Episode 23 – The Final Chapter

Face-to-face With Uncle Henry, I feel so fucking guilty for sneaking out and causing a hassle for everyone. I apologize over and over, but Uncle Henry just nods and assures me “all’s forgotten” and he’s glad I’m safe. It’s vintage understated Uncle Henry. Makes me feel sort of better, but not really.

Know I’m a fucking mess…dirty and shirtless, trails of black sweat running down my chest.  Thankfully, the others tell him how brave I was…how I shielded them and took most of the punishment.

As usual, Uncle Henry doesn’t look great either…totally dishevelled and sort of bewildered. Obviously, wants to be back in his mole hole doing what he always does. Gotta admit I’m surprised. I imagined he’d look different, more noble, or something, but no way…plus he starts immediately pontificating how groups like the Clan for Mutual Defense/CMD rationalize violence…pride themselves on being the new patriots. Same old, same old…

I’m half-listening, when out of the corner of my eye, I see someone stand up in the shadows between two limos. It doesn’t register at first, then I realize it’s fucking Jace! Holy shit!

Our eyes meet…I start to yell…there’s a loud CRACK, and instantly, I feel like a giant belted my shoulder…body’s spinning…the floor rushes up…

I open my eyes and there’s mass confusion over me…a total freak out, and wicked pain in my shoulder, but I’m alive at least!

Nearby, I hear Jace raving about how I’m a sadistic prick who left him tied up to rot…stole his gun and tried to kill everybody. “He’s the fucking enemy!” He screams. Points at me. “That little prick’s the fucking enemy! Not me!”

Immediately the police haul him away, and to my surprise, Uncle Henry kneels next to me with tears running down his cheeks. “You’ll be okay, son,” he sobs. “You’ll be okay!” And obviously, Tara, Amy and Kadeem are freaked too. I, honestly, don’t feel that bad…not like I’m gonna die or anything, but in addition to my shoulder and blood everywhere, my face hurts like shit…guess I fell on my nose.

Amy’s reacting like I’m dead or something, and I almost forget my pain trying hard to reassure her. “Amy, give me you hand!” I tell her, squeezing it. “See! I’m fine…alive and okay.” But, the slightest movement, sends searing pain through my shoulder and arm, so I lie back…stay still.

Almost immediately, a stretcher appears, and I’m surrounded by police and EMT’s, but no way I’m gonna ignore Tara, the love of my life, and Kadeem who had some serious trials and tribulations of his own. Tara tries to lie on my chest which hurts like a motherfucker, but thankfully the professionals drag her off. Still, I pucker my lips and she leans down…we kiss over and over, and in spite of the pain, I spring a fucking bone.

Laid out on the stretcher, I feel another round of guilt…wonder if I did something wrong…the way I grabbed Jace’s gun and everything. Try to explain exactly what happened, but the police tell me to stay calm…assure me I didn’t do anything wrong…and Tara, Amy and Kadeem back me up a hundred percent.

An EMT interrupts. “Son, to be treated properly, you have to lie still and be quiet.”

“Derrick, do what you’re told,” Uncle Henry says sharply. “You have a nasty wound.” He’s seriously freaked so I immediately shut up.

An EMT turns to him. “Any special conditions we need to know about?” My uncle shakes his head
Simultaneously, the police wave Amy, Tara and Kadeem aside. “Let the professionals do their work. Your friend needs to focus on himself right now.”

“He got hurt too!” I cry, pointing at Kadeem.

They cover me with a blanket and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. I’m not sure why, but I start to shiver…my friggin’ teeth are chattering.

“He’s loosing a lot of blood,” someone says…I hear Amy shrieking.

Not sure why, but the pain gets worse and the EMT’s are babbling about “the exit wound”, “internal damage”, “fragments”, whatever. It’s impossible to figure out, so I ignore them. Before I know it, I’m in the ambulance with Uncle Henry beside me white as a sheet…gotta admit all the blood looks scary. “Don’t worry, Derrick,” he says. “You’re gonna be fine.”

They hook me up to an IV as we speed cross town with the siren wailing.

At some point, I…like…fade out, from drugs or something…catch a brief glance of the hospital looming ahead…some media vans. After that, not conscious of anything except mass confusion. Finally, open my eyes in the recovery room. See Uncle Henry, two doctors and a nurse around my bed. “He’s awake,” someone says.

There’s a mound of bandages on my shoulder…tape wrapped over my arm and chest. Wonder what Tara’s gonna think of my body if a big fucking scar’s staring her in the face. Figure I’ll have to wear tee shirts when we’re fucking. I’m about to ask if I need plastic surgery, when Uncle Henry mumbles: “I hope this taught you an important lesson.”

We stare at each other. “What do you mean?” I ask.
“Well,” he begins, “maybe this isn’t the best time for a discussion, but now you know what the country’s up against, right?”
“Yeah, of course. I ignored your warnings and acted stupid.”
“I’m glad you realize that. I thought it’d never sink in.”
I’m suddenly pissed. What a fucked up time for Uncle Henry to start giving me shit. “Look,” I say, “you made a lot of good points, but I don’t want to grow up a hermit. Okay, in the future I won’t drag my sister and her friends outside, but I want to be part of the world. Maybe find someplace where me and Tara can be together without obsessing about fanatics 24/7. We were wrong to sneak out, but we faced some really serious shit….weren’t sure if we’d be alive from one minute to the next…politics wasn’t, like, number one on our minds.”
Uncle Henry turns red in the face. “But the country’s at an historic cross roads. Powerful forces are pulling it apart.”
“Yeah, I get the drift,” I tell him. “The country’s splitting into corporations, liberals and the patriotic right, but we still have to live, right? We gotta stick our necks out and stand for something…not be fucking moles.”
The staff interrupts us…checks me out, temperature, blood pressure…the whole routine, then leave…probably glad they don’t have to listen to our bullshit.
Uncle Henry’s getting himself all worked up as usual, but my mind drifts to Tara…her beautiful face, body…the way her slender fingers stroked my dick.
“Derrick,” my uncle’s saying, “it’s a frightening time…and getting worse. So many conflicting interests! While you were kidnapped, a church had a gun raffle…a church! It’s so ironic! The very foundations of our democracy are tearing us apart…maybe the values were wrong to begin with! That terrifies me! The Conservative Right thinks the government should be overthrown. The corporations are twisting peoples’ minds every which way, and the intellectual liberals think idealism will solve everything! The system’s definitely going to collapse. It has to! There’s no consensus anymore. The country’s a mass of special interests.”
I close my eyes…the pain’s returning, and I can’t bear to listen. All I want to do is go home, hang with Tara, Amy and Kadeem…lose my virginity….then fuck every minute, but where can we get away from all this crap? Maybe an island somewhere!
Uncle Henry’s rehashing his theory that the countries representing the two major philosophies, democracy and socialism are spiralling out of control. Russia’s dominated by crime and political thugs…and the U.S. is in control of corporations and splinter groups.
I push the call button, turn to Uncle Henry. “Where are Amy and the others?”
“Tara and Kadeem’s families came for them. Amy’s asleep upstairs. She wanted to stay here with us.”
“Please take her home. She was incredibly freaked the whole time!”
He rests his hand on my good shoulder. “You’re right. You sure you’re okay?”
“Definitely. They’re gonna knock me out soon anyway. I feel like shit.”
Sadly, I’m relieved to see Uncle Henry go. It’s frustrating he’s so wrapped up in all his theories and has so little time for Amy and me. All I want is a hug now and then…acknowledgment that I exist, but I guess that’s asking too much.
The nurse comes in and gives me a shot. Within minutes, I feel s-o-o-o much better. Wish my mom and dad were still around. Nobody could ever replace them, except maybe Tara some day. As I drift off, I picture their faces…they way they looked when I reached some milestone…like now. Realize I have to grow up whether I like it or not.
                                                                                               THE END