My parents were at some church function. It was her mother, and she stabbed little holes in the doors and siding, and screamed that Molly was not of this world. I called for the police, but we only had one officer, and he was at the church thing…”
by gary moshimer
My wife was riding her bike and was hit by a drunk. Her body was broken all over. Her head, too, because she wasn’t wearing a helmet. She was doing the kind of biking a French girl would do on a sunny afternoon: old fashioned girl’s bike, bright red with a white basket filled with bread, her beautiful chestnut hair flowing.
That’s how she was, and how she will be again, because I was ignoring how one of the doctors wrote, “Unfortunate white female…”
I was telling this nurse how the very first time Molly and I met, we ran away together. We were just twelve.
“It’s a real love story. You should hear it.”
She was distracted, checking all of Molly’s tubes. There was a shitload. And all the monitor blips reflected in her glasses like Christmas lights. She seemed mesmerized, like a kid.
I kept talking.
“Molly just showed up at my house. I’d seen her on the bus and stared at her in class, but she was too pretty for me to talk to. She had that hair and green eyes and pale skin. She seemed nervous and her eyes flicked around. She wore old worn dresses with shiny belts, and always flat shoes, never sneakers. She had the look of someone who always got yelled at. She knocked on my screen door. There was blood running down her face. She said, ‘Please help me. ‘A skinny woman in underwear was running up the driveway, flashing a knife over her head. I pulled Molly in and locked the doors. My parents were at some church function. It was her mother, and she stabbed little holes in the doors and siding, and screamed that Molly was not of this world. I called for the police, but we only had one officer, and he was at the church thing, too.”
The nurse was tapping on a keyboard, not looking at me.
“What do you think she meant by that? Not of this world.”
“Hmm?” She still didn’t look. “Well, she was crazy, right?”
That nurse went off duty, and didn’t get to hear the end. I had to tell it.
The next nurse was much nicer. She sat with me and held my hand. I had to reiterate the whole story thus far.
“Sure,” she said. “Too beautiful for this world. Like an angel.”
We looked at her. Her head was shaved and a probe in her skull measured pressure. Somehow her face was untouched, perfect.
“You should have seen her riding her bike,” I said. “She still wore her old-fashioned dresses, and the wind showed her legs.” I almost said that she would want to go that way, captured in time like a photograph, but I wasn’t admitting to her going anywhere.
The kind nurse patted my hand. She didn’t do any checking on Molly. We just sat there. Maybe she was kind, or maybe lazy; perhaps she thought there was no hope.
“So,” I said. “Let me tell you what happened next. It’s crazy.”
“I took her cold little hand and we escaped from a basement window. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me, even though for her it was a crisis. I had tied one of my mother’s scarves over the cut on her forehead. There was my path through the woods to the railroad tracks. ‘We’ll get to the church’” I said. ‘It’s at Eisler’s crossing.’ ‘No.’ She climbed onto a flat boulder which was like a stage. Sun rays breaking through the high trees were like spotlights. She moved from one to another. She said she wanted to be an actress. She wanted to be someone else. She used a different, grownup voice, full of breath and longing. ‘We’ll jump a train, see? We’ll take it as far as it goes.’ I jumped up and played my part. ‘Two o’clock train goes to Boston. I’ll buy you some new dresses.’ She pecked my lips and jumped off. She ran up the path. I showed her how to put an ear to the track to tell how close the train was. I counted the beats and took her pulse, and they matched.”
This nurse was older, and knew exactly when to panic. Molly’s blood pressure was suddenly an issue. It had to be kept within narrow parameters. The nurse hustled, called some other nurses and hung a new drip. Molly had also developed a new heart rhythm. They tried to speed it up. The neurologist stopped by, and the cardiologist, and they asked me if her heart stopped, did I want heroic measures.
“We all want to be heroes,” I replied, which made them unhappy. That was not one of the answers. I was not studying from their books; I was rogue, and they wanted me to conform.
They had to turn up the oxygen on her ventilator. They stood around looking glum, and finally left the nurse alone with us. “I like it when it’s just the three of us,” I said. “Everything’s okay now. Sit. Let me finish.”
“We crouched in the scrub pines. The train was a slow one. I didn’t think we could do it, even with all our young and nervous energy. She took my hand and said, ‘Never be afraid.’
And we did it, jumped into this open boxcar while screaming, and rolled on the wooden floor. Her dress was so dirty she laughed. We watched our little town recede. The tunnel was coming up. We roared into complete darkness, and she grabbed me and kissed me, one long tentative kiss until we were out. When the sun flashed she studied my face, and I thought maybe she wasn’t of this world, the one where I see my ugly mug in mirrors.”
Molly’s heart rate dipped to the 40s, and the nurse stood and fiddled with the alarms.
“Do you have to call someone?”
“No. It’s just us.”
“Just you two against the world, huh?”
“Are you afraid now?”
Molly’s heart rate bounced back up to 70.
“I’m never afraid.”
“So we were just gazing at each other, when suddenly this gruff voice came from the shadows: ‘Well, ain’t that sweet.’ And there’s this old guy with long silver hair and a beard, and next to him this big German Shepherd. So we jumped again, without even looking, and landed in the swamp, waist deep in this muck, unable to budge. Our fingertips could barely touch, and we were sinking. We told each other goodbye. We said I love you, though we hardly knew each other. Then you can’t imagine what happened. The man and his dog jumped out, too. The guy moved fast, like a real survivor. He unwound this rope from his waist, made a lasso of it, and tossed it to Molly. You could see his brown teeth clenching as he strained to pull her out.
“Meanwhile the dog – a German Shepherd like Rin Tin Tin – jumped in with me. I felt the tremendous power in his body as I hung onto him, as he fought his way out. It was like an episode from TV. Like, say the old hobo used to be his owner, and then one day came back and stole him from his nice family. And even though the dog wants to run home, he still feels something for the old man, so he hangs with him a while, still doing heroic things on the road. What about that?”
She looked at me like I had lost it. She looked so sad, and I said, “Stop looking like that. This is not a sad story.”
She went out for a bit and came back with Chaplain David, a shiny new chaplain with an IPad. Everything was on that pad, the whole Bible. He was tapping at it, probably looking for a suitable piece of scripture.
“Excuse me, Chaplain. But I have to finish my story.” I pulled the nurse in and yanked the curtain.
“Please,” she said. “You have to accept this.”
“The cop came and picked us up. The train moved slowly away, the man and dog with it. Molly cried. She told the officer not to take her home. We told him about her mother. They ended up taking her mother away, and my parents, who were kind people, let Molly live with us. She had my brother’s old room, next to mine. My father patrolled at night, to make sure we didn’t do anything. But we tapped in code on the adjoining wall, and one day I stole my father’s drill and drilled a dime-sized hole and covered it with a poster. And what we did was this: we could blow kisses through the hole, and spy, eye to eye. And we could touch our fingertips.”
I went to Molly and made a little tunnel in the sheet. “Like this.” I put it to her eye and put my eye at the other end. Her eye was slightly open, and it no longer looked like she was sleeping. It looked dead. I pulled my face away. I put my finger through the tunnel and put my fingertip to hers. I said what I always said back then: “Say goodnight, Molly.”
Chaplain Dave was back with security. I backed calmly from the bed, but then pushed past them, bursting through the curtain. I ran down the hallway, and they ran after me. At the end I stopped to kick the shit out of the vending machines. “I do not choose to accept this,” I yelled at the security guards when they showed up.
They threw me out, but at least Dave came with me.
The car was warm. He sat in there with me.
“I have a story,” I said. “I have many. We’ve had a fortunate life so far.”
He was distracted by his iPad. “You want to watch something?”
“Have any Rin-Tin-Tin?” I asked. “I’m looking for the episode where he’s riding the train, and he jumps into the quick-mud to save this kid.”
Dave tapped away. “Yeah. I think I saw that one.”
(illustrations: kurt eisenlohr)
Gary Moshimer has stories in Frigg, Wigleaf, Smokelong Quarterly, Pank, and many other places. He works in a hospital in Pennsylvania, saving lives.