Gary called after Justine, but he heard her running off; no one was there
to answer. And it was silent. Of course, there was the sound
of the mainstream traffic nearby, always present in a city the size of Chicago.
The busy noises became lost in this deserted construction area once the
workers left for the day. All that remained was the wind's sound as
it rushed in off of the lake and swept through the empty building near the
place where he had landed.
His throat was sore and his voice was hoarse from calling out. "Hey! Anyone! I could use a little help here." The only answer was his own echo being carried through the structure and returning to him. In time he stopped trying and settled down.
Squirming for a more comfortable position atop the rubble was useless. One part of his 'bed' must have been some broken 2 x 4's covered over sparsely with plaster and lath pieces. He figured that the wads of old wiring must have broken his fall somewhat. One leg was 'fine', meaning it hurt, but he could move it-and he did, just to reassure himself that it was in good condition. The other, well, the other was, without question, fractured! Parts of that leg were becoming numb, for which he was thankful. His back ached from the initial impact and from being forced to lie in the same position atop the trash.
He only became aware of having fallen asleep, or maybe losing consciousness, when he woke to sounds of adolescent voices nearby. It wasn't quite dark yet so not much time could have elapsed. "Can anyone help me?" he heard his voice come out in a hoarse whisper.
The other voices stopped as they heard him. He called out again, thinking for a moment that the sounds of others were only in his imagination. "Please. Is anyone there? I need help."
He felt the rubble vibrate as the young teenage boys climbed up to look down at him. "Hey, man! You spying on us?"
The boy's friend studied the position of the dark-haired man who looked as though he'd been violently thrown on top of the heap. His eyes were drawn to the angle of Gary's leg. "Check out his leg, guys. That's not good!" Then, to Gary, he asked, "What happened, man?" He noted the line of dried blood that had run down the side of Gary's face to the jawline. "Someone do you over?"
They had to lean closer to hear Gary's voice as he explained about falling from the scaffolding. The grimace told of the discomfort he was experiencing. "Can you get me some help? I need some help. My leg..."
"We can see that! Boy, you really did it. Can you move at all?"
Gary tried again with the broken leg, but felt no connection between his willing it to move and the leg cooperating. "The leg. I need you guys to call 911 for me. Please."
The first one to have spoken with him, trying to sound sympathetic, said, "Well, ya see, it's like this: we're not exactly wanting anyone to find us. We can't get involved-or we'd help."
"No, no. You don't have to be involved." He stopped to stifle a groan, then continued, "All you have to..to do is call 911. They'd come, ya see, and get me outta here." The boys looked from one to the other. "You don't even need any money to call 911. Please."
The smaller boy was feeling squeamish about the way the broken leg looked and how it appeared to be swelling. "We could do that," he thought aloud, adding, "We could just call for someone to come."
As soon as he had said it, the taller one yelled, "Are you crazy? What if someone saw us putting in the call? Did ya ever stop to think about that? What if the cops found out who turned in the call?" He raised his fist toward the youngest of them in a mock threat.
He turned to Gary, asking, "You in pain?"
Gary wondered why they had to ask what must have been obvious, "Well...yeah. That's why I need help."
"Garby!" At his name being called, the third one looked away from Gary and toward the 'leader.' "Garby, you got any weed on you?"
The one called Garby self-consciously surveyed the area to see who might be listening, then answered, "Yeah, a little."
"Light one up and give it to him." Just like that, the teen obediently dug in his jeans and brought out what was requested. He lit it, then reached down to hand it to an astounded Gary, shocked at their method chosen as 'help.' When he saw no attempt on the injured man's part to take what was being offered, even though it was meant to alleviate his misery, he tried to place it between Gary's lips. "Just give a couple drags, man. It'll make a difference."
Gary turned his face and raised his hands to ward off the 'humanitarian' act. "Thanks. Thanks, but no."
Three unbelieving youngsters glanced from one to another. Garby warned, "Last chance before we leave. You sure? We're not coming back."
"No, thanks. Can't you go home and call? Or to a telephone booth?"
"Home? Are you kidding? We ain't got homes. We're 'throw-away' kids. And don't look at us like that either! You ain't in no position to be sorry for anyone but yourself right now!" He grabbed the 'cigarette' that Gary had refused; "I don't suppose that you have any cash on you, huh?" Kneeling down, he patted down the helpless man, removing his wallet. "What ya got?" He removed the cash and cards from the brown wallet, stuffing all but a one-dollar bill into his pockets. The dollar he put back in the wallet and replaced it in Gary's pocket. "See, we're not without mercy. Now we've gotta be going. Someone else'll be by to help."
He and the others crawled down off of the trash. "Lotsa luck," he called as they left.
And Gary was alone.
He could use some water.
It was getting dark and he was feeling the cold of the wind as it picked up in force. Once in a while he'd try calling out, but the light was fading..and so was any hope he had been clinging to.
In his mind, he wondered if people died from whatever injuries he had sustained. He knew about the leg. The rest of his pain he could only guess at the seriousness of it. Maybe he could attract the attention of the workmen when they started the next morning. Maybe there was a night watchman. As quickly as he considered it, he dismissed it; if there were one, he would have already been there.
He woke up at one point to hear some dogs in the area, probably digging among the workers' lunch discards. What good would it do to call them? He doubted that he would get any results from yelling, "Lassie, get help!" Though, even in his misery, he had to find amusement in the thought.
At one time a diesel-powered car drove into the area and left again after the headlights showed it to be making a U-turn. Their windows must have been rolled up. There was no evidence of them hearing him as he tried to attract attention.
His mind began playing tricks on him in his weakness. One time he thought he heard Chuck talking to him. He was sitting right next to him, giving him lectures on why these things happened to him. Marissa appeared to be in on the lectures too, reminding him that he just didn't take good enough care of himself. Mom and Dad couldn't keep quiet. They agreed with Marissa and Chuck and added a few more admonishments. Mom had to add an 'I told you so'
about being careful to stay off of high places. He found himself shaking his head to remove the apparitions from his sight.
The only thing he achieved with removing them from his thoughts was replacing their loving presence with those not so loving. A parade of antagonists from his past seemed determined to take their turns climbing up to his lofty bed of pain and give him their not-so-lofty opinions of him. He heard the descriptive words: meddler, busybody, pest, and a host of similar and, much worse, accusing terms. Even his own image at one time appeared, accusing him of murder and several forms of failure.
How could everyone be against him? Surely he must have done something right. As soon as the possibility entered his thoughts, a new figure climbed up to sit next to him. Gary twisted his body in order to see him better, but the man pressed his hand against his host's shoulder, forcing him to lie back.
In his semi-delirium, Gary heard this familiar person say, "Don't move. Someone's coming to help. You'll be okay." He took a scarf off of his own neck and placed it gently over the injured man's eyes. "Don't listen to the voices-not any of them. They're not real, you know. They're all being dredged up out of your own conscience. Close your eyes. You can see the light even with your eyes shut. That's your light, Gary. Trust the paper to lead you to it. When you reach that light, which you will-some day-you' ll merge with it. Someone else, Lindsey, will take up your task and look toward that same illumination, made even brighter because of you."
Gary could see the light as if of a thousand suns, reflecting off the waters of Lake Geneva. It was calming, shining deeply within him. He imagined himself sitting in a boat with his dad, fishing. Dad reeled in his line and Gary could see that there was no hook at the end of the line. The rod was laid down in the boat as his dad picked up the oars, looking as though he needed to say something to his son. His looked concerned as he mouthed some words, words that made no sound.
"What, Dad? I can't hear you. Do you me to row for you? I can't move my leg."
His father glanced down at his son's injured leg, not quite comprehending, at first, what was wrong. Finally, Dad's voice said, "Let's go." It didn't sound like Bernie Hobson, but it must have been him, wanting for Gary to help row.
Gary begged, "Help...please help me."
At that moment a light was shone in his face. Someone, the same person, he thought, said, "I'll go get help. Stay with him..." Whatever else he said was lost to Gary as he allowed himself to slip off into unconsciousness.
His next awareness occurred in the hospital. Warm. No more thirst. Nothing to complain about. It may be a little extreme to say that.
Well, nothing's perfect, not in the life of Gary Hobson.
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