Caroline Evey and Hildie Block

Caroline Evey

what we once were



Hildie Block


Inspiration Piece

I looked back at the car wreck, behind me near the road.  The wagon was literally wrapped around a tree, just like folks always said.  The moon was beaming down and illuminating me and my brother’s dog, both trying to stay warm by the makeshift fire I made.  Scouting had come in handy.  No cars had come by in what seemed like hours.

He turned his head so his nose could be closer to the flame, “Careful,” I played with his silky ears, “you wouldn’t want to burn your whiskers.”  I looked into the fire, its limited spectrum of colors glowing against black, the black of night and the black of the cinders it was producing in rapid abundance.  I stared steadily into the fire, watching the flames change pattern like the wooden kaleidoscope on the stand back home in my father’s den.  I patted the dog’s head and slid my hand down his lean neck.  I had made the fire; it was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined it to be.  But then again, I had used the matches in my pocket from the 24-hour diner at the motel, and there had been plenty of dry wood just lying around.

The dog shivered to contradict my proud thoughts about building the fire.  I moved the blanket closer around him.  On a gory impulse, I wanted to open up the blanket to examine the wound, the gross gash on the animal’s left flank, but I knew the dog was cold and I didn’t want to cause him anymore trauma than I already had.

Even though it was dark, I had a feeling that the dog was still bleeding.  His leg was wrapped in some old ace bandages I had found in the trunk of my car.  It wasn’t exactly my car; it was my parents’, but now I guess I’d better be prepared to buy it, after what had happened.  My brother and I had always talked about buying a car together someday.  He was fifteen this month and I turned sixteen last July, so I guess “someday” is going to show up mighty fast.

He’s a wonderful kid, my brother.  You never saw a kid love his older brother so much.  I loved him, too, but I never bothered to show it, not that I was mean or anything — maybe sometimes I was — I just wasn’t perfect like him.  Even while he was sick, he was always cheerful and had this angelic look on his face.  Sure he got depressed and all, but he seemed to get over it quicker than I would have, for sure.

Honestly, he was just plain nice.  The kind of kid everyone wants to be best friends with.  I remember not always thinking that way about him, maybe I never really saw him as he truly was.  Then again, maybe I did.  He was terrific to my parents; they never had a headache ’cause of him, not to say they never had a headache, because I sure gave them plenty.  Well, maybe, he was responsible for a few headaches, but that was before he got sick. I stared back into the fire, and then glanced down at the dog.  He had this noble, altruistic look in his eyes, just like my brother had last time I saw him.  He was our dog, my brother’s and mine, but I always got the idea he liked my brother better.  It was the same with my parents. We did about the same things “wrong”, but it was always me who got in more trouble.  Like the time we stayed late after school with the older guys playing basketball in the parking lot behind the Middle School.  I couldn’t believe they asked us; we were just walking by on our way home.  It was great.  We both wanted to stay, woulda given anything to hang with those guys and play on their teams.  It wasn’t my idea, but I was, of course, the one grounded for two weeks.  My brother’s punishment consisted on being “talked to”.  I guess it was because I was older, or something, but one year shouldn’t make so much of a difference.

The dog, Alfred, was a black Lab with muscular shoulders and a sleek black coat.  My dad and my brother used to take him duck hunting every year.  I didn’t usually go; I always felt sorry for the duck.  Dad used to say if you didn’t feel sad eating the duck, then you shouldn’t mind shooting it.  I didn’t want to dwell on this because I liked duck a whole lot.

The dog whimpered and I wondered how much longer he would live; anything could happen.  He could die from shock or exposure; he could bleed to death.  All the gruesome details from health class floated freely in my mind.  The one who would have really cared was gone forever.  I cared, but part of me was gone, too.  My parents, the athletic types, would be too busy playing mixed doubles to really care.  Maybe they would notice because it was my fault.  They always cared when it was my fault.

I was the one who left the new hospital to “go for a drive.”  I went back to the motel and got Alfred and just drove from there.  I had to try to tell Alfred what had happened.  I had no clue where I was; I’d never even been in this stupid state before.  Another car, speeding like a maniac, swerved into my lane, forcing me off the road into woods.  They didn’t stop.  That tree would wreck my chance at a perfect record, something my parents always bragged about, their “perfect records”, like a broken record if you ask me.

The dog wasn’t hurt in the accident; he hurt himself leaping from the wreck, after I had deemed the car totaled and not going anywhere.  He must have caught his leg on the jagged excuse for a door.  I called him, so I guess that was my fault, too.  I glanced into the fire again and lifted my hands to warm them.

My mind raced back to two months of hospitals and doctors and that horrible smell that all medical places have.  I remember searching the doctor’s face as he emerged from the operating room for the last time.  I mean, your little brother just isn’t supposed to get sick and die, just like that.  It’s too weird, I mean, this stuff just doesn’t happen.  It was just a summer cold, then it was mono. By the time they decided it was leukemia, there wasn’t much time left to do anything about it.  It’s not fair —

I looked down at the dog and stroked his belly.  He stopped breathing.  I stared into the flame for a long time until my eyes began to smart, and tears ran down my face.  I turned my head away so the tears would stop, but they didn’t.

I looked back and through my tears the fire seemed brighter. Blinking, I realized that it was the red flash of a police car on the road behind me.  The copper’s flash light found me and in a booming voice he said, “Son, there’s some folks awful worried about you.  Why don’t you come with me.”

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