Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Strange David

Strange David

S. Solomon ©2013

I got mugged a few weeks ago. A shadow in the alley put out my lights. I came to just before dawn. My head hurt. My shirt, wallet and right shoe were missing. When I tried to stand up I promptly keeled over. My left lower leg and my entire foot did not seem to belong to me. Trying to stand again produced the same result as before. Then two cops come strolling along.

They asked me my name and what had happened to leave me sans shirt and one shoe as I sat in the dirt by the shrubs. I related my best recollection of the mugging. I told the cops that my leg and balance were out of order and asked for an ambulance. First, they needed to write a report. Five minutes or so later, they did summon an ambulance and I was soon lifted onto a gurney, wheeled over to the vehicle and thence transported to the nearest hospital.

Two weeks later I was moved to a facility for physical therapy; the goal was to restore the nerve that travels from the side of my left calf to my ankle. The exercises and electrical stimulation sort of worked,; just a little. Nonetheless, my balance restored with the help of a leg brace, the insurance company determined that I was too ambulatory to require the medical ministrations, bed and meals provided by the good folks of Meager Estates; Your Interest Is Our Top Priority. Thus, I am now convalescing in an assisted care place, a log cabin in the woods of western New England where people who are mainly very old go to smoke cigarettes on the porch and eat a lot of red meat and potatoes before the hearse comes to carry away their mortal shroud once finally, indisputably shorn of all vitality. 

Not all the folks here at Terminal Meadows; Nestled in a Tranquil Setting, are elderly. I’m not.  The Other Steve, the World’s Greatest Authority, is not. He just yammers on about any topic that floats through his cratered consciousness to grab his focus for a few seconds before he fritters into a confusion of random words on subjects ranging from the sex lives of mollusks to The Truth About the Kennedy Assassinations. But, everybody else is old is except one other guy. He is the real and most intriguing subject of this little literary explateration. He is Strange David.

Strange David is deaf, mute and schizophrenic. So, of course, he is unable to really participate in conversation nor relate to others the messages spoken by the silent voices beamed into his skull by unnamable phantoms hiding in moonbeams and cracks in the pavement. His continence is typically stone like. Even in repose, his brow remains unflinchingly furrowed and the corners of his crusty lips static, as though they were carved into a grimace. He is trapped behind a visage that only expresses bewildered horror.

Strange David sleeps fully clothed and in a fetal position on the floor by his bedroom door. He keeps the light on and his eyes open through the dark hours. He rises at dawn for the first of his dozen cups of coffee. His primary mode of communication is nodding his head. One can, however, reliably get a reaction from him by coming around a corner or walking up from behind into range of his innate proximity sensor. That range is about two feet and his response to the sudden alert is to leap from his toes as though they were spring loaded. Strange David can reach a height of about twelve inches straight up when he’s good and startled.

Yet, he never blinks. He never smiles. Well, he almost never smiles. Over the course of my first two weeks in his company, I only once saw him look me in the eye and then flash a wisp of a smile as transient as a single beat in a racing heart. We were eating breakfast across from each other at the common table. As usual each morning at 8:10AM, Strange David stared into his big bowl of Cheerios® as he swiftly slurped overburdened spoonfuls of milk, plenty of sugar, and bleached and artificially colored, pre-masticated, compressed gruel into his resolutely frowning maw.

Then, for no obvious reason, he looked up at me, milk dripping over his chin. He flashed that brief, thin smile before it disappeared. It was like watching a glistening, soft seeming pebble stolen from sight by a black wave’s exhausted crest. Strange David instantly bowed his head again to gaze unblinking into, perhaps through, the white puddle and bobbing bits of kid’s cereal beneath the soggy, grizzled vanishing point of his jaw. He held his big spoon clenched still and upright in his fist as though a weapon or a torch light.

Thus, normal programming on the Strange David channel resumed and remains uninterrupted. The smile proved to be a one-off, like a never repeated deep space message from a sentient race living in the empty, cold gloom around the dying ember of a very distant star. The meaning of the message can never be decoded nor even inferred. Some things must remain mysteries. Some things may only happen once.

Hic Finis Est,