Castle Roland

The Redemption Book 1

by Joe Writer Man


Chapter 10

Posted: N/A

Wayne and I made our way to the cafeteria, grabbed up (and paid for) pieces of pie, Cokes and then headed to an out of the way table, sat and began chowing.

I noticed that June was eating with a man in a white hospital jacket. She looked up from her meal, smiled and waved. I waved back. She smiled, said something to the man, got up and walked over.

"If you want to join us please do." I said kindly.

Wayne moved his tray next to the wall and changed seats so that she could sit with us if she chose to.

"Thank you boys. Did you guys come to see Derrick?"

'Yes ma'am." I replied feeling privileged that she would choose to sit with two miscreants of the highest caliber.

"That's not so healthy, you know." June said with a gleam in her eyes.

"Yes ma'am." Wayne said somewhat apologetically... yet we continued to devour the pie. Wayne had chosen double chocolate and I chose banana.

"We'll be eating when we get home, ma'am." I said seriously. At least I hoped we'd get to eat something of substance but then looked at the clock. It was after 6pm. I knew that we'd miss dinner but hoped that Ma would leave leftovers.

We gave our progress report for her son. She said she was headed upstairs to spring him from the hospital because he was doing so well.

She thanked us for saving his life although she never wanted us to bring guns or other weapons to her home on our visits. I found it a bit odd that she'd want us to come back after all that she'd seen and experienced with our first visit.

June then told us that Sherry was in the hospital on the psychiatric floor for evaluation, and that she was on suicide watch meaning that someone was in her room at all times day and night.

In short order the pie was devoured and the glasses of Coke drained.

I asked her if it would be okay if I came to visit the next day... she invited us for dinner but Wayne had to decline as he had a doctor's appointment to keep later in the day.

With that said we caught the CTA and headed to the south side where we lived, worked and played.

On the way home we stopped at Vito's where we purchased enough shit to last all night. I really didn't want to go home. I called Nathan. He said all was quiet, that Christopher was acting differently in a better way... at least he'd been trying, he thought.

He put Ma on the phone. She fully supported Nathan's account. I told her that we were going to the park to shoot some hoops, that I'd be spending the night at Wayne's, and that I'd be home the following morning.

Since things were calmer on the home front she approved though she wanted me home earlier rather than later. I said I would even though I wasn't sure that we'd be up any time before 3-4pm.

Millie had dinner ready to heat up. She had the sneaky feeling that we'd be home sooner or later, and that we'd be hungry as only two teenage boys could be.

I was already mellow for the most part but when Millie brought out The Medicine and a small paper bag filled with shit… and don't forget to add what we'd bought … well the party was on.

For about two minutes I contemplated on getting started knowing that in the mood I was in then there would be no stopping the train until it ran out of fuel, or crashed into that wall doing ninety-eight.

I was at a cross roads yet I wasn't.

After doing a line and drinking plenty of The Medicine I no longer gave a fuck. That's where I wanted to be... I wanted to not give a fuck about anything ... I just wanted to let my hair down and let whatever was supposed to happen: happen.

At about 9:30, fucked up out of my gourd I came up just long enough to see Millie passed out in her chair. I vaguely remember Wayne deep inside of me pounding away using his fully extended prong.

In a dazed haze I reached down and felt my dick... it was slick, gooey smelled rotten. The bottle was sitting on the coffee table. I took a big long slug, and then grabbed my ankles and then passed out before Wayne experienced his moment of no return.

The next time I came to was after 1am... their silly fucking coo-coo clock had loudly chimed... it all sounded so ethereal, distant and detached. I then realized that I was deeply embedded into Wayne... he was passed out. My body shuddered violently yet I was more or less detached from it, from my body, weird, but I rode along for the duration, and then collapsed. I cannot even recall blowing. All I remember is rolling off of Wayne and landing hard on the bare wood floor face first and my head hitting the coffee table leg. The last thing I remember was finishing off that bottle of Medicine.

The following morning I awoke still scrunched up into a fetal ball on the floor. The smell in the place stunk to high heavens. I reached up to brush the hair out of my face and found it matted down to my skull and face. Some of it was dry. Some of it was wet. Some of it was running down into my ears.

I turned my head just enough to see Wayne's arm draped across the sofa, hanging down. I grasped his hand thinking that he might be dead. A surge of relief washed over me when I found it to be warm and limp just like I felt.

"Fuck" was the only intelligent word that fell from my thick and largely unmoving lips.

I heard very loud snoring in the background. I tried to look up but my hair pulled, like it was glued to the floor.

It wasn't morning yet... or was it?

Whatever time it was made no difference. Once again I passed out oblivious to all people, places and things. I didn't even care about the position I was in or the condition I was in.

Sometime later, I couldn't tell you when I came too. I was in a bathtub with hot water swirling all around me. I debated on opening my eyes... I decided not to for fear of getting soap in my eyes... someone was washing my long dirty blond hair with vigor. Whoever it was then turned on the bathtub spigot and began rinsing my hair after they lifted my neck up and out of the bathwater.

"Are ya waking up boy?" The voice belonged to mom.

"Ugh. Hmm."

"Are you awake yet boy? I ain't washed my baby son's body since you were 4 years old... do you realize that?" She said desperately.

"Ma, don't." I said gurgling out those two words. I was still definitely fucked up. I opened my eyes when she moved down, using a soft wash cloth, to clean my face, the front of my neck, chest, arms and fingers.

She then rinsed my face causing me to nearly choke. All that came out of my thick and swollen mouth were sputters and croaks. Quickly she wiped my face dry with a dry towel or something.

"Open your eyes boy."

I tried. I got them open no further than a squint as a wave of nausea washed over and then passed ... there was to be no open eyes, not forever, so it seemed.

I didn't even care that I was hard beyond hard. She started washing my legs from the toes toward my torso. She wasn't being too kind yet her ministrations felt nice. Like she'd told me she hadn't washed my body since I was a very little kid, back when things were okay, when our life was on track, and when our family was happy and serene.

Without hesitation, without resistance, without modesty or anything else the washrag went between my legs where they join high up the food chain. I didn't even flinch when she passed across and stayed with my crack. I was totally open. For a moment I hoped that my stomach contents were already relieved... but I didn't care.

I dazed out again... when I came to, when I came back to this world she was running a fresh bathtub of water.

The room smelled of stomach contents.

She started over.

I didn't care.

"Ma, I want to die. Just leave me be."

"I know baby. You just about succeeded too. I'm going to get you help. You can't go on this way. I don't want to bury you, child. It ain't right."

With that said I relaxed and let her do her thing. Her touch, while firm, was filled with love for her son. I was her son. She was my Ma.

A slight sliver of hope flowered open. I tried to open my eyes so that I could see her. I was able to keep them open for a moment no longer but I saw her washing my legs and then saw her reach into my nether regions one more time. I pinched myself closed.

I wasn't even ashamed that my very erect and pulsating penis was no more than 3 inches from her hand.

My arms were lead weights as I felt her hands traveling with the wash cloth washing my chest, abdomen, and the sides of my privates. I went to lift my head but a wave of nausea passed on by without damage. When she started washing my bush I felt her brush by my hyper-extended cock but she didn't linger. She washed around the main event just like she'd done for the rest of my body. I attempted to lift my arms... I was going to take over... a modicum of modesty began to creep from deep within... but my arms were too heavy to do anything meaningful.

She said, "Just relax. I'm just about done child."

"Ma, I'm going to..."

Then it happened. The second the washcloth began its travels to my usually personal and private place of pleasure I felt the spasm begin... Ma lifted her hand but the washcloth remained... my body actually felt alive as the spasm hit its peak though the spasm was only about 20% powered.

"I'm sorry Ma."

I heard sniffles. In a broken voice Ma said, "You're a growing boy. I'm sorry I have to do this."

"Me too, I'm sorry that I embarrassed you."

"Mind me none child. Things have to change though. You'll see. I'll get you all the help you need."

We then sorta kinda worked together... I rolled over so that she would wash my back. When that was accomplished she rolled me back and moved the water around so that I'd get rinsed.

"Where am I?"

"You're at Miss Millie's but I'm taking you home from here. This is no good for you. It's one thing that's going to change. I'll not have my baby dying away from home or in a hospital. I have the notion to shoot her, boy."

"No Ma, you can't do that. I got the stuff momma." I said. Suddenly my eyes opened about halfway.

"I know about the Medicine, boy. Don't you dare think I ain't had any of it. When I saw you this morning, boy, I thought about going where you went but that wouldn't be right. And it ain't right for you to go away from me. Now hush. I'll dry you. I'll get you dressed. Then we're going home. You'll see child. Can you sit up for me?"

Surprisingly I felt so much better. Ma helped me to turn around in the bathtub so that I was facing the faucets instead of lying beneath them.

I turned to Ma's face and opened my eyes. She'd been crying... they were all red and puffy. I'd hurt my Ma... and I cared. "I'm sorry Ma."

"I know son. I know. This is stronger than you are... I didn't see it." Ma croaked between clenched teeth.

Shuddering seriously, I croaked, "Ma, I love you. I'll try to be a better son... I promise."

"I know you will baby. Now, let's get you out of this tub. I've got clean clothes for you. I just washed them up yesterday. They smell so fresh and clean."

I was able to get out of the tub using my own power yet she'd have no part of me drying any part of my body. Almost delicately she dried and fluffed my hair and inspected it for cleanliness. She knew I was very anal about my hair... yet I'd thought seriously of having it all cut off... but I hadn't made the decision or done anything about it. I said, "Ma, I'm going to get it cut off."

"Rest child. Rome wasn't built in one day."

My stomach was rumbling... I thought I was just hungry though I didn't particularly feel that way. Ma insisted that I sit on the toilet until the gas passed on through.

"I'm going to go get your clothes. You have no reason to run around naked like an Indian in this house. This ain't your house no matter how much you like Wayne, boy. I won't have you running around like that in people's houses."

The old Ma was shining through... like she had before 'that day'. Something inside told me to not argue with her.

No sooner than she walked out... I violently exploded the toilet with air, water and other things until it stopped. I was beginning to get that 'relieved' feeling when Ma entered the bathroom carrying clean clothes. She sat them on the sink then turned and tore off a long piece of toilet paper and then waited expectantly... the look on her face said 'do not argue with me'.

But argue I did. To no avail.

She said, "Now boy, you show your ass to all kinds of different people... don't sass me none. Your ass is bare and it's mine; I gave birth to ya boy and I changed your diapers. You might be 13 but you're acting like a damn fool. I won't have no damn fool for a youngster... you've got promise, boy."

Ma waited patiently, toilet paper in hand, as the last few squirts exited. My butt was red hot raw sore from that hot liquid, and more than likely from nearly consistent and constant interactions with Wayne's spear, no doubt.

I leaned forward. "You're bleeding there, boy... I'm gonna get you the help you need before you get something that won't go away."

I jerked her hand back out of the way just as another torrent of hot molten lava spewed from the back door. She said, "Oh son ... what am I going to do with you?"

She tore off another piece, took care of my business despite my mild protests then she applied lots of cold cream to those tender and bruised tissues down south. I was about halfway boned up. I knew there was no use arguing with her. In a way, I appreciated her care and concern ... it had been a long time since I'd felt or experienced her love … maybe she'd tried but I had no doubt pushed her away.

She washed and dried her hands then knelt down and guided on a pair of those black skimpy bikini underwear over my feet and up my legs. I stood up from the toilet and turned around and flushed. Her hair brushed my male member on the way up my legs. I put my organ inside the skimpy piece of material and made some adjustments so that its head was covered.

Ma giggled, "Those don't leave much for the imagination. I didn't realize you were filling out..."

"Ah mom, please!" I said then reached for my jeans which I quickly put on.

Ma chuckled, "Well, it's true. You're filling out like your daddy."

I tensed up.

Ma said, "I'm sorry Joey ... I've got a lot to learn."

"Ma, we'll learn. Okay... I'll go to a headbanger on one condition. I mean I won't fight you none..." Without waiting for her to admonish my making rules I said, "Ma, we all need to go. Nathan's hurting too. And well... we already know about Christopher."

Ma replied, "You know... that's the most intelligent thing you've said all morning. Joey, Wayne tells me that you and he made some decent friends for a change. He said you guys promised to go visit that friend in the hospital... tell me about him."

I left the sex stuff out... and well, I omitted the deal when his ex-girlfriend pulled the knife... and well I left out the getting fucked up... and well I left out the Reinforcer... disclosing that kind of stuff wouldn't help the situation any.

"He sounds decent enough. Now, I want his momma and daddy's phone number because I want to talk to them. It's my job, boy, don't sass me none. Maybe I'd like to meet them. Do you think I'd like them, boy?"

"Yeah, they're pretty strict... but they're cool like you are, Ma."

"Flattery will get ya nowhere. Well, okay you scored some brownie points . You and Wayne, you go up there. Be home by 7pm. I'll bust your cute butt with the razor strap if you're one second late... do you understand me?"

I grinned. Mom got that 'oh no' look on her face. "Does that mean we can be 10 minutes late?"

That earned me a hard swat on the butt then I added insult to injury, "Ma, we don't have a razor strap... but yeah okay I hear you loud and clear. No doubt you still have dad's belt hanging in the closet."

"That I do, boy. That I do."

She let me help her with getting dressed... but then she turned me around and around to make sure I was 'just right' and 'respectable'. She then brushed my hair at least a thousand times to get the tangles out. "You might have an idea about getting your hair cut off. You know there is a charity..."

"Yeah... that's what I'm going to do. Maybe some kid can use it more than I need it."

"That's my boy. I'm proud of your insides though your outsides have left much to be desired. Now... remember... 7pm. No later. Not a second later. I'll make the appointments tomorrow... we got to start somewhere, boy. Do you need money for a cab? I noticed your pants boy... you'll not be carrying no heat around with you because you ain't going to be in those places no more, right boy? Right? Right?"

"Okay mom. But if the bills..."

"No... You let me handle that. I'm the parent. You're the child. It's my responsibility to make sure your stomach is filled. Look at you. You're so thin." Ma said, at the same time putting her one hand on my back and the other hand on my stomach.

Just then Nathan entered the bathroom. He took one look at me. He smiled, "Who are you?"

I pulled Ma into a hug then at the same time flipped him the bird. He opened his mouth and began pushing his tongue in and out, like he was licking something... like a penis. I closed my bird with an inner commitment to find out what the fuck he meant by that. I'd kept him safe and out of the trade...

Ma and I released. She checked me over one more time. She appeared to be satisfied with my appearance and change in attitude. My Ma was back. I never used to want to disappoint her or dad. I was a good straight-A student. I was in Scouts. I played little league baseball and soccer. All the usual kid stuff... then I grew up wild and wooly when … when it happened.

When I entered the living room, Millie was sitting at the kitchen table. Wayne was sitting on the sofa cleaning up messes on the bare wood floor. He looked up. He took a double take. He smiled then returned to his tasks. Ma brought me a brush and a rag from the kitchen... "You take over. Wayne needs his bath. Come on Millie."

An hour later a one Wayne exited the bathroom. He was spiffy and damn he smelled good, like fresh soap and water, with a hint of apple wood about his being.

Immediately I boned up. I'd never known him to smell so good. I took a quick glance down south of the belt buckle... those underwear Nathan gave me... were kewl.

Speaking of Nathan… He stood next to me; he, my little brother had pools and gallons of tears yet unshed behind those two orbs of flesh that gave him sight. If for no other reason I was going to change my ways - for him. I needed a moment of privacy with him sooner rather than later. I pulled him into the bathroom, closed the door and locked it.

He was silent.

He was never silent.

I said, "Nathan, things are going to change. Ma's going to be a Ma. We've got to get some help. I'm out of control brother. You have so much hurt in you."

"No I don't. If there's any hurt inside of me it's because you put it there. When you start being a big brother then I'll be okay. I mean it, Joey. You're changing just like Christopher changed. I don't like you. I love you because you're my brother. Period."

That did it.

I lost my composure.

Those words he said were the last ones I ever wanted to hear from him.

He was right though. I hadn't been around, and when I was there I was mostly 'not there' because I was fucked up, angry, both, neither.

I reached my arms out. He didn't move so I went to him. He resisted me strongly as I put my arms around his thin shoulders. But he wanted his big brother back. Just as Ma had done to me I didn't say a word... instead I pulled him in and forced his arms around my chest, and then I held him tight as stinging tears freely flew out of my eyes and into his hair.

And then the damage occurred... I started bawling my eyes out. The sobs came and came and came some more... they were uncontrollable... they would not stop not that I was trying to make them stop for once.

The knocks on the door didn't sway us one second. We were experiencing our moment of healing. Nathan, holding back, finally gave into some of his hidden away emotions... he had been being just like me... holding them in... afraid of them... I hadn't been there to lead him through them... I hadn't been there to set examples for him, to tell him that it's okay... I would later learn that it really wasn't my fault because I was locked into my own prison... I would later learn that Ma wasn't at fault because she was locked into her own prison.

"Nathan, do you have some more behind there?" I asked while putting my hands on either side of his face, rubbing his temples tenderly. Without saying a word he nestled his head into my chest. My shirt felt wet but he wasn't sobbing any longer.

When he lifted up his face to look into my eyes I said, "I love you little brother. I love you more than life itself. I was just trying to do the right thing... but I guess I fucked up, eh?"

"No, you didn't fuck up. I don't think I was a good little brother either. So... we're pretty much even. Joey... please promise me that you won't go away again... not like that."

"I'll try Nathan. Give me some fuck up room, okay... we've gotta come back from hell. Ma's going to get us some help with a headbanger. Knowing me though, I'll need a whole fucking team of them."

Nathan put his face back into my chest. He inhaled deeply. His shoulders dropped... like he was relaxing... I had done the same thing... only I hadn't realized it. I questioned whether I should say anything to him about it... I decided not to... in case he was unaware. He'd become aware in his own time frame.

Then I did something I never recalled doing to Nathan or any of my other brothers for that matter. I gently took his face into my hands, looked into his eyes, I mean I penetrated into his being. I said, "I love you. You're a good brother. Don't let me or anyone else tell you no different." Nathan's eyes misted over. He then softly closed them. I then kissed his lips tenderly but quickly.

Then we were back to real brothers because he growled, wrapped his arms around my midsection and squeezed for all he was worth.

"You're a good brother to me Joey. Just don't forget this, okay?"


"Joey, one more thing... I thought you were dead this morning. You were covered in vomit and shit. Mom had to wet your hair because you were stuck to the floor. Please, don't ever make me see you like that again. Don't do that to mom again. Promise me Joey." Nathan said with every ounce of strength in his body... no he wasn't loud... no he wasn't mean or anything sinister like that... he was speaking to me with his heart and soul.

I nodded. Even though I couldn't put words to what I wanted to say, and I still can't come up with the right words to say what I wanted to say... he read me and knew that I'd at least try.

He then kissed my lips. We were together... just him and I... we knew it would be okay right then.

Wayne entered the bathroom after I unlocked the door. Ma was sitting with Millie in the kitchen. They both looked at us with an intensity I'll never forget. Nathan said it all, "My brother's back."

Our visit with Derrick was pretty short... no more than 30 minutes... but then again we hadn't arrived until 4:45 or so. I'd made promises to Ma and Nathan that I'd be home by 7pm. I promised myself that I would be home on time. I'd made a commitment. Dad had always told me that a man's word, no matter what, had to be good.

On our way out we ran into June. She was on her way to pick up her son who had been discharged from the hospital albeit wired jaws that were aching pretty badly.

We got on the CTA by the hospital at 6:20. It was a 15 minute train ride to the closest station to our homes.

Ma called me as we made our way out of the station. I told her where I was, that we'd arrive soon, and would be on time. She suggested that Wayne stay home because Christopher was crazy that day. When she arrived home he was lying on the sofa constantly and consistently verbally repeating Biblical passages about the ails of the world, our family, and everything that America stood for.

I told Wayne what was going down... he had no problem with being with me. I told Ma, or asked her if Wayne could come home... she said okay so long as he understood that things might get crazier when both he and I showed up.

He called Millie, asked for permission, and told her of Christopher's craziness. She agreed with his logic. I called Ma back. The line was busy. No doubt they were talking.

We arrived at the station at 6:40. The walk from the station usually took 15 minutes unless the snow was butt deep to a Totem pole.

At 6:57 I opened the back door to the kitchen. Wayne entered and then shut the door behind us.

Ma walked into the kitchen. She was upset. She was more upset than I'd ever seen her. I said, "Christopher?"

She cupped my cheeks in her hands... "Baby he's batshit crazy. Nathan's up in his room. Joey, Christopher..."

Christopher rose up and then spewed, "Is that filthy pig faggot spawn of SATAN with his faggot boy-fucking-friend-spawn of Satan home? Do tell them to come on in, that I've got a present for him."

Out of the corner of my eye I saw my 45 sitting on top of the refrigerator but paid it no mind... yet I did. I whispered quietly to mom and Wayne, "You guys stay here."

"Joey, he hurt Nathan. Nathan's in his room with the door locked. I'm going to call the law... I have to turn my own son in... God, I don't want to but I have to." Mom said with tears welling up in her eyes.

"Yeah mom, call the law. See how fast they get here. I'm sure they'll just drop their donuts for a call down here in the projects. Here's my phone. Knock yourself out." I said sarcastically. That was the wrong thing to say. "Ma, I'm sorry. I love you. I'm scared of him mom … I'll try to talk to him."

I pulled mom into a quick but deep, deep hug and kissed her cheek. I released her. At the same time I batted away a tear that was threatening to escape from my right eye.

As soon as I released mom I took in a deep breath, shuddered and then exhaled. I looked to the refrigerator... The Reinforcer was calling me. It was saying, "You'll need me."

Wayne asked Ma, "How bad is Nathan?"

Ma looked to me, "It's bad. The poor boy. Don't do nothing stupid, my son. Let me have your phone."

I gave it to her.

I then looked to Wayne. He nodded.

I said to Ma and Wayne, "You go out onto the porch. Stay there. I've got to check on Nathan. And I need to deal with Christopher. He's blood, Ma."

Ma lifted the phone to the see the numbers. She pressed 3 buttons, "This is the Walker home... I need an ambulance and cops."

At the same time I walked across the kitchen, across the line where you could see anyone passing from the living room. Christopher was sitting on the sofa with his eyes closed.

I reached for The Reinforcer, pulled it off the top of the refrigerator, and then quietly spun it around and noticed that 5 bullets, hollow points, were present. I chambered one and then stuffed it into my right front pants pocket... just in case... and only to be used in a dire necessity.

Wayne and Ma, they were headed for the back door so I entered the living room.

Christopher was sitting in the living room facing the doorway that I'd just passed through. He was a fucking slob what with wearing baggy, filthy dirty underwear and nothing else. The room stunk of body odor, and his hair was greasy and in total disarray. The lighting was such that it wasn't hard to see what Vito had done to him just a day or two previously. Add to that, dirty plates, silverware, and glasses filled the coffee table.

The worst part of the whole scene was the wicked smile on his face and the distant and vacant look in his eyes that overshadowed the filth about and around him.

"Wayne, get out of here. Take Ma with you... go NOW. Christopher what the fuck are you doing? Why did you hurt Nathan?"

"He's like you, you son of Satan, spawn of the devil."

"Like you have a lot of room to talk. Christopher, bro, you're fucking crazy... you do know that, right?"

The evil in his eyes was nearly overpowering. Wayne took several steps backward and then bumped into Ma just as he was turning around to leave.

"I said for you guys to get the hell out of her. Go outside!" I said with steel hard ice in my voice. Wayne would have no part of it. Instead of standing behind me he stood by my side... like I'd figured he would. Wayne's blood too even though our ancestry was different.

I heard Nathan's door open. I said, "Nathan, go back. Lock the door. Do not come out until I say you can."

"Go Nathan." Wayne reinforced.

Christopher snarled, "He's a fuckin-godforsaken-faggot-breath too. Aren't you Nathan?"

"Fuck you Christopher!" Nathan said weakly.

I looked up. My brother... my little brother... his angelic face was beaten and battered. It was black and blue, his eyes were mere slits, his legs were also beat and battered as were his arms.

That raised the stakes.

Nathan instead of going to his room walked out and stood at the stairs.

He screamed, "Gun!"

… And then everything happened in slow motion. In a split nanosecond, our lives changed forever, never again would they ever be the same…

Nathan, on his wobbly legs, took a step down, missed it and then came crashing down each and every step, beating his head and body to a pulp. As he crashed to the floor, the unmistakable snap of a bone breaking and his screams permeated the air.

But his screams weren't normal.

He was gurgling.

I reached into my pocket... but it was too late.

The burst of light from next to Christopher's thigh lit up the room and then the deafening reverberation caused by the exploding gunpowder shattered the air.

I expected to feel the bullet come crashing through my body but it never did.

I reached into my pocket; grabbed hold of the handle then fumbled the grip but then got an adequate hold on it. But it was too late.

He blasted again... his aim looked like it was toward my gut... I felt the whiz go by.

I had no time to see where the bullet had gone to.

I yanked my gun from my pocket but before I could get it leveled Christopher turned the gun back toward the kitchen … Blast. Blast.

Thud. Sickening.

I leveled my gun.

Christopher looked into my eyes. I saw only evil.

Wayne launched toward Nathan.

Christopher swiveled toward my little brother and Wayne.

I closed my eyes.

I squeezed the trigger:










I opened my eyes but I was lying on the floor, facing Nathan.


From somewhere, through the thick mist of indifference I looked up... my hand was sticking straight up in the air.






Lots of sirens.

Screaming sirens.


Run where?







Two months, four days later

"Good morning Joey. I'm Becky Ann. Sweetie, I'm going to give you your bed bath this morning. Are you with me this morning, honey?"

Southern drawl.


I felt like I was a million miles away. The day was cloudy, cold, dreary, dank and drizzly.

I was all alone inside of a vacant warehouse.

I'd been in many warehouses before when my dad was alive... men and women were all over the place 'picking' orders, replenishing supplies in cubbyholes that I could stand up in. I had felt like king of the mountain. Little kids do that though... put them on top of something and they feel like they are all powerful, and tall. I remembered feeling tall. Dad would laugh and act like he was afraid of the big ole Jolly Green Giant. Then I'd feel that sudden rush when I leaped down from the shelf into his arms which were big and strong... those arms had to be big and strong because he was the foreman. He would explain that a foreman is like a daddy who's responsible for keeping his children safe and out of harms' way, guiding sometimes softly, sometimes harshly, depending on the situation.

My warehouse was different. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

There were no workers... there was nobody anywhere in sight. I walked miles and miles and miles to an office in a corner... I knew it was a foreman's office. My daddy would be there... I just knew he would be. For a while, I don't know how long a while was, it seemed like I was going backward, away from his office, rather than going forward to where he would be.

"Daddy!" I called out frightened.

His voice was not heard.


Nothing. No sound. He didn't come bounding out of the office when mom would take me, Jerrod, Christopher, David, Nathan, and Mark to see him during his work hours, sometimes for lunch.

Daddy had said, "Never give up, my son. There's a beginning to every rainbow. At the starting place is a pot of gold waiting just for you. You'll be rich in life and love and happiness. Before every rainbow is a storm. Life gets rough sometimes but there's always a rainbow somewhere. You'll see it if you're looking for it."

Days and days and days passed before I arrived at the foreman's office. The lights were off. I cautiously walked in but nobody was in there. The office itself and the lighting from outside were really strange... I could stick my arm around the corner to the door leading in or out … my arm had light on it but my upper arm and my clothes were all dark. It was like a line had been drawn - one side was light, and one side was pitch black dark.

"Daddy, are you in here? Daddy come out. I'm scared. I'm lost. Where are you?" I cried out in despair. Truly I was afraid.

My legs felt like they had lead weights attached at my ankles holding me down.

Didn't they know I was afraid of the dark? Didn't they know I had to have a light on when I went to bed at night so I could fall asleep?

I just had to find my daddy. He'd know what to do. Yes he would. He always knew what to do.

I was so tired. My legs were useless. They had lead weights on them that were like suspended in mid air yet they weren't. I'd never experienced anything like it before.

Then my arms got heavy... like they had weights attached yet they didn't have any weights whatsoever. My fingers... they felt numb like they weren't even attached to my body.

"What's happening?" I asked... but no voice came out that could be heard. I felt myself being lifted, turned horizontal and then I felt sheets, lots of sheets, and a blanket being wrapped around me... they were all soft and billowy. A pillow was placed under my head to hold it 'just right'. The thing was that the room was pitch black dark. There was no light. Yet I did not feel afraid anymore.

Warehouse floors don't have beds, silly. What are you thinking of? Why would you ever think they did?

I fell asleep in the dark foreman's office at the far end of the warehouse floor. My eyes had already been closed... they'd closed because of the bright light coming from somewhere... but not from within, and not from without.

I don't know how long I was asleep... maybe just a few minutes. Everything, and I mean everything, was pitch black. Not even the lights outside on the warehouse floor were on. The only time I could ever remember it being so dark was when daddy took me night-fishing on a lake one day when I was a little boy. Even then it really wasn't totally dark... there were stars suspended in the sky, bright stars, stars you could count. Some of the stars were blinking and winking.

I saw no stars. It was totally black. I tried to move but no matter how hard I tried I could not move. It was like I was suspended in the outer reaches of a far away galaxy, forever lost, yet I was lying on something with lots of sheets.

Where was I?

Did I just disappear into thin air?

Did I go to hell like those preachers had said Sunday after Sunday after Sunday? They would say that with God there was light... and when you lived with the devil there was nothing but total black darkness. You were lost. And you would be lost for all eternity. There would be no hope. There would be no possibility of returning to what we used to know.

I was totally swallowed by and engulfed in the darkness, as if darkness were an object. I resigned myself to a life or suspension or something as it was right then.

Maybe daddy would come get me. His strong arms would lift me up really tall. Perhaps he would even let me ride on his shoulders like he used to when I was little. Perhaps even he would hold me against his rock hard chest with his huge strong harms. I would be safe again.

But where was he?

I closed my eyes and resigned myself to fate.

"Joey, are you in there? Wake up child. Open your eyes honey."

Silently, from the still of the darkness, I replied, "Yeah I'm here but where is here? I can't see anybody and I'm numb. Tell them to go away. No visitors are permitted. You can't come in. Don't come in. You'll be swallowed up. Once in you'll never be permitted out."

"Okay honey, maybe tomorrow. I'm going to wash your hair... would you like me to? I'll tell you what... I'll just go ahead. Did you know that your hair is beautiful...? I wish mine was as pretty as yours."

My head wasn't totally numb.

I tried to reach up but my hand wouldn't obey the command. I was going to remove that drop of water that worked its way into my ear, one that I couldn't get to it.

Mom used to wash my hair in the kitchen sink. She had told me over and over again that I couldn't get all the soap out when I took a bath.

Becky Ann, who was Becky Ann? We had no friends with that name. Becky Ann's hands felt like moms. Strong. Small. Determined. Persistent. Gentle yet firm.

"Okay honey... here's a big soft towel for me to dry your hair... hold on I'll be done in just a minute."

My head jostled from side to side, forward and backward, and then side to side again.

"Joey, I'll brush it out in a few minutes. Don't you worry none... I'll make it all pretty and handsome. Sorry honey, I don't mean pretty pretty... boys don't have pretty hair. Go ahead, honey, wake up so I can hear your boy voice. Silly me for saying that you have pretty hair isn't it?"

"S'all right. They call me pretty boy all the time in school. I was going to get it all cut off anyway." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"Okay, honey, I'm going to leave that towel on your head... your hair is so thick and shiny. I'll come back to it, okay?"

"Okay." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"Keep your eyes closed... I'm going to wash your face now. . Honey, you have 3 zits on your nose... did you know that? Don't worry, my little brother... don't tell him I called him little, okay? He's actually 5' 11" tall. He's only 14. Skinny as a bean pole. He hates zits."

"Yeah, well I hate zits too." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

I felt a nice warm, soft washcloth touching my skin starting at my forehead and extending down my nose and onto my upper lip... then it fanned out onto my cheeks and jawbone and then went on down into my neck.

"I'm going to scrub your nose a little bit. We gotta get those zits taken care of so the pretty girls will come after you like sweet is to apples... speaking of... I'm starting to feel your little Adam's apple budding... they're so cute."

"I don't have a girlfriend. I've always had a question: if boys have Adam's apples does that mean girls have Eve's pears?" That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"Okay honey, I'm gonna rinse now. It's important to get all the soap off because if we don't then the pores stay clogged up."

"Rinse away." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

Hot water. Lots of hot water on that washcloth. "I'm rinsing your face off really good. Gotta keep those pores open."

"That damn drip in my ear... it's driving me fucking crazy!" That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

I tried to reach for my ear to pop that water out. Nothing. That just made it worse. Why is that? I mean why does something itch even worse when you can't get to it? The question of the century. No answer.

Then it happened. "Okay sweetie, I'm going to turn your face so that I can wash those potato peelings out . I wonder why ears are called potatoes... do you have any idea where it came from?"

Finally. The water in my ear was gone.

Blessed relief.

"Okay honey, I'm going to scoot the covers down so I can wash your chest and tummy. I'll try not to tickle even though I want to." .

"Don't worry. I'm not ticklish. Scrub away." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

I don't like my nipples messed with ... they're way too sensitive … I never use a washcloth against my nips … but she didn't linger.

The warehouse... it's still dark. Dad hasn't come for me yet. Where was he? He always came to me when I cried or got to laughing so hard... he just had to see what I was up to. He often would say that I was so close to the pot of gold so keep going one more step and then take one more when I felt so tired.

"Did that hurt honey? I'm sorry. Your little nip grew. Oh my, I'm sorry. . No not really... do you like your nips played with?"

"No, fuck no, hell no. Just rinse the damn thing and get it over." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"Okay, raise your arm so I can wash your pits."

My arms were dead weights... remember I'm in the warehouse. It's totally dark and I can't move. I'm waiting for someone, hopefully my daddy, to turn on the light so I can see what I'm doing and where I want to go... but I'm afraid of the dark... He'll pick me up in his strong arms so we can go home.

"That's okay." Becky Ann said softly.

"Whatever." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"Oh my... you have one little hair sticking straight up. That's so funny. I remember when my little brother got his first one... he had to show it off to everybody. Wake up Joey... you've got to see it. I'll be real careful. Don't you worry. I won't pull it out. My brother pulled his out... I laughed my ass off... oh sorry. I'm so embarrassed."

"Really? I have a pit hair... wow. Okay. Don't worry... I've said worse." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"There... let's get the other pit then we'll move on down to your tummy. Do you want me to get a male nurse in here to wash down below?"

"I don't care. Really I don't." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"No, none here. Don't worry. They'll grow in. Everything has its own timetable." She said as I felt my right pit being washed with a hot sudsy washcloth.

Her ministrations went south from there. I had been known for not being ticklish... the sensation was that which I'd never before experienced... I didn't like it... it was too sensitive. Push it away. Stop it.

"Joey... are you in there? Wake up honey... I didn't mean to tickle you... good gracious. Did you feel yourself move?"

"Stop that! Damn it." That inner voice inside my head said plainly. Yet I heard something else... it wasn't her voice... daddy? It wasn't dad's voice at all... his was deep, rich and baritone. He had sung in the choir. Besides I'd know his voice anywhere.

"Joey... wake up honey. You're so close. It's okay come on back to us. I don't bite." .

Nothing. Everything was gone again. The mattress in the warehouse... it was soft, not scratchy. Mom used to starch the freaking sheets... can you believe that shit?

"Cute, real cute, NOT." That inner voice inside my head said plainly.

"I'm going to wash your tummy now... have you decided if you want one of our male nurses to wash your area down south?"

"I already said I don't 'care'." That inner voice inside my head said plainly. Another voice, the same voice repeated.

"Care? Do you care or do you not care? Oh my honey... you've been asleep for so long... it's safe here. I'm Becky Ann... I'm your nurse for today. Come talk to me."

"Asleep." That inner voice inside my head said plainly. The additional voice said clearly.

"Yes honey, you've been asleep for a very long time. I'm going to finish your bath then we're going to try a couple of things. How about you take this washcloth and wash your other side... I seem to have tickled you." Becky Ann said and then I felt a wet washcloth enter my hand. She squeezed my fingers around it. She added, "It's okay if you drop it... I haven't changed your sheets yet."

My arms felt wooden, heavy, discombobulated even. With great difficulty and tremendous effort I felt my hand spread open. The washcloth disappeared.

"It's right under your hand, Joey. Can you pick it up for me?"

It was then that I felt my cheek being brushed by a soft but wet hand. She said, "That's okay... I'll go ahead and finish washing you today... you've done so good... I'm so proud of you. You rest now. I don't want you to get too tired."

I rested my arm... it was so tired. The warehouse was so dark.

I had to try one more thing before I went to sleep... I opened my eyes but nothing happened. The light did not turn on. I turned my head first one way then the other way... nothing.

"Joey, you opened your eyes... do you see me? I'm the red head on your right side. . I'm the only red head in this room by the way... I'm not hard to miss." .

"Dark. It's dark in the warehouse." That inner voice inside and outside my head said plainly.

"No honey. You're not in a warehouse. You're at Northwestern in room 1216 which is our pediatric or child's wing."

"Hospital? Why?"

"Okay, here's the deal... I'm going to finish your bath then I'll page Dr. Mauer... she's your doctor and will explain things much better than I can, okay?"

The name rang a bell... "Dr. Mauer?"

"Yes sir, your doctor's name is Dr. Mauer."

The house... Derrick... hurt... smile... Coke... wild monkey... Dave... June...


"Yup... it's June 18th."

"June... Dr. Mauer..."

"Oh... ... yes, her first name is June. Do you know her? I mean you've been asleep."


"Oh, I'm so excited. . Joey, you made my day today. Okay, here we go. Don't worry I'm not going to play with your stuff."

I felt my legs spread apart. Vigorously, too vigorously, doesn't she know that that stuff down there is sensitive? And then the washcloth traveled all over my junk, under my balls then she lifted my legs and took the rag between my cheeks and washed that area vigorously.

She then washed my legs. Then she rinsed and thoroughly dried them.

"Joey, can you help me roll you over onto your left side? I need to wash your back and cute butt. ."

I sincerely tried but the darkness held me back and firmly in place.

"That's okay... I'll cover for you today... but you gotta do it tomorrow... deal?"

"No deals." I said clearly.

"Joey, you're so close but you gotta start fighting. You're too handsome and young to just wither away. You do know that I can kick your skinny naked butt, right?"

"Not a chance."

. "Okay, let's get you rolled over. I'll get this done then I'll call Dr. Mauer. Deal?"


She began at my neck, worked down and then vigorously washed my lower back and butt cheeks. I stopped feeling her efforts at about the level of those two big bones that stick out on each side of my lower back, just above my cheeks. I felt nothing further south.

"I've got to pay a lot of attention to your back... you've got some slight red places which means they will possibly fester into bedsores if we aren't careful. You need to get up and out of bed sooner than later."

"I'm heavy. My legs don't work. I don't even feel them."

"That's okay. We know how to work with patients who are in the game to help with their recovery."

"I'm dark on the inside. It's like I'm in a dark warehouse office with no lights on." I said dejectedly.

Becky Ann asked, "Do you have a headache?"


"How about your eyes, do they hurt?"

"No... it's not like that... I open my eyes like this _ but there isn't anything there... it's all black." I said worriedly._

"Okay, well Dr. Mauer can best talk to you about what's going on with your body. I'm going to page her. As soon as she gets paged I'm going to change your catheter."


"Yup, you have a tube in your bladder to drain your urine. This is a common thing when there is paralysis involved in the lower half of your body. Can you take your hand down... you could probably get a better understanding of it rather than me telling you about it."

With a lot of effort I got my hand up and onto my stomach. She pulled aside the covers and then led my hand to my penis and then she let go. I felt around, found my penis but it felt totally detached from my body, although it was attached. The tube was large. It was like it was a rubber hose, soft yet firm.

"I don't feel anything down there. What color is it?"

"It's kind of a pukey orange... it's not very becoming."

I ran my hand up my stomach and found that I had essentially no feeling from my belly button down. It was weird feeling my pubic hairs with my hand but not the skin those pubes rested in and grew from. Going up further I felt a bandage with yet another tube going in or out, "What's that?"

"That's a feeding tube. We've been giving you feedings through it because you've been in a coma. A coma is a deep, deep sleep that cannot be broken with just words. It has to run its course."

"You said June 16th..."

"Yes siree. You've been here for a while... let's see you were admitted in early April... April 7th to be exact..."

"I've been in a coma that long? Why? What happened?"

"Honey, I'm going to let Dr. Mauer talk to you about those things. I'm your nurse. Sorry, I wish I could tell you more but the doctors know more about these things than I do... so I want you to get the best possible information."

Just then I heard footsteps and low voices talking. There was one set of very loud footsteps and several other softer ones. I couldn't make out the voices. They were getting louder. They were coming closer.

Becky Ann softly, just above a whisper, said, "It sounds like you have visitors, Joey."

"No! They can't see me like this. Tell them to go away."

"Honey, they've been here every day that I've been on duty. They come in at about the same time. I think your waking up will be good for them to see. If you want me to... I'll stay here with you."

"No. No visitors. Nobody's going to see me this way. Get them out of here!!!!!!!!!!"

I heard the rollers on the curtains move in their tracks. I then heard a deep intake of breath and then a voice, Nathan's voice say softly, "I'm Nathan your little brother."

"Go away, Nathan. I'm no good to anybody. I can't even fucking see. I can't even fucking move in this bed. And I damn sure don't want anybody looking over me. Now GET OUT!" I said angrily. I would have screamed had I been able to but I was too weak to even scream.

"Joey, don't do this. We're blood. I've waited so long for you to come..."

"Nathan, go. You can't see me like this!"

"But I already see my brother. I already see your eyes open. Can't you even look in my eyes and tell me to go?"


Becky Ann said, "Joey, your brother has been here every day. He's been waiting for you to come back to him. He doesn't care how you came back he just wants you to talk to... nobody else."

"Nathan, I died. I'm worthless. I'm useless. Just go. Get out of here!"

Becky Ann said, "Nathan, you should go out to the waiting room. Wait for me. I want to talk to you. I may be able to help you understand."

Nathan retorted, angrily, "No... My brother is here. This is where I belong. If he wants me out of his room then he's going to have to kick my ass out."

"Joey, stop being a dumb ass. I'd kick your ass into next week but you'd like it." A voice that belonged to Wayne said.

At the same time I felt my bed move and then a boy, Nathan, I knew his aroma anywhere, worked his way up until he had laid his head on my chest, wrapped his arm around my chest that he squeezed firmly as though our lives depended on what he was doing to me. Wetness across and between my nipples was something that brought me back to reality. That and Nathan's restrained sobs just about sent me over the edge -but- I had to maintain.

Becky Ann said, "Would you guys please leave. Joey and Nathan need their time together. I'm going to call Joey's doctor. He has many questions that need answers."

"Joey's my boyfriend. I'm staying if he'll have me."

At the same time I was trying very hard to bring up my arm to put around Nathan. Surprisingly, my arm obeyed the command to move. His waist was against my other arm but he moved just right, just enough so that I could bring it out enough to wrap it around his other side.

Meanwhile Nathan's hand moved up my chest to where he cupped my cheek then he moved in such a way that our lips met. "Joey, I've waited for you to come back. I needed to hear your voice. Go ahead."

Lips, very large lips at that, then touched mine then mine touched his and then we kissed together. Permission was then requested to enter my mouth but I declined because Nathan had his face resting against my cheek.

Over the intercom we heard, "DR. MAUER STAT. DR. MAUER STAT Pediatrics Room 1216"

My chest got tight, my breathing became totally labored and I was not sure that I could continue to breathe... I was headed back into the warehouse, afraid and alone, yet I wasn't alone... from what Nathan had told me I had never been alone - yet I was alone, locked into a dark foreman's office, unable to get out. I was trapped.

I tried to get out. I tried to get up from that damn bed in the office in the warehouse - that was jet black in color.... black - has no color.

My eyes were filling with water... I felt it, and I felt that water cascading down my cheeks onto Nathan's face. He said, "Joey, don't go back... stay here with me. Wayne's here... we're all here."

I then heard a flurry of activity out in the hallway, on my right side. I heard Becky Ann talking to someone and then a set of footsteps entered and then the visitor's voice said, "Boys, please excuse me, I'm Doctor Mauer, Joey's physician."

Both Nathan and Wayne kissed my lips quickly then stepped away. I laid my arms across my stomach.

Dr. Mauer's voice was precise yet soft and sweet and angelic. She said, "Joey, I'm glad to see you here. Your return to us is a very good sign that you're healing. You have quite a few visitors waiting to see you. I don't want you to get over-excited though. Too much too soon could very well set you back. We don't want that to happen. I will permit you to have one visitor at a time. They can each stay for 15 minutes. First though, I am going to examine you before we go any further with visitation."

"Who's here? I mean... why?"

"Because you're loved, young man. There are people who care about you. Your brother Nathan has been quite a handful."

"He's definitely that. Can he be here? I've got nothing that he hasn't seen before."

"I'd rather he wasn't here. He's pretty emotional... he loves you so, so very much. I need to perform some tests. The results could be skewed if there was too much going on in the room. The tests will take about an hour to perform."

"Nathan, Wayne would you guys..."

"Sure no problem. Dr. June already explained some stuff if you came out of the coma. I'll be just down the hall in the waiting room. Come on Wayne." Nathan said assuredly.



"I love you."

"I love you too, bro." Nathan said and the next thing I knew was him putting his arms around me, hugging my chest and then kissed my lips, which I returned.

Wayne said, somewhat subdued, "I love you too, Joey. I'll be with Nathan. We'll talk later, okay?"

"Yup. Hey... where's your hug?" I asked seriously.

I heard his footsteps come closer and then our lips met briefly. I cupped his cheeks, kissed him again and said, "Thanks Wayne. I'd like to have some time alone with you sometime today."

"I'd like that too, Joey. Your doctor is looking at me impatiently. See ya in a bit." Wayne replied seriously.

I kissed him one more time then he left the room. I heard him and Nathan talking quietly and then their voices faded away.

Dr. Mauer said, "There is one more visitor here who wants to say hi. Millie."

"Chile you wakes up yo white assed ass or I'm fixin to whoop it but good wit ma belt. Yes, I will, so hep ma Lord."

Millie knows how to get to me every time. I couldn't help but to chuckle.

Millie took my wrist in her arm and said, "You'ins thinkin I bees kiddin ya but I tells ya im's serious, boy. You done given ma heart spasms, ya did. Lardy. Lardy. Praise Jesus, yessah."

I knew it would happen sooner or later. I felt Millie's presence. The bed heaved to the right under her weight and girth. I raised my arms to accept what I knew was coming... yes, it came: her arms enveloped my shoulders and then she pulled me in between her ample boobs.

She began shaking in her skin which transferred into my body. Her face was wet. I reached up my arm, touched each cheek with my fingers. The muscles of her face were taut - she was grimacing.

With a broken voice Millie groaned, "We's get thru dis chile. Yes we will. I bees prayin fo da stringth from da Savior Jesus Christ, boy. I bees prayin fo you's and Nathan... oh Lawd haves mercy on dees chilens."

"Millie, please leave the room right now. I have to examine my patient." Dr. Mauer said with ice cold in her voice, enough to live comfortably in Antarctica.

The sound of her voice scared me. I mean it was so ice cold that I was sure her vocal cords rattled.

"Dr. Mauer, what's wrong? What did Millie do? Millie, tell me what's going on." I said frightened so much that I went back to the warehouse, where it was quiet, dark, dank, dreary, drizzly, damp and desolate.

- Two weeks and 1 day later -

"Joey, are you awake?" A voice said from within the darkness. I immediately recognized that it belonged to Nathan. He was lying sideways on my chest with his face nestled into my cheek and a hand cupping my other cheek.

I rose up my arm and placed my hand on his other cheek, turned my head and brought our lips together. I said something unintelligent because I was not thinking coherently... everything was a mumbo jumbo mess of spaghetti and confetti.

"Joey, I'm supposed to get the nurse when you wake up. Are you awake?"

"I think so... why's all this water on me?" I asked suddenly aware of being drenching wet. "What time is it? I'm supposed to meet the guys..."

"Joey, I'm going to get the nurse. I'll be right back in a second. Stay awake Joey. Don't go to sleep."

Nathan disentangled himself and scooted off the bed. I looked up... and saw a fuzzy outline... though the vision consisted of all dark gray and black hues. I pulled his hands into mine... the vision moved but slightly.

"Do you see me?" Nathan asked in wonderment.

"I don't know. Move your head again."

"I gotta go Joey. I'll be right back, I promise."

"Okay... is your hair shaggy?"

He left my room in a hurry.

I turned my head in its full range of motion, looking, trying to find something other than deep dark gray. I felt a surge... a surge of what... hope or a gleam of less hopelessness. I was freezing cold like someone doused me with a gallon bucket of ice water. I stripped off the gown - it wasn't tied and easily fell away. The air in the room was warm yet I was lying on cold wet sheets.

Becky Ann's voice said, "Well hello there naked young man... I heard from your watch dog brother than you're awake. It's good to see you again. Let's get you covered up before you catch cold."

I felt hands both above and below me, pulling, tugging... and then she added, "Oh my honey, your sheets are soaking wet. Let me get you changed. Nathan's going to help me... he's been my little helper... he's a good brother to you... you should be proud of him."

"Why did I sweat like a pig?" I asked casually.

"Well honey, your body is experiencing through some things. It's not all that unusual. Dr. Mauer's on her way in to talk to you. Now don't you go disappearing again, sweet heart."

With that said they proceeded to change my bedding and put me into a clean hospital gown but didn't tie the tie things in the back.

When they were finished Becky Ann said, "Honey, we've got to get you out of this bed. Do you remember me telling you about those red marks on your back and cute butt?"

"Yeah." I replied remembering all too well her comments about my butt.

"They're getting redder by the day. We're going to put you on a flotation mattress later on tonight unless we can get you out of bed... you'll have to help us by using your arms. I'll show you how after Dr. Mauer finishes her examination and talking to you and Nathan." She said then I heard the squeak squeak of her tennis shoes leaving the room.

"I'll be right back bro... gotta shit like a goose." Nathan said quickly with his voice fading away, and then the door closed.

"Well there you are young man. I'm glad you could join us again. Becky says you soaked your bed." Dr. Mauer's voice said very close to me... I hadn't heard her shoes enter the room.

"Yes ma'am. I was soaked. Am I getting sick or something? I don't feel bad... you know I don't feel like I'm getting a cold or anything like that."

The bathroom door opened. Nathan was explaining to himself, and probably to me too about his 'fucking goose shits' (his words, not mine) experience, not knowing that Dr. Mauer was in the room until he pulled the curtains aside, "Oh shoot... I'm sorry... I didn't mean... oh crap... sheesh... sorry Dr. Mauer."

I couldn't help but to giggle at his uncomfortable predicament but stopped when Dr. Mauer said to Nathan, "Diarrhea again?"

"Oh yes ma'am. It's just like it was before..."

"Have you been taking the medicine I gave you?"

"Uhm... I stopped a couple of days ago. I was okay, you know..."

"What's wrong with you Nathan?" I asked defensively.

Dr. Mauer replied, "He's got an irritable bowel syndrome... he's been pretty upset the past few months. It's affected his digestive system. It's not really dangerous... it's more of a pain in the butt..."

I giggled... "Yeah, he's a pain in the butt okay. What do you mean by 'months'?"

Nathan said, "You dork. You've been in a coma for..."

Dr. Mauer said, "Nathan, we'll talk about that in a little while. Joey, I want to talk to you and your brother. Before we talk I want to check you over. Nathan, could you step out for a little while. Why don't you go get yourself a 7-Up and some cheese crackers? Those ought to help a little bit."

I heard Nathan's tennis shoes squeak his way out of the room and down a hallway.

She performed the examination. I could see, way off in the distance, slivers of light break through that dark gray almost black veil of fog when she shined a penlight directly into my eyes. She said it was a good sign of things to come, was hopeful that my eyesight would return in full however she was quick to point out that residual visual problems were possible if not somewhat expected.

Do you remember me saying that I wasn't ticklish?

I lied.

My feet are ticklish especially that area between the ball of my foot and the heel bone.

She tickled that area.

My leg jumped... not much but I felt the muscles twitch. She jumped too. We were hopeful. Dr. Mauer wrote an order to get me into physical therapy as soon as possible. The therapy would include nerve stimulation … I wasn't all that crazy to know that a therapist would 'electrocute' (my interpretation mind you) nerves but whatever - my goal was to walk out of that damn hospital.

I told her about Becky Ann's comments about the red pressure areas on my back.

'Yes, I want to check them out. Since you're awake I want you to turn onto your side so that I can see if they've grown in size and depth. I also want to check your bottom to see if muscle tone is returning. We can't feed you solid food for obvious reasons."


"Well, go ahead turn me over."

"I'm waiting for you to roll yourself over. Use your arms. You can do it." She said.

I fumbled for the side rail. She giggled lightly and then clankity clanked the metal bar up and in place. I grabbed hold, got myself mostly onto my right side. She helped the rest of the way until my face was almost buried into the pillow.

Before I knew it she told me to resume lying on my back. I was able to push away using those bars and was mostly over when she helped some.

"Good, very good. Those areas of pressure are concerning. I'm going to write orders to have you sat up in a chair several times a day. You have some sphincter tone so maybe I'll let you eat some soft foods."

"Dr. Mauer." I said after hearing the keyboard stop making typing clicks then continued, "Where's my Ma? She should be here. I mean, well, I owe her an apology for being an asshole. We were fixing things between us. Things were getting better."

"She's been unable to get here. I was going to talk to both you and Nathan at the same time so that we're all on the same page at the same time." She said quietly.

I didn't know why but a chill ran up and down my back but I didn't say anything.

Very quietly, I asked, "Dr. Mauer, how long have I been here? How long have I been in a coma?"

"That's a fair question. Is the answer very important to you? You will be very surprised." Dr. Mauer said very softly, concernedly.

I nodded, "Please. A couple of days, maybe?"

"Joey, you've been in a coma for the best part of coming on 3 months."

"Three months. Oh my God, why? What happened?"

"Yes, you've had quite a little rest. You're going to find that any little thing tires you out so be easy on yourself but work hard on keeping strong in your head. As you make progress, each little step will be like a new awakening. I'm going to talk to both you and Nathan in a little while but first I want to do a couple of things to further check your vision, okay?"

"Like what? All I see is really dark gray."

"Okay, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to turn the lights up to full brightness. I want you to tell me if your eyes hurt and if you can see anything."

"What? The lights are off?"

"Yes they are. There are a couple of small incandescent lights in the corners of your room so that personnel can see what they're doing. First though you need to sit up so that you have a full range of sight available. The remote is by your left hand."

I found the remote however I heard Nathan's footsteps then several other pairs coming closer, and then they entered the room.

Dr. Mauer turned away and said, "Would you please wait outside? I'm performing an examination."

A chorus of "I'm sorry" rang from voices and the door closing.

"You've got a whole lot of people rooting and cheering for you Joey. Even Dave and Derrick have come to see you. Shall we move forward?"

"Yeah, let's do it."

She said my central vision nerves were intact based on how my eyes reacted to being covered and uncovered. She was hopeful, very hopeful that my full vision would return but that it could be quite some time before we knew for sure. Just like Becky Ann had told me Dr. Mauer said that Rome wasn't built in a single day. I needed to stay positive no matter what.

With that said she opened the door thus permitting me visitors.

Wayne was the first to arrive. He said, "Kewl. Hey Joey. What's happening dude?"

"Things are looking up." I said hopefully.

I felt Wayne's breath on my nose. Automatically I puckered up and our lips met. Our kiss was quick, meaningful.

Millie said excitedly, "It bees about time chile. Lardy Lardy praise Jesus. Yous gonna bees squealin before ya knows it!" .

"Ah Millie puhleeze...!"

"Ya will boy. Now don'ts sass me none ya heah?" Millie said giggling.

I let it go. I did however feel my face heat up. Wayne giggled. Nathan groaned and said, "What?"

I replied, "Never mind Nathan. You're too young to understand."

"Right... NOT. I love you dufus." Nathan said then kissed my lips quickly.

"Hey Joey... it's Derrick. Dad and I came to see ya." I then felt a wet pair of lips touch my forehead and a pat on my shoulder.

"Good morning Joey. It's Dave. Are you okay this morning? We've been worried about you."

"Well... if I could see and move around better then I'd be okay, right?" I said with a trace of sarcasm intentionally put in my voice.

"Right. Anyway, we're glad you're awake this morning."

"I'm sorry … anyway, I'm sorry." I said sincerely.

"I know this is hard for you. Joey, it's really good seeing you awake for a change... we thought you were never going to get up Mr. Lazy Bones." Dave said. Then I felt a strong set of arms wrap around me and squeeze. I found that odd but returned the gesture and found myself holding on for a little longer than normal... whatever normal means.

Nathan crawled into my bed, scooted up, laid his hand on my chest, and then kissed my cheek tenderly. He then laid his head on my chest. He was trembling within his skin.

"Nathan, what's wrong? Why are you shaking?" I asked softly.

Nathan choked back a sob. He grabbed hold of my chest and began wheezing.

"Nathan, where's mom? She's coming up, right?" I asked.

"Dr. Mauer, Nathan's wheezing. He's not had asthma since he was like 11 years old." I said concernedly.

I then concentrated really really hard to see Nathan. The more I concentrated the more the view of his head became clear, although it was still gray the hue was lighter. I pulled him up and into my arms while Dr. Mauer lifted his shirt and listened to his chest with her stethoscope.

She said, "He's not having an asthma attack. Joey, I think things are catching up with him. The best medicine is exactly what you are already giving him."

Movement caught my attention. I saw figures moving. I looked up and saw the outline of a woman standing close to my bed.

"I see the outlines of people... Nathan's head... Nathan, why are you crying? What's going on here?" I asked suddenly very concerned.

Those figures came closer. Wayne sat down on the bed. Millie said, "Honey chile, Mama Millie bees here right beside you... oh Lardy Lardy gives us stringth."

Derrick sat down on my other side. He said, "We're all here Joey. Be strong..."

"What the fuck's going on here? Nathan... what the fuck dude... why are you crying? Where's Ma? Why isn't she here?"

Nathan, with a hug shudder wailed from the depths of his guts, "Ma's dead. He killed her!!!!!!!!!"

"No... No.... little brother.... Ma ain't dead, you're lying... oh God... who did it? I'll kill them! Why?" I said angrily.

Nathan was inconsolable.

"I've got to see my brother, and let me up from this damn prison." I half screamed; half gurgled; half wheezed; half asphyxiated, all the while trying to maintain awareness as pain racked the lower half of my body. I felt my muscles twitching violently as I sat up and tried to get out of bed... anger took hold of my body. Rage was close by. I started rocking forward and backward.

The spasms were killing me. Nathan's grip was paralyzing me from moving. I then felt several pairs of hands touching me. I felt Wayne lie at my side, opposite Nathan. He was whispering something though I didn't understand what because he too was sobbing.

My chest began seizing as stifled racks of pain shot from the tips of my toes into it.

"Becky Ann, get me 10 milligrams of Valium IV STAT. I'll administer it myself. Joey, try to relax. You're muscles are having waves of spasms. I'm going to give you some medicine..."

"NO! Don't put me out... oh God, what's happening... what happened?" I wailed sudden racks of pain coming up from within me.

"You'se bes settles down boy. They be ready with a hypo to calm you down, iffin you don't do its yo'self, Good Lord hep us, show yous mercy, oh Lawd, bless dees chil'rens, days beens through so much Lawd, grant 'em peace, please." Millie wailed. I'd never heard her in such pain before.

"I need to ask everyone to please leave right now." Dr. Mauer said authoritatively.

"No... Stay here." I said as the spasms in my chest turned from pain to strangulation.

As if we could get any closer I pulled Nathan into my chest, squeezing him hard as I felt myself sinking down into quicksand. I felt my arms relax their hold on my baby brother. For a brief moment I saw him move. He wailed, "Don't go Joey. Please don't go!"

With every ounce of strength in my body I fought the sensations of quicksand enveloping and zapping away my life.

Unable to hold in that pain any longer I felt tears streaming freely from my eyes, over my cheeks and onto Nathan and Wayne's arms that were holding me tight, as if they knew my journey, as if they were pulling me up from that waterlogged sand.

I then felt a small sting on the surface of my arm. Dr. Mauer said, "Joey, I'm giving you a little bit of a muscle relaxer. Not very much. Are you with me? There, all done."

I felt no different although the racking and shooting pains in my legs got just a little bit less.

Dave said with a very calm and reassuring voice, "I'm sorry Joey. I'm sorry Nathan. I'm sorry that this has happened. Go ahead. Feel the pain. Don't hold it back."

With that said I felt arms, strong arms wrap around me and Nathan. Not much, but a little comfort washed through me.

I don't know for how long, because time had no meaning, those arms stayed around us, just hanging on as if our lives depended on the touch... perhaps their strength did indeed save our lives.

Wayne would occasionally kiss my forehead; rub my face and neck and upper chest. Millie was close by. She was quietly sobbing.

The quiet settled in. I was no longer sobbing. Nathan's tremors were getting lighter then I heard his deep rhythmical breathing.

Previously blinded by tears and emotional upheaval I opened my eyes. The light was brighter. For a brief moment the grayness lifted until I could see everything though everything was still gray, without color.

I found Millie's face. I honed in on her features and then dark gray hues started to return.

"Joey, are you seeing us, just a little bit?" Dr. Mauer asked.

I turned my gaze away from Millie and turned my head toward the voice. I worked hard to see the person speaking to me, Dr. Mauer's voice I would recognize anywhere at any time. Nathan released his death grip from my chest. Although the gray hues were prevalent I could and did clearly see his facial features down to the tear streaks traveling from his eyes to his chin. I replied looking back to Dr. Mauer's voice, "Yes. Everything's gray though. But why... why can't I see? Why won't my damn legs work?"

Dr. Mauer replied, "Okay, everybody out. Joey, I need to explain but we need to do this in privacy. Do you remember me telling you that too much stimulation could actually be harmful? You have a lot to process. I have some answers that will explain what's happening to you."

"No, I need them here." I said upon deaf ears. In the silence, broken only by footsteps leading out of the room, my heart began pounding; my temples were pulsing; I broke out in a cold sweat; my eyes began leaking water seemingly of their own volition, and I felt very lightheaded, and almost nauseated yet I had no urge to purge.

Wayne got up but said nothing. Dave's arms left. Nathan squeezed me tight and said, "I'll be outside. If you need me just call." He then kissed my lips. I heard his tennis shoes squeak indicating his exit. Quickly I turned toward him and saw him walk from the room.

Millie got up from her perch at the foot of the bed and said, "Honey chile, I bees right outside da door ya heah mah?"

"Thanks Millie. I don't know what I'd do without you."

"You rests now ya heah? Dr. Mower, she's goin to 'splain some things to ya boy."

I looked up to Dr. Mauer. Becky Ann said, "I'll be right outside Joey. Be strong and listen carefully. Dr. Mauer will explain what's going on with your body."

I saw Becky Ann's very, very light gray figure leave the room.

After the door closed Dr. Mauer sat down on the edge of my bed and said, "Here's a Kleenex. Wipe the tears from your eyes and blow your nose. I need you to talk with me. I think I'll be able to help answer some of your questions."

Slowly, I nodded. Dread began filling my consciousness. I wanted to know what was wrong with me yet I didn't want to know … all at the same time. After blowing my nose and wiping my eyes dry she said, "Joey, you are experiencing what we call psychogenic blindness and partial paralysis. You've probably noticed a catheter in your penis. It empties your bladder."

"Yeah, I don't feel my thing, my penis... it's like it doesn't exist."

"That's to be expected..."

"Uhm, will it ever work again?"

"It all depends. I'm sorry I don't have a better answer. Right now your penis is the least of my concerns. My main concern is your legs. But at the same time I'm hopeful and encouraged because you see your legs were moving which means there is nothing wrong with your spine or your brain. What I mean is that there are no tumors other things that prevent motor skills from working."

I shrugged my shoulders,

"What does psycho... psychog..."

"Psychogenic. It's difficult to answer because there are so many factors involved. Generally speaking, psychogenic blindness and paralysis occurs after someone has seen and experienced something horrific. Whatever happened is too much for the human mind to take so it goes into shut-down mode in an effort to self-preserve itself. These things are usually temporary but sometimes they become permanent or recovery is partial. Most times when the trauma is accepted by the patient, their symptoms improve and they go on and have a normal life in every way. This is a process though..."

"Rome wasn't made in a day..." I deadpanned.

She patted my shoulder then I asked softly, "Do you mean that I could end up like this for the rest of my life?"

"Yes. But let's not think of it in those terms. You have to remain positive. You have to want to recover more than anything else in the world, and I mean everything else. It has to be your top priority, period. It will take a lot of work but I know you can do it."

The words just tumbled out of my mouth, and I meant each and every one of them with all of my heart, "If I stay this way then I want to die. It's not worth it."

"That attitude will get you nowhere, young man. You've got to fight to come back. But then if you want to sit on your butt and feel sorry for yourself then we'll just discharge you from the hospital so you can go out of this world a loser. A loser is someone who doesn't even try. Is that how you want to be remembered?"

"Do you really think I want to live like this? This ain't living. If this is the way it's going to be then I'll just die. What's going to happen to me if I live like this, like if I can't die? I ain't gonna be no charity case … no way!"

"Then do something about it. Joey, you have the best of medical care in the entire world here but if you don't do something to help yourself then we are of absolutely no use to you. Neither are the people out there in the hallway who love and care for you. Joey, I care."

"I want to get out of bed. I can't lay here and just do nothing." I acquiesced after realizing that I needed to be able to care for Nathan, and make money to support his needs.

"Okay, we'll get you out of bed. But all the exercise and everything won't cure your problem. What counts is right up here." She said and then placed her cool hand on my forehead.

"What do you mean?"

"Joey, I am going to be totally frank and honest with you. I've been told I am quite blunt at times but I believe it does my patients better to know the truth so I tell the truth. If you do not want to hear the blunt truth, then say so now."

I took a deep breath and then nodded.

"No, Joey, a nod isn't good enough. Say what's on your mind. Be frank with me."

"Be honest with me. I'll be honest with you." I said as tears escaped from my blind eyes and rolled down my cheeks and then landed in a puddle on my chest. I didn't even bother to wipe them away.

"Turn those tears into determination, Joey. I see a tough guy in you on the outside but then I see a very frightened child on the inside. You'll need to pull them both together. When you do that then you'll be strong, and you'll be able to do anything you put your mind to. Do you hear what I'm saying?"

"I've always had to be strong. I don't know what being a boy is." I said emphatically. It was true - I didn't know what a boy was supposed to be... I'd lost all sense of being a kid when dad and Jerrod died.

"Bullshit. I saw how you care for your little brother. There's a boy inside of you who needs to come out and play. There's also a tough person inside. You need to learn how to bring them together. As far as the bad ass kid, put him aside, you don't need him now; you'll never need him again."

"I can't do that. Nathan needs me." I said determinedly then angrily and then added, "That dumbass worthless scum sucking piece of shit Christopher even needs me - they need the money I make to survive on. But then you'd never understand that shit. Derrick does not understand that shit. There's no way to understand unless you lived it."

"So tell me about it Joey. What makes Joey tick?"

"Sex, drugs, acid rock. Feed me enough of each and I'm just fine and can function and do what needs to be done to survive and thrive." I said with all certainty.

"Joey, I'm afraid that sex is out of the question for you entirely, at least for right now. You'll just piss yourself without having a catheter in your bladder. You'll not achieve orgasm even if the catheter were out. I doubt you'll even get a hard on. You have very little control of your bowels so I'll not even go there. Geezus, Joey, what good is a 13 year old without a hard dick, eh?"

Continuing, "As far as acid rock goes, we can arrange it. That way you won't have to think for yourself because you won't be capable. I've listened to some of it, and well, quite frankly, I used it to escape because I didn't have to think … and I can't think when it's on loud enough... is that the way you are?"

"They don't pay me to think. They pay me to do them. They don't give a good god damn about me. Nobody gives a damn so why should I?"

"Okay... if you want to take that tack then go right ahead. You're strong. I'm sure you'll survive the streets … for about 5 minutes. Since you're blind you'll probably get hit by a car. Do you want Nathan to see that? Hasn't he seen enough in one lifetime? Do you think this is easy for him? Joey, I'm really concerned about Nathan. Today is the first time I've really seen any emotion from him. He really needs his big brother, Joey. You need him too. I just think you're afraid to admit it... am I pretty close to hitting the target?"

I rolled onto my side facing her with her help because the side rails were down. "I'm so scared." I said then buried my head in her lap and began weeping without regard for my self imposed tough guy in all situations and circumstances.

Dr. Mauer began rubbing her hand up and down my bare back using little circular motions that brought me to the brink of totally losing all composure. She then rubbed my neck and kept saying for me to let it all out, to not hold back, and to just roll with the flow because I needed to release all the pain, worry, concern and my tough guy image. She reminded me that I was still a boy, and that it was okay to be a boy, and that it was okay to cry because my mom had died, because my big brother Jerrod had died, and because my dad had died, and just because.

I would recover a little bit and then would return to the baby-like place that I'd not been in for so many years.

I told her about the day that led up to Ma's death. I told her how mom had bathed and dressed me like a little boy. Dr. Mauer suggested that what mom had done was her attempt to get me back from the clutches of death, and maybe even to apologize for not being the best mother she could have been. She suggested that I not blame mom for all that had happened.

Dr. Mauer, June, kept rubbing my neck and then when the muscle spasms in my legs took hold she changed tactics. She got some body lotion from the sink, rolled me onto my back and then began rubbing my legs from my toes to my pubes because I had spasms everywhere... over time my legs relaxed enough to where the pain wasn't all that bad.

"Joey, I'm going to give you another hypo... not very much but just enough so that your muscles will relax."

I felt another slight sting on my arm. Almost immediately I felt warm. Together with her massaging and the medicine I relaxed. My eyes closed, I put my arms around her waist, hoisted my head into her lap and then fell into a peaceful sleep.

Just as I was dropping off I heard Dave's voice say, "I think we have our decision made."

June said, "Yes."

A few days later

Nathan usually stopped in by the hospital with Wayne or Derrick to visit. They usually stayed until after I ate because they needed to return home to eat. Nathan was staying at Millie and Wayne's home until we could figure something else out.

For two nights and after lights out I was beginning to get woken up in the middle of the night with strange, disconcerting and even violent nightmares. Dr. Mauer had upped the dosage and added a medication so that I could sleep the night through without having the dreams. Although the dreams were coming on less frequently they were beginning to become even more violent.

Things kinda sorta came to a head one morning. The dream began not too long after going to sleep. I woke up completely terrorized but was able to go back to sleep. And then the dream returned right where it had left off. That continuing dream made absolutely no sense to me.

The last of the series that night put me into Christopher's room back when Vito and I had had a 'conversation' with my brother about his treatment toward mom and Nathan. In the final scene mom was tying the string of yarn around his dick and pulling it tight.

After that dream I worked my way out of bed and into the wheelchair. I took myself down to the cafeteria after receiving permission to leave the floor for reasons I would not tell the nurse. She only saw that I was highly upset. She didn't know that my world was crashing in all around me. Dr. Mauer had told me the day before that if those dreams didn't stop then she was going to order consultations with a psychologist and psychiatrist. I recalled mom's words so I didn't argue.

Anyway I went to the hospital cafeteria that was open all day and night. I ordered a large cup of warm milk. The person behind the counter, because the place was empty of customers, told me that he'd bring the beverage to me when it was sufficiently heated. I showed him my ID bracelet which enabled him to charge it to my floor as a miscellaneous expense since I had no money and he didn't appear to be the kind of guy who I could or would trick. More importantly I was positive that if even if he were willing then who in the fuck would want to mess around with a kid in a wheelchair, legs propped up on those leg rests, not to forget to mention that I'd be a rag doll with a catheter that detracts from appearances and abilities to actively participate.

I stayed there for many an hour or so then I returned to my room, worked myself back into bed and tried to fall asleep yet as soon as I closed my eyes an unsettled feeling washed over and through my mind and body. I turned on the TV hoping the distraction would ease the discombobulated thoughts and feelings. It worked. I fell back to sleep, and continued to sleep until the lights went on for breakfast.

I was pretty much doing the bed bath thing for myself although a nurse or aide would wash and massage my back and legs. All previous concerns for skin breakdown quickly dissipated because I was out of bed more and more, and continued massages.

The urology department had come to my room and taught me how to change the catheter using sterile technique so that I wouldn't get a urinary tract infection.

The nurse left me with a catheter in a sterile package so I deflated the little balloon thing with a syringe and then pulled it out after pressing on my belly to make sure all the pee was out so that I didn't leak and lay in the stuff.

Each time I'd change the thing I'd massage, roll around and attempt to get it 'interested' in some play time. It was weird to be horny and unable to do anything about it all at the same time. The only reaction my penis had to the continued stimulation would be a slight puffiness. It didn't even feel good but it didn't hurt either. Performing the ministrations on it felt like my cock was not even mine. I stole some courage one morning and talked to one of the male therapists about my 'little' dilemma. He reassured me that usually the penis was the first parts of the male anatomy that came back when the nerves and stuff began regrowing... but he wasn't all that sure as to its workings for a patient with my diagnosis. He said to be patient.

Dr. Mauer arrived at about 11am with an entourage of interns and resident physicians in various phases of their education to become doctors. She apologized for being so late in the morning but that her tardiness was because she'd had a long first case in the operating room. I wondered why they called an operation of a human being a 'case'.

So I asked her after the physicians in training left for lunch before performing another big 'case' later on.

She said that there is a lot more to patient care than simply operating on them in the OR. Charting, talking to the patient, allaying their fears, explaining the procedure and the various things a physician was required to do for legal and insurance purposes. She smiled and said that all the stuff they have to do takes quite a bit a time away from performing actual surgeries.

On another note, after we'd discussed the various and sundry items a surgeon has to perform, I mentioned the dreams again.

"Joey, Nathan has a school half day off. He's coming up to the hospital so that we can all sit down and talk about some important things for your aftercare. And yes, I've been waiting for you to bring up your concerns about your dreams again. I'm going to order a psych consult because I believe talking to someone about the situations will help you to get a different perception about what's going on."

"Mom had said the same thing so okay I'll talk to them. Will the doctor be a real doctor or will some intern or resident be in charge of things... I really don't want to say anything if I'll have to repeat over and over again."

"I understand your concerns. I'll see what I can do about getting you assigned to an attending physician although this is a teaching hospital so our interns and residents learn from doing as well as from many intense studies. Another thing to think about is that interns and residents are much closer to your age group than us old people."

She continued, "Joey, Dave and I want to talk with you and Nathan about an idea that we have thought about quite a bit. I want us all to sit down and talk maybe even this evening. Perhaps we could bring in some food so we can talk about it over dinner... does this sound like a plan?"

"Uhm, like what? What are you thinking about?"

She smiled and said, "We'll talk about it later. It's better that we all talk about. Sorry Charlie. Good try though."

Afternoon physical was brutal that afternoon in that 3 therapists 'attacked me' by standing me upright at the parallel bars with their total support on all fronts. They constantly and consistently encouraged me to 'try' to move my legs and follow along so that my brain might register and remember that as a human being I'm supposed to walk upright. They did that for over an hour... back and forth, back and forth and so on and so forth.

Next they laid me out on a cushioned plastic bed like thing and then stimulated the nerves in my lower belly, thighs, calves and feet. The therapist that I'd talked to about the little problem down south took me into a private therapy room where he had me remove the catheter. He gave ample reassurances that he'd not hurt me in any way but that he was going try and stimulate my cock. He explained that he was going to insert tiny little hair like probes at strategic points to see if my organ's nerve supply was okay.

He put many towels down and around my crotch areas saying that the stimulation could very well cause me to dribble.

He had me lay flat on the bed so that I couldn't see what he was doing because of two reasons: (1) seeing my dong stimulated with wires and whatnot could gross me out, and (2) by not seeing my dick's response would eliminate the psychological aspect... "mind over matter" he said.

With that said he went to work. I didn't even cheat because I didn't want to see my dick being stuck.

A few minutes later he did in fact sit me up just enough to see that which designates me as male. My heart raced and then soared... my dick was fully hard and upright. He said, "Feel it. It won't bite you."

I reached down and found that my dick was as hard as it could possibly could be. I squeezed it down firmly and made a couple of reserved jacking motions to see if it might get interested in cumming. The therapist figured it out. He then explained that many other things, stimuli were required for the human body to experience orgasm. He stepped out so that I could experiment and perhaps even get into a full jack-off session if that's what I desired. He would be gone for 30 minutes and to have fun.

He was right. I definitely got serious but orgasm was not in the cards that day but it did give me hope that it would respond some day. When he returned he looked at me curiously. I said, "You're right."

"Joey, I'm going to do stimulate your male gland... I want you to watch. I'm not going to say anything more... just observe, okay?"

Just as I was getting ready to say, "What are you going to do?" He adjusted a setting on the machine. My dick immediately sprung to full attention and then he set it a notch or two higher... my dick.... it grew even more... I put my hand around my cock and squeezed tightly... it was then that I felt my muscles tense up to the maximum... and then my penis erupted its offerings up and out and against my belly, upper legs into my my bush, and then dribbled down my shaft. I took a deep breath in and then let it out... my breathing soon returned to normal.

I didn't even feel self-conscious. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I said, "Dude, that was awesome. Does that mean I'm really okay?"

"It certainly appears that way. You're going to be okay. Don't ask me to do that every time. I could lose my job because it is not a technique written about in the manuals."

"Okay, no problem. That was pretty kewl. I mean I didn't feel it in my dick but I felt the rest of my upper body react just like it reached its moment. Whoa."

He handed me a towel that I used to sop up the evidence of a first ejaculation in almost 3 months.

With that said and done he removed the stimulator and took me to my room where I put in a new catheter after asking for one, and then took a nap.

Buzz, Quiet Jim and Emanuel showed up at about 4:30 that afternoon. A chick was hanging onto Emanuel's arm. After saying 'hey' and making introductions to the girlfriend he joined her on the sofa in the room where they got into serious suck face leaving Buzz and I to ourselves.

He told me that Vito had been busted and then committed suicide by cop. He said the neighborhood was changing... and that he was changing too. He'd met a girl who was helping to keep him on the up and up. He went so far as to say that he felt that she was good for him. "I think I'm falling in love, Joey. Don't tell anybody ."

"Ya okay? Buzz asked sincerely,

"I guess. I'm getting there."

I looked Buzz directly in his eyes. He averted his to a spot just beside my head and above my shoulders. I wondered why that was. Usually when he talked he bore holes. He could size you up in a heartbeat... which is why he was our final say so on bringing someone new into our gathering. We really didn't have a gang in the traditional sense of the word. I suppose what we called ourselves really mattered not. I mean we simply hung out and watched over each other in our own way. Sure, we watched out for ourselves like when I was in the apartment with my 'employer' some months previously.

I asked anyway.

"Buzz, what happened to Ma?"

Immediately he replied, "I don't know. Nobody knows. I've checked around because I knew you needed to know. We also needed to know. Nobody's talking Joey. All we know is that your mom got popped... I'm sorry Joey... and Christopher's dead. I'm really sorry about your mom, Joey. Will you do something for me?"

"Sure. You don't even have to ask." I said assuredly.

Buzz nodded. "I had to ask."

"I know."

"Would you let me know when you find out what happened?"

"It goes without saying. Same thing with you."


Emanuel broke loose from his hoe just long enough to say, "Joey, when we find out who they are and where they are... we'll bust you out of here, take you to them and then plop a machine gun in your arms..."

He didn't even need to finish his sentence. The meaning was totally clear. I nodded and then he went back to his regularly scheduled programming.

When I saw the hoe grabbing onto Emanuel's manhood I said, "You guys... go to the bathroom will-ya." While I smiled, just under the surface I was dead serious. I didn't want to see them fucking in plain view. Emanuel, always the most shy and modest and reserved of all of us was changing. I guess pussy does that to a guy.

They went into the bathroom and closed the door.


"Have you heard from Skeeter? I haven't seen him up here yet."

"Nope... it's like he disappeared off the earth. He didn't say much but I think that foster family was giving him grief. He's a good kid."

"Yeah he is. I'm kinda laid up here. If you hear anything..."

"I will." Buzz finished my sentence. Age has its perks, or so it seemed.

When my dinner tray arrived Buzz took off. At the same time he knocked on the bathroom door it opened. Out came two smiling teenage kids. Both had flushed looks about their faces. The girl walked to the side of my bed, leaned down and whispered in my ear, "Thanks. Hang in there okay? It's going to get better."

She scored brownie points.

Emanuel walked over and knocked knuckles with me then they took off with Buzz.

The neighborhood was changing.

Would I survive it?

A cold chill traveled up and down my spine. I think it traveled down into the numb areas south of the belt loops.

Dinner was brazed roast beef, cooked carrots, spinach (yuck!), chocolate cream pie for desert and three oatmeal cookies that were for my snack later on in the evening.

About 15 minutes after finishing the meal I headed into the bathroom and transferred myself to the toilet to wait for the inevitable to happen. While waiting I peered at my penis, took it in my hand and squeezed gently yet hard enough to see if it was awake. With that yellow tubing going into my bladder there was no way that an erection would happen. My penis was shriveled and hanging limply, and my balls were drooping like an old lady's tits.

Sounds within the bowl signaled success. I reached for the tissue paper but a knock on the door interrupted retrieval. "I'm in here." I'd learned to say when I was indisposed.

Nathan's face showed through when the door creaked open a couple of inches. He made his entry, closed the door and then sat down on the floor. "Hey bro."

"Hey yourself. What's up?"

"Nutten. Same ole same ole. Wayne, Millie, Dave and Dr. June are here. Dr. June said we're having a meeting tonight. She wouldn't say why only that we needed to be here. So here we are. You doing okay?" Nathan asked sincerely.

"I got a hard-on today. The therapist (Nathan was my brother, after all) put some electricity to my dick... I blew an orgasm. I said assuredly, giggling on the second part of my reply.

He rolled his eyes and then adjusted his jacket. I saw scars on his forearm... wicked scars... like he'd been cut or something.

"What happened to your arm? It's all cut up and shit."

"Oh... I broke my arm. They had to put plates and screws in it. I just got the cast off a couple weeks ago. It's doing okay."

"How the fuck did you do that?" I asked seriously.

"It happened that night... when mom was... you know..."

I nodded but didn't understand what he was talking about... what happened that night I kept thinking, racking my brain to figure out what ..."

Another knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. Nobody stuck their head inside so Nathan got up, opened the door and walked out. He stuck his head back in and said that June, Derrick and Dave were ready to talk to us.

I cleaned up and then used a mirror to make sure since I had no sensation. I was okay. After washing my hands I got into the wheelchair and wheeled myself into my room. Everybody was sitting around in a circle. They'd left a place open for my chair which I rolled into and parked.

"Where's Wayne?" I asked noting that an empty chair was beside Millie. I noticed that Nathan was sitting between Dr. Mauer and Dave. Derrick was sitting next to his mom on the other side.

Nathan smiled nervously. Derrick me flashed a thumbs' up sign. He can really be a dork sometimes. I nodded reservedly.

"We're going to wait a few minutes. We wanted Wayne to be here." Dr. Mauer said. I noticed that she was looking at me intently, like she was probing my insides... maybe she was. I felt no malevolence from her. She smiled. It was like her face lit up a few shades of gray.

No, my color vision hadn't returned though the shades of gray were much, much lighter. When I sat in my wheelchair in the sun room my eyes were sensitive to the bright light. The eye people fitted me with a special pair of lightly colored sunglasses, just enough to knock off the glare. It worked. I'd spend a lot of time out there thinking, psyching myself up and psyching myself down in some depths of despair and hopelessness. I didn't go down very often. There was a patient, his name was Jim, who had no arms or legs but his attitude was positive. He'd crack jokes with other patients, jokes that I thought were totally dumb yet his spirit lifted me up in those dark moments.

Thirty minutes later there was still no sign of Wayne joining us so Dr. Mauer said, "Okay, we're all here. Wayne might join us later. I hope he shows up because he might have some answers Joey and Nathan need to have answered."

"First of all, Joey made a milestone in physical therapy today. One I will share with all of us and one is doctor-patient privileged information. Joey, will you share your first accomplishment?"

"Sure. I got up today. Uhm, the therapists stood me up and walked with me through the parallel bars like 3 or 4 times. I was just dragging my feet along."

Tears welled up in Nathan's eyes. He hurriedly wiped them away with his shirt sleeve but they kept coming. I motioned for him to come to me which he did somewhat reluctantly. He sat into my lap. I pulled him in close and kissed his cheek. He looked at me like I was a Martian from outer space but then again he didn't push away. I wrapped my arms around his chest. Unknown to him he grasped my wrist with his hand.

Dr. Mauer said, "Joey what you did today is a huge accomplishment. We're going to continue with that. It will help your legs remember what it was like to walk."

Dave said, "That's very significant Joey. The more our minds and bodies remember the better we get with not only what we're trying to do but we also get mentally better and stronger."

"That's right. Joey, Nathan, we want to talk some about what might have happened that night. Joey is it okay if Millie stays because I'm going to talk about your medical condition so that everybody is on the same page. It might better explain what we're going to try to do this evening."

"Joey, I bees gone if you's bees uncomfortable wit ma bein heah." Millie said. Derrick nodded. Dave gave no indication one way or the other. Nathan looked up and into my eyes with a sideways glance. I kissed the top of his head.

Nathan sniffled then reached up with his shirt sleeve and rubbed it across his face. I looked down and saw that his tears were running again. I said, "What's wrong bro? Talk to me."

"I don't know... I do it all the time."

To Millie I said, "No, it's okay. Stay."

To Millie Dr. Mauer said, "Millie... let's start off with you. Can you tell us what you know about the night that Joey got sick?"

"No ma'ams I cain't. All I knew was dat night was Miss Walker passed on to da Lawd … oh mah praise bees Jesus... I knows sumtin was wrong da moment my Wayne walked in da door. He ain't not talked about nothin. I had to find from da news da next morning that these chiles' momma and her son done pass away. I checks around da nah-boo-hood and nobody knows nutten. Lardy. Lardy. Mah sorry chilrens."

Nathan squirmed around on my lap until he was facing me. We were almost nose to nose. He looked into my eyes. I thought he was going to kiss my lips but instead he buried his face into my neck, sniffling like he had a cold. His shoulders shuddered then he whispered into my ear, "Joey, he beat me. When you got home... don't you remember that I fell down the stairs?"

"Is that what happened to your arm?"

"Yeah, it broke. You saw it don't you remember?"

"Yeah I remember. Ma and Wayne were behind me. Although Wayne was standing by my side..."

"Yeah... he dove for me. Christopher began shooting. He was aiming for you. I was screaming and shit. Ma was screaming. Wayne was diving." Nathan said and then began sobbing. He wrapped his arms around my neck and held on for dear life.

All sorts of things were going on in my head... it was swirling and twirling... stars were forming... blinking... like that night dad had taken me fishing... and then... everything started turning... black.

No. No. No. I can't go there I screamed in my head. The warehouse. But dad wasn't there. Nobody was there. Nobody would be there. No food. No water. I would die there.

Nathan, in my arms screamed, "Ma fell down."

A horrible thought came to mind. I said, "I told Ma to sit on the steps outside... Ma fell down? How? Why? She was safe."

Nathan wailed, "Noooooooooooooooooooooo …... Christopher shot her …. she fell down.

I remembered the thud but I hadn't turned around to see what it was... "Nnnnnnnnnnghh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh... noooooooooooo. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh." I groaned, trying with all of my strength to maintain my composure, trying to stay calm for Nathan.

"Mommmmmaaaaaaaaaa. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh."

Not strong.

I looked to June, " Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh."

She jumped out of her chair, literally. She walked to us, knelt down and tried to pull us into her arms but I couldn't … not yet, " Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh.

My mind began clouding as visions began passing through my head, terrible, horrific things - though I did not really see them. I was feeling them as if I did indeed see them….

Nathan, with tears freely flowing down his cheeks from his eyes and onto my bare chest, brokenly said, "Joey, I don't know what happened. Wayne covered me... you both did. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. I don't know what happened... I just saw Ma fall down."

"Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh." Was all that came out, was all that could come out.

I heard someone, a man's voice, say, "I can't just sit here and no do anything." I then felt both Nathan and I being lifted by very strong arms and then we were sat down in a chair and then we were held tight.

June's voice said, "Boys, you're so very close. Try and remember what happened next. I'm so sorry about your mother. I know you loved her very much. If you remember what happened then I think you'll be free from the prisons in your minds. There's no hurry. Just try to remember but don't try really, really hard."


I overheard her voice say, "This is Dr. Mauer. I am with a patient. Call the trauma service chief resident to take my call."

"Honey chie, it bees abouts time you gets here. Yous hep dese boyz. They'ins needs to know. Oh mah Lawd yous bees fucked up boy. Yous tells dese boyz what happened to Miss Walker. Lardy. Lardy. Hep us Jesus da Lawd."

I looked up. Through massive floods of tears I saw Wayne. His pupils were pin point. His eyes were crazed. Cocaine. Meth. I wanted some. I wanted it fucking, fucking, fucking bad.

Dave said angrily, "Wayne, what happened that night? These boys need to know. They need to know now. Please pull yourself together. Help these boys. You were there, right? You were standing next to Joey and then when the shit hit the fan you threw yourself at Nathan and you pulled Joey down to the floor too... what happened?"

Dave pulled Wayne into a hug. Wayne resisted. He closed his eyes. His shoulders slumped. He then looked into Dave's eyes and said, "Joey's a hero. He saved my life. And I know he saved Nathan's life. There's no doubt in my mind. I've been thinking and seeing it in my head all the time. I'm fucked up so I can forget it."

"But you can't forget it, Wayne. You'll never forget. It'll never go away. What happened that night?" Dave said seriously but less angrily.

"Yeah, I know, I was there. Okay."

"Yous tells dem, boy. Yous tells dem da truth, boy." Millie said parentally.

"I was behind you Joey. Then I saw Nathan fall down the stairs. His arm was broken... it was twisted at a 90 degree angle. When I saw him Christopher popped his shotgun... I looked around... your momma fell to the floor... I'm sorry..."

"Go ahead... keep going." Dave said to Wayne.

I was racking my brain... my head was spinning like a cheap kids' top toy. I then saw a vision of Christopher aiming the gun to Nathan...

Wayne continued, "Joey, you're a hero dude. You saved Nathan and me... I should have died. I was a pussy... I didn't..."

A flash of light went screaming through my memory and with it came a picture of me standing there, disembodied, holding my piece in my hand, aimed, aimed at, it was aimed at Christopher's lifeless body slumped over the sofa. I couldn't see his face; I didn't see him dead... I was blind.

"Gun... Smoking... Quiet... Sirens..."

"Joey, you had no other way to deal with Christopher. He was shooting. He killed your momma. I saw him."

"What happened, Wayne?"

"Joey... is this what you've been dreaming about? Gun. Smoking. What does this mean?" June said softly.


Wayne said, "Joey, you popped Christopher. He killed your mom. He was intent on killing us. He fucked Nathan up by beating the shit out of him before we got to your place. I have no doubt that Christopher would have killed us. He was crazy. Spouting all those bible verses. His eyes were rabid. It was like he was possessed or something."

Millie stood up, took Wayne away from Dave and then enveloped her son with her hefty arms and bosom, holding him tightly. He broke away, walked to me, pulled my head into his arms, kissed my cheek and whispered into my ear, "I love you Joey. I'm dead serious: you saved Nathan's life and by saving his you saved mine. Look Joey, I'm all fucked up now so I'm going to leave."

"I love you too Wayne. I'm sorry. Look, I don't know what's going to happen. They can't keep me here forever, and well me and Nathan, well we don't have any place to go. We're going to stay together no matter what. Wayne, was it bad? Did I kill him bad?"

"Yeah, he was definitely crazy dead." Wayne said emphatically.

June rose up then reached for some papers she'd put on the bedside table. She turned to us, "Wayne would you please stay for a few more minutes? I'd like for you to stay. You're probably helping Joey more than I am right now... I want to read the pathology and police reports so that Joey will have a full understanding of what happened. It will help him to recover so that he can move forward with his life. Would you do that for him, and for me?"

"Well, yeah, sure. But ma'am, I'm seriously messed up... I'm sorry for speaking the way I have been talking... can I talk to you in private for a minute... please ma'am?"

June put her arm around Wayne's shoulders and led him into my bathroom where they shut the door.

Nathan's cries softened to an occasional sniffle. He was lying on my lap. His face, his tears, his fear… they were crystal clear in my eyes. Because I was actually seeing and feeling his sadness, I began softly crying. Broken I said, "It's your eyes dude. They really are gray with green running through them. I love you so much. I don't feel like a hero, Nathan. I should have..."

"No Joey. Don't do that... don't go there. I owe you my life bro. I didn't see what happened. Wayne stayed with me until they said we could go... but they'd never let me see. In fact they covered my eyes when they took me away. After the doctors fixed my arm, Millie took me to their place. I've been staying there." Nathan rearranged himself so that he could speak to me directly in my ear without being heard. He whispered, "Joey, it's not working there... they're fucked up all the time... and well, I've been having bad dreams... I've thought about ..."

"Don't you dare Nathan. I will get out of this fucking wheelchair and I will kick your ass if you use that shit. Promise me you won't do it! I swear to God I'll kick your fucking ass, dude."

"Don't worry Joey. I've had all kinds of opportunity. I've seen what it does, bro."

Just then the bathroom door opened. June walked out. Wayne followed her. Obediently, he sat on the floor in front of Millie. Millie put her arms around her boy.

I took a deep breath and let it out. Nathan did likewise. He turned around and looked into my eyes then kissed my cheek. He said to June, "My brother sees my gray-green eyes. He's not lying."

With that Nathan got up, walked to one of my drawers, and pulled a duffel bag from the bottom, rummaged around in it until he found what he was looking for. He handed the case to me and sat it down in my lap. He pulled out Ma's scarf... the one she wore all the time whether it was cold or not. He handed it to me. I looked at it carefully. The burgundy and blue and creams were crystal clear. I pulled it to my nose and took a deep breath in. "Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Ma, I loved you so much... I'm sorry I didn't tell you often enough... I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I'm sorry..."

Nathan said, "Mom knew you loved her. She knew you were ready to change your life around so that you'd be home more, so that you wouldn't be doing that bad shit anymore. I'm sorry too, Joey. I didn't tell her often enough either. Joey, I love you. I'll never get tired of saying it. I really need to hear you telling me that you love me too."

Dave walked to us. Nathan got off my lap. Dave then picked me up in his strong arms. He sat down in the wheelchair. He said into my ear, very quietly, "June is going to read the report. We think you need to hear it so that you know the facts. It will put your ordeal hopefully to rest for now so that you can concentrate on getting well. After that, my wife and I need to talk to you and Nathan. We'll talk alone. I'm going to hold you in my arms. If you get afraid then I'll know. I'll be right here. Nathan, would you join us? There's plenty of room right here. ."

Once everybody was situated, Dr. June said, "Joey, Nathan, Wayne, I have one very important piece of the puzzle to give to you. Let me read a portion of Christopher's autopsy report:

'The decedents' cranium has been submitted for evaluation. There are twenty seven bone fragment specimens; the largest is 3.0cm in dimension. Also, there are 926 soft tissue fragments that our investigator extracted from the sofa, the carpeting, and an end table. The most distant tissue samples were retrieved from a wall 3.6 meters from the torso. All fragments combined are unrecognizable as that belonging to a human being however DNA samples confirm the identity as that belonging to one Christopher Walker.'

Continuing, "Ballistics investigation and analysis revealed that 5 spent 45 caliber shells were lying on the floor some 4 meters from the decedents' remains. Trajectory analysis reveals that all shots were fired from the stairway at an upward angle of some 30 degrees. Four of the five ammo heads were extracted from various points on the ceiling. These have been determined to be defensive trajectories.'

Further, "Five spent shotgun shells were found on and about decedent's torso. Trajectory analysis concludes offensive stance. The ammo heads were retrieved from walls around and within the second decedents' body. Please refer to ME case 09-804 for particulars for the second decedent. For purposes of this report, DNA is maternal confirmed. DNA samples from the suspect and the suspect's blood kin reveal perfect DNA matches that are only compatible with direct first degree blood relations."

Looking away from the report Dr. Mauer said, "Boys, Christopher had routine toxicology studies performed during his autopsy. He had high levels of PCP, cocaine and marijuana. His blood alcohol was 3 times the legal limit for automobile drivers. He was very messed up. I doubt that he was aware of what he was doing."

She waited for that piece of information to sink in before continuing to read the medical examiner's report, "I have recommended to the prosecutor that no charges are filed against the suspect, Joey Lee Walker, the shooter. I have concluded the homicide was justified based on all factual data and our on-scene investigation. Cause of death: (1) catastrophic open head wounds, (2) Toxic PCP intoxication, (3) Toxic cocaine intoxication, (4) marijuana intoxication, (4) alcohol intoxication."

Dr. Mauer put the piece of paper down on the bedside table and said, "Joey, I have no doubt that your quick action did indeed save Nathan and Wayne's lives. Yours too. Although I didn't know your mother I wish I would have. I would have surely found that she was very proud of you two boys. I drew this conclusion from being a mother myself. Joey, I gave you the coroner's information because you needed to know exactly what happened. This most likely explains why your mind shut down thus causing your partial blindness and paralysis."

"I don't remember anything Dr. Mauer." I said then continued, "All I remember is looking at my gun and seeing smoke coming from the barrel..."

"Joey, I don't think it's important that you remember exactly what happened. You have a lot of information to process. At some point you may remember but I don't think it's mandatory that you remember each little detail although you may very well 'see it' unfold sometime in the future. Let's concentrate on getting your mobility back."

I turned on Dave's lap as if I were about to get up but stopped when he put his hand on my shoulder. He said, "Joey, don't try quite yet. Don't push yourself to hard, not right now."

"I was reaching for Ma's scarf." I said. Nathan got up, reached for the scarf and gave to me.

"Nnnnnnnghhhhh. Nnnnnnnghhhhh." Stealing myself back I said while outlining the delineations of colors with my fingers, "This is burgundy. This is blue. The background is cream. Ma used to wear this all the time didn't she Nathan?"

"Yup. Okay, try this..." Nathan said, stood and then pulled up his shirt. He reached inside his jeans, snatched up his underwear and asked, "What color are these?"

"They're baby blue with a black waistband." I replied then added, "Most of what I see is light shades of gray... but those colors stand out."

"That's a very encouraging sign. Full color perception may take some time but I'm very hopeful that your vision will return to normal or near to normal. You may not be an electrician." Dr. Mauer said smiling. She had a pretty smile.

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