[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 4
Joey lifted his head. Blood stained the sidewalk where his face had been. He licked his teeth and at least they were all still in his head. He wiped his face with his jacket sleeve. He was bleeding badly, but that was to be expected from a head wound. His eyes came in and out of focus. He knew once they did the real pain would start.
He got on his hands and knees, and then wished he hadn’t. From the angle he flew at the sidewalk he’d struck it hard and rolled several times. His hands were all scraped up from trying to stop himself and his knees were poking through fresh holes in his jeans. As he sat on the grass he checked to see if any of the cuts on his face were really bad. They weren’t. All were minor, but he’d banged his head really hard and he felt a headache brewing.
His backpack! He’d rolled over onto it. Several times in fact. He winced as he took the pack off and had to shrug it off his shoulder. There wasn’t a square protrusion inside any longer. He shook it and could hear the pieces of vinyl rattle together. It was in at least twenty different pieces. Scratches Carlos could fix. This, well, no one was ever going to be able to fix this. He tossed the pack to the curb.
Joey got up and groaned. He wasn’t going to cry. No one liked to see a groaning man cry. He hurt all over. He cursed Brad under his breath because it hurt too much to do anything else.
The bike lay in the gutter, the front wheel still lodged in the storm drain, but the rest of it had twisted off and smacked into a parked car.
“I should just walk away.”
Joey looked at the bike. There was no way he’d be able to carry it home. He would have a hard enough time getting himself home. He was going to hear it from his mom and dad about how he needed to control his temper and not get too stirred up over such a minor thing. They just didn’t get it. They never would.
In fact no one understood him. Least of all those jerks Brad, Chad, and Thad. Joey wasn’t even sure if they had last names but he was sure they would be equally as lame. Carlos understood him and they spent a lot of time together. Perhaps they’d spent too much time together. They were prone to getting into trouble when they weren’t actually working on something.
The voice came from a woman who waddled down the front walk of the house he’d crashed in front of. She was short, even shorter than his grandmother, and old, even older than his grandmother. She wasn’t wearing her teeth, that was easy to see from the shortened jaw line. Her house dress was something straight out of the sixties; brown with large orange flowers. Even the pink fuzzy slippers she wore helped define the lady’s agedness. She had to be at least eighty.
She wrinkled her face when she got closer and looked him up and down. “I was watching out my window when it happened. Come inside and let me help you get cleaned up. No sense in you heading off in the shape you’re in.”
Joey winced when she tugged on his arm. It was easier to just follow her in rather than be pulled at. At least she didn’t walk quickly.
“I’ll have no argument about it. You’re bleeding all over the place.”
She handed him a towel which he used to sop up the blood on his face and then hold it to the general area where it hurt the most. He had to say something.
“Thank me later when we figure out what all is wrong with you. Probably got a sprained wrist at least. I see you’re up so I doubt you broke anything. Fancy flying you did, but you need to work on your landings.”
He was going to say thanks again, but the walking was taking a toll on his body. Now that he was moving he could feel each scrape, scratch, and bruise. His head throbbed with the pounding pace of a Metallica concert.
“So what’s your name? You’ve got to have a name before I let you in my house.”
The old woman stopped on the stoop of the house and looked up at Joey. Even though he was slouched at the shoulders he was still a good foot taller than the woman. Her eyes were bright and intelligent and pale blue. A deep line creased her forehead as she furrowed her brow. Not at all what he was expecting in a rescuer. What had he been expecting? Certainly not this woman to come to his rescue that’s for sure.
“Joey. That’s a good name. A very fine name indeed. Well, come inside. Let’s get you all fixed up. I think you’re going to need stitches on the cut across your eye there. I’ve got everything to do it if you’re not squeamish. Come in. Come in.”
She opened the door and led Joey inside the house. The inside smelled of fresh apple cider and cherry blossoms. It had an instant healing effect on his psyche as he was wafted back on memories of his grandparents on his father’s side. In the winter she would always make apple cider and he would warm his hands on the mug before he would take a sip to warm his insides.
The house was much smaller than it appeared to have been from the outside, but it made a certain sense though. She was a small woman and having everything scaled down would have been helpful.
She seated him in a large, high-backed chair that had a large, lace doily across its back. With a gentle push she eased him into it.
“You just sit right there while I get what’s good for you. I know just what you need that’ll fix you right up.”
Joey smiled at her. “What’s your name? I don’t recall ever seeing you around the neighborhood.”
“Elsa Gallegos. Call me Elsa. Now just stay put and I’ll go get my medical kit.”
Medial kit? Whoever called it that? Joey didn’t care as long as she had something in there that would take this throbbing in his head away.
He looked for something to put his feet up on, but there was no coffee table or stool in the room. There was, however, a large cabinet filled with hundreds, no, thousands of tiny figurines. At first glance they looked like chess pieces from a fancy chess game, but there were far too many of each. There were gladiators, knights, army men. In fact it looked as if everyone of the pieces was a fighting man of some kind. Even boxers.
The room was decorated with heavy draperies covered over with lace curtains. Each chair and couch had a lace doily draped over its back. The flower patterns on the furniture was all mismatched and clashing in color. Nothing even matched the maroon, shag carpet.
Elsa returned with a medical kit alright. It wasn’t a box, but a large case with legs. She also brought with her a small stool. Joey wanted to get up and help her but she shushed him when he tried to sit up.
“Just stay put. I may be slow, but I’ll get you taken care of no matter how long it takes.”
Joey chuckled then winced.
“Why are you helping me?”
“Well, isn’t that what people are supposed to do? Help each other out?”
“Not if you ask Brad, Chad, and Thad.”
“And who are they?”
“The guys in the car.”
“Oh. Them. I didn’t figure they were any friends of yours.”
Joey sucked air between his teeth as she touched an iodine dipped rag to his temple. She held his chin up and didn’t let him shirk back.
“Thank you for doing this.”
“It’s no trouble. I was a little lonely and it’s nice to have company. I just wish it were under different circumstance. It’s not often anyone comes to visit me.”
“Don’t you have any children?” Joey’s eyes wandered around the room and didn’t notice any pictures of family.
“My son went off on his own a long time ago. I’m sure he’s doing well. I wonder if he ever got married.”
Joey tilted his head to the side. “What do you mean? Don’t you talk to your son anymore?”
“I haven’t been able to talk to him in over forty years.”
“What kind of son leaves home and doesn’t talk to his parents in forty years.” Joey was mad at his parents, but he could never imagine never speaking to them again.
“Oh, it’s not his fault. It’s mine really.”
Elsa finished cleaning and dressing the wound on Joey’s head. She put a stick that had been soaking in some liquid into his mouth. It tasted strongly of peppermint, but instantly took away the terrible pounding in his head.
“If you’d like to hear that story, I think it’d be best over tea. Do you have time to stay for a while and chat with an old woman? It’s been so long since I’ve had anyone to talk to.” She said this without ever looking up from the work she was doing on Joey’s knees. She cleaned each carefully and bandaged each. Joey felt obliged. He had been planning on staying at Carlos’s until late in the evening so why not here.
“Sure. I’d love to hear about your son.”
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