by Daniel Dives
Vine had come back a different man. It didn’t make the news when he was hit. Three letters represented his mauled body today: IED. He’d never been handsome, but as his face had taken the full brunt of the shrapnel blast and engulfing heat, I had to bite hard on my tongue not to start crying when I saw him that day in his mom’s trailer.
“Hey, Vine, my man. How you’re doing?” I said and hoped my voice sounded more reassuring than I felt.
He lifted his head up. “Is that you, Don?”
I walked toward him and sat on my knees beside his wheelchair. “Yes. It’s me.”
He stuck his hand out. It was the only way he could see. I grabbed it with one hand, put my arm around his shoulder and hugged him. “It’s good to have you back, Vine. I missed you.” I tried not to look at what was left of his face. It was horrendous.
He squeezed my hand. “Thanks.”
I waited to see if he’d more to say. He didn’t and the strength limped out of his hand. I stood up, still holding it. “Let me take you outside, buddy. It’s hot in here.”
It was true, but I didn’t tell him the walls were closing in on me.
* * *
“If I’d ask you to kill me, would you do it?”
I stopped pushing the wheelchair. We were in the woods behind the trailer park now. The shades underneath the trees we’d known all our lives were cool and the gentle breeze refreshing. I put a hand on his shoulder. “I would if I could, Vine ... But I can’t. Your mom —”
He put his hand on mine. “I’m blind, crippled, lost an arm, my nose, my face and my future... I’m only twenty-one, Don. What am I supposed to do? I don’t want to be a burden to anyone the rest of my life. You’ve got to help me. Please!”
I wished I could look in his eyes. I wished I wasn’t here. I wished there was a god to sort all this out.
His grip became firm. “Take me up to ol’ Willow’s pass and make it look like an accident.”
I wriggled my hand loose. “No, man! You’re frigging nuts!”
* * *
The woods. Ah, those wonderful woods. So pristine and full of life. I stopped and looked at a small ‘Cherokee Chief’ Dogwood tree in blossom. At its feet shimmered moist soil. The smell produced by its abundance of flowers weaved an invincible bond between Vine and me. One thing worried me though: would I ever make it out of prison to smell it again?
Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Dives