Jan/Feb 2008  •   Spotlight


by David Bulley

Photo by Steve Wing

Photo by Steve Wing

Warmth came back into the world the same way you feel when Father Ceald ladles soup into your bowl and looks you in the eyes, his all filled up with love and you know soon your belly will be full, like it's a promise and you feel loved. Me and Sadie lived through that cold snap freak event because we had just broke into the abandoned house on Tremont and there was plenty of furniture to burn in the fireplace.

We huddled together, shivering for cold days in front of that fire and we burned every stick of wood and every book and every newspaper we could find. The last day I busted the plaster off the wall by punching it and then we ripped the lathes out of the wall. They burned hot, but fast so we burned more and ripped more and then again.

I've always been lazy. Sadie says no just only I'm unmotivated. I was motivated as hell to rip those walls out let me say. Yeah I was.

After the third wall I realized I was working up a sweat. I wiped away plaster dust from my eyes and mouth. "Sadie," I said.

She looked over and saw the water on my face and smiled and that was the end of the cold.

We walked over to check on her gramps, which was the only family she had. He was senile. He'd sometimes walk right out of his home, brushing away the orderlies and nurses with a casual swat. Sadie told me he had worked on the CCC when he was a boy and developed his enormous strength building bridges through the wilderness for FDR, I know once I tried to help him up and where he grabbed me he left bruises in my shoulder. He would walk out and stand in the road. He would stare up the street and not be moved.

Whatcha doin' gramps?

"Waiting for my Sadie," he'd say with such hope in his voice, such joy he made everyone who heard it cry out: wrap their hand around their mouths to cover the indrawn breath of hurt. Sadie was my Sadie's grandma.

In one second it was below zero cold and then as we walked down the street the temperature must have risen to 50 or 60 just bam, its hot out. Fog covered everything like being in a steam bath.

Later on, I was plenty grateful for all that fog, walking through the quiet of town, grateful because the vague still shapes, like ghosts were in fact, ghosts. They were bodies and bodies of people frozen still and plank stiff wherever they stood. I knew it, but didn't know it. My guts gnawed and I steered Sadie on towards the home.

On Birch Street we had to bust through a snow drift taller than either of us—Sadie is a foot taller than me. She held my jacket from behind and I lowered my head and charged. I ran up the bank a few feet before I fell into it and I thought for a half second we would never break free. The snow fell into my clothes and felt even colder for the warmth of the day and it clogged my mouth. It would not melt fast enough for me to breath. I swung my arms and pumped my legs all the harder for the panic. When I heard Sadie give a squeak I knew at least she could breathe so I slowed and when I did I just stepped out into the other side, Sadie behind me.

I felt as if I rescued her. I don't know, through the cold and from busting the walls and now this snow drift, they were all just minor things but I felt hardened in some way. I felt like, walking through the ghosts of our town, I was special: chosen.

When we got to Hope Street, where the home was, we saw our first living person. He was leaving one car, left the door open and everything, and entering the next one in the line. He disappeared under the dash for a second. Then we saw his head above the wheel but leaning forward as if... I knew what he was up to. He was hot wiring the cars but the batteries were all dead. We watched him leave that one and enter the next. He had a slim-jim on him, but didn't need it as none of the cars were locked. Sadie waved as we walked by. He waved back. In the fog, his shiny blond hair looked as if sun was shining on him alone, but it wasn't. Or, if it was we've never know through the fog.

When we arrived at the house we stopped in front. Sadie began to cry, big sad tears dripping down her plaster dust lined face. She pointed and I followed her point. Gramps was behind the wheel of an ancient blue Cadillac with his hands on the wheel, and his eyes open wide, as if startled. His skin was blue. I walked to the car, not sure why. Maybe I was going to get him out or something, but I didn't. In the dirt on the hood of the car was written, "Here sits Grover, the blue monster, dead." I walked over, then turned and walked back to Sadie.

I put my arm around her and I said, "Let's get out of here. Let's go to California or somethin'."

I've always been lazy. Sadie says no I'm not just only I'm not motivated. Maybe. But maybe life is like how we survived that awful thing. Maybe you have to work at it just like we worked to live where others died. Sure, luck was part, but not all. When we get to California, I'll make a life for us: A nice one.