Tim Timmons endured the damndest day mostly sober. It all started with a bolt upright awareness that he’d overslept when the soft blue light of dawn began to border the smoke saturated curtains of another cheap motel room. Somehow he’d slept through the phone alarm and woke ten minutes before his scheduled shift –a forty minute drive from where he sat rubbing a troubled sleep from his eyes. His best guess is that, because he’s left-handed, he unknowingly reduced the volume of his iPhone throughout the day whenever he picked it up. Forced to ignore certain routine things–a cup of coffee, a peek at Biden’s latest bumblings and mumblings on Fox News, three sets of pushups and sit ups and stretches, a shave, a comb, he got right to brushing his teeth and tongue, gagged over a slow-draining sink, and showered in two fast fuck minutes–fascinated by a cheap chip of soap which refused to lather. The shampoo was the scent of mint.
Before stepping into a fresh pair of scrubs he’d laid out responsibly the previous evening, he stared back at the unmade bed and resisted the pulsing urge to rub one off over a perfect screenshot of the woman he’s loved wisely or unwisely for a long time. He wanted to believe that the Universe would redirect his erotic energy and and laser an orgasmic dream of him five hundred miles away into her R.E.M. sleep. Hungry as a wolf, he envisioned her twitching and moaning. Perhaps he needed counseling: that was his final thought as the Days Inn door to room 207 closed behind him.
Tim made a phone call, apologizing for his pending late arrival, and prayed on the long drive to work. “Almighty God and merciful Father of Christ, please, please, please be extra good to her today, and thank you, Kind Sir, for the extra, much-needed sleep.” A pair of smiling blue eyes rose like the sun in his heart. Already irreparably late, the Bohemian spirit inside of him chose a rebellious alternate route off the highway, fifteen minutes slower, a curvy two lane path into the ghostly history and misty morning farmlands of Maryland. White cottony clouds hovered barely a toddler’s height above harvest fields and Tim longed to run into them or crawl beneath them to an egg and bacon breakfast at a big family table. This imagination degenerated into a sexual fantasy of his blue-eyed girl wearing nothing but a white apron tied with a floppy bow dangling and teasing him into the naked crack of her perfect ass and it almost ran him off the road. A blaring angry horn brought him back to his senses and he steered his faithful Sylvia back over the double yellow line into his own lane.
He started talking to God again. “Maybe You might send an old deer my way–a really big one –and put Sylvia out of her misery so I can receive some insurance money and combine it with my savings account. Please, God, total my truck. Gratefully and hopefully Yours, Tim Timmons.”
A minute later, “Nevermind, God. No need for a sacrificial deer. Forgive me for such a selfish and murderous thought.”
Tim listened to Bob Dylan’s perfect poem sung much better by Garth Brooks, “To Make You Feel My Love.” When the song ended, a red barn disappeared behind him and he sighed contentedly. He signaled a left turn back onto a four lane highway, enroute to a packed out hospice house. Blue eyes haunted him again and, pondering the lyrics still fresh on his mind, he said, “Yeah,baby, like that. Just. Like. That.”
Bobby Jones lived like the devil but died like a saint. Tim hadn’t understood why the sweet man was dying alone until his deathbed confession. At five years old, he’d been raped by his own teenage brothers–and routinely for years–in a musty shed behind their childhood home (now bulldozed for a McDonalds, Target, PetSmart, and Hobby Lobby, his baby screams buried and forgotten by all except for him). This incestual homosexual trauma flipped some kind of switch in Bobby’s brain, he said, so that he developed an insatiable appetite for sex with little boys throughout the entirety of his life. Intuitively, he knew that it was wrong–to prey on the little ones–so he became a recluse, refusing to befriend anybody old or young, locking the door behind him, a man with no relationships, a monster in his own eyes, whose hands were ungodly big and had held a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in prison because of all the anger pent up inside of him.
But there was hope. He’d found God, he said, or God had found him, shit, one way or the other, didn’t matter. AND he was in love with a woman–A WOMAN–a white woman, dammit!–Vestal Goodman–and she sang on the Gaither Homecoming videos. Did he know of her, dear Bobby asked, and could Tim bring him one to watch?
Tim pulled out his phone and told the huge man that videos were a thing of the past. He YouTubed Vestal and the big black man loved the little white woman for several songs, clapping his hands, coughing, and singing off key. After which, they watched Carroll O’Connor play a role that redeemed him from the stupid, cigar-smoking racist, Archie Bunker. The latest episode, he was a sheriff who closed one one of his eyes and shot a poisonous snake to death.
Late in the evening, Bobby Jones closed both of his eyes.
So fast. Too fast. Bobby’s lungs were filling with fluid. With increased difficulty, he gurgled and hand motioned to Tim, almost frantically, that he wanted a pen and some paper. Almost ten minutes later, he managed to write the same barely legible word three times. Love. Love. Love. The gentle giant, fallen and conquered, pointed a finger–a big sausage finger bent and arthritic after years of working with concrete and brick –a red pulse oximeter light taped to his ridged and dented fingernail. He pointed at Tim. A single tear the shape and size of a watermelon seed rolled down his blubbery black cheek, slid from his unshaven chin, dropped and disappeared into the thick fold of his neck. Love. Love. Love. That’s what he wrote.
A pure love. Bobby Jones. For Tim Timmons.
Tim took the paper, read it, and smiled genuinely at the dying man through his own wet eyes. He folded the paper, slid it behind the flask of bourbon hidden untouched in the cargo pocket of his scrub pants, and promised to keep the note forever. He injected 0.2 mg of Robinul into Bobby’s line and chased it with a generous amount of morphine, then sang a lullaby he’d learned from somewhere long ago in another more innocent life. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you…
I will trust in you…
I will trust in you…
In God, whose Word I praise…
In God, I trust.”
Tim didn’t leave the man to die alone. He was hours off the clock when Bobby Jones fell asleep to Psalm 56.3. He was holding the man’s unusually large head in his arms, a head that was full of horrible memories, a fear of hell, and the foolish hope of heaven. When his breathing stopped, Tim recorded the time and retrieved the flask from his pocket. He unscrewed the top and took a sip, then another, and the flask was already mostly drained from the last hour. His stomach was empty and growling. He thought of cheeseburgers and wondered if Bobby was looking down at him from the ceiling. He wondered, too, if he himself were merely a stoic or a sociopath. Because–here’s why –he just stood up and walked away. Like a damn stupid zombie, carnivorous, on his way to a Jack in the Box which would be closing in less than fifteen minutes.
Tim said goodnight to the old lady sitting at the computer. Her eyes looked weird through very thick smudged lenses. She said nothing in response. Everything felt like a bad, fevered dream. The woman sported a cracker crumb on her upper lip. Tim found himself humming, “I’ve got Lance in my pants” on his painful way out the door.
Tim Timmons RN felt out of his own body, privately reprimanding himself for getting too close and too drunk. It’s not professional, he told himself–but it’s only human, he counterargued, and settled in favor of being human.
He couldn’t remember the code to unlock and open the door. 9254 or 9524 or 9425#. Pound or star? Dammit. Shit. Fuuuuuuck! He already felt the alcohol changing him, burning like a secret sin on his empty stomach. He pounded his fist once and rested his dizzy forehead against the cool glass, squinting his tired eyes. Let me out of here, please God, let me out, my invisible friend. Help me remember.
Priceline did not live up to its boast in savings so Tim Timmons decided to drive into the unknown evening with no particular location or plan in mind. He liked it like that, most of the time. Therefore, he chose a road less taken, whereupon, the double beams of Sylvia’s headlights fell upon a fallen deer. For reasons known only to God, Tim pulled over.
. . . Who hadn’t answered his morning prayer. Someone else had clipped this beauty minutes ago and now she lay dying in a ditch, trying to keep her nostrils above the murky water. Tim couldn’t decide whether her labored respirations were Kussmaul or Cheyne Stokes because he was well on his way to being unfunctionally drunk and his assessment skills were bleary at best. He was the worst nurse ever, he thought, fuck everybody, he no longer gave a shit.
Which wasn’t true, of course. These were drunken slobber thoughts.
He held the animal’s heavy head in his arms, preventing her lungs from filling with fluid like Bobby Jones. Better to hemorrhage to death than to drown. His once clean scrubs were now muddy and bloody. He kept saying, “Sshhh, it’s okay,” but it wasn’t okay.
Nothing was fucking okay.
He allowed himself to cry like a man should cry from time to time: unheard, unseen, and hard.
Wiping his face with the back of his hand, salty, stinging tears, Tim looked deep into the majestic creature’s glassy brown eyes and the doe reminded him of someone he’d hurt in his past (“I did what I had to do,” she said) and he became acutely aware of how God’s fucked up world works sometimes. This dying animal was being comforted by a stranger. Her own family had scurried away, leaving her to die alone. Tim Timmons kept saying, “Oh dear, sweet deer” because he was intoxicated and amused by two words that were almost identical but so different all because of a single letter.