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Big is Better
A Clear And Present Danger
|"...And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
This it is and nothing more...."
Propelled by a strong gust of wind blowing like a gale through the wide-opened kitchen windows, the kitchen door, suddenly slammed shut with a deafening bang. I nearly had a cardiac arrest, which terminated my long voyage back to Never-Never-Again Land. My racing heart jolted my brain back into immediate high-alert status as adrenaline poured into my bloodstream. I catapulted to my feet.
"FUCK! Where are you, Sam!" I bellowed in total frustration at the top of my lungs. "Jesus H. Christ... son of a bitch.... What the HELL were you thinking? Fuck - fuck, fuck, FUCK!"
I'd never uttered a profanity until I'd gotten to college. A bar of lye soap used to wash out the mouth has a way of quickly deterring bad habits from taking root in little Amish boys. I'd picked up a few from Sam, but most of my choicer words were courtesy of John and his friends. But this nightmarish situation seemed to mandate the frequent practice of my newly-acquired, more colorful vocabulary.
I circled the kitchen again, scanning everything. "What the FUCK did you do with the keys to your fuckin' truck? This fuckin' place is a pit! Where are those GOD DAMN -"
I caught the transient flash of chrome in the corner of my eye just as I was about to bit my own tongue with fury. "YES!!!" I hollered, triumphantly snatching up the keys from between one of our pop-art collection of chin-high dirty dishes we seemed to keep on permanent exhibition.
I grabbed my baseball cap and bolted out the kitchen door, taking the back stairs four-at-a-time until I reached the street level.
Head down, I dashed blindly across the rear lot at full speed to the spot where Sam's truck was always parked, only to look up and find that it wasn't there.
Glancing around in a panic, I spotted the truck parked directly in front of the garage door. I'd run right past the damn thing without seeing it. Another fifty yard sprint found me frantically twisting the key in the door lock. I nearly snapped the key off, only to find that the truck was already unlocked, per usual - and I'd just locked it.
I opened the door and jumped up on the driver's seat, jammed the key in the ignition, and was about to hit the starter - when it suddenly hit me. Where the hell was I going in such a big hurry? I had no idea what direction I was heading, even. I slumped in the seat like a sack of potatoes. Sam was a mighty big dude, but it was also a mighty big world out there too. Finding him would be like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
I was the person Sam was closest to. John, my former roomie, and Sam had become good buddies too, but John was out of town for the weekend. I did know a few other guys from the gym that Sam hung out with occasionally when he needed to get out and I had my nose glued to my college textbooks. Those guys were more like good acquaintances than close friends. Under these dire circumstances, I didn't think that Sam would have sought them out. In fact, I hoped he did not, since they would be among the very first people the police would likely contact.
I remembered something. It just flashed into my mind out of nowhere. Call it a hunch. It was a place Sam had taken me only once, which was the reason I hadn't thought of it before - and it wasn't too far beyond the college. A part of the campus's property line abutted a small portion of a huge State Forest. This place was sort of his `special spot' I'd gathered; one of those pristine, unspoiled scenic places stretching for thousands of acres that fairly demanded one of those `Kodak Picture Spot' signs, but thankfully didn't have one as yet, or much in the way of a road to get there. It was on a bluff overlooking an immense reservoir, the water supply for one of the major east coast cities several hundred miles away. A tiny hunting cabin - almost more of a lean-to, really - crouched there, a remnant from before the State had claimed the land in the 1930's and built the monumental Windham Dam, drowning the sleepy hamlets of Shelton, Everett and Thornton Mills underneath 450 feet of water. I remembered that was the very first time I'd ever seen a bald eagle in the wild. Sam had pointed out the majestic bird perched in a white pine not far from where we'd been standing. All of the land surrounding the immense reservoir was now restricted State Forest and Public Watershed. Sam would go there when he wanted to "do some thinkin' `bout somethin'," which was not one of his frequent past-times. But now I wondered if just maybe....
The truck tires screeched as I swerved out of the driveway and onto the street. I punched the accelerator to the floor, leaving a cloud of smoke behind me. Sam was definitely into big things - including truck engines. Sam was also eternally short on cash, and I'd ragged on him countless times about how much it cost to feed this monster. It swilled gasoline like a drunken sailor. But now I saw his point. Having almost 400 cubes under the hood suddenly came in handy. I sped past every car on the road, leaving them in a swirling torrent of autumn leaves. I watched them blow out of the rear of the truck in the side mirror: evidently Sam had been doing some raking and had completely filled the bed with the annual Fall harvest to take to the town dump. The truck's slip-stream had re-mulched most the roadside by the time I hit the turnoff just past the College onto Route 19, which came up so suddenly I almost missed it. Out the left window, I watched the Medical School and its adjacent hospital on the crest of a hill disappear as I raced up the long incline into the `boondocks.' Man, this baby could really haul ass!
The same scenario unfolded again a few minutes later as I spotted the small sign marking the road to the Windham Dam almost as I was upon it. I swerved the wheel and took the 90 degree left-turn way too fast, skidding across that loose gravel road and nearly sliding the truck into the ditch.
I'd only driven a hundred yards before I spotted what looked like the Jolly Green Giant lumbering along the road well up ahead of me - and walking at a surprisingly leisurely pace, as if out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
I closed the distance at breakneck speed, locking the breaks as I careened up along side of him. Sam was bending a piece of heavy steel concrete-reinforcing rebar back and forth in his hands absentmindedly like it was a piece of licorice, no doubt a souvenir he'd snatched from the rubble the night before. The man always - eternally - had something in his hands.
I reached across the seat and popped the passenger door open hollering, "Sam! Get in! Get in!"
The big ox just waved at me like Gomer Pyle, grinning as if nothing at all was the least bit unusual or out-of-the-ordinary. Not that I wasn't excited to see him as well, but I was already on a mighty short fuse. His happy-go-lucky demeanor was like twisting a knife in the wound.
The truck tilted to the right when Sam hoisted his great mass into the passenger seat, and I punched the gas pedal to the floor, nearly amputating his foot at the ankle as the still-opened passenger door slammed shut.
I just glared across the truck cab at him incredulously. Sam looked scruffy. He hadn't shaved for over a day now, and the rest of his appearance really said it all. His sweats were filthy, covered with whitish-green streaks of plaster dust. The little chunks of green plaster still stuck in his hair and splotches of greenish plaster dust on his face, neck and arms - all of it the telltale evidence of his direct involvement with the now-missing rear wall of the jailhouse - made him look a bit like the Incredible Hulk.
But if looks could have killed, Sam would have blown up on the spot. I was angry and scared out of my wits - a bad combination on any day. I lost it completely. I went totally ballistic - yelling so loudly that I even hurt my own ears.
"Sam, what the hell are you doing walking along in plain sight? They're after you, Sam - the State Police!"
"I didn't do it, ya know. Ain't no reason why I shoulda been in jail. They's got it all wrong... ALL wrong...."
I thought every vein in my head was going to explode.
"What the HELL is this all about? I want to hear it straight from the Horse's Mouth! TELL ME!"
Sam raised his finger and opened his mouth to try to explain, but I never gave him a chance to even get a word out.
"You HURT that poor guy in your cell, huh? Someone you size CAN'T just go around hitting people for Christ's sake!"
Sam looked indignant.
"I never laid a finger on him, Pete - swear to God. I was just standin' with my arms on the bars, lookin' out the front of the cell. I mighta said somethin' like, `I'm gettin' outta here' - but meanin' that you was gonna take care of it for me. I was upset, Pete. That guy musta thought that I meant right then and there, though, `cause then he said something to me like, `Yeah, right. Like you're man enough.' I knows I was mad anyway, and that just pissed me off even worse. So's I said to him, `Well, I could - if I wanted to....' Then he said right back to me, `Wishful thinking. No way, pal,' like he didn't believe me. Now that there just got me plain angry again - terrible, terrible angry. I guess I sorta popped my cock. I just said, `Oh, yeah?' My hands were already on the bars, so I showed him alright - started squeezin' `em back and forth like an accordion. Next thing I heard this big thud. When I turned around, there he was - in a heap on the floor. Think he maybe fainted and smacked his head on the toilet on the way down. So's I just put him out of the way where he wouldn't get hurt again. But I just couldn't stay in that jail no more with him... not one more second." Then he added as an afterthought, "and please slow down, Pete. You're driving like we're in the Indy 500, or somethin'...."
Then Sam added as an afterthought, "...and please slow down, Pete. You're driving like we're in the Indy 500, or somethin'...."
But I continued screaming like a banshee, driving with one hand on the steering wheel and pounding the dashboard or the roof with my other.
"You scared the FUCKIN' SHIT out of me! Did you ever even stop to think about ME? Did ya, huh? Huh, did ya? What about ME, SAM!"
Sam was starting to slouch a bit sheepishly down into the seat, recoiling more as my non-stop verbal tirade continued.
"But why? Why the FUCK did you break out of jail, huh? Huh, Sam?? I TOLD you that I would take care of it!"
He just shrugged his big shoulders like a bewildered boy for whom all rules are inherently arbitrary and equally incomprehensible.
"I TOLD you I'd get a lawyer and get you out didn't I, huh? Just tell me WHAT the HELL was going through that thick skull of yours! I mean... JESUS H. CHRIST what a FUCKING mess!"
I saw Sam glancing at the speedometer.
"Why don't cha take your foot off the gas a bit Pete. You seems in a mighty hurry to get somewhere. Where we goin' in such a rush, anyway?"
Actually, I didn't have a clue where this back road even lead to. I just knew we didn't have time to waste getting to - well - wherever that was.
I was still glaring at Sam and shrieking at the top of my lungs when I saw his eyes suddenly pop wide open. Then he gasped and there was a transient look of complete astonishment and fear on his face as his arms and legs instinctively flailed out to brace his body against the passenger door.
"FOR CHRIST SAKE, PETE – LOOK OUT!!!"
I never heard the sharp warning-blast of the train's whistle over Sam's deafening outburst. I never saw the train either. Who would have expected a train track out in the middle of nowhere - let alone a diesel locomotive barreling down it at that precise moment? I don't remember the impact to this day. There might have been sounds - loud, hideous noises. That was about it.
But for the briefest of eternities, I unexplainably found myself surveying the crash scene with crystal clarity, as if hovering high above it. I could hear low, weak moans coming from somewhere below me. I looked directly down and saw my own face, curiously cracked like a spider had webbed over it. The rest of me was invisible, buried inside a mountain of twisted rags of metal with two wheels on top and two wheels on bottom, embedded into the front end of the diesel locomotive, which listed off the side of the embankment, sputtering with flames.
The surrounding trees were afire but I felt no heat. Instead, radiating warmth came from a strange, shivering light above me. I felt gentle tugs from that direction but remained motionless, suspended, as a figure lurched onto the scene. It was Sam. He stumbled up to the front of the diesel and immediately spotted what I saw - my own face through starred glass. He yelled out my name in a panic, then wedged his hands in between the mangled remains of the truck and the diesel and started pounding and prying. Each shock made pain flash across my face below me, but I felt nothing ... except my astral cock hardening as Sam bulldozed his way into the wreckage. I was caught between the tugging from the light above and Sam's muscular display below; these two warring gravitational bodies transiently threatening to shred apart my very soul....
Suddenly I plummeted back to earth, rushing headlong towards my own face - and everything became meaningless, bizarre, vague images like torn-up snapshots all out of order.
Then - it was just dark. Very dark.
I heard low, weak moans coming from somewhere. Instinctively, I tried to sit up. When nothing happened, I tried again. Still nothing. I couldn't seem to move a muscle. I realized the moans were coming from me.
A light - there was a dim light. It seemed far away at first, but as I kept looking I could begin to make out more detail. I was looking outside through a small portal above me where daylight prismed in through a fracture-frosted glass. There was another light though - a farther, different, weird light. It's bright and ... wow - is it ever warm, too. It doesn't seem to be coming from or anything in particular. But I can sure see it ... changing. It's getting brighter, shimmering and pulsating like a brilliant white aurora. It looks so dense, like it's made of solid matter, as if I could really touch it, if I could just move my arms. I've never seen anything so beautiful before! It seems like it's trying to gently pull me. God, why does my head hurt so bad? I'm feeling so woozy - so woo....
What's that? I think that's someone calling my name. I know that voice. It's Sam. My mouth and lips are saying, "Sam," but I'm not hearing it. It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest. I don't remember an elephant. There - that was my name again. Now again. "Here I am, Sam." Why is the air so far away?
Suddenly, the thunder of shrieking metal startled me so much I felt momentarily more alert.
Everything around was moving. Bumping and jerking, like wherever I was was snagged on something. That prying, it sounds like sheets of steel being ripped apart. Bangs and creaks and loud groans - the sounds are coming from all around me. Oh, God, that jerk! Fuck, oh, I'm gonna be sick. That squealing tearing sound, and everything's starting to move around. Oh, God - please stop it! This pain! It's ripping right through me! I'm screaming. I know I'm screaming. Why can I only hear these gurgling sounds? I feel so dizzy... so diz....
There - that sound... that growling.... That's definitely Sam. He must be close. That's the noise he makes whenever he's doing some r- e-a-l serious lifting - the private room kind. Don't know if I've ever heard him groaning this loud. What the hell's he doing? He's giving it a hundred and ten percent from the sound if it. Just listen to him bark and grunt. He must be trying to set another new personal record. Oh, oh, it's all turning, I'm moving up and around, like the whole fucking world is being flipped on its side, OH! That crunch, something got crushed. I'm teetering now, and... ooooh, no -- that hurts! Where are you, Sam? I sure can hear you. That banging - you punching at something? It sounds REAL dense, like I'm inside a metal drum and someone's throwing bowling balls at it. Yikes, that tearing steel sounds close!
It's feeling a little lighter, like something's being forced off this metal box slowly, with horrible fist-crashes and buckling steel. I must have been face down on my front before. Yeah, I think I'm actually lying more on my back now, but... Oh, no - my head starting to spin again... I'm going to vomit. Everything's spinning so fast....
There's a lion roaring. But where's the circus? No, I guess that sounds more like Sam just doing a lion. Whenever we go to the zoo, Sam always gets a kick out of seeing the lions cower meekly when he roars back at them. He's got quite a set of lungs on him.
Okay, the spider-web sky is over there now, rosy and pink. So soft, so pink, like Sam's tender buttshute. Ow! That screeching, his grunting almost as loud, it's making things lighter, that shredding metal. Now I can see a little bigger piece of sky. Short grunts in rhythm to peeling, crumpling steel, like Sam's opening a giant sardine can with his big paws. I can see more clearly now ... and he's rolling something heavy up with them, like I'd roll up a sleeping bag. The sky is opening up - there's bright sky everywhere! It's all I can see now! It looks too bright to be sunset, but it's all pink - even those clouds. Look at those tree branches overhead. I think the leaves are all flaming pink, too. I can't make them out too well, though. Everything's all out of focus.
But there's part of Sam now ... and his upper body is definitely in focus! He's towering over my head, looking down at me, repeating my name over and over again. He's PUMPED HUGE!! I'm smiling at him, but he doesn't seem to see it. He looks real scared, like I've never seen. My head ... I'm diz....
Ugh, something moved, something hard's being pried away from my body. His hands, what happened to his hands? They're both so bloody - yuck! He's grabbing hold of something down below my waist. He's pulling on it - twisting and yanking away at something down there. Ouch! Yikes - STOP it! Stop it - that hurts!! He's lifting something up now. What a big pile of twisted junk. He's such a junk yard dog, that guy. But it's all smashed up, even the radio hanging out of it.
Oh, no - please don't touch me. Shit, he's starting to move me. It's like he's trying to get at something else. He's yanking it out from underneath my.... OW! Oho, oh ow! Sam, you're starting to spin like a top... fading away.... Oooooohhhhhh....
Sam? Looks like you've got a whole steering column. Oh, your lats are really swelling - and it's moving, it's grinding over my... OW OW OW! Oh, he's bending it up and away and he's dragging it out, something loud is ripping and sparks are flying onto me but it's not burning, it's ... all ... sooooo ....
Oh God, that hurts. Sam, you're pulling up on something ... but all that heavy metal bending and twisting is cutting off my legs!
He's straightening up.... His hands are down and he's pressing again. Something's grinding apart, he's tearing giant steel jaws open and... the teeth! Oh Christ - those teeth, oh... It's all shuddering, it can't withstand him, he's bucking it all with his arms and chest and everything's flattening out. Now he's got hold of something really huge in his arms. He's wrangling with it. He's roaring! Look at those muscles ripple! Sam's pressed the oil- spraying monstrosity - looks like an engine block - up over his head. He's hurling it away. It's gone now, but not that elephant on my chest. Sam, that elephant's back, Sam, I can't breathe at all.
What do you mean, "You're OK. I got ya now, Pete?" No. No, please don't pick me up, Sam! PLEASE don't... Oh God, that HURTS! Oooooooohhhh... That HURTS SO BAD!! I'm gonna puke..... I'm gonna....
Oh God, Sam, this is not the time to kiss. I can't kiss back, and you're kissing kinda weird - blowing like I'm a balloon. Oh, God, you're trying to pop me, I gotta stop you. Get away, oh no, get away. Why is everything so pink? Sam, don't shake me! Oh, oooohhh....
Where am I? Oh, yeah ... that's the top of his massive pec against my head. It makes a great pillow ... feels nice with this horrible headache. But all this bouncing, it hurts so much, Sam... and all this wind rushing by... I'm freezing cold.
Oh, God... THE pain... that PAIN!! Sam, you're running. Stop running! You're hurting me. I can't stand it! Please put me down, Sam. It hurts so much ... too much ... Why won't my mouth move? Oh God, this PAIN! I'm so cold.... Brrrr, so damn cold. You're fading again... I can't see you so good anymore... I can't....
What's that? Oh - Sam's mouth. He's kissing me again. No Sam – please, you're running way too fast.... God, I can't take ... this POUNDING! Sam - stop! Please!
Funny kisses ... more of those funny kisses. Now Sam's running again even faster. But that's O.K, Sam. It doesn't even hurt all that much now. I'm just too tired, Sam... too cold. I can't stay any longer. There's this gorgeous light, Sam ... it's so warm. Can't you see it? See, it's right over there. No more of those funny kisses now, O.K.? Don't be so sad, Sam. I'm gonna be alright. Really. Please stop crying. I'm supposed to go now. Look, it's so bright... so wondrous.... Heavenly.... That's where I belong - there, in that light... I'm going home... I love you, Samson... Sam....
Then I was suddenly floating again, hovering over Sam and me, looking down at my own expressionless ashen face with a sad kind of peace. Sam still had me clutched firmly in his arms, running with impossibly long strides down the big hill, chewing up ground like a cheetah. He'd somehow put at least 5 miles between us and the scene of the wreck. The medical school was already in sight, just up ahead. Every now and then, Sam would desperately shake my body and put his mouth over mine again without so much as breaking stride, half- talking and half-yelling to me the whole time.
"Oh please, God... please God... Hang in there, Pete. I'm takin' ya to the hospital. We's almost there, little buddy... Doc Marantz - he can fix you up, good as new. I knows it! He's real smart. He's a good doc. Just hang on a little longer - less than a mile - we's almost there... we's almost...."
"Come on now... Damn you - breathe, Pete. BREATHE!"
"Ya gotta take one breath - just one, that's all! We's nearly there! Oh, Jesus, PLEASE PLEASE just breathe!!!!"
"God Almighty, please don't take my Pete. This can't be happenin'... not like this...."
"No... No... NOT THIS!"
"P – E – T – E – R !!!"
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