SoHumBorn Sunday: Weathering the Storm (Conclusion)

This is the third part of Weathering the Storm (The first part can be found here.)

The second part here.

In December 2008, a Southern Humboldt blogger began posting fictional tales of the marijuana culture. Some people were appalled. Most were enthralled. For three months her stories gripped the online community and then, abruptly, she was gone. Even though SoHumBorn pulled her blog, for months her stories were available in the cached version but eventually they, too, were swallowed into the dark abyss. Recently she gave me permission to revive them. I’ll be doing one each Sunday for awhile. Do you have a favorite? Let me know and I’ll try and include it. The stories of this culture, true and fictional, need to be saved.
At the bottom of the post are links to all the other stories published so far.

Eric listens to Bill’s wife, and unexpectedly wishes it had been a fire. He knew what to do about fire. This is so much more… unpredictable.

Looking at the group, he suddenly wonders where Tad is. Getting a beat down from your sons, and being set upon by a pack of angry women are exactly the kind of things that might drive a man like Tad to retaliate.

He asks Diane where Tad is but she’s still babbling to Bill about Taylor choking Tad. In his mind he pictures Tad loading a shotgun, and coming out here to deal with these women once and for all. He gives her shoulder a little squeeze and shake to make her pay attention to his question. “Where is Tad?” This time she hears him. She turns and looks at him before turning to look at the house. He can tell she’d completely forgotten about the man who’d caused all this. “Well, I guess he’s still in the living room.”

He tells Bill to get the women and boys out of here as he heads for the house with Mark, Stan, and Jamie.

Man, he does not like this. His head is reeling as they approach the house. He has no idea what they’re going to say to Tad, but he knows they have to solve this today. Things can’t go any further, or they’re going to end up with the law out here, and that wouldn’t do anybody any good.

When they get to the door he pauses. When Jamie speaks he hears the uncertainty in his sons voice. “Dad? What are we gonna do?” He never calls him Dad anymore. Somewhere around his senior year in school he’d decided he was a grown man, and had begun referring to him as ”Dude” or “Man”.  Any pleasure he might have felt at the reinstatement of his old title is overshadowed by the weight of the present circumstance.

“I don’t know Son.” He looks at the other men. They look no more certain than he on how to proceed. “Maybe get him to a rehab, maybe buy him a bus ticket, maybe fight… I don’t know, but we can’t have this anymore.”

He turns and knocks on the door. They wait, but there is no answer. He knocks again.

As the suburban rounds the corner out of sight Bill joins them.  “What’s up?” He looks at Bill, and raises his shoulders as he gives the only answer he has “Don’t know.”

The bottom seal on the door has come loose and scrapes the worn vinyl floor as he pushes it open. The sound seems loud even in the pouring rain.

He pokes his head inside “Hey Tad?”  Nothing. “Hey man, it’s Eric. Me and the guys just want to talk to you for a sec.” Nothing. “We’re comin’ in O.K.?” Nothing.

He breathes out as he steps up into the house. He hears Stan’s quiet “Alright then…” as the men enter the kitchen.

The kitchen is empty. He is fighting his own opposing urges. One, to call out to Tad, needing some reassurance that he’s not laying in wait for them. The other was telling him to be quiet, very quiet.

When they round the wall to the living room, they see that Tad is indeed still there.

He’s Laying on his side on the floor facing away from them making a horrid gurgling noise.

“Oh Jesus!” The men rush over to Tad, and Eric and Stan roll him onto his back. His head wound is still slowly bleeding, but it’s his neck that shocks them. It’s purple, swollen and misshaped. The horrid noise is Tad’s attempts at breathing.

Stan has had first responder training and tilts his head in an effort to clear an airway. The unexpected result is a slight crunching sound and a pathetic bubbling moan.

“Oh God! Ohhh God! His neck is crushed man!”  Stan looks at Eric “We gotta get him to the hospital.”

Eric stands and kicks the couch hard. “Shit!”  Every bad thing that’s going to come of this is clear as day.  The cops are going arrest the boy for this and once they get here and find the grow, probably put the others with social services.

They’re going to want to talk to every one, be out here askin’ all kinds of questions. No time to get a story straight… and all those damn women! They’ll talk, not to the cops, but it’ll be a cluster fuck, sure enough. ”Fuck!”

The other men are all running similar scenarios in their minds. Wondering what kind of hell this is going to bring.

“Dad?” Jamie has been standing quietly watching the faces of the men he’s known his whole life.

Looking at his son he wishes he hadn’t brought him this day.  Hell, he wishes he worked at a gas station, lived in a trailer park, and none of this had ever happened.

“Get him in the truck. I’ll take him to the hospital. The rest of you guys go home. You were never here.”

As they pick him up and carry him to the truck he makes barely any sound, just tiny whistling wheezes.

Mark speaks up ”Man, it’s my truck I’ll take him.”

“No, you’ve got little ones. You don’t need to be part of this mess.” Stan pushes past Mark and  gets in the passenger side next to Tad, while Eric circles around to the drivers side.

Stan speaks, and for the third time today, this emergency call hands them a horrible surprise.

“He’s not breathing.” Stan gets back out of the truck pulling Tad with him. “Give me a hand.”

They help Stan lower him to the ground right there in the driveway. Heedless of the rain and mud the men gather round as Stan begins rubbing his knuckles on Tad’s sternum and calling his name.  They watch in silence as he tries to find a pulse on Tad’s swollen neck, gives up and checks his wrist. ”Shit!” He tips his head and and begins to give him a rescue breath.  Tads cheeks puff out and they can hear the air hissing out between the two men’s mouths. Stan lifts his head and takes a deep breath before placing his mouth over Tad’s again, pressing hard against Tad for a tighter seal he exhales with all the force he can. The seal between the two men is once again broken. Tad’s slack mouth refuses to cooperate and his swollen airway no longer serves it’s purpose.

“I’m not getting any to his lungs! Bill, start chest compressions so I can keep trying.”

Bill drops to his knees in the mud and begins pumping Tads chest.  He’d read somewhere that the perfect timing for CPR was that song from Saturday night fever.  In his head the song plays, and the irony of it causes him to fight a sick fit of laughter from bubbling up. “Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’, and we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…”

Stan keeps trying to force air through Tad’s mangled throat. Bill continues chest compressions, sweat beginning to mingle with the rain on his body. The other men watch as time crawls by.

Eric is watching it all with a far away feeling, until he sees the little pools of water that have settled in Tads eye sockets. He places a hand on Stan’s back. Stan looks back at him, his eyes filled with the overwhelming defeat. Tears well up, and the heat from them feels like a burn as they slide down his face mixing with the raindrops.

Stan sits back on his heels “Bill.”

Bill looks up and sees the look on Stan’s face. His pumping slows to a halt, and then looking at Tad’s face he pulls his hands away and raises them as though in surrender.

He doesn’t know how long they’ve been out there, but as he comes back to himself he realizes they need to do something.

“Hey, lets cover him up guys.”

Those words bring them all back. Mark grabs a blue tarp out of the back of his truck and they shake it out over their lifeless neighbor.

“Let’s get out of the rain and think this over for a minute” Eric moves back to the kitchen door and pushes it open. The men file in, their faces showing varying signs of shock and stress.

The presence of Tad’s body had been like a black hole sucking the energy from all of them. Once in the kitchen, away from the visible evidence of this day gone horribly wrong. They wake back up.

“Now what?”Jamie’s question sparks a round of questions.

The discussion about how to proceed is panic driven. Options are suggested and shot down, tempers flare.

Stan who’s been pretty quiet through it all speaks up. “Looks to me like we only got two options. Call 911 and have the cops deal with it, or don’t.” Eric snorts and looks at Stan.  “No shit? Thanks for the brilliant synopses man!”

Stan hold his hands up open in front of his chest. ”Hang on, and just listen for a second.” Eric nods and everyone listens as Stan explains how he sees it.

“If we call the cops they’re gonna arrest that boy, maybe more.  They’ll ruin Maggie and those kid’s lives, and probably rip us all a new ass. It’s a done deal now. Nothin’ we can do to change it, but I don’t see no reason for that boy to have his life ruined, and have to live with the burden of killin’ his old man.”

“I say we handle it here. We bury him now, and tell the women we ran him off.”

The other men stand looking at him and then break into another round of arguments.  They hate the plan . They love the plan. They have a better plan. They have a worse plan. Sick with the gravity of the situation they finally agree.

No one will be called.

Another discussion ensues as they try to figure out what to do with Tad’s body.  Things get a little crazy, far fetched, and more than once repulsive, as ideas are kicked around. In the end they agree that the best plan is the simplest plan. They’ll bury him, right now, right here.

Plan in place they move into action. They work in silence. Tad’s body is rolled up in the blue tarp and tied down across the back of Eric’s quad. Shovels, breaker bars, picks, they gather every digging tool they can find.

When they hear a truck turning down the driveway every one stops and looks at each other the fear on their faces all to real.

Jamie, Bill, and Stan place themselves between the body laden quad and the driveway, in a pathetic attempt to block it from view. While Eric and Mark jog up the driveway in hops of heading off the new arrival.

Ben comes flying around the corner sliding a little in the mud.  He sees his friends all in the driveway. Their faces look weird and strained.  He looks around and can’t see what the emergency might be, but he’s relieved so many men answered his call for help.

He stops the truck, but before he gets out Stan is at his door.

“Hey Ben, we got this handled. Why don’t you head over to Eric’s and check on your wife?”

Something strange is going on here. The men are all looking at him and no one has moved. “What’s up Stan? What happened here?”

“Ben, take my word on this one… we don’t need you here.”

Ben senses that things here are not “handled”. Something is very wrong. “Why is my wife at Eric’s? Why was my wife here? What the fuck is going on man?!” He shoves the truck door open and gets out. He is striding past Stan toward the house  when he sees the blue bundle on the back of the quad.

It’s shape belies its contents and he stops dead in his tracks.

“What the fuck is going on here?!”  He looks around fear and panic boiling up in him. “Somebody better start talkin’!”

Knowing they can’t keep him out of it now, the tale is told.

Ben freaks out. They’d all had their time to freak so, they stand by while he vents. Eventually, he gets his head around it.

Then he helps them load the  tools and they make their way down across the meadows.

The little stand of mixed evergreens and oaks shelters them from the worst of the weather.  They take turns digging. Speaking only to exchange tools, or turns in the hole. When the hole is shoulder deep and impossible to get out of with out the help of the others they stop.

With the open hole and the blue bundle in front of them they hesitate. Stan Moves first. “Come on boys let’s finish this.”  He grabs one end of the tarp and Ben grabs the other. They maneuver the bundle until it’s beside the whole. With no way to gracefully lower him, they let the bundle roll into the hole.  The thud it makes as it hits bottom is sickening.

Filling the whole is much quicker than digging was, and when it’s done they spread the left over dirt around. Then Jamie gathers duff from the floor of the little forest and spreads it over the fresh turned earth.  It’s not perfect, but it’s winter, no one’s going to be hiking around here for months, and by then it will have disappeared.

They stand around looking at each other for a moment.  “Shouldn’t we say something?” Jamie asks.

Stan lowers his head “Lord, have mercy on his soul… and ours.  Amen”

“Amen” Come the voices.

———————————–

UPDATE:For the next in the series go here.

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