Reads: 331

The bus stops at the small university town and Al gets out. It's a fifteen minute wait for the connecting bus to Cape Breton. Plenty of time to change the wrappings and get some more water. After that, across the gulf and... I'll figure that out when I get there.

He peels away the tape and gauze. It stinks. Infection. Could be worse, I could be dead. Infection means fever. Infection means trouble. Feeling hot, he goes outside to wait in the cool afternoon air. There's a breath of wind drifting across the campus, carrying diesel fumes from a passing truck. But there's something else there too, a whisper of pine. Green grass. And somewhere beneath it all he grasps something that makes him smile. There's a jay calling in the distance, hidden in the strip of trees near the soccer field. Been hidden all this time.

He takes out the phone and tries Jess's number. An automatic message tells him that she's out of range, but that's okay. Knowing that there's some semblance of connection, some possibility – that's what matters. When the bus pulls up to take him away, he pulls out his old cell phone again. Cracks it in half. Throws one half of it in the trash, and puts the other half back in his pocket.

On the bus he opens his bag and takes out the book from Jess. Pages crackle and and curl at the corners where he's dog-eared it in the past. The Hobbit opens in his hands like an old friend. He starts to read.

He had never loved books before her. In return he gave her the thing he held most dear. Music. Words for sound. Two worlds. But now, he feels that perhaps they aren't so far apart. He finds as much beauty now in stories as in song, but the songs find him quicker. There's no interpretation required when it comes to music. It's instantaneous emotion. It's in the air he breathes. It's home.

He hasn't played for some time. His fingers feel soft. The glassy calluses are wearing away and the flesh beneath is weak. But he still feels it as much as ever.

Now, as he reads the lines she once read to him, his mind finds a melody. It flows out of him onto the page, dancing with syllables and shapes of words and the sounds they make. He whispers at first. Under breaking voice, the notes roll long and quiet. There's a pain in his shoulder. No, heart. He hums as they cross the causeway, but the whisper catches in his throat and wells up in his eyes.

The fever starts to grab him again. He starts to shiver but keeps on reading. He loves the story. The journey. There and back again. He wonders whether he's going there or coming back. Either way, this is the last leg.

The shivers worsen, and he has to put the book away. His shoulder is on fire again. To take his mind away from the pain, he tries to think of where to toss the last piece of the old phone. He's not sure why he keeps doing it. Without the battery, they can't track him anyways. Maybe it's a way of washing his hands. Cutting ties with those people. But that won't ever really happen. Not while he's still got the money. Not while I'm still alive.

Submitted: December 26, 2015

© Copyright 2021 keithdaniels. All rights reserved.


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