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AR #52/53 Cover: Crave/Coven by Charles Badland
number 52/53

F I C T I O N
by Marlin Barton

Meaning Business

First thing I heard was somebody say, "He's dead." Then somebody else said, "Dead as hell." I was lying on the floorboard of the truck with glass all over me, and all I could think was, Shit! I'm dead. I'm really dead. Then I heard them walking on the bridge over me. Sounded like they had on hard-soled boots or taps on their shoes the way their steps rang out on the cement. I realized pretty quick that I wasn't dead, but I was lying in such a position as you wouldn't think anybody alive could ever get in, unless maybe their hip was knocked out of joint, which of course mine was.

It may sound crazy, but I did think I was dead for that one minute, figured I'd gone and killed myself like my wife Juanita has always predicted. You hear about how people die on the operating table and then come back and say later on how they heard everything and saw everything- including themselves-while they were dead. I'd thought maybe that's what was happening to me. But then I didn't see myself like one of those people on the operating table. If I had I probably couldn't have stood it, the way I must have looked all bloody and cut up and knocked out of shape.

The doctors have got stitches in my stomach and ropes around my legs that run down over the end of the bed where they've got weights tied to them. They're trying to pull me back into shape, straighten me out. Except they're doing it as slow as they can so it'll hurt longer. There's a big old nurse who comes in here and sees to me. Tells me sometimes things have to hurt so you can heal right. I tell her to go study up on new ways to torture me. She laughs, says, "I bet you're not as mean as you try to sound." I tell her she ain't no judge of character.

Juanita ain't come to see me yet. And it's been three days. But I don't blame her. We'd been fighting before the accident. It was the worst one we've ever had. It started out in the living room, then ended in the kitchen. She was standing against the stove, just about bent over double yelling at me so hard. "I'm tired of you staying out all the time, and I'm tired of all your drinking," she said, or hollered, rather. "Before we got married I thought I could straighten you out," she said. "That must be every woman's downfall, all of us trying to straighten out some man." Then she said the one thing that she'd never said before. "I don't believe I can stay married to you." That hit me hard as a fist. She told me she knew what kind of crazy-ass family I came from and that she'd thought all I needed was a woman like her to make up for how I was raised. "I can see now that's not the case," she said. Thing is, I did need a woman like her, someone fine and tough who'd put up with someone like me, but of course I wouldn't admit it.

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