Tibbits


            Tibbits was alone in the alley.  He had been there for the five hours since it started to rain, the rattling calming a nerve pinched just behind his left eye.  Above, a gutter emptied out onto his shoulder, sprinkling his face thickly, and soaking everything from his ruined fedora down to the garbage heap of donut boxes, food scraps, and whatever the Vietnamese restaurant’s bus boy had been throwing on the pile for the past few days.  He hadn’t moved an inch since he sat down, but his body continued the small rising heaves every few seconds as he took in a breath as if the air itself was a last cigarette, holding it in, tasting it, feeling it dance in his throat until letting it go into the cold wet fall.

            The air loosed from his lips, passing up for an instant before dissipating into the rest of the unseen air around.  Tibbits would have watched this, but he was blind, stricken since he was five, and he had never known that during a cool night you could see your breath in such a way as the heat from your body eroded silently in its travel.  There were many things Tibbits had never seen or experienced in his forty-eight years of life. 

He sat under the gutter, saved from the sprinkling rain, listening intently as people walked by the entrance to the alley, their feet splashing one by one in the collected water along the opened street like small flaps of the wings of ducks in a pond.  There were loud thumping drips falling to his left, possibly a metal garbage can.  It broke the calm silence every few seconds with a loud explosive echo, an unpleasant gong. 

To his right sat meekly a boy of only five years of age, shivering, soaked as much as Tibbits himself.  He could hear the boy’s teeth chattering as violently as a woodpecker.  He knew the boy was freezing; he’d probably be dead soon.  Jeffrey was his name, Jeffrey Scott.  His parents had been brutally murdered a little over five hours ago, just before the rain, and right in front of Tibbits and Jeffrey.  Tibbits could still smell the mother’s perfume as if it had rooted itself inside of a part of his nose he couldn’t blow out.  The scent still lingered in the alleyway, just as their bodies did where the trash pile stopped bleeding onto the stone world below.

The knife was still in the father.  Jammed hard into his mid spine, piercing just between two vertebrae.  Jeffrey had watched, helpless, unable to move as the man, a dark shadowed character rose from behind a garbage bin, walked easily to his mother, slit her throat, and then spun his father around ramming the same blade into his backside.  The father fell to the ground, his face bashing itself against the hard cement.  It broke his nose, but that was no longer a problem.  But his mother was still standing, gasping for a breath that she couldn’t find.  Her eyes stared up to the sky, the clouds thickly covering the sky beyond, wide, tearing up in each corner until falling over her cheeks and mouth. 

In seconds she was on her knees, and then slumped next to her husband.  Jeffrey never screamed, never cried, and never looked away.  He just sat down on the garbage heap behind him, never realizing that another man was already there.  Then he watched as the killer simply walked out of the alley, turned, and was gone.  Tibbits felt the boy shaking even before the rain started.

Five hours had passed.  Long hours in darkness for Tibbits.  Trying to block out the boy’s shuddering body, the passing people, the filth around them, and the horrible stench.  He just wanted the rain, the light rattle of it on roofs, on passing cars, and her scent.  That sweet scent, candied flowers.  He tried to imagine that the shivering person next to him wasn’t a boy.  That it was her.  The two of them enjoying a nice evening on the porch, rocking slowly in a suspended bench.  The usual sounds of crickets in the field beyond just reaching above the croaking of frogs in the pond to the left gone for this one night, and replaced by the rain falling gently in the field.  He wondered where bugs and frogs went when it rained like this.  Homes in the dirt or under the trees maybe. 

The boy’s weight finally fell against his arm.  Young, small, more like a small sack of potatoes than a living person.  He tried again to combine the scent, the rain, and the shivering boy to be his vision again, but the boy was shaking too badly.  No swinging bench would feel such a way.  Tibbits finally gave up, unable to conjure the image back up.  He was stuck in the alley again; two dead people at his feet and their son getting pneumonia at his shoulder and no one ever looking over to the dark place, never to see such a scene. 

Tibbits finally moved, straightened up his back which had sat slumped for so long now.  It hurt, throbbing from the middle on down.  He smacked his lips together, clearing his mouth out mostly with the splashing water from above. 

“Boy.” Tibbits said lowly.  He waited until the boy moved somewhat.  “What was her name, boy?”

“Mommy…” the boy said each letter seeming to fall through fits of shaking.

“No, boy.  I didn’t ask that.  Her name, her real name.”

“Melissa.”  He answered.

“Melissa, yes, that’s really nice isn’t it.  Melissa.  Tell me about her.  What’s she look like?”

“Dead.”

“Boy, I didn’t ask that either.  What DID she look like then?”

Jeffrey sniffled a bit, and then answered.  “Yellow hair.  Wavy.  Blue eyes.  She was pretty.”

“Hmm, that’ll do boy, thank you.”

Tibbits went back to his thoughts.  Trying again to get back to his vision sitting with Melissa, his wife on their swinging bench on the porch of their house so far outside of the city that every star in the sky shone bright without the drowning of any other lights around.  But he still couldn’t do it.  Everything was gone now.  He sighed and then spoke to the boy again.

“Boy, what’s your name?”

“Jeffrey…Scott.”

“Well, is it Jeffrey or Scott?”

“Both.”

“Alright, have it your way.”  More time passed before Tibbits spoke again.  “Boy, Jeffrey.  Listen to me.  I’m blind, and I didn’t see what happened to your parents, but I knew it was happening, and worse, I knew it was going to happen.”

“How?”

“I’ve always been a bit odd.  I have visions, things in my head that play out like a television show in my head.  These visions happen before the actual thing happens.  I saw your parents getting killed this morning.”

Jeffrey was quiet.  Whether he believed the man next to him or not didn’t show on his face.  He just waited until he finally spoke up again.  “Why didn’t you save them then?”

“You’re smart for your age Jeffrey.  And seeing as how I know you’ll be dead in the next hour, I think I ought to tell you the truth.  You see, I could have saved em, saved em both bein blind or not.  I chose not to you see?  I chose not to because I also saw the vision I’d have if I let it happen.  I’ll never have a truth like that you understand?  After the life I’ve lived, I just wanted this one thing.”

Silence again.  The boy was shivering worse now, his teeth threatening to break one another as they continued to crash against one another. 

“Okay…”  Jeffrey said finally.

“Sorry, boy.  But you’ll see them again soon enough.  I can promise that at least.”

The boy never spoke again.  As the hour went by, his shuddering body became worse, and then gave out completely.  His last breath passed before his lips, a small mist that faded into the air above for no one to see.  His body slumped from Tibbits’ arm, and finally fell to join his parents.

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