IVs from his veins. Blood tumbled down his arm which he
stanched with a fistful of kleenex. He lay still to catch a breath and
sipped it like scalding tea when it arrived. He counted to
ten and sat up. He reached under the pillow to collect his
stash. Ten again and he was standing.
He peeked out of the doorway for a
clear coast and on the mark shuffled down the hallway. He used the wall
as ballast and moved as fast as his delirium would allow. The inane
hospital slippers scraped across the floor and threatened sabotage.
Vince yipped triumphantly when he made
the elevator and out the front entrance under the noses of the drowsy
He ambled across the street to the park. A chilly stone bench
came to his rescue and he collapsed.
The lid of night tilted back and the
first light peeked under. Smiling he pawed at the horizon and
opened a clenched fist for his treasure. He drew the length of the
cigarette slowly under his nostrils and pasted it onto his lower lip.
He opened the matchbook and with a
supreme effort pulled off a tab. He struck and struck and struck. At
last a flame.
And sky was the color of Evey’s cheeks
when she blushed.
Mr. Vince Dooley struggled
most of his life with a deep sense of foreboding. He couldn’t figure
it. There was nothing specific. Maybe he had been dropped on
his head as a child. On other side Mr. Dooley was blessed with the
cheery notion he’d always land on his feet.
For the majority of five decades Vince
tiptoed the tightrope between his two fixations until both were
obliterated the night a Boeing 747 crashed into his house.
Mr. Dooley and his wife Evey had been
looking at stars. There were stars outside the open window on
the clear evening and there were stars in Mrs. Dooley’s upturned eyes
as Vince toured the contours of her body with a tongue he bragged could
snap the cap off a bottle top. As he moved along Vince at
some murky level sneered at the harangue on boring marriage and
visualized his divorced cronies at the coffee shop as they stared at
their laptops and looked vacantly out the window for someone with a
A delicate breeze fluttered the
curtains and deliciously chilled Vince’s saliva trails across Evey’s
skin as he artfully daubed her murmurs into a definitive composite.
Suddenly, akin to a train in a tunnel a roar in the sky shook the
house. The Dooley’s didn’t flinch, inured by repetition. They lived in
the path of an airport. It was the thing they explained to
unsuspecting guests who leapt up and ran for cover. They couldn’t have
afforded their own home otherwise. Anything they had promised
themselves, anything to escape apartment life where low wages and high
debt forced the sorry zoo of humanity to congregate. There was no
guarantee a thin wall away you wouldn’t have a skinhead, a jihadist, a
pedophile for a neighbor.
Captain Claude Bonein, of Fransair, was
retiring soon. He had a big problem. The engines had
shut down on the 747 he was commanding. He was minutes from landing –
minutes from azure coastlines, Spanish cuisine, gentle tides lapping at
his carefree bunions.
There was a street at the correct
azimuth just beyond the runway Captain Bonein was about to miss. The
captain dug deep for tricks of the trade while his settlement package
flashed across his mind.
The enormous mass of airliner came down
as a man made comet. The landing gear collapsed. A parallel line of
trees bordering the street bent against the wings and sheared them off.
The stripped fuselage skidded on for an
eternity until it reached the Dooley residence at the end of the
cul-de-sac where it knocked the roof back like the top of a lunch box
before squelching to a miraculous stop. The big jet’s leviathan nose
poked into the exposed second story bedroom.
Captain Bonein and copilot Jacque
sobbed in triumphant hysteria.
Vince Dooley’s derriere bloomed in the
Captain Bonein poked his head out the
shattered cockpit window.
“Bon soir,” he said with Gallic
“Likewise, I’m sure,” Vince replied
looking back over his shoulder.
Slim Monahan was
born 1945 in Hollywood, California. He graduated from UCLA in 1967,
then served in the U.S. Navy for two years. After thirty years in
business, he is now retired and living in Denver, Colorado. This is his
front page image is copyright ©
by Tony Kitterick, 2012