Thursday, October 30, 2014

Visions of Sly Ramon


Standing at the sink doing Saturday dishes, I looked out on my garden and watched blue jays hop from branch to branch, quarrel in the pomegranate tree. They argued and I scraped dried egg off a plate with a yellow scrubby.

Sly Ramon came then, unannounced. He cut through the garden fence and the wall and counter top, came to stand beside me at the sink.

He touched me gently on the elbow, fluffed hair on the back of my steamy neck, my face flushed pink. He’d been walking along the Sacramento River, he said, when he felt my need.

I don't remember calling or needing or even knowing his name, but I knew, and felt compelled to answer when he asked,“Tell me what trouble the Lord has visited on you.”

Sly settled in a chair, hushing my kitchen. I opened my mouth to speak and the ficus bent its branches, bristled its leaves. I lowered my voice and laid out the situation. It just felt good to talk with him. I didn't pause to wonder.

“It’s Chickenman," I explained.. "He’s hurt. In Mercy Hospital. The nuns are praying. The doctors say there’s no hope. He’s lucky to be alive." I burst into tears, put my face in my hands. "I can’t believe this. He won’t ever be able to fasten his pants or tie his shoes. He’s crippled. We don’t have money. He’ll never get another job."

Chickenman, who loves fried chicken more than Moon Pies and orange soda, was between jobs, when he agreed to help a shifty Irishman jack up a house, a mansion really, in midtown. They were preparing to move the Victorian over a block so they could expand the jail.

As Chickenman was setting wedges around the foundation, preparing the building for the lift, one of the jacks snapped, the structure shifted. His right thumb got caught between house and foundation when it came down. He tried and tried to pull his hand out and with a mighty tug, the meat came away from the bone, the smashed digit left behind. It was horrible, I told Sly, and cried some more.

Chickenman started running around like a, well, you get the picture, until some of the other guys tackled him and wrapped a dirty sweatshirt around the spurting wound. Shortly after that Chickenman passed out before a good-sized lunch crowd gathered to watch the paramedics work. They took him to the Sisters of Mercy Hospital. Which is where he is today, I explained.

Sly Ramon got up from the chair, kissed me sweetly on the forehead, said, "You are blessed," that's all and he walked out through the yard and the fences.

Chickenman said he had a vision as he slept that morning that someone held his bandaged hand. When he woke, his thumb was in its proper place. The Sisters declared a miracle and Chickenman ordered fried wings for lunch. I continue doing dishes now and stare at the gaps in the garden fence, expecting.



 From Songs From the Caldera, story collection in progress.