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Lying in a Creek

by James Dunlap



Y

OU ARE THERE ON A COOL TABLE, bare ass naked except a paper thin gown that isn’t even covering up the part of you that is cold. You’re wheeled into the operating room that’s cold and dark except for the portable lights. There is the surgeon; he’s the one eating a sandwich because he missed lunch, then there are the two nurses, both with nice bodies under tight scrubs, the anesthesiologist; he’s the only one who gets to sit down during the surgery. In this case, you’d see the seven med students who are going to watch the surgeon try to fix your mangle leg, broken in five places, including the femur, which as hard as concrete—it’s the angle that really gets you, said the doctor. And they need to do something about your foot that’s nearly been ripped off as well. Then they hit you with the general anesthesia and that’s all there is to remember really, the doctor was saying something while you were drifting off, but it doesn’t matter, you let him worry about that.



I’ve had ten surgeries in the last three years and this is more or less how they go, except for the last one I had, which was done outpatient. I laid back on the paper lined table and the nurse practitioner poked me with a six inch need all around the outside of my knee cap after he cut the cast off my leg, then he poked hemostats into the holes were the rods went in and jerked, twisted, and finally pulled each one out, then wrapped the knee in gauze.
I could just lay there and wait for something or someone or I could crawl. Both would be painful and both would most likely score me some points with Wesley and get me out of work the next couple of days if I made it—so I started to crawl.


How all this happened was—there was this girl.

Tanned and black haired and she held her self well. She started working in the same grocery store as I did, she came in and really stirred things up around there. Every guy in the store had a hard spot in their pants for her—her and those tight jeans she liked to cram herself into. She’d walk in and the place would almost stop except for the scoffing old women and the kids that were too young to understand—but this isn’t about that. She started work in the summer of two thousand five. I came to find out her name was Wesley. I couldn’t deny the fact that I wanted her, not as a person—I didn’t know anything about her, but I did want her tight body. At the time, I had just turned twenty one and given in to the fact that I was going work at the Piggly Wiggly until I died and nothing I could do would change that fact. I was fine with this until she came along and showed me there were things beyond the store and my trailer and the liquor store—not many things, but defiantly other things out there.

She came to me one day and we started to talk about dogs because there was nothing else to talk about at the moment; a common symptom of grocery work. Grocery work has a way of ruining what you really love and makes you a bland person until you leave for the day or for good. As she talked, I starred at her lips, wet looking from gloss, they moved so quickly and never stopped it seemed. When I began to focus on what she was saying she said, so, do you want them?

Yeah, I said in panic. I had no idea what I agreed to, but it made her flash her white smile.

I’ll bring them tomorrow, she said.

Okay, I’ll be here, I said.

I could have been agreeing to take drugs.

Or machine guns or her dead grandma from her, for I knew.

But, the next day, she came up to me and asked me when I got off. It was time for me to leave now, I told her. I clocked out and walked with her to the parking lot; it felt good walking with her and seeing the look on the faces of the guys up front. Most of the time in a store, the meat, dairy, and produce departments are in the back; I worked in the meat department. For some reason the front end and the service departments never seem to get along. In the excitement I actually put my hand on the small of her back as she passed through the doors, I place it as close to her butt as I dared and to my surprise, she didn’t say anything. Outside the sun was blinding compared to the dimmed lights in the meat market and it was scorching too—it had to be a hundred degrees or more outside. In her car was an attractive girl that I’d never seen before, a friend from school, most likely.

Okay, here they are, she said, handing me two puppies that the girl handed her.

What—ah—thanks I appreciate it, I said.

I took the puppy home and on the way there I stopped and got a thirty pack of beer. I lived way out on the outside edge of Maplesap, where there are more cattle than people and the river cuts back down south. Out there you can drive for miles and not see a single person; they are lost in the fields, creeks, and trees. I got to my trailer on Rural Route three ninety seven. Went inside and iced my beer down and changed into shorts, a tee-shirt, and some sandals. I came out of the darkened room and the pups were playing. One was white and brown and the other was solid black, I had no idea what breed they were. I let them outside and grabbed the cooler and went out after them. I was amazed at how nice the weather was, it was hot, sure, but the sky was an impenetrable blue that not even the heat could shake. Under the oak I set the cooler down and put my lawn chair next to it and started drinking and for a couple hours, I didn’t have any problems, the only problem I could have possibly ran into was a shortage of beer. Other times I would think about being alone and how bad I hated it and how I wanted someone like Wesley to just fall into my lap—literally—but that day it didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother me that I failed out of my first semester of college. It didn’t bother me that nearly everything had fallen apart for me in that last two years, for those hours, I was shaded from all my problems under that tree. The shadows were getting longer and I was deep in beer, cans littered all around me, and I was really feeling it too, so I looked around for the pups and started getting ready to head inside.

About fifty yards out from the house was a creek, there wasn’t too much water flowing through it and there were big rocks that littered the bottom just barely covered in water and a thick sheet of green, snotty algae. The grass was clean cut mowed down for the last time; it was dead and brown for the summer. Out on the other side of the creek I saw the two pups running and hoping around. I stepped and wobbled and should have stopped there and I did consider just leaving them out there, but I hated the idea of something bad happening to them, so I kept walking over there.

So, I got to the creek and there was more water than I thought and it was a lot wider than I thought, but I stepped out onto the first rock, then another and I thought I was going to make it across, I was more than halfway there, but then I felt a mass of slime slide under my foot. I spun, and then fell back onto the rocks and felt damn near everything crack in my left leg. I yelled out—for nothing really, there wasn’t anyone around to hear. Then I tried to stand and crumpled back down to rocks, if felt like there was nothing in my leg to support my weight, like it was all meat and no bone. After digging in my pockets it hit me that I left my cell phone in the house.

This was how I was going to die.

Drunk, lying in a creek watching little pups play.

And there was nothing I could do.

What would my momma say?

Here is her hopes and dreams, lying in a creek.

While lying there, I devoted some time to forming a plan. I could just lay there and wait for something or someone or I could crawl. Both would be painful and both would most likely score me some points with Wesley and get me out of work the next couple of days if I made it—so I started to crawl. I had to roll over onto my belly, then turn completely around in order to go toward the trailer. There was a burning pain in my stomach during the first few feet and I realized that I was dragging my belly across the edges of rocks and the water was turning red. After that I was making progress and my leg didn’t hurt anymore, in fact I couldn’t feel it at all. I had no idea how long it was taking me to crawl or how long I had lain there in the first place, but I was on the move. Just about half way across it started getting harder to move, my leg felt heavier and I just couldn’t go. I grabbed onto a rock with both hands and pulled as hard as I could and then I heard a snap and my body moved forward. Another few minutes and I was laying on the grass panting, soaked, and bloody. I rolled over and looked down my leg, it was twisted and jutting out in places, then I looked down to my foot and to my surprise it was hardly attached to my leg. I realized that when I couldn’t move, my foot must have been hung in the rocks and I damn near ripped my own foot off. The meat on the inside of my foot was staring to turn dark as I dragged myself across the yard and up the hot metal stair to find my phone.

But that was three years ago. The dogs are grown, lab mix, and Wesley and I have been married for a year now. I haven’t worked in the meat department since, but I am in the manager’s training now. Sometimes when my leg doesn’t hurt so bad, Wesley and I will sit out in the yard under the oak and watch the dogs run around.

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About James Dunlap


James Dunlap is not much of a poet, but defiantly the kind of poet who likes to be published. Oh, and he cuts up dead cows for a living.

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