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COMMENTARY BY WILLIAM CARTER: Death blows through Five Points

“… I called out His name a whole bunch of times hoping He’d hear me and that it’d make a difference when Death reaches out and takes my hand.”


“I’m on my way now!” I shout into my cell phone over the howl of the wind and the rumble of the rain as I inch, near-blind, in my work truck down 5th Avenue through the storm.

Jack, the on-call foreman for the Streets Department that week, says something else I don’t quite hear because it is lightening now and the wind is blowing harder and something I don’t recognize bounces off the hood of the truck and then caroms off into the night. I pull my attention back to where it needs to be and flip the phone closed and toss it on the seat beside me knowing that whatever he had to say could be said again because he would already be at the shop when I got there, or he would arrive shortly after along with all the other guys from Streets he dragged from bed with a call at 2:45 that morning because that’s what’s expected of us, the Streets Department, when it storms or snows or ices or floods.

Politics don’t matter when storms come, nor do personalities or protocol or differences of opinion. The things that matter are fueled-up trucks and loaders and sharp chainsaws and working radios and clear voices from dispatch and looking out for the guys beside you or above you or behind you when you can barely see two feet in front of your face because it is dark out and the storm is still doing what storms do while you’re cutting trees and clearing roads or whatever else the Streets Department does when called out at 2:45 in the morning.

A burst of green from a blown transformer startles my attention back to my trek ahead to the shop and I white-knuckle down on the steering wheel and lean into the windshield as if being six inches closer to the rapid back-and-forth to the trying-their-best-but-not-doing-much-good-at-all wiper blades will somehow get me there faster. The wind picks up and the sideways rain gets heavier just as I approach Five Points in the heart of Our Town and I slow to less than a crawl and then stop all together because there is…something…there is something…there is some…thing…some…one…standing in the middle of the intersection flailing its arms and bathed in the flashing red and yellow from the traffic lights about it.

The figure is dressed in what appears to be a tattered, black robe and its head is hidden by a deep, black cowl and it seems oblivious to the 40 mph winds and the river of rain pouring from the sky and churning from the storm drains. The body spins to the left, then to the right, as if looking for something and I don’t want it to look at me because something primal deep in my brain tells me that if it does, it will SEE me and that this thing is a thing that no one wants to be SEEN by and I know that if whatever it is lays its eyes upon my face I will grow cold and lights will dim and I will be taken away because I know that this thing is Death.

There is a crack of lightening and the truck rocks from the gusting wind and Death rushes toward me, then stops, then rushes towards me again and if I told you I didn’t almost wet my pants I would be lying and if I said I didn’t yell out and cringe I would be lying about that, too, because when Death comes for you, you do things you wouldn’t normally like to admit doing.

And then I thought about Love-Weasel still sleeping at home and I thought about the boys and I thought about Mama and how she’s always trying to get me to go to church and I thought about Bear-Dog and I thought about Jesus and whether or not I’d thought about Him as much in my life as I probably should have and for good measure I called out His name a whole bunch of times hoping He’d hear me and that it’d make a difference when Death reaches out and takes my hand.

Death stops 20 feet or so in front of the truck then skitters sideways to stand beside a streetlight, its black robe drenched by the driving rain and flapping and fluttering in the wind.

A vehicle appears from the road to my left and inches through the intersection, passing within two feet of the street light, its headlights revealing Death’s true identity to be a large, black canvas umbrella blown from one of the sidewalk tables next to Starbuck’s.

I wonder if Mama and Jesus got together and decided to present me with a trial run.

I wouldn’t put it past either one of em.

Posted on: 2/6/2013


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