Thursday, August 03, 2006

Insert bullet here *

I was thinking about a friend that I haven't seen in 20 years or more.
We were on an ironworking crew together and we spent a considerable amount of time holed up in cheap hotels while working out-of-town jobs.
He was maybe 40 years old at that time which made him practically ancient in my view.
Likely as not, conversations during downtime would veer towards the supernatural and religion. In my eyes, he was a sort of shaman, or as close to a shaman as you were likely to run into in West Texas at that time.
In the grandest tradition of chivalry, he was gunned down by his fiancé’s jealous lover. He was in his own front yard, reaching for the doorknob of a pickup. At the steering wheel of the pickup sat an idiot who, only moments before, had lost his nerve and decided that being dragged from his own vehicle, in full view of the object of his desire, was too much to bear.
All six chambers would have eventually been emptied into my friend if not for a poor choice of firearms. The shooter was an idiot of the highest caliber and had settled on a civil war re-issue, black powder cap & ball revolver instead of a more reliable modern pistol.
The first ball entered his torso just below the sternum and traced a path, as ball shot is sometimes known to do, around the right side of his heart eventually lodging between two ribs on the left side of his spine. He fell backwards and attempted to shield himself with his hands and arms.
The second shot entered his right forearm and traced a straight path out the back of his elbow. There is some question in my memory as to whether the third shot was a glancing wound or if it actually ended up inside of him.
Then, click, click, click, the hammer fell on poorly packed and primed chambers, duds.
After receiving word of the assault, I left a fairly noticeable trail of rubber and smoke between where I had been and the only hospital in town.
I was told when I arrived that he had died several times on the operating table but was already in ICU.
Shift forward in time a few days. I am now standing beside his hospital bed, considering the mass of tangled tubes and wires entering and exiting the various natural and man-made openings on his person. He is sedated but very much conscious. The nurse is swabbing his dried and cracked lips with glycerin and his chest is barely moving with each breath that he takes.
This was the first time I noticed that gurgling noise that I eventually learned to ignore. The nurse moves to the side and I position myself in his field of vision. I look him in the eyes and he gives me one of those "really screwed up this time" grins.
We had agreed months before that if either of us ended up "on the table", we would do our best to remember, if not outright initiate, one of those mysterious occurrences. "No" he said. He had not had an out-of-body-experience. I didn't see any fear in him, only disappointment. I said, “Maybe you did and you don't remember”. He acknowledged with a raspy, "maybe".
I was pretty sure after it was all over and he was on his feet again, the memory of it would come back to him. After several months of the gurgling colostomy bag and an undisclosed quantity of liquor and pain pills, nada.
The object of all of this dangerous affection was a barfly that he met while working one of those out-of-town jobs.
The first time I saw her she was lying on the hood of one of our company trucks, proclaiming with enthusiasm her love for all mankind. She was in fact overflowing with love for all mankind.
Anyway, he did marry the damsel. Twice that I know of. There was a rumored third time around but I never verified it. They had a few kids.
More on that later, maybe.


Blogger Cornealius said...

Is this all true? wow

10:24 AM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Yes, it is all true. What brought it to mind was recently received news that the shaman's brother (JC) had died of Mesothelioma, the lung disease caused by asbestos inhalation. JC, a surrogate uncle to me, survived prison, a short stint painting microwave and antennae towers and twenty something years of ironworking only be done in by mineral dust. Go figure.

11:04 AM, September 09, 2006  

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