December 6, 2015
It was 1971. I cain’t recall what I ate for breakfast this mornin’, but I remember this old dream. Ain’t that somethin’? This old world is somethin’.
So me and my wife Sam Ann was sound asleep, and I was dreamin’. It was like watchin’ a show on the TV. Sam’s brother and his wife was driving in their old van, me watchin’ from the side of the road. Their baby girl was laid out asleep on the back seat.
And it is raining, and the two lane road is coated with oily puddles. They are driving outside of Carlinville, and the rain rise up from the back tires, the water comin’ down so fast the windshield wipers don’t work.
And I hear myself mumbling: “No, no.”
But they keep on a-driving, and the back of van is fishtailing, and then they come to a really steep curve, and old Ralph, he loses control, and the van rolls over and over. And they all are dead.
Well, I woke up screamin’. I think I yelled, “Slow down, slow down.” And Sam Ann woke up and held me while I cried. I told her I dreamed her brother was dead. And Sam, she went to make us coffee, and the day started, and I didn’t think another thing about that dream.
Sam Ann drove off to work, and I was makin’ a sandwich for my shift at the steel mill. I packed a paper bag with eats and started to walk out the door. The phone rang. A voice said, “Are you Mr. Gray?” I said yes, and the guy said, “Madison County Sheriff’s, Mr. Gray. We need you to come to Alton Memorial, sir.” I asked why; he said he could not comment, but I needed to get there now.
And I was worried something had happened to Sam Ann, and I got from Clifton Terrace Road to that hospital in under fifteen minutes. I ran in the emergency room door and told them who I was. And this sheriff’s deputy comes through an automatic door and takes me to a room with a curtain closed. He won’t say a word.
He pulls back the curtain. I vomit all over the floor, foot of this cot. On the cot is the torn body of Sam Ann’s brother’s wife. She is nearly beheaded. She is missing her right leg. And I sob, and I ask why in hell her husband didn’t come do this identifyin’.
Because he was in intensive care is why. He and the wife and the baby had been in a horrible car accident outside of Carlinville. The wife was thrown through the windshield. Her husband was knocked out but alive. And their baby girl, despite the fact she was asleep, no seatbelt, just stayed on that back seat like nothin’ had happened. And ambulances brought them back here.
I had to call Sam Ann, tell my sweetheart my dream came true. And no, I ain’t psychic—I don’t believe in that.
Why did I remember that today? Because I went to Christmas shop at Penny’s. There was this old, old woman standin’ in front of the entrance, talkin’ to a young guy. She said she would spend the rest of her days settin’ in her kids’ yard with her machine gun and kill any Negro—she didn’t say “Negro”—or Arab or Muslim, or that traitor Obama, who happened by. She said the revolution was upon us, and the guy said he was locked and loaded. They meant the white revolution.
And the pain of that was like the pain when I saw my brother-in-law’s dead wife on that hospital bed. The emptiness. The tragedy. I wanted to strike that woman and yell, Shame on you, sister. Instead I walked back to my pickup and cried.
I got a shotgun in a linen closet, ain’t been fired in fifty years. Do I clean it up and oil it and set by the door?
Life ain’t worth that. My end is near, don’t matter none how.
You want a shotgun, Gene?