Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
Earl Crier wakes screaming from nightmares in which his ship sinks in the Arctic in World War II. He has survived but is now blind. He takes refuge in music and in the kindness of Stella. Meanwhile, other veterans return, and their most serious wounds are not always visible.
Chapter 35: Don’t Count Elroy Out
Elroy woke in a fog, not knowing where he was, or how he got there. He could move his eyes, but there was a disconnect with the rest of his body. He tried to call out but couldn’t. The back of his neck hurt like hell, and the pain was deep.
It was the pain that drew his memory back to the hospital. The memory was fuzzy, but he was able to piece some of it together. He remembered having the blind joker in a death grip and threatening to kill him if Stella didn’t give him back his money.
That was all he could remember. Had he killed either or both of them? Where was his money? Where was he, and why couldn’t he move? His eyes moved slowly around the room, his vision still swimming. The room was small. He felt movement: it was the room. Was he on a train?
He felt a nervous tic in his left hand and found that with a little effort he was able to move a finger. He felt a cramp in his leg; at least he wasn’t paralyzed. Panic overran any relief, and he felt an urgent need to get the hell out of wherever he was. He did not know what had happened, but figured he was on the run, which meant the cops were looking for him.
He forced his hand to move while screaming Move... move... move in his mind and trying to stir some life into his feet.
* * *
“I’m really not all that hungry,” the woman said to her husband as she glanced at the menu.
“We won’t have time to find anything in Omaha, not if you want us to get to your sister’s farm by five. The blue plate special looks pretty good for train food. I’m hungry. I’d like a beer, too.” Her husband sounded a little annoyed.
“I’ll just have the soup,” she surrendered with a sigh.
He raised a finger to get the waiter’s attention. “Oh hell,” he said as he patted his coat pocket. I left my wallet in the cabin. “Go ahead and order. I’ll be right back. And don’t forget my beer.”
* * *
Elroy managed to sit up. He moved his legs to the edge of the bunk. He felt unsteady. He ached from head to toe, and it didn’t help things that he felt like puking. He rose, leaned against the compartment door for support, as he tried not to vomit on his hospital blues.
Blues? Where the hell did I get these? He had no pockets. He knew that he had no money and no identification. He couldn’t jump the train until he had some real clothes and a few greenbacks.
He heard the heavy metal door at the end of the car open and close. He slid open the door just enough to see a man about his size coming his way. When the man was just in front, he opened the door. “Hey, pal, can you lend me a hand?” He slumped back into his compartment drawing his victim in.
Elroy didn’t have much strength, but surprise was on his side. He forced a washcloth into the man’s open mouth, used his weight to hold him down, and held his nostrils closed until the man stopped twitching.
* * *
The Pullman porter knocked on the compartment door for the third time as the train pulled into Omaha station. He knocked a little harder. “Sir, is everything all right?” He looked at his pocket watch. The train was running fifteen minutes late and needed to make up for lost time. A sick passenger always added unnecessary delay, and today was not a good day for that.
It was Thursday, and Emma was adamant that her pot roast be served at a precise moment and temperature. The last three Thursdays he had been better than an hour late, and there ain’t nothing worse then a woman’s scorn served along with cold pot roast.
“Hell’s bells, what mischief has the jackanapes brought me today?” He searched the large key ring attached to his belt for the compartment key and slipped it into the lock. The train whistled its arrival as he slid the door open. “Sir, we’s in Omaha, time to get up and off the train.”
Something wasn’t right. Two men had checked into the compartment and only one was here, still in bed. He kept a close eye on the comings and goings of his passengers and hadn’t seen anyone come out. He knocked on the small lavatory door. “Sir, it’s the porter, we’s in Omaha. Is you all right?”
The door easily opened to an empty toilet. Oh, Lord what trouble has come my way? He slid open the shade to the compartment window and turned to wake the remaining passenger. “Sir... I...”
The man in the bed wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t moving, and didn’t look like he was even breathing. The porter touched a limp wrist protruding from beneath the blanket. The man was dead. He stumbled back from the body as if death were contagious. “Oh Lord, this train is nowhere bound. There will be no pot roast tonight, and no understanding.”
He sucked in a cold breath then reached down and pulled the blanket back to see who it was that had up and died on him. What he saw caused his dark face to turn gray. The body was stone cold dead, but it didn’t belong to either of the passengers who should have been there. “Today is the day I’s going to retire,” he said and pulled the emergency cord to call for help.
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith