Tap by Christopher Hivner
by Christopher Hivner
Tap, tap, tap. Trask Donley found the edge of the curb with his stick. Shuffling his feet forward, he reached out for the road and when he was satisfied he was in position, he listened to the chirps. The tone changed, letting him know he should stay put; the traffic pattern had just shifted.
Standing straight, his shoulders back, Trask waited. Hot wind from the passing vehicles blew over his face. Voices entered one ear, floating through to the other as two women passed by behind him. The perfume one of them wore made him smile. In his mind he formed a picture of what she might look like: red head, long legs and ass cheeks that would fit nicely in his hands. He’d been blind for eleven years but still had the first forty-five from which to pull memories.
Trask was sure he heard squealing brakes in front of him so he listened for the chirps to change their tone. The “don’t walk” sound stopped, but when the “walk” signal started, it wasn’t the normal bird-like peeps. It sounded to Trask like wailing, as if someone were crying. He felt other people pass him to cross the street so he went with them, tapping his cane side to side.
The cries continued, getting louder in Trask’s ears. Once safely across the street, he moved away from the curb to listen for the chirp change. The wails stopped, and Trask heard a new sound also unlike the normal chirp. It was a woman’s voice speaking gibberish. She was weeping. Trask listened intently until her words became understandable.
“I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry. It wasn’t my fault.”
“Can you hear that?” Trask asked out loud. “Hey, someone, can you hear that?”
The signal changed again, becoming a low, mournful cry.
“What the hell?” Trask asked. “Is someone hurt? Hello?” The traffic pattern switched as did the warning signal.
“I’m sorry, Trask. I didn’t mean it. It was an accident.”
Trask Donley’s skin went cold. That was Marjorie’s voice.
“Please tell them it was an accident.”
“Marjorie?” Trask breathed as his knees buckled. He tapped his cane until he found a bench to drop onto. “Marjorie, how . . .”
He was back in the car. They had been married a year. Driving down I-95 to Florida to visit Marjorie’s parents, she was foraging in her purse for her lighter while she steered the ’97 Corolla they had bought from Trask’s cousin. A cigarette dangled between her thick lips, waiting to come to life.
“For Christ’s sake, Margie,” Trask said, reaching for her purse. “Let me find it. You just drive.”
“I’ve got it, bucko,” she said back. A horn blared from an F-150 racing by in the passing lane. Marjorie looked up. Realizing she had drifted over the dotted white line, she righted the car into her lane.
“Assholes laying on their horns . . .” she mumbled.
“Let me have it, Marge,” Trask tried again. She looked over at him, the Pall Mall dancing in her mouth.
“I can do two things at once,” she said.
The next moment Trask felt the car spinning. Margie had drifted left again, and a Hummer clipped the rear bumper. The Corolla went airborne, skidding over the roof of a Cavalier to land just in front of it. With nowhere to go, the Chevy driver t-boned their car, pushing it into the back-end of an SUV.
Tears rolled down Trask’s cheeks as he relived the accident. His body leaned to the right until he was nearly lying down on the bench. He remembered waking up in the hospital with a broken leg, six fractured ribs, a dislocated shoulder, a massive concussion and no sight. The head trauma had damaged his eyes, and there was nothing they could do. When he asked about Marjorie, there was a painful pause and he knew. He told everyone to get the hell out of his room.
Now he heard her voice again; wailing, begging. “Trask, tell them, please.”
“Marjorie,” he said from the bench. “Where are you?”
“I don’t know, but they won’t let me alone.”
“They have wings like angels but dead eyes. They won’t let me sleep. They hound me every second.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The accident, Trask. You haven’t forgiven me. All this time and you still blame me. Please, tell them.”
“Margie . . .”
“Trask, please. I haven’t had one moment of rest. Not one second in eleven years.”
Trask sat up, gripping his cane with white knuckles. Why was he hearing his dead wife’s voice? He went beyond that question to her plea. Did he still blame her? If she had lived, would they have stayed together?
“Marjorie,” he whispered. “Why couldn’t you let me find your lighter?” There was a long silence before the wails started again.
“I don’t know,” she finally wept.
“I can’t see any more, Marge. I can’t watch the sun come up or see my grandkids grow.”
“Trask . . .”
“Why didn’t you let me help you?” There was silence again. Trask thought about his son’s two children. He would never “see” the girl. The last time he saw Tyler, the boy was a baby. Now he was a teenager with a blind grandfather who couldn’t watch him play football. Trask couldn’t see his son grow older. They still went fishing together on Lake Redman, but when the Sun came up over the horizon, Robbie was alone to revel in it.
“Why didn’t you let me help you?” Trask repeated.
“You can help me now,” Marjorie said.
Trask hadn’t realized how angry he still was, but he felt it at this moment, coursing through his blood. For years he had buried all that he’d lost. Unwittingly, Marjorie’s ghost had dug it all up. Trask stood.
“It’s too late, Margie,” he said.
“No,” she cried.
Trask Donley continued on his way downtown, tapping his cane from side to side, wincing at the woman’s howls he left behind.
* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright Cristopher Hivner 2015