First Aid, fiction by Ellis Purdie

The front fair­ing and head­light of the Yama­ha were torn off and cracked, its wind­shield splin­tered and elec­tric green paint scuffed in patch­es not unlike the road burns on Jesse, his son. The front wheel was bent, kicked out.

Not what I’d hoped to see in my garage,” Luke said. He remem­bered the moment he said it that he and Leanne were sep­a­rat­ed. He remem­bered the phone calls from her lawyer he’d not returned. Look­ing around the garage, he took note of what was his, since he wasn’t sure how much longer he would own the house. With­out Leanne’s income, he wouldn’t be able to pay the mort­gage.

Leanne held a lit cig­a­rette to her side between her fin­gers. Smoke coiled up her wrist before thin­ning out. “You think we can afford to fix it?” she said. Her del­i­cate left hand trem­bled when she brought the cig­a­rette to her lips—a trem­ble that had not gone away since the inci­dent. Her dark hair was done up in a bun with two long strands fram­ing her hand­some face, and a beau­ty mark was pen­ciled onto her chin, a thing she’d been doing the last few weeks. Luke didn’t ask. She wore the white chif­fon shirt and kha­ki shorts, the beige heals. She looked as good as any of those sit­com wives on TV.

Luke shrugged and passed a hand through his gray­ing black hair. He took his wal­let from his pock­et and opened it. Thumb­ing through a few busi­ness cards, he found the one from the bike shop and slid it out, stuck the wal­let back into his jeans. “I’ll call and get an esti­mate, but that’s the best I can do right now. I’d just assume he nev­er got back on the thing.”

Leanne looked across the street. Parked cars had crowd­ed near their neigh­bor Eli’s house for a craw­fish boil. She drew from the cig­a­rette, breathed out a jet of smoke toward the ground. “You know that’s not an option,” she said. “He loves rac­ing.”

A white pick­up came up the packed street and almost passed the house before slow­ing. Leanne waved an arm at the truck. “Over here, sweet­ie,” she said. The dri­ver, a male, backed up the vehi­cle and eased into Luke’s dri­ve­way and parked. A kid—no old­er than thirty—stepped out of the truck and approached them. He wore blue jeans and boots, and a vest like the bull rid­ers Luke had seen on ESPN. He had a crew cut, a sharp nose run­neled down the mid­dle. From being bro­ken, Luke fig­ured: he’d boxed, knew the look.

You in the rodeo?” Luke said.

The guy grinned. “I am. Chet Ray,” he said, and offered a hand.

Luke shook Chet’s hand. “Are you going to ride a bull right now?”

Chet laughed. “The rodeo’s tomor­row; the vest’s for luck.”

Leanne came over and put an arm around Chet’s neck and hugged him. “Hey, sweet­ie,” she said.

You’re not at the par­ty?” Chet said. He touched the small of Leanne’s back.

I’ll be over in a minute,” Leanne said. “Me and the man here have to talk.” She tilt­ed her head toward Luke.

Luke was “the man” now, what­ev­er that meant. This whole thing felt like it was tak­ing too long, and Luke want­ed Chet to go on.

I meant the rodeo,” Chet said.

Oh, well—we’ll see. You know Jesse’s bummed up upstairs.” She waved a hand dis­mis­sive­ly at the wrecked motor­cy­cle. “I don’t know that I can leave him.”

I got you,” Chet said. “Well, let me know if you decide to come, we’ll get you in for free. And don’t wor­ry, Jessie will heal up. I can’t tell you how many times I should have been done rid­ing. You just have to get back on the bull, or—the bike in his case.” He shook Luke’s hand again. “Good to meet you.”

The two of them went back into the garage, and Luke stood and looked at the motor­cy­cle again. Leanne stayed in front of the door open­ing, watch­ing Chet cross the street to the neighbor’s house. The day was bright and she was black against the sun-drenched street. “You were say­ing,” Luke said. “‘Not an option’?”

He loves the sport. He’s been talk­ing about going pro. You want to tell him he can’t do that?” Leanne said. She took to Jessie’s futon that had been there since May when he grad­u­at­ed from col­lege. She let the cig­a­rette fall and pressed down on the embers with her heal.

He could have been killed,” Luke said.

Leanne nod­ded and crossed her legs. “I know that. I was nev­er crazy about the bike, Luke. I was nev­er crazy about you putting on those gloves, but you did. You stopped when the time came. It’s Jessie’s life and he wants to take risks.”

Jesus Christ. Risks. Is that what your rodeo boyfriend has been push­ing?” He spoke as if the bike hadn’t been a leap of faith. The Yama­ha was Luke’s attempt to show Leanne and Jessie that he could take chances. He want­ed back under the same roof with Leanne, and thought that if they could spend time togeth­er watch­ing Jessie com­pete in races and cheer him on from the bleach­ers on warm sum­mer nights, things would get bet­ter. The way they were when their first­born, Thomas, was alive and play­ing foot­ball.

Leave Chet out of this,” Leanne said. “He’s just a sweet kid from Lit­tle Rock who rides bulls.”

Luke sat next to her. Jessie’s small refrig­er­a­tor was plugged in and hum­ming next to the work­bench where Luke kept his tools. He took out a Dr. Pep­per and popped the tab, sipped the foam from the rim. “Where’d you meet him?”

Leanne kicked her fin­gers through the ten­drils of hair at her neck. “Eli brought him to Sam’s Lounge a few nights ago. He just moved here. He’s look­ing for friends.”

So you’re just friends?”

Luke, let’s not do this.” She glanced at the Dr. Pep­per. “Do you want ice for that?”

He pushed out of the futon and got to his feet. “Sure,” he said. She want­ed to get him ice. That was like her, and he was glad she want­ed to.

They went inside the house and Leanne took down a glass from the kitchen cab­i­net and filled it with ice at the freez­er, hand­ed it to Luke. She slid open the win­dows above the sink that faced the street. The light was gold­en across the kitchen tile, pleas­ant, and the small cur­tains bil­lowed at the win­dow. Karaōke had begun next door, some­one singing Steve Earle’s “Gui­tar Town.” Leanne leaned against the counter. “So are you going to help me and Jessie or not?”

Luke filled the glass and walked to the pantry to throw the can away. “Help you how?”

Help pay for the repairs,” Leanne said.

I’m not sure I can afford the repairs,” Luke said.

The three of us go in on it the cost shouldn’t be that high,” she said. “He’s nev­er been hap­pi­er. He’s not going to quit.”

Why are you wor­ried about repair­ing the bike? He’s done for the rest of the year at least. We can talk about it lat­er.”

She threw up her hands and sighed. “I knew you’d back out on this,” she said. “You’ve nev­er let the boys hang on to any­thing.” She glanced to the side and her blue eyes met Luke’s before she looked away, tapped her heel once against the tile. He knew the look. It was a habit she had not bro­ken, say­ing “boys.” Even four years after Thomas’s death, Leanne still referred to their chil­dren by two.

Luke brought a hand down over this face. “I’ll get an esti­mate. Maybe I can talk them into a deal or some­thing. If he goes pro, maybe they’ll spon­sor him; that’s got to count for some­thing.” He crossed the kitchen and put an arm around her and she went stiff and stared out the open win­dows. There’d been a time when he’d know how to com­fort her, but not any­more. They weren’t the same peo­ple. They had each respond­ed in a dif­fer­ent way to the death of their son, and they had grown around his absence in a way that made them strangers.

Leanne turned and walked toward the front door. “Jessie’s upstairs,” she said. She went out and passed between the parked cars and head­ed for the neighbor’s house.

The house was qui­et and cool and Leanne kept it clean. The ceil­ing fan in the liv­ing room was whip­ping around, mak­ing white noise. Luke took the stairs to Jessie’s room. His door was cov­ered in band stick­er, names like The Lemon­heads and The Replace­ments, stuff Jessie lis­tened to in his car, some of it Luke liked. Luke knocked.

It’s open,” Jessie said.

Luke turned the knob and slipped in, closed the door behind him. He sat down on the edge of the bed, care­ful not to dis­turb Jessie’s leg. The room was a mess with his son’s things: box­es not unpacked, a suit­case with his clothes spilling out of it, a crum­pled fast-food bag on his desk. His crutch­es leaned against the wall. Jessie sat up on the bed, his leg propped, the TV on. The leg was in a pris­tine white cast, a sin­gle sig­na­ture over the foot with an imprint of red lips on it, from Jessie’s girl­friend, Luke assumed. “Feel­ing any pain?” he said.

Not too much right now, feel­ing more stiff than any­thing.” His black, short hair looked ruf­fled like he’d been sleep­ing, and a cowlick stood up in the back. Jessie had a soft face with green eyes and point­ed nose.

Luke stood and went over to his son. “Here, take hold,” he said. He stuck out his arm for sup­port. “You might get up an stretch, let the blood get to the rest of your body.”

Jessie reached up and gripped Luke by the fore­arm and pulled him­self out of the bed. “It sucks. I had all sum­mer to enjoy that bike.”

I know it, me too,” Luke said. He real­ized when he spoke that what he had hoped for him­self and Leanne this sum­mer was gone. Leanne would be tak­ing care of Jessie when she was home, and would like­ly want Luke to come by and take over so she could get out of the house. Jessie put a hand on Luke’s shoul­der for bal­ance, and Luke leaned over and took the remote from the night­stand and turned off the TV. There was the faint sound of music play­ing next door.

Jessie rotat­ed his neck and shook out his arms, said, “You think it would be all right if I went next door?”

Luke shrugged. “I guess, if you can keep the leg up and have some­one help you back upstairs.”

Jessie hob­bled to the wall where his crutch­es stood. “I’ll get Chet to help me,” he said.

Jess, ask any­one but the bull rid­er. Please.” He helped his son get the crutch­es under his arms.

You don’t like Chet?”

Not real­ly. Who wears a vest the day before the rodeo?”

It’s rit­u­al,” Jessie said, his crutch­es clicked as the hit the floor. “It’s no dif­fer­ent than when you’d pour ice water over your head before a match. I fig­ured you’d like that.”

Don’t you think it’s a lit­tle soon for your mom to be dat­ing?”

They made their way down the hall to the stairs. Jessie hand­ed Luke the crutch that had been under his right arm and took hold of the handrail, eased down one step at a time. “I think it’s all right for both of you to move on he said. He took a step down and pushed through the pain with a forced breath. “You guys are get­ting a divorce. It’s not like you’re cheat­ing on one anoth­er.”

Luke felt the dread of change move up his stom­ach to his chest. The stair­way was dim and at the bot­tom orange light tilt­ed in through the back door, bright against the hard­wood floor, pret­ty in a way he had no access to. Before long the house would be for sale, or Leanne would be liv­ing in it with some­one else. He thought about the lawyer again, the calls he had not made.

They reached the bot­tom of the stairs and Luke hand­ed the crutch back to Jessie before they made their way to the front door. Out­side, more cars were parked along the street before the neighbor’s house. Luke stared at the open gate to the left of the house, where guests were shelling craw­fish and drink­ing beer, where the music played out onto the qui­et of the street. The spice from the boil­er pots rolled to him on the air as he and Jessie walked toward the yard.

They went through the open gate, and Leanne’s eyes met Luke’s from her lawn chair next to Chet, and she got up and came over to them. Chet fol­lowed, reached Jessie and gave his shoul­der a squeeze. “Let’s get you a seat, dare­dev­il. You hun­gry?”

Jessie looked over his shoul­der. “They’ve got it from here, Dad.”

You’ll call me lat­er?” Leanne said.

Luke nod­ded, turned and went out as he had come in. He pressed the but­ton on his key and unlocked his car, got in. The air inside was warm, and Luke lay his head on the steer­ing wheel and closed his eyes. Inside the car, the music from out­side was mut­ed, sort of like when he’d be in the lock­er room before a match, hear­ing the bass boom against the cin­der block walls. But he wasn’t going out to win a match, he didn’t have that in him any­more, and all he felt was loss. He turned the engine over and pulled out into the street, point­ed the car toward the high­way.

 

When he pulled into the dri­ve­way, his neigh­bor Dunlap’s Rot­tweil­er, teth­ered to a tree, strained against his chain and barked.

Hush,” Luke said. He unlocked the front door of his trail­er and went inside. Though Luke was out of the animal’s sight, the dog was still bark­ing and the thin walls of Luke’s rental bare­ly muf­fled the noise. The house was spare, and Luke stepped over the air mat­tress in his liv­ing room. He’d decid­ed against buy­ing a bed or much fur­ni­ture since he had not planned on stay­ing there long. A tele­vi­sion sat on the floor, a dusty box deal he’d pur­chased at a Sal­va­tion Army, and Luke bent down and pressed the pow­er but­ton, lay back in the fold-out beach chair he’d brought from home. He checked his watch; he was due at work in four hours. He man­aged the night shift at Com­fort Suites and also did the account­ing and fig­ured he need­ed a nap before he left. He left the TV on and rolled off the chair and crawled to the air mat­tress. The plas­tic was cool against his face and body and the air near the floor com­fort­able. He closed his eyes. Thought the TV made noise, Luke could hear the dog bark­ing. The Rot­tweil­er would stop for a few sec­onds, but Luke could not relax, know­ing the dog would start up again. He got up and scis­sored open the blinds. A woman was strolling her tod­dler, the dog bark­ing at them. Luke remem­bered strolling his boys. They had been born just a few years apart, and he thought about how good it felt to walk them down the warm street with Leanne, how it made a hard day at work fade from mem­o­ry, his wor­ry lift­ing as the sky red­dened with dusk. Maybe he need­ed to walk.

He got up and went back out, stepped off the porch. He whis­tled, clap­ping his hands. The Rot­tweil­er growled in Luke’s direc­tion, but the clos­er Luke came the fur­ther down the dog cow­ered until his tail was tucked between his legs and he was piss­ing. “You want to go for a walk?” Luke said. He gave the skin on the dog’s neck and back a pull, and then went around the side of the Dunlap’s trail­er to the front door and knocked. In a brack­et bolt­ed to the wall of the trail­er, an Amer­i­can flag sagged, bleached from the sun.

Dun­lap answered the door in wife beat­er and blue jeans. His gray-yel­low hair was gelled back, face stub­bled and expres­sion­less. The out­line of a tat­too beneath his shirt. He had a thick Cajun accent. “Champ,” he said.

Don’t call me that,” Luke said. He motioned with his head towards the back. “I was won­der­ing if I could walk your dog.”

Andouille?” Dun­lap said. “What’s he need walk­ing for?”

He won’t shut up for starters,” Luke said.

Hell, if you need me to qui­et him down, just say so, I’ll beat his ass.”

Dun­lap made to walk out and Luke stepped in his way, held up a hand. “I’ll walk him.”

Dunlap’s face tight­ened, and he glared at Luke. “What’s it mat­ter to you? I thought you were leav­ing soon.”

Not like­ly,” Luke said. “So can I walk the dog or not?”

Dun­lap stepped out­side, looked around, sucked his teeth. Walk­ing the dog was a big­ger deal than Luke had antic­i­pat­ed. “All right, fine, but don’t be gone long, and put him back on the teth­er when you’re done. Come on, I’ll get his leash.”

Luke came inside and stayed in the liv­ing room while Dun­lap went in the back to the kitchen. A throw of kudzu con­sumed the out­side of the win­dows, mak­ing the room half dark. Dun­lap came back with the leash and a Coro­na, hand­ed the leash to Luke. He tipped his beer toward the back­yard. “Like I said, teth­er him when you’re done.”

I’ll bring him back,” Luke said. He opened the door and walked out and took the steps down. The dog hun­kered down and pulled him­self across the ground with his front paws. Luke unhooked the teth­er from the dog’s col­lar and secured the leash and they walked toward the alley behind Luke’s trail­er. The dog began to run and Luke picked up his pace. The mus­cles in the dog’s legs went taut, show­ing groove, and Luke liked watch­ing the dog’s move­ments. A pure-bred Rott prob­a­bly cost some­where between six and fif­teen hun­dred dol­lars, and it seemed wrong to leave some­thing that cost­ly tied to a tree. Dun­lap didn’t appear to have that kind of mon­ey, and Luke won­dered where the dog had come from.

Up ahead, where the alley inter­sect­ed with the street, a woman car­ry­ing a plas­tic bag passed by. She had long blonde hair that reached almost to her waist, blue jeans ripped at the knees and flip-flops. Her hair lift­ed light­ly against her back as she walked. She looked at Luke and slowed and began walk­ing towards him.

The dog began to run and jerked Luke’s arm and stopped in front of the woman and sniffed her leg. She set the bag down, crouch­ing, and took both of the Rottweiler’s ears in her hands. Like­ly she was old­er than Luke by a few years, but she didn’t look bad. She had been pret­ti­er at one time, in col­lege or high school. He liked her smile, her straight teeth, though one in the front was set fur­ther back, rimmed black. She had small mouth with full, red lips. “Look at this sweet boy. How old is he?” she said. Her voice was slow and sweet like hon­ey.

I don’t real­ly know. He’s not mine.”

Who does he belong to?” she said.

My neigh­bor.”

Is he a res­cue dog?”

If he is, I guess he went from one bad sit­u­a­tion to anoth­er,” Luke said.

She pursed her lips and looked to the side. “Yeah, I know how that is.”

He liked how her lips looked when she did that.

Do you know where Eve’s house is?” she said.

He looked past her, ruf­fled the dog’s neck. He didn’t know an Eve. “They have a last name?”

She shook her head. “It’s sup­posed to be a secret.”

Luke brought up his phone from his pock­et. “You have a num­ber? You can use my phone.”

I’ve got two, but no one answered ear­li­er.”

Try now,” he said.

She took the phone and dialed one of the num­bers, hung up after a minute. Some­one answered the sec­ond num­ber, and after they spoke for a few min­utes the woman hand­ed the phone back to Luke, bit her lip and pushed her hair behind her ears. “Shit. Nothing’s easy,” she said. “There’s some kind of process.”

She was look­ing for a safe house.

They need to do a get-to-know-you with me, there’s paper­work—” She rubbed the back of her neck and sat cross-legged in the street. “She said they can’t take me until next week.”

What’s your name?” Luke said.

I’m sor­ry. Miran­da,” she said, hold­ing out a hand.

Luke,” he said, and she used his hand to get back to her feet.

You mind if I walk with you guys a ways?” she said.

Yeah, you want me to car­ry that?” He motioned toward the bag. “You can take the dog for a while.”

Miran­da hand­ed the bag to Luke and took the leash. They walked past a cathe­dral and toward the high­way. They didn’t talk about much. An old, mus­tard yel­low mus­tang passed them with its win­dows down. From inside the car, music played that Miran­da rec­og­nized. “I love this song,” she said.

I don’t think I’ve heard of it,” Luke said.

You don’t know The Replace­ments?”

Luke looked past the glare in her glass­es, to her eyes. “I know that name. My son likes them,” he said.

She asked him where his son was, and he told her with his mom, at their house a few min­utes north. Miran­da nod­ded. She under­stood.

Keep in touch with your kids if you have them. Even if there’s no cus­tody bat­tle the dis­tance will change things.”

He’s nine­teen,” Luke said.

After a while they came to a series of restau­rants and fast food chains that faced the pass­ing cars on the road, and see­ing a Mex­i­can place, Luke became aware of his hunger. “You want to eat?”

I was hop­ing you’d ask. I’m broke,” she said.

They crossed the road over onto the new asphalt of the restau­rant. The lot was warm with the heat of the day, and full of cars. “Are you run­ning from their father?” Luke said. He tied the leash around a bar on the out­door patio.

No, I’m not run­ning from him,” Miran­da said.

Luke held up two fin­gers to the host­ess, and when they were seat­ed, he said, “Then why are you try­ing to find a safe house?”

Miran­da sat back and brought her legs to the side in the vinyl seat. “I moved here for the wrong rea­sons. Andy turned out to be a meth addict. When I told him I was leav­ing, he put all of my things in the bath­room and locked him­self in there with a shot­gun.”

Jesus. You didn’t know he was an addict?”

Not before I moved, no,” she said.

How’d he con­vince you down here?”

He made me laugh,” she said. “For a lit­tle while, I guess that was enough. Some peo­ple just can’t help them­selves, the world doesn’t work for them. I get it; I think I’m like that, too, I just, nev­er did drugs.”

I didn’t either. I boxed,” Luke said. “I liked the idea of going into the ring and only one per­son com­ing out. You get into the ring, you get a knock­out, you go home, you heal up. Every­thing you did was for the one prob­lem down the line: the match, and if you lost the match, well—you trained for anoth­er one.”

A wait­er placed chips and sal­sa in front of them and they gave their drink orders.

You won a lot?” Miran­da said. She bit down on one of the chips.

Enough, but after a while they just paid me to make the young guns look good. I was fine with it for a while, but then I had kids, and didn’t want them see­ing their father bust­ed up all the time.” He was sit­ting across from a stranger, but he didn’t mind. Talk­ing with her had shown him how lone­ly he’d real­ly been, and when she spoke, he didn’t feel as alone. Buy­ing her a meal was fine, but he was think­ing about let­ting her stay at his house, just until she fig­ured things out. Maybe that was dan­ger­ous, but he didn’t care, and liked not know­ing how things would unfold. “So you nev­er did meth with him?” he said.

I told you no,” she said.

I know. I’m just try­ing to fig­ure out how much help you need.”

How does any­one know how much help some­one needs?”

The wait­er brought their waters and Luke squeezed the lemon into his and let go of the rind. “We’ll look into the safe house again next week. Do you need a place to stay until then?”

Yeah. I do,” she said.

The wait­er came back and they put in their orders, and when the wait­er inquired if that would be all, Miran­da asked if she could order a beer. Luke wasn’t sure it was a good idea; he didn’t know her his­to­ry. She could’ve been an alco­holic, but the beer might help her relax until he could get her into the shel­ter. He’d take care of her. “Sure,” he said. She ordered a Coro­na in a bot­tle and they gave the wait­er their menus.

Miran­da took off her glass­es and set them on the table, rubbed her eyes. She pinched the red ovals on the sides of her nose where the glass­es had been. “Do you work?” she said.

I do,” he said. “I man­age the night shift at the Com­fort Inn and Suites. I do the account­ing as well.”

She took her glass­es and cleaned the lens­es with her shirt. She smiled with her eyes. “Can you stay any­where in the world for free?”

Luke nod­ded. “If there’s a Com­fort Inn, I’m wel­come, as long as I have reser­va­tions.”

Do you ever go any­where?”

He stud­ied the dessert menu by the salt and pep­pers shak­ers. “I haven’t real­ly. I’ve been too busy try­ing to make things right here.”

Miran­da pulled on her water through her straw. “My par­ents nev­er took me any­where. The one time we went to the beach my dad­dy act­ed like such an ass­hole that we left two days ear­ly. He didn’t get to take me crab hunt­ing. Have you ever been crab hunt­ing? At night on the beach?”

It seemed like such a sim­ple thing, some­thing he should have done in his fifty-one years on earth. “No. I don’t know why, but I haven’t.”

Their food was brought the table. Chori­zo tacos for him, chick­en enchi­ladas for Miran­da. Steam whirled and hissed off of her plate. She start­ed cut­ting into her food. “We should change that. I remem­ber a lit­tle girl, the day we left she had been crab hunt­ing the night before and had caught one. Said she threw sand over it, then plucked it out. She’d kept it in a clear plas­tic cup, filled with a few inch­es of sand and sea­wa­ter. Its bleach-white shell stuck out from the top of the sand.” She put her sil­ver­ware down and chewed at her lip. “I want­ed to touch it, but we had to go.”

 

The house was dark when they reached Luke’s place. He attached the teth­er to the Rottweiler’s col­lar. He start­ed to take the leash to Dun­lap, but Miran­da asked him to open the door. “I real­ly need to pee,” she said. They went inside and Luke crouched down and switched on the lamp on the floor next to his mat­tress. He went to the kitchen and did the same for the over­head light. “I’m sor­ry there’s not more,” he said.

She fur­rowed her thin brows. “You think I’d have a prob­lem?” she said, clos­ing the door behind her.

He went to the bed­room and stood out­side the bath­room door. A line of light came into the bed­room from under the bath­room door. “Take any­thing you need in there,” he said.

Thank you, hon,” she said.

Luke checked his watch. He need­ed to start get­ting ready for work. She’d been in there about ten min­utes, and he’d start­ed to fear some­thing was wrong and knocked. “Are you okay?” he said.

Yeah,” she said. She sound­ed dis­tract­ed. The door unlocked and opened a few inch­es, and there she was, stand­ing in front of the mir­ror in a cheap cot­ton bra that held up her small, pale breasts. She turned her back to the mir­ror and there was a deep bruise across her shoul­der blade, and a few inch­es over, a strip of gauze kept in place with first aid tape. She peeled the ban­dage off and under­neath the skin was bust­ed, scabbed black and in need of clean­ing. There was the sound of her shorts slid­ing down her legs, and she opened the door wide and filled the room with light. She sat down next to him on the bed, brought his hand up her cool stom­ach, his thumb sink­ing into and then pass­ing over her navel.

 

After, he made her sit on the bath­room counter while he opened the cab­i­net under the sink and took out the rub­bing alco­hol. He reached over and pulled a length of toi­let paper and fold­ed it and dabbed it with the alco­hol.

Miran­da put her hand on his upper arm: the arm with the tat­too of a small box­er with the words “Glo­ry Bound” over his head. She stud­ied the tat­too, whinc­ing every now and then, and let him swab the cut. “My daugh­ter, Elise, she races hors­es. Her horse is named Glo­ry.”

Do you ever watch her?”

She kept talk­ing, but he was pay­ing atten­tion to the cut. The dried blood broke up as he daubed the skin and the paper became dirty and began to wear. He placed the tis­sue in the trash­can and took up a few more sheets. He tilt­ed the bot­tle and the alco­hol swish­es against the sheets and he cleaned the gash with gen­tle strokes until the wound was pink and clean. “I need to get to work,” he said.

Maybe you could call in?” she said.

He thought about that. “Prob­a­bly not a good idea. You’ll be fine here, though. You can call me if you need any­thing.”

Miran­da put her shirt on. The leash sat coiled on the kitchen counter. Luke grabbed it and the two of them made their way to the door. Once out­side, head­lights from Dunlap’s dri­ve­way flared into Luke’s yard, and Dun­lap stood with anoth­er man in front of the vehi­cle.

Oh, shit,” Miran­da said and pulled Luke by the shirt back inside.

What?” he said.

That’s Andy, and that’d Dun­lap, his deal­er. If he sees me here it won’t be good. Christ.” She put a hand to her fore­head and leaned down against the front of the kitchen counter, held in a sob.

Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Luke said. He crouched down and she leaned into his body. He thought about being in the ring: how he’d close his eyes deep into exhaus­tion and lean into his oppo­nent, try­ing to get a breath, one more swing.

Ellis Pur­die is a Ph.D. can­di­date in Cre­ative Writ­ing at The Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Mis­sis­sip­pi. Pre­vi­ous work has appeared at Magnolia's Press and Dew on the Kudzu. He lives in Petal, Mis­sis­sip­pi.

 

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2 Responses to First Aid, fiction by Ellis Purdie

  1. samuel beckett says:

    this is the shit

  2. Ter­rif­ic end­ing. That last para­graph, just boom.

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