No one had spoken to him for days. Until now.
“This ain’t none yo’s. Keep walk’n.”
Skinny Dan Dunn did as he was told–or so he led the big man to believe.
The bar scene on Gavin Road is every preacher’s warning: be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh. And that’s exactly what caught Dan’s eye. A female, on the ground, surrounded by a hungry pack of wolves.
First thought: call 911.
On a good day in America, the average response time for a squad car is ten minutes. On a bad day in America, when violent civil rights movements are running wild in the streets and socialist Democrats are threatening to defund the police in exchange for votes they can’t possibly win without pandering, caving, or cheating, and the men and women in blue are resigning in exhaustion and fear for their own lives, this poor woman’s chances aren’t good.
Second thought: in the “A” street alley of all places. A is for apple, J is for Jack . . .
Third thought: I’m singing a cereal commercial.
Dan assesses that he’s almost drunk. A pending handicap, admittedly, that is suddenly straight-armed by pure adrenalin. A sweet-smelling strength banishing wobbly fear.
Fourth thought: Do something.
Dan looks at his watch. Gavin Road is forty minutes past last call.
He looks up and down the street. Five miles of dim lights, locked doors, and caged windows. Shadows are moving in the shadows (the three R’s: rats, robbers, and rapists).
Not a single pair of headlights. No blue lights.
A dog is barking far away. A lady is crying only a few feet behind his back. One man is telling another to hurry. Blood is rushing and roaring through Dan’s ears like ocean surf.
There’s a bag on his shoulder. Dan wishes he owned a gun. Inside the bag is only a worn out copy of Walt Whitman, a smooth glass bottle of brandy, and two manila folders stuffed fat and rubber banded with penciled words awaiting the Neverland of publication.
Adult bodies rustle and thump around the corner. One future is being changed forever. Or taken.
Dan lays his burden down. The manuscripts inside the bag have cost him the love of his life but at least tonight she’s locked safe and sound inside of a brick house with a boring fellow who’s remarkably good looking and only good at numbers. These are Dan’s lucid thoughts as he performs a blind sweep for the brandy and removes it.
The minimalist poet tips the bottle straight up, gulps as if every drop might be his last before entering the filthy concrete laundry chute of purgatory. Liquid bravery warms his resolve.
Dan breaks the neck and is pleased with the outcome: lethal jagged edges.
Quoting Whitman in his slurring mind (“I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake”), he enters a very dark place.
Shaking almost uncontrollably, he screams with a “barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world,” and launches himself into the only entrance and exit of “A” street, surprising and slicing the face of the first big man, shoving past the second, and stabbing the unbuckled third just as he’s lifting the woman’s Christmas candy skirt.
Whose name is Christy.
Dan does the only thing he can do and becomes a human shield. He wraps around Christy, guarding every precious part of her body as if she were a child. The blows meant for her fall upon him. A Messianic type of salvation.
“Stop it!” he screams at the attackers, “Stop it! Please don’t!”
Uniformed officers arrive in fifteen minutes. Close enough to the average time.
Christy, on the rebound, had earned a number of free cocktails with her skilled flirtations and didn’t know that the last drink (a Manhattan) was laced with Rohypnol. A half hour later, her legs became as bent and rubbery as her mind and she fell on the run. Easy prey for the taking.
Stupid girl. Lucky girl.
Two days after the frightening incident, Daniel Overley Dunn was finally published. Not as a talented poet (his best thoughts having been scattered and soaked on the rainy city sidewalk) but as a drunken Samaritan in the local obituary. In less than fifty words.