Hard Times at
The It'll Do Tavern
Part III wish I could tell you exactly what came up that day and in the days that followed, but all I can remember is that I was suddenly the boy again, in the hospital again, swept by a killing disease that came out of nowhere to gut the body and char the soul.
I wish I could remember what I said or tried to say to Viva, to get her (and me) to understand what had happened to that boy who heretofore had known nothing but running free on the beach, climbing the mountains, dancing the dance of exuberant youth.
I wish I could remember ... but all I recall is a pale boy's body under assault by hammers and pickaxes and hot pokers, tearing flesh from muscle, muscle from bone --- the wreckage they laid out on a bier in a dark place called Isolation.
And most of all the vision of a bird --- a bird mad with the pain of it, desperately wanting to escape reason and belief and hope and life: to be done with it; to fly away forever, to never return.
To survive the years, I had buried the boy and the bird in a tomb where no one, least of all me, could find them. There they stayed until the day came when the deepest part of me called a halt to all activities: reading, writing, sleeping, partying, going to the movies --- the usual activities that we use to relieve us of the burden of truth.
On my very first day with her, Vivian had seen what I had not yet seen and would not see until the coming of Dr. Mesmer. It was simplicity itself: the hidden memory of going mad so long ago, and the fear of going mad again, had, between the two of them, driven me quite mad.
§ § §
It took a few weeks for Vivian and me to piece me back together again, more or less. She would call from time to time to make sure I was all right.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Playing pinball," I said.
"That's it. Playing pinball. At the It'll Do Tavern. Playing pinball and drinking beer. Looking at the wall some."
"Are you going to be OK?"
"You know the answer to that as well as I do," I said. "I've lasted this long," I said. "I don't think I'm going to be disappearing down the rathole anytime soon," I told her. "You, of all people, know me better than that."--- L. W. Milam