11 December 2003
I hope you enjoyed Part One. I'm going to resist the temptation to talk endlessly and just say that, in this chapter, Bobby feels himself to be at the bottom of his spiritual well and feels trapped. No where to turn. No one to whom he feels he can turn. Saying more might give things away.
As before, I enjoy hearing your comments; so please feel free to write if you feel so inclined.
Thank you for your attention and enjoy the story,
When last we left Bobby..........
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Mile after mile of Merry this and Jolly that gave way to strings of brightly lighted houses set back from the road. Colored and plain, blinking lights, ornately decorated trees… Bobby glanced at them and wiped his eyes again, urging the Yugo forward a little more. Soon, the houses grew further and further apart, separated by more trees and woodlands. He was passed by fewer and fewer cars and was beginning to relax in his solitude until the light from houses started becoming more frequent again. The houses were not as grand. Simple, humble, but still nice. Nicer than what he’d been thrown out of. It looked like a quiet, self contained little community that he might have passed through at one time or another but he couldn’t remember. He didn’t travel much outside of his usual, routine haunts and he wasn’t entirely sure of where he was. All the while driving, his mind had been lost in blinding thought and he was amazed that he hadn’t ended up in a ditch from not paying attention. The way he felt, he was positive that it wouldn’t have mattered to anyone if he had.
Bobby was running low on gas and stopped at the cheapest, and only, place he could find. It was one of those independent Gas ‘n Gulp kind of places that was only as clean as it needed to be and was barely sustaining that. He bought ten dollars worth of the cheapest gas they had and a handful of Slim-Jims. The knot in his stomach had almost made him forget how hungry he was. As he pumped the gas, Bobby counted what little cash he had left. Twenty-six dollars and change. “Great,” he thought. He wasn’t going to be able to get far on that. A couple of more tanks of even cheap gas and he’d be broken financially, a perfect bookend for his emotional bankruptcy.
Bobby looked around as the pump whirred away, then stopping at the ten-dollar mark. It wasn’t even enough for the finger grip on the nozzle to click off but it was enough to get him a little farther down the road to anywhere else. Setting the nozzle back in its cradle, he noticed what looked like one of those old-fashioned diners just up the road. He couldn’t miss it. It was the only other thing in sight that was open. They didn’t look like they were too busy; there were only a couple of trucks and a few cars scattered around their parking lot.
A couple of minutes later, he pulled in near the front door and stared for a moment at the bright lights, the pine and holly garlands draped in each window, before getting out. Bobby opened the door and stepped in. The old, neon style clock on the wall above the counter caught his attention. It was different than most he’d seen and it reminded him of just how long his day had been. It was closing in on one in the morning.
His fresh face and youthful skin stood in stark contrast to the diner’s current clientele. A couple of the harder looking types near the end of the counter stopped their chatting only long enough to size him up before going back to their muttered conversation. They didn’t give a damn about him. Why should they? Nobody else did. Bobby took a seat at the counter as far from the other people as he could. It was okay that they were around and he didn’t mind the quiet hum of their talking or the clinking of their knives and forks, just so long as they left him alone.
“Girlfriend kick ya out, there, guy?” the waitress chirped. She was one of overly friendly, in-your-face kind of waitresses whose hair was held a little too tall by a little too much hairspray. She looked like part of the diner’s original equipment.
“Huh?” Bobby started. “Uh…yeah…Somethin’ like that,” he said, nodding, avoiding eye contact. “If you only knew,” he thought. He really didn’t feel like exchanging pleasantries with anyone.
“Well, how ‘bout some coffee? Just made it
oughta help get ya warmed back up.”
“Thanks, I could use it.”
She turned over the china cup in front of Bobby and filled it with the fresh, steaming brew. He could almost feel the caffeine hitting his bloodstream just from the vapors and it felt good. The waitress offered him a menu, but he just waved it away, thanking her. The coffee would be enough for now. He couldn’t afford much else.
Bobby sat quietly, staring deeply into the flecked green and white of the Formica counter and simmered slowly in his own, darkening thoughts.
“Get ya anything else? You want some eggs’r somethin’?” the waitress asked.
“No thanks,” Bobby said, shaking his head. “What do I owe you?”
“A buck-five, total,” she said, eyeing him skeptically,
watching as he pulled a jumble of bills from his jeans pocket and
of the ones and then fished for a nickel.
Bobby thanked her and headed for the door.
“Hey, kid,” she called after him. Bobby turned his head back, seeing her quizzical look. “You okay?”
For the first time since he’d walked in, Bobby held her
gaze, ignoring the stares from the few other customers who were now
see what her raised voice was about.
“Would it matter?” he asked.
She stared at him for a moment longer, not knowing what to say, then looked down and turned to put his money in the register. Bobby pursed his lips. His drooping head shook slightly in despair as he pushed through the heavy chrome door back out into the cold. He heard the ka-ching of the register as it quickly fell shut. With only a minor bit of complaining, the Yugo fired back up and Bobby was back on the road again.
The four lane divided highway he’d started on had narrowed over the miles down to a winding, two lane, county goat path. He passed a house here, a small business there, but by and large, he was alone, within himself as well as on the road. The more he drove to he knew not where, the more his thoughts assaulted him in wave after unrelenting wave.
His eviction by his parents, the blind, drunken beating at the hands of his own mother, the person who had given him life, then his betrayal by Justin kept repeating again and again and again, tormenting him with every iteration. “Fucking Justin,” he muttered. That had been the twisting knife cutting past his abs, deeply into his gut. Justin had taken Bobby’s love and didn’t just throw it in the street; he’d stomped on it, set it on fire and spit on it, just for good measure. Bobby wondered how he could’ve been so stupid. He wiped his eyes again; thinking about how he’d desperately loved Justin and wanted nothing more than to be held by him, to make love with him. But now he knew that, for Justin, love was a credit card with no spending limit. Now he knew that he’d been nothing but Justin’s experimental receptacle, something that could be thrown away like one of his spent condoms.
Bobby kept on, beating himself up harder and harder. He slowed the car coming around a curve lined by barely tended hedgerows on either side that opened out just before getting to an old, concrete overpass for a small crossroad. It was unlighted and he couldn’t see anything beyond the range of his lights. He eased his way through the short tunnel, continuing on for a short distance before hitting the brakes. He studied the overpass in his rear view mirror, the beige, weather-beaten concrete tinted red by the glow from his taillights. He studied it for a long time, not moving, barely thinking, just staring.
Bobby wiped his nose on the sleeve of his jacket and let his foot off the brake and drove on just a little farther down the road. Not much farther, just enough for a good running start, he thought. Just enough for his piece of crap car to get him going fast enough… just one, last time. Over. Out. This station is now signing off.
Bobby turned the car around, cutting the wheel hard.
The steering assembly screamed at him as if
it knew what he was up to. He ignored
it and straightened the car out, pointing the nose just past the last
at the corner of the heavy concrete abutment.
He stopped, staring at it for a few more moments before slowly
down to unsnap his safety belt. He
began to shake. Soon the shaking would
be uncontrollable. He had to do it
now…get it over with…settle it, once and for all. A second of pain to
himself of all pain. To Bobby, at that
flashing moment, it was worth it.
He stiffened his arms against the wheel …slowly…adjusting himself until it felt just right.
Then he floored it.
Bobby tucked his chin into his neck and raised his eyes only enough to fix them on the corner of the unyielding abutment that drew alarmingly closer with each passing moment. The white lines raced at him, disappearing under his car at an ever-increasing pace. His ears began to ring from the intense pressure. The hedgerows to his side became a blur in the darkness of his peripheral vision, but it seemed like it was taking an eternity for the Yugo to close the distance, to take him away one last time.
“Oh, Christ! No!” Bobby muttered quickly to himself, cutting the wheel hard and inducing a spin, as he narrowly avoided hitting the man and dog that had suddenly popped out from behind the hedgerow. Bobby unconsciously glanced at the speedometer, which was rapidly descending through 50 by the time he looked. He had lost all control, and, oddly, terror flashed across his face like a lightning bolt.
For an instant, he saw the man see him and run out of the way, yanking his dog with him by the leash as hard as he could. Everything else became a blur as the car spun at least once around, maybe more; he wasn’t sure. Hedgerow. Bridge. Hedgerow. Bobby felt the final thud as he hit the shallow ditch on the side of the road and stopped dead, halted by the dense bases of the thick hedges. He jolted forward violently, hitting his head on the wheel and bouncing up to smack the side of his head on the rear view mirror before he finally collapsed, semiconscious, onto the passenger’s side.
The overtaxed Yugo chugged to silence, finding its own death. The air suddenly became still and quiet, as if itself watching, the clicking of the rapidly cooling engine and the clicking of heels on the pavement the only sounds.
Bobby cupped his head in his hands and moaned softly. He tasted his chilling blood in his mouth and wiped at it with the back of his hand as it flowed into his eye. He tried getting up but fell back onto the seat. He shook violently from the cold, from the fear that enshrouded him. His limbs felt like gelatin, all of their strength gone. He just wanted to die and even that wasn’t working for him.
“God, just let me die…please?” he whispered, closing his eyes and letting his head drop into the crotch of the seat, his neck muscles too shaky to sustain its weight. Then he heard the banging on the drivers window.
“Hey!” the voice shouted, “Hey, you okay in there!?” the voice shouted again, catching Bobby’s ear slightly with its odd accent, as a fist pounded on the glass.
Bobby heard the man trying to open the door but without luck. It was jammed shut by the crash. He heard the man running around the back, making his way around to the passenger’s side.
“Just go away…please?” Bobby whispered. He
heard the latch on the passenger door
give way. He grimaced in pain as the
door loudly squealed when the man yanked it open.
Bobby looked up into the upside down face staring at him. His vision blurred by his blood, he thought it looked like an old face with a white moustache and dark, very dark, eyes, but it looked like a good face. Bobby could only guess at what he looked like to this man.
“Gott in Himmel!” he started. “Kid!? Are you okay?” he asked as he reached in for Bobby. “Here, come on…we have to get you out of there! This thing might catch fire or something!”
“Good,” Bobby muttered.
“Let it,” he said, weakly waving away the man’s help.
“You stop talking this craziness,” the man said reaching back into the car. “Look at you! You’re bleeding all over. We have to get you fixed up!” he continued, not relenting against Bobby’s protests.
“All right, all RIGHT!” Bobby yelled, finally giving in. “Anything to get this guy to shut up,” he thought. He found that it wouldn’t have done any good to argue with the man, anyway. He had hands the size of small hams and a grip like a vice as he grabbed Bobby under his shoulders and pulled him smoothly out of the car.
“You come with me. My farm is just over here,” the man said, pointing to the other side of the hedges. “We will get you fixed up, ja?”
Bobby set first one foot and then the other onto the ground as his benefactor held him up. His knees, still weak, buckled under him. He grabbed for the side of the car.
“Don’t worry,” the man said. “I have you. Can you not walk? Did you break something?”
Bobby thought for a moment, letting his body talk to him. He shifted his weight around, alert for pain. Nothing. He was just weak as a kitten from his ordeal. “No, I think I’m okay. I just can’t seem to keep my legs under me, is all,” he told the man.
“That will pass,” he said. “Some schnapps will help with that.” The dog the man had been walking, a shepherd mix, came up beside Bobby and nuzzled his hand. Unconsciously, he rubbed his muzzle as the dog set his head against Bobby’s leg. “I see Fritz likes you,” he said. “You must be a good person. Fritz doesn’t like everybody.” Bobby grinned weakly.
The man handed Bobby Fritz’s leash. “You hold Fritz and I’ll hold you. Come on, now; we need to get out of this cold,” he said, leading Bobby slowly back through the path in the hedges.
“Ja, well, you finish that,” he said. “It will help quiet that shaking. You can have another if you like.” Bobby nodded his thanks as the man sorted through the kit, laying things out and checking them.
The liquid warmth was spreading through his body quickly. The warmth of the man’s kitchen felt very good to him, too. It was a pervasive warmth like he’d felt in his old grade school, from the radiators that clicked and banged and hissed. The crackling fire in the front room added to house’s warmth and gave Bobby an odd, to him unfamiliar, feeling of quiet peace and serenity. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt safe and a growing sense of ease with this man he knew nothing about. Bobby looked around. From what he could see, everything looked old but well tended. He did find it curious, too, that there were no Christmas decorations. Fritz came to lie at his feet, resting his muzzle on Bobby’s shoe. He leaned over and scratched him behind his ears. Fritz sighed contentedly.
Bobby winced and drew back from the man quickly as he dabbed at Bobby’s cuts with a wad of reddened cotton. “OW!” he yelled. “What is that stuff?”
“It’s mercurochrome,” he answered. “You sit still. It’s the best thing for cuts.” Bobby did as instructed but it was hard. The mercurochrome bit at him harder than the liquor. Finally the man had him cleaned and dressed and poured himself a short glass of the schnapps.
“You look hungry. Are you hungry? You sit still; I’ll fix you some soup,” the man said, almost as if giving an order.
Bobby didn’t protest. His growling stomach had given him away and until then, he didn’t realize just how hungry he was. The man got a jar of homemade soup from his old refrigerator and poured it in a pan to heat. Bobby watched silently until he could no longer restrain a question that had been nagging him since their paths had literally crossed.
“Mister, what were you doing out walking your dog at that time of night,” he asked.
“Please,” the man turned to Bobby, smiling. “Call me Georg…or George, if you like. Georg Todt. You are Bobby, yes?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Bobby replied, his eyebrows furrowing. “How’d you know that?”
“I… thought that’s what you said it was when we were coming in from the road. I told you my name, I thought, but you didn’t remember, obviously. There was so much confusion,” Georg said, stirring the soup, returning to the refrigerator to get the makings for a sandwich.
“Georg… I’m sorry,” Bobby said. “So what were you doing out there?”
“Fritz and I are old dogs,” he smiled. “When we have to go, we have to go,” Bobby smiled as Georg laughed at his own little joke. “I just let him take the lead until he’s ready to come back in.”
“Even as cold as it is out there?”
“This is nothing,” Georg snorted. “In Germany, we worked in colder weather than this wit snow coming down. It is all in how you dress and what you are used to.”
“You’re from Germany?” Bobby asked. “You didn’t sound like you’re from around here.”
“No…My parents came here a long time ago to farm when I was a young man; younger than you,” he began. “I finished my schooling here but I never really lost my accent…my way of talking. We always spoke German at home. After they passed on, I took over the farm like family should.”
“So, you married or anything? Kids?”
“No, no wife, no children,” he said, his eyes glazing for a second. “That was something that just wasn’t for me. It’s just me and Fritz.” Fritz’s ears perked at the sound of his named and he sat up, resting his chin in Bobby’s lap. Bobby’s hand slid back and forth over Fritz’s soft coat.
Georg finished up and set the steaming bowl of soup and a ham sandwich in front of Bobby. “Enough talking. Eat. You need something in your stomach.”
Bobby attacked the sandwich first, taking two huge bites, almost swallowing them whole as Georg watched in apparent delight. He washed it down with several spoonfuls of the soup, thick with vegetables. It didn’t take him five minutes to inhale the entire meal. He wiped his mouth and leaned back in the kitchen chair, sighing contentedly.
“You want more?” Georg asked.
“No, thank you, Georg. That was more than enough. I really don’t know how I could repay you for everything.”
“There is one thing you could do for me,” Georg said, looking straight into Bobby’s eyes. Bobby felt a slight chill come over him as he waited for the rest. “You can tell me why you were trying to kill yourself,” he said evenly.
Bobby froze; he tried to think of something to say and stalled. “What makes you think I was trying to kill myself?”
“Bobby…old I am, stupid I am not,” Georg chided him. “If Fritz and I had not come along just then, you would have crashed straight into that bridge. That was no accident. Why would you do such a thing?”
Bobby rubbed at Fritz’s sleek coat a little harder and stared at the table as if a good answer would magically appear. It didn’t, so he began, haltingly, with the truth. “My parents threw me out today,” he quietly stammered. Georg said nothing, he just watched Bobby sympathetically. Bobby saw that this answer was not enough. Something about Georg’s steady gaze made him continue. “And I got dumped by my…friend,” he said, staring back at the table.
Georg’s silence made him look up. The older man just stared at him for a moment. “And?” he asked.
“And, what?” Bobby asked. “That’s it.”
Georg drew in a deep breath and heaved a very long sigh. “Bobby, I think what you mean to tell me is that your parents threw you out because you told them that you are a homosexual and your boyfriend dumped you, as you say, because he was only curious and did not want to make his life difficult. Does that about cover it?”
Bobby was speechless. It took him a moment to come to grips with the fact that this man had just laid his entire situation as bare as a bleached skeleton in the desert. “How could you possibly know that?” he asked.
“Well, when one becomes my age, one becomes very practiced at reading between lines.”
Georg had read him as easily as an open, large-print book and Bobby had no idea of how to deal with it. He thought for a moment, staring off into space as Fritz resumed his place at his feet.
“Okay,” he began. “You’re right….So do you hate me now that you know I’m gay?”
Georg turned his hands up on the table. “Bobby, what kind of human being do you take me for?” He asked.
“I just…,” Bobby shrugged as Georg continued.
“Do you think that I should hate my hens because they are not roosters? Should I hate my horse because he is not a cow?”
“What kind of stupidity would that be? So should I hate you for being you?”
“I certainly hope that you don’t want me to hate you for that because that I cannot do.”
“No, Georg, you don’t understand!” Bobby began, trying to find justification for himself. “My day today was like the day from Hell. Everything just went to shi….fell apart…,” he said, catching himself, for some reason not wanting to use profanity in front of Georg. “I’ve lost everything!”
“You have your life, Bobby,” Georg whispered, the following silence broken only by the crackling of the fire in the front room. “If you have that, you have everything you need to make whatever you want.”
Bobby fell silent but was unable to break Georg’s gaze.
“Don’t you dare throw away the most precious gift that a person can receive. Don’t make the same mistake that…others have made,” he said.
“Georg, it just hurts so bad. I don’t know what to do! What do I do?!” Bobby started, almost on the verge of tears.
“Believe me, Bobby, I have known pain so terrible that I fully understand what you’re talking about. It made me appreciate the view from the mountains after having been through the shadows in the valleys. You will work through that pain as I did…well, for the most part.”
Bobby thought that it was exactly the sort of analogy an older man would make, but he nodded, wiping his eyes. He saw the truth of it.
“You don’t let those people bring you down. You go on with your life. And live it well. If you want to get back at those people, that’s the best way to do it,” he winked, making Bobby smile a little out of the corner of his mouth. “You let them stew in their hate, but you stay away from that pot, do you hear me?”
“Yeah…yes,” he nodded.
“But you’ve got to promise me that you won’t do something so foolish as that again, do you understand me? Your life is important, Bobby. All life is important. It’s not for you to throw away, no matter how bad things may seem to you. You promise me.”
“Yes, sir,” he said quietly.
“Yes, what?” he asked sternly.
“Yes, Georg, I promise.” How could he dispute the big farmer with the indisputable logic?
“Good. That’s settled, then.” Georg poured himself and Bobby another shot of schnapps. “A nightcap,” he winked, downing it in one gulp. Bobby mimicked his new friend, coughing loudly as the clear fire hit the back of his throat. Georg laughed and came around to clap him on the back a couple of times. “You’ll get used to it.”
“I’m going back to sleep now, Bobby. You take the guest room,” he said, pointing towards the front of the house. “It’s all ready for you. Things will start getting better for you tomorrow after you’ve had some rest.” Bobby rose from his seat. He felt his exhaustion catching up with him.
“I know, Bobby. Don’t you worry about it,” he said. Bobby hugged the large man who’d pulled him from his own stupidity before it was too late. Georg slowly returned Bobby’s hug, patting his back.
“You just sleep well and remember what we talked about,” he said. “You can keep Fritz with you if you want, he doesn’t steal the covers much,” he laughed and headed slowly upstairs, the treads creaking under his weight.
Bobby found the guest room at the front of the house. He didn’t understand why it was made up. He supposed that Georg was one of those people who kept things prepared and in order, just in case. That was fine with him. He was exhausted and desperately in need of sleep.
Fritz jumped on the large bed, picking his side and watched as Bobby stripped off his clothes and slipped between the cool sheets. They felt better to Bobby than anything he could want right then. He turned on his side toward Fritz, who whined a little and shoved his nose under Bobby’s hand. Bobby smiled weakly and slowly scratched Fritz’s ears before he dropped off into wonderfully deep sleep.