Ponies and the War Bracelet- Part II
By Terry Gilpin
Jim finished topping off the tank and ran inside quickly giving the 32.00 to the attendant. "Lets go" he announced to the group. The attendant asked them to wait a minute while he locked up. He came out from the garage darkness followed behind him as he shut the lights.
Inside the car Joel and Kathy were whispering to each other heads close,while Joel looked at Toni while trying to start the engine on the mustang. "Thump". The sound came behind them and Joel exclaimed "what the fuck" Excuse me what was that. "Oh look there a deer running into the woods." Kathy pointed. "He must have bumped us" You could just make out the fluff of white tail disappearing into the deep blue murkiness of woods. "Aw how cute" Toni said. We made it just in time. Turning the key Jim got the Mustangs engine started. Backing up he felt the mustang pull to the right and drag alittle. just a little. Not even enough to hear a comment from Jim who kept glancing at Toni. She caught him and she smiled. Not aware of noticing anything but her, he pumped into 2nd gear and rode the newly slick pavement. After a few minutes of driving on Route 7 Jim looking out into the heavy snow uttered. "I can't wait to get home." Everyone nodded in agreement.
Route 7 was desolate dark and amass with swirling heavy snow. The curb ends were collecting into lumps of uneven mini hills and the trees were bended with the weight that was suspended on their branches. Jim white knuckled hands gripping the steering wheel was trying to remain on the road for it was hard to tell where it began and ended. Slightly turning he found himself in a sliding skid. Everyone in the car was eerily quiet and then all gasped at once. "Its ok it's ok. Jim said and apolizing to his friends "I'm sorry I can't play the cd I really have to concentrate." Kathy turned to him and said "its ok. When we see a house maybe we should take refuge." "No no" stubborn pride filled Jim. "As long as we go slow it will be fine. It will light by the time we get home but that's ok. Jim nervously laughed. " Joel can you get service yet?" Jim asked Joel said "I'm constantly looking at the thing at it still no bars" " me neither" said Kathy. Toni had lent hers to her sister because she had forgotten to charge it. Jim was the only one in the civilized world it seemed that could live without it. He was constantly forgetting it. And he felt that someone else always had one if there was an emergency. Now he wishes he hadn't forgotten it. It didn't seem to matter though. The snow was messing up the service.
Carmen was shaking and cold in the trunk. And she was starting to panic. She still had the radiator knob with her. But she heard four voices in the car just behind her back. Too many. Wow she wishes she had a gun. Let them look for her. By now they have discovered her missing. They wont find her in with four people in a car coming from a party judging from what she heard. They never would think that she was in the trunk because these people didn't know. And what was that reference to school. Sounded like these people were college kids. She remembered college. Barnstead U next town over from hers. She really didn't like college that much. The people were so different than her. And that boy, Federico exchange from Italy spoke little English, but was very passionate. Then he was gone. Like her mom. Yeah there was screwed up people in the world, she thought. The cars suddenly lurched and seemed to go up in the air and she bumped her head on the roof of the trunk. She had to cover her mouth to stifle the scream. That hurt. Then she heard a sloshing sound and the car stopped.
"Is everyone alright," Jim was excitingly asking. Kathy was sprawled on top of Joel. And Toni was gripping the dashboard. The four just looked at each other with flushed fear on their faces. Joel try your cell phone, Toni gasped. Joel whipped it out of his front pocket and the keyboard beeped in the cold car. "Nothing. Its gotta be this heavy snow." Jim sighed "ok ok. I can do this." He slowly turned the car out of the direction backing out of the tailspin and headed straight on the road. "We only have a few miles to go before we hit town." A funny aura seemed to reflect off the snow as it decended to the ground and then a pair of bright lights appeared behind them, illuminating the car. "Look a car" Kathy squealed "I hope it's an emergency vehicle like that Good Samaritan car. " The car glided closer to them and slowed on their left. The driver was in full army uniform with hat sitting in a jeep and he looked at Jim and waved him to follow him. "He wants us to follow him. "Roll down your window ask him if he has a cell phone that works. Or a two way radio." Joel suggested. They rolled down the window and Joel and Jim shouted to him. He looked at them queerly and shook his head and waved him to follow him. Then he turned his head to face forward and drove in front of him. Jim decided that to stick with someone especially someone with four wheel drive was a good thing. He rolled the car to be directly behind the jeeps tires and he rode the Mustang following in the tire tracks. He felt a little better and the car seemed to maneuver much better in the tracks of the jeep. He could see the dog tags hanging from the rear view window. "This guy must be just come back from Afganistan."
Carmen was aware shouting and conversation going on outside and she was wondering what was going on. But it was the middle of nowhere and she had to stay hidden. As soon as they stopped in town hopefully near a train station or something nearby where she could collect her thoughts and then move on south because she just did not count on this snowstorm. Why didn't she heed the weather warnings before she broke out tonight? She could have postponed it a day. But one more day was taking a chance that they would discover the missing radiator valve. The space was dark and damp and freezing. She pulled her coat tighter and she settled in trying to fight to keep her thoughts from spilling over her mind and just about turning her into a screaming lunatic. Tough fight.
This is just great! Jim thought. His mother must be calling all over town looking for him. He never dreamed that his words were the gospel truth but for a completely different reason than to see if he was safe.
The snow was getting thicker and drifting. The swirling was swabbing the hood and the top of the mustang. The top's blue tint reflected back from the illumination of the brake lights of the jeep back to the face of the snow. The drifting was really getting worse and the radio in the car was static at best. Joel leaned forward to Jim and breathed an "Oh shit" into his ear. Then it happened Smoosh!. They had skidded into a snowdrift and now none of the cars interior passengers could see the road. "Im scared" squealed Toni. Jim thrust the gears into reverse but the car wouldn't budge. He started back and forth to try to move the car.
"Where did this come from. How come he didn't get stuck?" Joel exclaimed. The army guy didn't every swerve." " I don't know" Jim said and he remembered the solemn voice that called to him earlier in the evening in his house. He shuddered and Toni looked at him with concern. "Chilly" he turned to her and said to ease his own mind.
The trunk occupant was slowly breathing tensely holding the radiator valve in the left pocket of Nurse Renard's tweed coat, when she spied the crowbar up against the side of the trunk laying on a package of several balls of twine. She felt around and put her hands on 4 balls of string in plastic package. She was just about to untie the string she tied holding the trunk door closed when another thump caused her to be pushed toward the back of the trunk. Joel and Cathy startled looked back and saw a the jeep with no headlights behind them. Another slight thump and the mustang that was still in drive rolled forward out of the drift and onto what they thought was the road. "How the hell did he get behind us. Wasn't he in front of us?" Joel asked with slight hysteria in his voice. The jeep pulled ahead and turned on its light "where he going?" "FOLLOW HIM!" all cried. Jim leaned on the gas pedal so slightly and the car skidded to right behind the jeeps tires and again followed the tracks. The trunk was nervous but relieved that she was not going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. Carmen could barely hear what they were saying now. "I'll just follow his tire tracks." "Who is that guy? Jim asked. "Don't care" was Toni's response, "just follow him."
Carmen settled back and calmed her nerves a little by taking out the miniature carousel her father had given her. She quietly spun the horses around and fingered their gold detail. It's going to be so good to go down to South and stay by a beach. She decided Myrtle Beach it would be. She visited there with her parents one year on vacation when she was very little She wondered if the amusement park was still there. She could ride the carousel.
She began to remember first day she arrived at Cornet. She marveled at the crisp uniforms and rich green lawns. Her aunt had brought her. The school had contacted her for her being the only living relative they could find. It was the first time she had seen her aunt in Eleven years. That was when her daughter Regina had eloped with a wannabe actor to California and rarely spoke to her mother or Carmen for that matter. After that initial introduction to Cornet, Auntie hadn't visited. Now it was three years. She can't forgive her nor will she ever.
When her mother had left she would spend a few weekends with them. Her father felt she needed a mother figure. If he only knew. She really liked her cousin Regina. She looked up to her so. She felt Regina was like her own sister. Regina had spent all her time playing up to her teaching about girl stuff like make-up and boys. She always gave Carmen a lot of attention. Now all Carmen felt was betrayed. Blindly spitting at the thought of her.
Regina's mother, her Aunt Dot, had had a bad drinking problem. Though her father, who was Aunt Dot's brother, never realized this. She wanted to tell her father and ask him if he knew why she drank so much. She couldn't. To say the truth, he never really liked his sister too much. Her Aunt's drinking was getting worse and she spent all of her energy fighting with everyone. The grocer, the newspaper boy, whomever. She was miserable. She remembers when she was twelve and Regina came rushing into the bedroom and told her to get up and get dressed. "Hurry ,stop staring at me. Wake yourself up". Crossing the room she had grabbed her shoulders and pulled her out of bed forcing her neck to lob back so it hunched and looked like a distorted troll. She had started to cry then and Regina had smacked her hard. But even in her twisted fear and confusion she could see that Regina was crying like she was. Regina looked petrified. Pulling her close she whispered "Im sorry, Mama sent me to get you up and dressed because we have to leave this house." The wind outside whipped the branches of the evergreen against the faded grey siding. Scratch Scratch. Whooo, Whooo. There was a storm coming and not just outside. The wind seemed to be telling her to hurry too. Suddenly, her Aunt appeared with wild bloodshot eyes and her electrified auburn hair presented to the two girls like a women gone mad. "Mama I was just getting her…." She was cut off. Her mother slurring her words pushed Regina aside and glared at Carmen. With her back against the wall to steady her she hissed. You liddle siiit, why ar ya nod reddy? She slurred. Carmen was bewildered. She staggered over to the dresser and swooped her arm across the top sending all the knick knacks flying. Carmen hurried to her nite stand and rescued her gold carousel and pushed it under the bed. Her Aunt Dot then stumbled toward the small bookshelf and with all her might pulled it down. CRASH! The books splattered onto the floor bindings cracking. What brought this on? What did she wrong? Carmen remembered thinking. And then her aunt looked at the two frightened girls with watery eyes and leaned back against the wall by the fallen bookshelf. She slid down the wall so elegantly it was so like poetry in motion. And with eyes half closed into slits, she was out cold. The two girls froze for a moment and looked down at the passed out woman then looked at each other. "Forget it Carmen. She wanted to take you home because she had a fight with your father. Go back to bed Carmen. Your dad is picking you up in the morning early. I'll take care of her." Regina said. This happened almost to the same finale the next time Carmen stayed there. She had never told her father. She just kept telling him that she was old enough to stay by herself if he had to go out and that schoolwork was keeping her too busy to visit her. Finally the next year, her aunt did leave to go to Spokane, Washington for a job and took Regina with her. Regina being 15, she could help out by working odd jobs. That was that. I just wish I had never known them. They were petty people. They didn't matter, anyway.
Need to think now where I am and try to get to a train station before the morning when everyone would be looking for her. Getting to warm weather and hitching rides on dirt roads was the plan. Louisiana, near New Orleans. Yes that's where I'll go. It seemed like a good place to get lost. She could clean houses or short order cook. Rent a room for a while and make the right friends that would need her as much as she would need them. A couple of months get a fake id she could become part of the system again. There are a lot of people in this country and computers haven't tracked down all of them. Thanks very much all you illegals. She was ready to transform herself into any part that would keep her free from the asylum.
The cold trunk was so tight and her back began to cramp. From inside the car she could hear the chatter. What a nite she picked to go. Good thing not a lot of people around. She would wait until the car stopped. She heard them say they were coming from a party and were heading back to Norwalk. She patted the cash that was in her sweater pocket and felt sure she remembered the way to the Bus Station. That wig of Betty's won't be missed until it's too late. The cops will probably think she died in the snow storm. She thought to herself that this may very well come to pass as the mustang lurched forward and again she was jolted to the back of the trunk pinning her against the spare tire. No she squeezed the thought of her head and closed her eyes tight. I will get to the South and I will start over. She smiled when she thought of the nice quiet life that she felt sure was just a day or two away. She was also starting to feel sleepy because she had no sleep the night away at all.
Inside the cold cabin of the mustang Joel and Jim were exchanging worried looks at each other. I can't believe he pushed us out of that drift. Jim was relieved but concerned that there might be damage to the back of the car. But he realized that didn't matter, right now. "Look he's coming around in front. What a hero." As the jeep passed to Jims left pulling in front, a dark shadow came over the face of the driver and Jim again could not make out his features.
The jolt had dented the trunk door and now the string even if cut would not allow the truck to open. Carmen would have to pry it open when they stopped. She pushed on it now but it didn't budge without noisily complaining. Its okay she tried to calm herself. It shouldn't be too long now. Her efforts to coach a peaceful feeling were not working. She was becoming more and more agitated.
"Look lights up ahead." The jeep veered off right down a dirt road and the mustang slowly moved towards what looked like salters and plows in the near distance. Perhaps two miles down the road. The light illuminated the heavy descending snow. Yeah civilization cried the girls. Jim and Joel exclaimed chiming in with girls. I don't believe it. Just then the car struck an object hidden by the snow and stopped. What the f--. Jim said. Jim and Joel jumped out and found the reason. It was a deer completely covered with the snow except for a poke show of two antlers where the impact had shaken the snow off. "What is it" Toni started to get out of the car. "No Toni stay in the car. Its something I don't think you want to see." "What are you talking about? Is it a dead body? Both girls jumped out and trudged toward the boys pulling their coats close and looked down. "Oh my God. How sad that is. It just laying there so still and frozen." Yeah it is a snow storm. The sound of twisting metal caught their attention and turned towards the back of the car where the sound was coming from. Carmen had used the crowbar and pried open the trunk. Kathy was at the door to go back inside the car when Carmen grabbed her from behind and started choking her. Her menacing look terrified and shocked the four. "Hey who are you where did you come from." Yelled Joel "Get away". Jim moved and rushed at her and she swung that crowbar like she was Derek Jeter and explosive pain ran thru Jim's head and he hit the snow with a crunch. Out cold. Toni screamed and Kathy tried to breathe. She pushed Kathy to the ground and with one hand holding her down and the other holding the crowbar. Yelled "I will smash her skull open. "You" she said to Toni get the rope in the trunk and tie up this one on the ground and you slick boy she waved the crowbar towards Joel. Toni trembled and did what she was told. She then swiftly let go of Kathy and stood behind tied up Joel. "Now You" talking to Kathy. You tie Miss Prom Queen up. Kathy was crying and shaking but she did what she was told. Joel was starting to cry too. Kathy was left and she was so shaken all she did was whimper in the cold blowing snow. Carmen got the rope and began to tie Kathy. Everyone conscious was shivering except Carmen. Her blood had turned ice cold to match the storm. Carmen started thinking as she finished. She realized that she would have to kill them. Or she could beat them unconscious and bury them in the snow and take the car to a safe travel place. The lights of the salter and she couldn't risk them being able to talk. But the string gave her another idea. She would leave them tied up and put them by the side of the road and cover them up like that deer was. The idea was to bury them in the snow after she beat them into unconciousness. Her frenzied fear ignited energy in her that she never had before. She could do it she thought. Yes she could. The act is the act. Right Ken?, she thought to herself. Being buried they would not be found for days. Her mind was racing wildly now. Got to make sure they are tightly tied up. She methodically started the plan into action. She dropped the crowbar in the trunk and got the last ball of string
As she past Toni lying face down with her hands tied behind her back, Toni starting wailing and pleading for her to stop and tried begging for her to let them drive her anywhere she wanted to go and they would get her more money. Carmen retied anyone that looked loose ignoring their pleas and went back for her Carousel that was in the trunk. Carmen had money. She could beat them with the crowbar and bury them. Young people with their whole lives ahead of them. I was once there too. Look where it got me. I would be doing them a favor. She would have to do it now, because the plows were getting close and she couldn't take the chance of anyone of them talking.
She reached into the trunk to retrieved the crowbar, when she saw her carousel had come out of its protective cloth and was wedged on it side. Carmen gasped and picked up when her eye caught the reflection of light on the gold canopy. She quickly turned her whole body around but it was too late. She thought at that last minute how people see their life flash before their eyes or seeing things happen in slow motion. Neither of this happened with her. She saw only flashing of bright lights coming towards her at a speed like lightening. Carmen had just a second to flinch when the front bumper with the bright lights hit her exploding the bones in her pelvis and pinning her between it and the back of the mustang. The car crumpled under the impact and Carmen felt bones fracturing and organs splitting as she stared in horror. The trunk door had twisted upward and the carousel driven by the force had splintered into a thousand pieces spraying her. Her split skin mingled with the shards of the carousel and broken blood soaked skin against bone and trinkled onto the white snow pooling quickly. The jeep backed way and Carmen fell to the ground. Gasping and trembled words "Daddy, Daddy" labored through her lips while her body twitched in rhythm of the revving engine of the jeep before it again reversed into the snow blizzard and then just disappeared. Her eyes shut tight opened a moment and the last thing she saw was a broken horse the purple one her favorite lying two feet in front of where she had fallen. Then all that could be heard were the Mustangs engine and the sound of whimpering. Jim was groaning to awake with a splitting head and blood frozen clotted at the back of his skull. He inched over to Toni and back to back he began working his fingers on her ties. He loosened it enough and Toni was freed. "Toni untie us." He had to say it 3 times before she got up and stumbled on legs that felt as if they would collapse. Whe untied Joel then Kathy and Joel had freed Jim. All the time the girls were crying uncontrollably. The force of the crash had pushed the car 20 feet down the icy road and when they looked down they saw no deer. "Where did it go?" asked Kathy Probably under the car but the road was too dark and thickened with snow falling they just couldn't see it.
They walked towards the lighted plows and salter that were now only ½ mile away. When the hard-hatted bearded guy in the plow truck stopped and saw what happened he yelled out "Holy Shit! What happened here are you guys alright."
The gathered up the four teens and put them in the plow and Salter and rode them to Norwalk Hospital. When they were being taken care of the admittance nurse said "That's the second Michelson we have tonight." Really Jim said. "Yeah a Dan Michelson." Jim felt the blood in his veins turn to ice and he said. "My dad's name is Dan" "Oh honey. As soon as we check you" "NOOO I want to see him now. Where is he? The police had arrived and one of the uniformed followed Jim to the elevator. I'll be with you in a minute he screamed impatiently to the cop. He is on the 4th floor room # 423. The sorried admittance attendant told Jim. Jim left Joel and the girls and raced to the 4th floor where he found his mom. Jim she screamed "I have been trying to reach you all night." "What happened?"
"Your father had just picked up the Jeep Wrangler and was coming home. Out on 123 a deer must have run out and he hit him straight on. The antlers came through the windshield and pierced your dad's chest. He has multiple rib and collarbone fractures and internal bleeding. He had surgery and is now resting. I have been going crazy. He is stable now. " " Jim really wanted to spill his guts about what had happened, but looking at his mother hair disheveled, make up smeared face twisted in fear and worry, he just couldn't. I'm glad you made it home alright, with that bad storm. "I have never been so worried in my whole life" looking at him with a little calmed voice she sighed "I'm what you kids call "a hot mess". I'm a little bit better now. She put her arms around him and hugged him with intensity for dear life. Just then the uniformed policeman rounded the corner toward him and his mother. His eyes were on him. "Oh mom" he quickly said with the policeman in earshot. The car landed in a snowdrift and a snow plow brought us in. His mom's eyes went wild as she exclaimed "what?" "Officer this here is my mom I just found out my dad was almost killed tonight on route 123." The police officer acknowledging the hint darted his eyes from Jim to his mother and said. "Oh." Jim said "I know you want me to answer the questions about my car getting caught in the snow drift. I need that accident report for the insurance company." "Accident?" His mother sounded surprised. "Yeah there was a huge piece of rock and I kind a dented my front fender a little." "Oh Jim I'm so sorry you worked so hard to have that car fixed up." "No worries mom I'm sure it can be pulled out. But I need the report." Just then the nurse came out of the hospital room and said you can go in now. "You go do the report, I'm going in to see Dad come in when you are done."
Walking towards the elevator Jim thanked the officer for not saying anything. "I'm sorry" he said "Hell of a mess. Yeah I heard about the deer accident on 123. How is he?" "He is stable." Rubbing his face with his hands. "I'll make this as quick as I can. " He finished 10 minutes later and Jim said "Can you get everyone home. Tell them I will talk to them tomorrow." He started towards the hospital room where his father lay and he felt all the energy draining out of him. He felt a hundred years old. He swung open the door and his father lay amidst tubes. A breathing machine sighing in the corner. He sat with him only a few minutes before his father stirred and opened his eyes. He looked at him and rasped sound made its way around the tube . "tmm din". Jims eyes were brimming as he came close to his dads face. "Im here dad. Youre going to be alright. Moms here too she is right outside." He relaxed and muscles calming in his face he blinked and said "tirsty." The door opened and two white coats breezed in "Youre awake." They exclaimed. Dad just looked at them with resignation "sill here." "Don't worry Mr. Micelson that breathing tube is going to come out. You don't need it. And then I want you to rest. Son don't stay too long ." The doctor said "I ll come back later and check on you. Rest up. And he left. Jim sat with his dad with them looking at each other and all the while Jim wanted to tell him what happened. But he knew he just couldn't yet. Jims fathere looked at Jim as if to read his mind and whispered "I know." And then he fell asleep. Lucille came in and wanted Jim to go home but there was no way Jim was leaving yet. While his dad slept Jim and his mom talked and finding the remote for the TV turned it on low. Breaking news about the blizzard not predicted- surprise, surprise. And world news exclaiming a South Vietnam discovery of a mass grave of a platoon cargo vehicles and all. The reporter went on with how what must have happened was a huge ditch either made by the enemy or nature and then a mudslide covering it. They went on to name the soldiers recovered there and when they said Corporal Thomas Davis Dillon, Lucille and Jim both jumped out of their chairs. Jim's mom frantically opened her purse and pulled out the tissue containing the jewelry removed from my dad before surgery when he was brought in. Next to the turquoise tomahawk necklace and the wedding ring was a broken silver band with one half saying Corporal Thomas and the other saying Davis Dillon. Jim's dad's POW/MIA bracelet he got when he was 14 years old and never ever had taken it off, until now. The story was on all the channels and Channel 2 had done a very in debt report about how Corporal Thomas Davis Dillon's remains were still at the wheel of the government issued Jeep 1969. The vehicles were all rusted out but the tires were all intact.
The next day Jim's dad was more alert and the breathing tube was gone. Jim's mom looked like hell thanks to Jim telling her of all the events of the previous night. She could not stop hugging him over the coffee cup she held in one shaking hand. Jim told her " I think Corporal Dillon saved my life." That's when she really turned white. "OMG" Jim exclaimed with realization his hand holding his forehead. "That's what dad was trying to say when I walked in Tmm Din. Thomas Davis Dillon." "NO, he probably heard the news cast. But how could that be?" He was in surgery.
When Jim's older brother Arty with his wife Pam walked in, Dan, Jims dad smiled weakly. And said "hell of a night" Everyone chuckled and started crying and suddenly let the happiness stop the tears and started talking about the news cast. And Lucille said, "You don't have to wear the bracelet anymore because they found him." Jim's Dad looked him straight in the eye and said groggily "I think I spoke with him last nite." "Spoke with who?" Pam, my sister -in-law asked. "Thomas Dillon." Everyone looked at each other and Jim's mom said nervously looking at Jim "No honey you probably remember them cutting the bracelet off of you and it triggered something." "I don't know maybe" he said. But Jim knew the truth. Just then our neighbors the Paladinos came in and being loud as they always were shouted "Ayy Dan, what's with you wrestling with that deer?!" We all started laughing and Jim's Dad smiled and Jim whispered God Bless you Corporal Thomas Davis Dillon, wherever you are.