Frank rubbed his thumb on the nose of the knight. He made a fist around it. Clenching until it hurt. The snoring oozed around him becoming stronger as he couldn’t find sleep himself. Sitting up in bed he looked out of his only window at the approaching morning.
In its early pinks and bare trees.
Opposite the window, about say, eight or nine feet, you wouldn’t be able to tell that the door was any different from that of a cheap bedsit.
He hadn’t slept that night but he had his first private student at 9am and he was getting by.
The door looked like he could leave at any time. If you ignored the bars outside the window there’s not a lot of ways you’d be able to tell that Frank was confined, as he had been for the past thirty-eight years.
It was more peaceful here than the reality he’d left outside. Dulled again raging man aging. But the managing was fine. And he could afford one small room and a shared bathroom down and almost dead. But peaceful and away from hunger.
‘Ah- wait. wait wait wait wait wait.’ Frank said to himself. ‘I hope you’ve been studying hard, I’ll check I’ll check I’ll check I’ll be.’
Frank closes the ringing off from the morning bells by placing his hands over his ears. His head down between his legs. Rocking the sound gently away. Snapping the head off the small knight he’d carved in his fist.
His door opens.
‘Why aren’t you dressed Frank?’
Harry never gives Frank much hassle. He’s learnt to be careful about Frank’s quiet days. When all the warden has to do is let him play chess alone in his room. Maybe let him off showers. To avoid a full-on physical episode.
Frank even carved a set of rounded chess pieces with big chunky smiling faces from rose wood for Harry’s son around the time of his fifth birthday.
The small rules that the warden has learnt about Frank settle both their minds down, in the knowledge that all people need to do is learn what processes have to be applied in what ways, to take care of even the wildest minds and hearts.
And he knows in himself that he’s learnt Frank’s processes.
And that he could teach the world to do the same if he was twenty years younger and not so tired.
‘It’s Summer.’ Frank says into hands, nursing the broken chess pieces, ignoring Harry.
This wasn’t a day that Harry could enforce text book authority on Frank. It was a careful, Autumn, day.
‘Hey, optimisms good my man, haha, it’ll be here soon huh?!’
It had been a long time since Harry had made the final, final – and what he thought – was a solid agreement with Frank. About being dressed by 8.30am.
And he’d damaged one of his pieces made from strong Oak in his knuckles.
The type of wood he had used to carve it would require both hands applying full force in a work shop vice to get anywhere what he did with his hands. Alone.
‘What’re we wearing today Frank? How about something Summery?’
‘Harry, when are you gonna learn, how to play?’ Frank mumbled, planning his next move.
Harry had to find out what had shaken Frank up, before either of them left the room. He sighed into his open shirt buttons and rubbed his shaved head, the only thing that the promotion to head of E-wing had meant was that he should be wearing tie. That was stuffed into his back pocket until 11am. When the shift supervisor began the after-noon shift.
The years at Pentonville prison had covered his skin in a hard grey beard that never really left. It had specs of white. And small cuts that leaked slightly if his wife wasn’t awoken early enough to help him shave. He’d learnt repeated gestures and ways of touching things that helped him to calm down.
The years had taken away his hair, giving his wife a reason to groom him. As she would regularly shave his head for him, which was always his best look anyway, according to her.
The only thing that got sharper was his sense of smell. It had adjusted itself to the atmosphere of each and every part of the premises and surrounding three miles of grounds and wilderness.
Open fields and allotments.
Here. He sensed that the old teacher, naked and rubbing his broken chess piece could ‘really- go- off’ if the right things weren’t said soon. Things had that smell.
After rubbing his neck twice, and chest three, he sat down next to Frank, and planned with him, worried.
‘Liberian girrrl, you came and you changed my world…’ Harry sang as they both looked out the window.
‘Hehehehe, Oh! Well…’ Frank said partly to the air and mostly to himself.
Frank hated it when Harry sang. But it made him remember something. A day when he drank coffee in the morning, in his own kitchen, and he still worked.
A day when he was planning how to check-mate a friend in three moves that he would see later on that evening, after he’d finished teaching one of his favourite students. The bad singing, reminded, him, of, a, word… a reason, that was in his mind at the time…
‘Liberian girrrl, you came and you changed meeee girl…’
Frank licked his lips and tasted the coffee, and smiled through the window that looked out onto a wide concrete yard, that connected the sheds to the allotments behind them.
He tried to fix his mind on where his queen was, so he could move her, raising her over the board and fence, to take his opponents king; but everytime he saw the piece, he couldn’t reach for it, and the coffee kept on tasting like a life-time of imprisonment. Already taken.
Frank gripped the pieces in his hand again trying to make them rejoin at the neck where he’d broken them. The world he was trying to remember didn’t want to be found exactly. The door opened as the shift supervisor looked at them both, tired, and angry.
‘What’s wrong with Frank today Halloway?’ Johnson said looking at them both.
‘He’s fine Johnson, we’re just getting ready to head out for breakfast and roll-call has no discrepancies.’
‘That’s fine Carver. But if you stop in on every one of our guests for this long you’re neglecting both the other inmates and your staff members. See that things get moving.’
Johnson turned and left. Leaving the smell of spiked coffee behind him. Frank placed the knight’s head back on its neck, and continued to stare out the window.
‘Harry, I appreciate your singing, but if you must come into my room on these rather cold Autumn mornings, I’d appreciate it if you at least bring me a morning paper, a fresh vanilla latte, a whore, and a fucking noose.’
‘I love you LIBERIAN GIII HURRLLLL! ALL OF THE TIII-YIIIME!!’
Harry stood up and pirouetted over to Frank’s sink.
Grabbing the shirt hanging over it and throwing it over Frank’s face.
Taking it off his head, the old chess teacher fumbled beside his arse and found his glasses.
Put them on.
Frank’s long frame stood a few inches taller than Harry and his died black hair still fitted his middle aged face. Unlike his wing supervisor, he was still handsome. At the top of his 6ft 1’ body he held a head with a round jaw that had a straight nose and lost eyes that were underneath a smooth uncreased brow. He turned and began to put on his shirt as Harry walked over to the door.
‘Yes Frank?’ Harry said trying to make a tight knot around his neck with his tie.
Frank found his cotton pants and placed himself inside them, leg by leg, moving his hair back and tucking his shirt in.
‘Can you get me some glue?’ He said placing the dead knight by his window sill.
‘I can get you pritt-stick. Will that do?’ Harry said stepping into the hall, looking back.
‘Sure.’ Frank said into the mirror above his wash basin.
Harry ticked off a box in his roll-call book, humming an old Michael Jackson song to himself as he walked up the hallway.
Frank remembered the word as he applied the foam to his chin at 8.45am.
It was ‘survive’.
‘Why do you care so much? I know you said you were close but-‘
Sara didn’t like Frank crying when she came to visit him.
It took too much away from the teacher she had once respected.
She could ignore anything when she was with him, the glazed look on his face, his same pale shirts, but the cyring was too much.
Frank didn’t seem to age in her mind, apart from now, the tears looseing the softness of his flesh, rolling down between the cracks and around his lips.
Frank watched Sara’s hand reach across to touch his.
He saw it moving across the checkered blacks and whites, gliding into thought over the piece he’d just lost.
‘Check-mate…’ Frank said to the ceiling.
Which she was, but there nothing she could do about it now.
She was too far along with it. It’d been ten years since she’d first visited her old chess teacher.
She’d been in the court room when he got sent down. Watch him get taken away, fantasy, longing, visiting.
Ten years had passed between them in the visiting room.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll be here for you tomorrow! I’m so excited! We’re going to live in my flat, I LOVE YOU YOU STUIPID OLD CUNT.’ She shouted, losing her quiet way for a moment, and finding it again, adjusting her scarf and tucking her bobbed hair cut back inside her hat.
‘What happened to him hon?’
There was always a slight rocking motion to Frank’s silence. Like something was growing in his fifty-year old frame, that always had, and never truly spoke.
Moving his black locks back with one hand he rolled his head back to the strange young feminine piece talking to him.
Always talking talking talking.
Frank couldn’t love. He could only understand how it played out in infinite moves that could be observed, endured, enjoyed, learnt, and repayed.
Sara replayed the same move she began with. It’d always been a fault in her game Frank remembered. And she always left herself open after a short time, although, ten years must mean something, he thought.
Why would a woman in her mid twenties come to see a convict in his fifties?
Well, we’ll see. He thought.
‘He hung himself in his office. Visits nearly called off.’ Frank said. Bits of a mad smile and horror dancing.
Finally, his father’s words mixed him up, as disgusting as they were, the words were sewn into his mind like stitches over a gaping wound in his face. Frank folded his arms. Swaying and fidgeting slow. Shoulders limbs hands doing different different things slow, without telling each other.
‘Baby, do you remember-‘ Sara said trying to move things forward.
‘No-’ Frank said slamming the front of his chair into the floor.
His fathers words came to him, as a six year old, watching his Father spit red wine into his Mothers face.
The short volley of verbal attacks ended with a spray of his father’s favourite cheap booze in the living room at his wife.
The argument was about why he didn’t deserve piano lessons if he didn’t want them. Always short, sadistic, reasoning. Always about why she was stupid to persist, so stupid, to be such a ‘soft’ bitch.
‘I’ll show you a real man’s game.’ Frank’s father said taking him by the wrist into the kitchen. Shutting the doors separating the rooms.
His Father pulled out a seat from the kitchen table with his spare hand and pushed Frank into it with the other. Frank knew to look straight forward with his hands on the table as his Father fumbled in the cupboards behind him. Taking out something rattling. Alive.
‘You need to fuckin-learn-‘
His Father’s fist slammed into his temple gently, looking for reaction.
Frank gave none.
Hands flat on the kitchen table. Knowing what happens if you flinch.
Wham wham WHAM wham.
Frank protected his teeth from the kitchen tiles as his Father had taught him when downed in a fight.
‘O.k.’ Frank said in the visitor’s room
‘Good.’ His Father said next.
‘We can start.’
‘You’re going to learn how to play chess son.’ His father said.
Politely gulping a mouthful of red wine and setting the bottle back down.
Slowly opening the rattling box he’d placed down.
Taking out a piece that is still black. And white pieces that were once white.
‘Is chess a game?’ Frank asked, as Frank Snr gave him a sudden serious look.
‘Oh. Now that’s the first good question I’ve heard you ask son.’ The older male asked.
‘No no... Not, toady!’ He whispered in reply. Reaching down slowly to pull his sons chair a little closer to him.
‘Today. Sorry sir.’
Frank slammed another three palms into his head.
‘EASY Frank, eeaassy-‘ The warden shouted from a far corner of the large hall with inmates and visitors.
‘It’s Ok Mr Hasam, we’re fine we’re fine. We’re just working out what’s happening tomorrow. He’s ok, look-‘
Sara reached across to take Frank’s hand away from him.
Frank sent a smiling jest and wink at the warden to confirm things were fine.
‘Hey we’re all good here Hassy, I’m just excited about getting my balls off you know?! Soon!’ Frank shouted over the din of conversations.
Bringing both eyebrows down adding a serious ‘SOOOOON’
Sara smiled through her embarrassment and locked down upon Frank’s eyes.
Timing the rise from her seat almost perfectly as the bell sounded signaling the end of visiting hours.
The wardens got ready to prize apart the sad couples and family members if they began to hold each too close.
‘I’m sorry baby.’ Frank said holding Sara close.
Frank pushed a small repaired chess piece into her palm, and joined the line of inmates disappearing from the hall.
Frank looked at his face in his mirror as he combed his hair back. His cheek bones were smooth for a man of his age.
It was only the cracks at the sides of his eyes that rippled into rows of connecting dry creases and white in his temples that showed you how much of his life had already passed.
He unbuttoned his shirt and rubbed his collar bone about three times. Working out the moves he would show Harry when he saw him on the outside. He made a toast with his fists and screamed.
A strong. A weak. Appalling scream.
That humans dont know how to make.
Agreeing with Harry’s ghost exactly where, and when they would meet.
Sara wasn’t late the next afternoon. A new, uncertain guard led Frank to the main exit of the prison.
She was ready with her sister’s car as she’d promised. Frank watched the guard secure the sliding gates as Sara slid her arms around his neck.
He questioned his dick and his mind as they embraced each other, smelling the double load of perfume she always wore.
His dick and his mind conferred with each other for a few moments. Both wishing him the the best of luck, agreeing she was probably even crazier than him.
So he tried embracing back, which helped him to forget such things, her feet dangling in the air, the same questions still remaining.
Sara dug her hand into the glove compartment and took out a bottle of water. She unscrewed it with her teeth and spat out the lid passing it across.
Frank gulped down half and tried to slow down his breathing, but it was hard as they tore through the afternoon traffic, he felt surrounded and pinned down on the board, with no idea what move was next, at stops, starts, and speeds, he’d long forgotten.
Sweating was the only move he could make.
Sara’s smile was fixed and focused on the road, the afternoon passing into evening as they drove outside the limits of the city centre and into the quieter suburbs surrounding the city. Sara’s small paw lifted Franks large hand onto the gear stick, and thrust both their hands forward together as they sped down a back road.
‘You ok honey?! We’re heee-yerr!!’ She said working Frank fingers off the gear stick one by one.
‘Come on, no-ones in! Lets go!’
Frank shook as he left the car. Buttoning his over coat up to the neck. The bungalow couldn’t be hers. Too quaint and settled, but everywhere was unfamiliar to Frank familiar anyways, and he reminded himself of this. Sara sped around behind Frank and nipped his arse, shuffling him forward with his chess box under his arm towards the front door of the small house.
As the door opened to the small living room Frank dropped the box from under his arm. The door slammed behind him and he began to stumble forward, a thirst came, a buzzing came, like thumbs pushing through soft walls in his mind, vibrating on either side, it could be from the radiator below and to the side, the mantle piece may be moving, the electricity must be leaking from the circuits I’m connected to he thought. He didn’t know.
Everywhere – familiar – to me anyways, all things just bi-speckled black white black whites. Limbs becoming loose and numb. He tried to undo his coat and took refuge at one far side of the room.
‘Water please love, Ah. HA.‘
Frank’s head hung against the mirror, steam creeping up its surface.
He heard the door again- lock, lock, latch. A scraping chain.
The buzzing now rolled with the sound of gentle steps coming from the stairs behind him.
Frank watched a long line of drool dangle down from his lip and connect to the floor. It swayed a little, and snapped as he looked up.
He looked into the mirror and saw a figure in a balaclava approaching behind him. The figure’s body hummed as it approached fascinating Frank, even though it was only a brief instant, as a metal bat swung into his skull.
Frank protected his teeth from hitting the floor boards as his Father had taught him. Hands go down infront of you first.
The bat swept back and come down on Franks back for a few shots as he threw up on the ground.
More metal metal more air.
‘We can’t do that-
Fingers poked into Frank’s eyes insisting that he wake. But he knew to stay still and not obey. He rolled his eyes like Jupiter rolling about lost so as not to let on he was regaining consciousness.
Between glances he took the room in.
He was sank in the middle of a knackered sofa, hands tied behind his back, with two figures: Sara, and the male who’d hit him.
Reading there lips he could see that they were arguing about something, and as his eye’s rolled into focus the man with the bat walked towards him taking off his balaclava.
‘Remember me mate?’ The man said pushing the bat into his chin.
‘AY?’ Pushing the bat intohis neck, making Frank choke as his eyes burst open.
Frank looked through faces. To see which one had found him. Maybe he that memory, he thought, maybe he is that one.
‘Fuckin nonse. How much of that stuff did you give him Sar?’ He asked casually.
Sara was shaking her head near the mantle-piece fighting something. Frank was drooling again feeling how tight his bonds were, feeling for how much strength he might be able to find, weighing up the two, three, four, men, the woman, checking the pieces, planning, smiling and swaying a lttle, weighing-up the odds, realizing he was off by a few decades, a weapon, and a doped body.
He killed all then plans. And he smiled again.
‘We can’t do this, we can’t do this-’ Sara said begging to sob.
‘Oh yes you can, it’s alright…’ Frank said looking up at the two lovers.
The man looked back at Frank and threw a hard left-hook into his chin, sending Frank into deepestblack plans. Black, coffee morning floor boards, locked silence, dancing Kings, pawns cutting down Knights, tied together with red wine, father hates the piano teacher, I really wish Sara had fucked me before she doped me…
Crazy fuckers talking to himself!
Frank lay silent as his son watched him. Bored and silent Harry watched him becoming hypnotized by the sound of the heart rate monitor.
The strange impulse kept coming back to feel the red ring around his Father’s neck.
It was dug where the rope had squeezed him before coming undone and collapsing to floor.
His Father had been rushed in as soon as he was found, unconscious, with a weak remaining pulse.
A whisper in the mask. A small movement and a whisper. Harry’s eye’s opened as he tried to work out what had broken his trance.
Jerome leant forward and looked down into his Father’s shut eye’s. He saw a tired twitch, and listened for more, hearing: ‘neee –eed to-‘
Now the hammering in Frank’s skull asked him to open his eye’s.
It asked him to act in the room he found himself in with two strangers.
One stranger than the other.
There were pieces left on the board.
Heaving his chest forward Frank groaned out and used the last of his strength to hurl his torso to the floor, hitting his knees against the floor.
A nurse came in with a doctor to find Harry squeezing his Fathers hand for more words.
Frank twisted his head to the side and looked up at God. He had three holes of pink flesh in his face and swung a bat by his side, calm, staring down. He took off the balaclava and showed Frank his face. The young man’s face was dirtied white. A long horses nose. A knight.
‘Something look familiar mate?’
Frank remembered how easy the throat of the young man he’d fought that night broke in his hands.
He’d thought that he’d seen a ghost in the court room when he saw the teenager’s twin brother.
Fluids poured from Franks face as he managed a final smile.
He was happy to be beaten in this way. The horses neck pulsed as it stood by it’s Queen. Frank was happy to be any piece as long as it was the end of the game.
The only thing in Harry’s delirium was routine. But most days it was the opposite.
The light rushing into the room that only means that it is summer, and means nothing to the routine. This ran through his mind as he lay in his bed wanting to be still.
He stroked the space beside him before waking to see if she was awake too. Placing his tie around his neck he tried to tie without any luck. He looked away from the mirror and looked behind himself to ask for his wife’s help.
Harry crawled onto the bed where her sleeping smelt.
He walked over to the window and watched her driving away as she had done weeks before, taking everything he needed with her.
He told himself, placing a rope in his work bag, adding one more item to today’s routine.
The knight suggested that Frank prayed as he moved the bat over his head again.
Frank couldn’t pray. Everything had already been answered by where he was.
So he was able to make a ‘thanks’ at least, not to a God, or a man in a hood, but finally- to himself
‘Thank-fuck I was never much good at this game…’ He said, chuckling deep in his spirit.
The hang-man felt nothing of his triumph, but swung the bat down regardless.
‘Can you hear me Harry? I’m here with your son, can you here me?’
Frank leant over to Harry where the prison warden lay in the hospital.
Harry continued to move his lips, as everyone in the room tried to make out what he was trying to say.
‘His neck muscles are severely damaged.’ The doctor said talking to himself more than anyone else.
Harry tried to speak again:
Harry’s grip on his son’s increased, leaning across to try and see what his father was saying he finally heard:
‘Mr Hallaway. Can you hear me? You’re in St Martins intensive care ward.
Can you hear me?’
Harry opened his eyes and understood he was in a hopistal. That his son was there. That his neck hurt. That Sue was gone. That there was pain, nearly everywhere, eyes hurting, neck choked, hazed eyes. He knew all these things and grabbed hold of them. And one more much more important thing –that there was something else besides all this-
Can you hear me Mr Halloway?’
‘Of- course. I. Ca- cahn. Call Frank.’
Someone call Frank
The knight, the queen and Frank all heard a buzzing in the room.
The bat swung towards Franks head, parting the air. He watched it as it came. The buzzing began again- a lower hum now- Frank twitched as he felt it near him.
It was the only sound in the room. The batter leant towards Frank and took out the mobile phone from Frank’s pocket. Answered it.
‘Two seconds mate.’ The executor said, before making a playful circle in the air with the bat in only one hand now, and connecteing it to Frank’s skull.
‘How can I help you?’ The batsman asked now, laughing.
‘Who- Who is this?! I’m looking for Frank Carver, is he with you?’
Harry’s son waited for a reply. Harry’s eyes opened in the hospital as he watched his son on the phone.
Harry watched him move his phone away from his ear shaking his head.
‘Sorry Dad, I dunno who that was.’
Harry rolled his eyes and surprised everyone by stretching a hand out to his son, making the drip attatched to his fore-arm flap as he beckoned for the phone.
‘Now Mr Halloway, we can’t have you-‘
‘YOU son. Quiet…’ Harry managed to get out, summoning strength, his son handing him the phone. Harry redials. Frank get’s smashed in the head again. The executor laughs. Sara howls. Frank’s phone buzzes.
‘Alrite mate? Hows it goin? You wanna talk to Frank?! HE’S JUST HERE!’
‘Frank, Frank. Where the fuck are you?’
The phone says in the air as the batsman places the phone beside Frank’s ear.
‘FRANK.’ Harry says finding more strength.
‘…ahh.. Is this Harry… hehehe, hey old man.’
The batsman smiled, happy that a friend of the man he would hear him dying, adrenalin and extacy mixing in his blood, making him shake as he held the phone to Franks ear.
‘How you doin…?’ Frank asked.
‘Fine Frank. Just – cough – fine, where-‘
The hospital exchanged sounds with the silence of the room it called.
‘Sorry mate, but Frank’s leaving us now.’ The batsman said into the phone, taking it away from ear. Tossing the phone on the sofa. Breaking Frank’s jaw with another slam across the face. Making Frank grunt hard and fell to the side.
‘Frank, FRANK!’ Harry began to shout getting restless in his bed.
‘I’m sorry for-‘ Frank began, speaking to the phone where it landed waiting for the final hit.
‘Just do it will you Lance??! For fuck-sake, you never said you were gonna-‘
Sara got up and tried to grab the bat from her boyfriend.
‘You ok… Harry?… Haha…’
Frank couldn’t see anymore.
The glaze of blood from the splits in his head clouded his eyes and mind. He still remembered the prison warden who’d been kind to him over the years though.
And could still hear his voice, muffled, somewhere I the black, so he found it worth while trying to still speak.
So he did, as the phone lay on the sofa as the two young lovers fought over how best to kill their hostage.
‘Frank! Where, are, you, for, fuck- sake-?’ Harry said, pushing each word out, one by one. Holding onto the phone as the doctor tried to ease it away from him. ‘If you try, to, take-‘ Harry rummaged on the tray on his bedside table and felt a fork, pointing it towards the doctor.
Frank recognized one sound in the black. A constant beep. And recognized in the sound of a heart monitor.
‘Heyy Harr-ryy where, are you in a-.’
‘Oh he’s back!’ Lance said pushing Sara away, readying his bat.
Strength gone now. Heart rate monitor chimed in the handset like a dead ring tone, Frank heard voices coming from the people near the old warden and knew that something was wrong with his old friend.
Using what strength he could find, he knew he had to get up.
More punishment comes if you don’t get up his Father had taught him.
The steps from the game take over.
First, you make your head to look up, his Father had drilled into him, his Father watched him whilst he did it to make sure he was doing it right –but you’ve less than a humming-bird chance to take that look, so remember that!.
A ‘Humming bird’ was Frank Snr’s name for less than an instant, or a thought, a movement linked to one flap of tiny wings, instinct over mind, as he called it.
The bat swang down. Frank looked up at this instant and caught the bat in his hand shattering his thumb back but diverting the blow, next, rising to his knee and sending the fist of his unbroken hand into the executors balls, sending the man down, the moves flowed out in one of thought as he rose up to deliver a kick to the man’s head sending him to the down.
Panic came to ward as they fought to keep Harry in the game. His back curved into a perfect arc, stimulated by 4,000,000,000,000,000 volts that fought for his life chasing fire into his body. Closing his eyes, Harry felt the white energy passing through him.
Frank covers his face from Sara’s attack. Shocked by seeing Frank finally release the man that had been locked up.
The old chess teacher tried to keep her nails out of his eyes as the bat connects with him again from behind. Groaning, Frank slumps down and looks up again taking a stamps and kicks from both his attackers.
But a call came to his bones, a thump in his chest as he kicks out, taking a knee away from the batsman and swinging out at Sara. Sara made a seething sound between attack and hesitation watching Frank stand up again.
‘I’m sorry my dear lady’ Gripping his chest where his heart was, Frank wept in his apology.
‘But I must leave, I have to check on a, a friend.’
Sara ran into the kitchen. Feeling his heart dying in random pulses, Frank gently crawled on top of Lance, and thundered head-butts into his opponent with the last of his energy, ending the game.
A tight mournful look stayed on Franks face, as we walk into the kitchen dragging the bat with him.
Frank moved towards Sara, slow, moving the table out the way.
‘What’re you gonna do? Kill me too? Fucking bastard-‘ Sara said shaking, clenching her lips. Lifting a gun up to Frank’s chest.
‘No. But I am leaving.’ Frank said blinking and touching his lips in thought.
Dropping the bat and connecting with her shaking hands, Frank pushed the gun down slowly, and out the way.
‘Thank-you for visiting me love.’ Frank said kissing her fore-head.
‘It helped me.’ He said walking away.
Why won’t these tubes just let me die? Harry asked the white.
And how many more shifts will I have to do? Was another question that mixed with the sick warmth of the hospital ward.
A young doctor walked up to his bed. Harry gagged at the intimate removal of the pipe placed into his throat as the nurse took it out, the hard plastic slipped out from his mouth like an uncaring organ that had kept him alive against his will.
‘Glad to see you back with us Mr Holloway! We were very worried about you, but you’ve slept for a few hours and seem to be settling down. Can you sit up for me?’
‘Sit up like a great dane. There’s a good boy.’ Came the voice.
Harry switched his head to the side and saw a man wrapped in bandages and a large long over coat buttoned to the top, sitting patiently with his legs crossed.
‘Frank! How long’ve you been here?’
‘Long enough to see you laying in your own shit old man. You were talking to yourself – ah –‘ Frank buried some pain in his face with a smile. Adjusted the make shift bandages around one of his eyes, tucking it back into a rolled wooly hat.
‘What the fuck happened to you?’ Harry asked looking around to see if anyone was listening.
‘Hehehe, she visited me in the night, which is where she left me as morning came…’ Frank said licking his lips in thought.
‘Christ, you certainly sound in high spirits for a man who looks like he’s had the living shit kicked out of him. Where do you get this shit from?’
‘If I knew that I’d only look for more. Ha. They told me you’ve been staring into space Harry. How about we leave this place?’
‘I’ve got no where to go. You crazy fuck. Might as well lay here a little longer.’ Harry said turning away and looking out the window.
‘She was bound to leave you after a while old friend, you should be lucky she put up with you for so long.’ Frank said grimacing. Harry looked back at him. He twisted over to his side and poured him a small cup of water handing it to him.
‘You’re gonna need to see someone Frank. Anyways, how’d you know where I-‘
Harry’s question was answered by the removal of Franks hat. And the unwrapping of the bandage from his eye and head.
It showed a hole of flesh where his right eye had been, wet parts of skull and blood flooded inside the inner parts of the bandage where he un-wrapped and removed it fully.
Exposing all of his teeth in one of his typically wide grins Frank continued to take away the mixture of plasters and bandages from his body, now unbuttoning his coat.
‘Hey hey hey Frank, you can’t do your crazy shit here, they er, they aren’t as keen on the naked cons as me… hey-hey-hey Frank-
‘Guess I knew where to find you my old fellow’ At this Frank stood up shaking his coat to the floor, as more blood poured from the wound in his head.
He touched his back instinctively and smiled again when he looked at his red fingers and the signs of another puncture.
‘I knew because you kept on checking on me all those years…’ Frank said stepping out from his trousers.
Harry stopped looking away and listened to his old friend. The red from Frank’s body flushed the ground in spreading streams, spreading outwards and out, trickling from his body with increasing flow.
‘I knew that if I followed the road I’d find you in this place.’ Frank said rubbing his hair back from the blood on his face, smearing his face clean and bright, glistening in manic peace.
He spread out his arms, before looking at Harry in mock surprise, removing his dark soaked underwear, swaying a little from side to side as if to a symphony. Harry began to hear it himself, as all patients now did in the quiet ward with Frank’s blood creeping up the walls.
Sun began to shine into the ward bringing a change to the spectrum light, from the naked chess teacher.
Frank rolled his head from side to side enjoying the intensity of the sun coming into the room, turning a few times, taking his long strides around Harry’s bed that were like a man waltzing slowly after death, surprised and certain of it’s release.
Frank skipped back to where Harry was laying, his feet making a slap slap sound on the wet ground.
Harry became scared and screwed his eyes up.
He missed his wife and felt the rope again as his knuckles tightened on his bed sheets.
‘Open them old friend.’ Frank said.
So Harry did. ‘I need you to get up out of here, my old boy, I need you to open your eyes.
You helped me wake and you gave me a call when I felt alone Harry, for that I thank you – now, open, your, eyes.
Frank’s flesh spread out from the gun-shot wound to his head. His body expanding in all directions, and leaving Sara’s flat through the front door, easy, joining the light pouring in, joining Harry’s sight with his own –
‘You let me die with grace when I felt alone Harry, you taught me to fight for that last ounce that wasn’t inside me, you woke me from my bed and made me
fight for a hummingbird
The light became two cracks of lightening that Harry couldn’t ignore as he screamed –
‘I pay you back your gift to me old friend. My old fellow player. Your life released me Harry, you saved my ass, so I need you to do the same for yourself, now, now, wake, wake, rise, rise, scream, SCREAM!’
So Harry did, rising up from his bed in the middle of the ward bellowing with teeth wide, waking all the patients and carers near.
Alone near midnight. Harry looked around himself as a nurse came in to welcome him back. For some reason Frank came to his mind.
Harry looked up at the lights in the hospital ceiling. One of the flourescant tubes flicked an uncountable number of times in one moment. It then shone heavy, without flicking, tensed hard, then burst out. And Harry felt a loss.