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Harrison’s Blanket

gunMom was off the couch before the sound of skidding tires stopped. Then there was the crash noise, it was like a building getting blown up. And right then I knew it was a real bad accident.

“Call 911,” she said, then she was gone, running barefoot across the yard to the accident.  We live on a curve on Highway 5 in Garland County. I don’t know why, but people are always having wrecks right in front of our house. Mom says people underestimate the curve, I think they just drive too fast.

I talked to the 911 lady for a minute, then looked out at Mom.  She was squatting next to some bushes on the drive way, close to the road. Then she stood up and yelled, “Harrison, bring me a blanket, hurry up!” That seemed kind of weird cause it was a hot day but I grabbed a blanket off the couch. It’s real soft and has a picture of a wolf howling at the moon on it. I didn’t take my favorite one, a really soft Razorback blanket, but it was a pretty good one

When I got down to Mom, she was next to some guy who was shaking so hard his teeth were rattling.  She wrapped the blanket around him and he tried to say something to her.

He must have crawled up our driveway, away from the wreck, for some reason. Maybe he didn’t want to see his friends all messed up.

There was smoke floating around and I could smell gasoline.

The guy kept saying something and Mom couldn’t understand him so she leaned closer,”What is it?”

He cleared his voice, “I should have died. I should have died right here with her. I should be dead. God, I can’t believe you didn’t kill me.”

“No, don’t say that.  God kept you alive for a reason. I’m so sorry about the girl, was she your friend?”

He didn’t answer, just curled up tighter into himself and leaned against mom like he was a little kid.

I started to walk down to the road to look at the cars but Mom stopped me. ”Don’t go down there Harrison. You don’t need to see that. Run up to the house for me and start a pot of coffee.”

I nodded but didn’t move.  I was just looking at the guy.  He was so sweaty and dirty and banged up it was hard to tell what he looked like. He was tall and skinny with a bunch a bad tattoos on his arms and legs and a big thing on his neck that I couldn’t figure out. It kind of looked like a weird shaped  cross with some lightning bolts in it.

She gave me the look that said “hurry up and go”,  I didn’t want to leave her alone with him.

Just then, we both heard the sirens way off in the distance and the guy opened his eyes. “I can’t be here, I gotta go.” He tried to stand up but couldn’t do it so Mom and I each got under one arm. We started to walk him down closer to the road but he wouldn’t let us. “No, I can’t talk to them. I can’t go down there I gotta get out of here.”

“Why?” Mom asked but he just shook his head and tried to give her the blanket back.

Mom wrapped it tighter around him, “you can’t go anywhere like this. Will you go up to the house with us? Just till you get your legs back?”

More sirens were stopping in front of our house. Each sounded different.

He nodded and let us take him up to the living room. Because he was so tall we kind of dropped him on the couch and he groaned and took a deep breath.

“Are you ok?” Mom asked as she sat down next to him.

“Just my ribs, nothing I can’t handle. I’m ok.”

“Harrison, go get a bowl of warm water and a wash cloth.

“Yes ma’am.”

I heard him say, ”That’s a good kid” as I ran back to the bathroom.

It took me a little while to find a clean wash cloth and I knew Mom would get mad if I brought them a gross one. Finally, I found one in the dryer but when I came back they were really talking.  He was sort of crying and Mom had her hand on his shoulder. The sirens outside had all stopped but I could hear the rumbling of a tow truck or two and people were yelling at each other.

He said, “She was the only thing keeping me clean and from going back, you know? And now she’s dead out there.  I don’t know why I’m sitting on this couch and she’s out there dead.”

I knew with these kinds of conversations I needed to wait for Mom to wave me down.  I couldn’t just bust in. I used to do that when I was little and it really made my dad mad.  Once he back fisted me and I flew half way across the room like you see guys do in the movies.

Finally they both saw me, and Mom said. “Bring it on down Baby.”

I put the bowl on the coffee table in front of the couch.  It’s made out of a lobster trap my dad got when he was down in Florida.

The guy looked at me and said, “So what’s your name man?”

“Harrison.”

“Cool, like Harrison Ford.” There was still a little bit of blood coming out of his nose and he sniffled it back up. “Thanks for helping me man. I appreciate it. My name is Leviticus, from the bible but people just call me Lev.” He coughed then and made a face like it really hurt.

Mom rubbed his back and said, “Harrison, would you do me a favor but you have to do it exactly like I tell you. Run half way down the driveway and ask one of the officers if they need anything. But do not go all the way down to the road, do you understand?”

“Mom, I’ll be fine. I’ve seen gross stuff before,” as soon as I said it I knew I’d screwed up.  Lev looked down and mom gave me one of those looks.

“I’m sorry, I just meant…”Mom shook her head.

None of the cops would even talk to me. When I got back Lev was drinking  water and mom was just listening. Every time he stopped talking, I thought he was going to cry again.

My mom is really good at talking to people about the bad stuff, about the things that happen that you wish never ever happened.  She talks to mostly ladies about their husbands and boyfriends and dads after they hurt them real bad.

When I was little, like eight or nine, Mom and I stayed in a place called The Safe House. We were there a couple of weeks so my dad couldn’t find us.  Mom made all kinds of friends there. Lots of ladies talked and talked to her about the stuff that was hard.

She told me,  they talked about the stuff they pretended never happened.  Then she made me remember a couple of really bad times with Dad. About the time he burned me on the shoulder with his cigarette, and once hit mom so hard her tooth flew out and went under the couch, stuff I really wanted to forget. That’s when I understood what Mom meant about  those ladies. After a while, she was so good at listening The Safe House gave her a job.

A couple of times the husbands got really mad at Mom for talking to their wife’s. So she started going to the firing range with her new gun. It was really fun. She got way better than me, but I didn’t care.

They were on the couch talking for a long time, so I went to the kitchen and made a ham and cheese sandwich with ketchup.  Then I went back to the living room and asked them if they wanted me to make them one.  They both shook their head no, and mom kind of smiled at me so I knew I’d done the right then.  I was picking some of the crust off my sandwich when Lev leaned forward and I saw a black pistol tucked into the back of his pants. The blanket was tucked behind it, that’s why I could see it.

I stopped chewing and my mouth kind of went really dry. I tried to look at mom hard and shift my eyes toward the gun but she didn’t figure out what I was doing. Suddenly, I really wanted Lev out of our house and away from my mom. I liked him, kind of, but I just had a weird feeling. I didn’t leave the living room after that.

After a really long time, everything out front was cleared up and Lev asked my Mom if she could give him a ride down to The Bucket, a gas station and store about three miles from our house. He called somebody on her phone and said, ‘I can’t talk about it right now Brother. You just gotta pick me up.”

He kept that wolf blanket pulled around him real tight the whole way there even though it was real hot outside. After a few minutes of everybody being really quiet and weird Lev said, “I didn’t even know your house was up there. I’ve never seen it before.”

Mom kind of laughed. “Yeah, we like it that way. Nobody messes with you if they don’t know where you are.”

I said, “Mom calls our driveway  the worm hole.” Nobody said anything after that.

When Lev got out of the car he tried to give it back but Mom told him to keep it. I was glad she did that, cause he still looked cold and I really didn’t want that blanket anymore. He told my mom thanks, a bunch of times then got into a really beat up old Ford pickup with a bashed in driver’s door.  He kind of nodded at us with a real serious or worried expression, like he knew something.

I saw Lev two more times that first semester.  Mom started letting me run into the Bucket to pay for gas and then she let me pump it too.  I walked in one morning and he was at the counter buying cigarettes.  It was only a few weeks since the wreck but he looked a hundred years older. And he was even skinner.  There were a couple of sores on his arms, I guess they were still left over from the wreck. Lev looked at me twice then said, “Hey, I know you.”

I nodded at him and tried to smile, but it was hard because his eyes looked so bad. They looked like eyes that are all red before you edit them on the computer.

“How’s your Momma doing?”

“She’s good.” I put a ten dollar bill on the counter for the gas.

“You tell her I said thanks”. Then as I was walking out I heard him say to the guy behind the counter, “That bitch saved my ass after the wreck. If they’d found me in that car I’d have been in jail till I was dead.”

It kind of made me mad that he called Mom a bitch, even if he was sort of bragging.  My dad used to call her that all the time and I’d get real mad but Mom always told me to ignore him. She said he was just mad at the world and took it out on the people he loved.

The next time I saw Lev he was sitting on the curb in front of the Movie Store. He was smoking a cigarette. When Mom and I got out of the car he looked right at us but didn’t say anything. I took Mom’s hand even though I don’t do that in front of people any more. We walked past him but he didn’t say anything. He just stared at us as like he was mad or something. He looked gross.  Mom was squeezing my hand really tight until we got in the store.

I looked up at her and she just said, “I don’t know Harrison. He looked pretty messed up. We need to just leave him alone.”

“You don’t have to tell me. He looks like a zombie.” I said and took off to look for a movie.

Right about then, Jim, who owns the video store, started walking outside. He stopped and said to Mom, “Freaking tweekers will sit there and run everybody off.”

Then I watched him talking to Lev. Pretty soon Lev stood up, he stared at Jim like he was gonna say some thing or bow up on him, but then he just walked across the parking lot toward the woods.

Christmas vacation that year was awesome.  We actually had snow for a couple of days and my best friend Hunter stayed with us for four days, because his mom was having a baby.

On the day before school started, Mom had to go to Walmart. She said it was gonna be a really quick trip and I could stay home by myself if I wanted.

Once she left, I snuggled up in her big bed with all the quilts and pillows and my Razorback blanket to watch Sponge Bob.  I made a fort and then fell asleep. When I woke up, I knew something was wrong. I could hear somebody in the house and it wasn’t Mom, it was somebody who walked different and was kind of banging into things.  I moved the edge of the blanket just enough so I could peek out without anybody seeing me.

Lev walked into Mom’s room and looked around. He looked worse than anything I’d ever seen, with his hair all over the place and sores on his face.  He walked over to her dresser and started shoving all her jewelry in his big green coat pockets. I could see his pistol shoved down the back of his pants. Then he opened up her drawers and started throwing all her underwear and stuff out on the floor. My heart was beating so hard I could see my tee shirt moving.  It sounded like it was right up in my ears and I was really scared Lev would hear it too. I tried to breath real soft. Then he backed up close enough to the bed where I could have poked his pants, or grabbed his gun. But I was too scared to move.

Then he started going through the third drawer when Mom stepped into the room and she already had her 9mm leveled on him. I poked my foot out just a little at the end of the bed and wiggled it so she’d know I was there. She didn’t do anything different but I kind of knew she saw me.

Lev stood up and looked at her. Then he took a step back, towards me, like he was gonna sit down on the edge of the bed or something. He had his hands up.

Then he dropped his right hand and it started going backwards, but he was talking nice to Mom. She just said, “The first words you ever said to me were the truth. You should have died that day.” Then she fired two rounds, almost at the same time, it seemed like.

Lev almost fell on top of me, but he missed the bed and fell on the floor. There was still a really loud ringing and the room smelled like fireworks. I wiggled out and ran to Mom. I hugged her so hard and cried and tried to breathe normal.

She was crying and hugging me real hard, then she said, “I got all the way up there then remembered how much I hate shopping alone.”

She pulled her cell phone out of her back pocket but I kept on hugging her.  She smelled like soap and smoke. She called 911 and told them what had happened but she never stopped kind of brushing the back of my head with her fingers, like she was trying to get tangles out of my hair. It’s the same thing she does when I can’t sleep and she sits on the edge of my bed talking to me until I fall asleep.

I could feel my heart slowing down and I could almost breathe normal. Mom peeled my arms off of her  and said, “Let’s get a Coke and sit outside till everybody get here.”

“Who?”

“The police.”

“Why are they coming?”

“Harrison, I shot a man. The police have to come.”

“But he was stealing your stuff.” My hands and legs started shaking as I thought about what might happen. What if they arrested her? What if they put her in the police car? Would they let me go with her?

She took my hand and held it really tight and we walked to the refrigerator to get a couple of Cokes then went outside to the porch. My hands were so sweaty I had to wipe them on my pants. When I tried to open my Coke my fingers were shaking so hard Mom took the can from me and popped it.

Then she put her arm around me and pulled me really close to her. My ears were still ringing and the fireworks smell was stuck in my nose. I leaned my head on her shoulder and closed my eyes. Then we sat there together, waiting to hear the sirens.

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