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Across the Night Sky
by Tim Gunderson
Not For Sale


Across the Night Sky

The room was dark as she lay brooding in the bed. She could hear the noise down the hall – but had no interest in bingo. The smell was foreign, didn’t know if she would ever get used to it. But the children thought it best for her to be there. “The little bastards” she mumbled to herself. She knew they thought it best to put her there. Her children had lives of their own, and probably wouldn’t do very well taking care of her anyway. But she still didn’t like it – would rather be out doing something. Even shopping would be better than this. Anything but laying around watching television and - heaven forbid - playing bingo. But it wasn’t going to change. “Happy Haven” they called the place. “Bullshit!” she thought to herself, as she looked out the window to the streets below. (You catch yourself pacing the cage…)

One week was enough of this. Soon the lights were out in the hallway, and the nightshift watchman sat wearily watching the television. She crawled out of her bed and tried to walk. She couldn’t stand outright, but if she leaned on the bed she could move her and the bed. She grabbed her purse, filled it with her medicine, some bread leftover from supper and a bottle of water. The bed wasn’t very heavy, and she found she could roll it on the wheels quite easily. Moving toward the door, she opened the latch and peered down the hallway. No one was there, so she carefully maneuvered the bed into the hall and slowly but steadily moved toward the steps.

When she reached the top of the steps, she stopped and tucked the blankets in tightly. She then climbed into the bed, and with her last step nudged the bed toward the stairs. Down the stairs it clammered, banging into the front door, opening it. Much to her surprise the bed kept rolling out the door, beyond the door, and into the street. She was free!! “Free at last, free at last!” she proclaimed as the bed rolled out onto the main avenue.

As late as it was, there were no cars anywhere to be seen. The road had a gentle grade, and she and the bed began to roll. Slowly at first; but the farther she went the more it gained speed, and she began to question the wisdom of her escape. Too late for that, the bed was now moving along beyond what even cars would have been going. No turning back now, she said to herself. (If you’ve got a dream like mine…)

Flying through the intersections wasn’t too bad – blinking yellow this time of night. But the speed began to worry her. Her grip on the bedposts was white-knuckle as she knifed through the night. The last couple of crossings had her airborne landing with a slam. The train tracks were even worse – must have bounced six feet off the ground before coming down. Ahead she could see that the road came to a T – and that there was no stopping; no brakes on these things. A smile spread across her lips. (Get up Jonah, it’s your time to be born…)

As the bed slammed into the curve she was launched airborne – with her blankets & purse, flying through the cool night air. Time seemed to crawl as the old woman soared through the air, but she finally landed in a heap of garbage bags, tumbling to a stop against a dumpster. Gathering her wits, she took stock of herself– no bones broken, no blood. Survived it quite well really, she was proud of herself. Tougher than her kids thought! It was dark without street lights, but her eyes began to adjust.

Looking around, something caught her attention - or rather someone. Not ten feet from her in the darkness she could make out a human form. It was an old man, propped up against the building. He was looking at her, a puzzled expression on his face. He rubbed his eyes, perhaps trying to expunge the vision just witnessed. He had on a crumpled old hat, and a tattered brown leather jacket. In his hand was a brown paper bag. And he looked cold.

“Hi there” she said pensively. “Hi,” he answered. “Nice night – do you come here often?” he continued. “Not really” she said, with a smile, “Just happened to drop by.” She was afraid at first, but after a few moments realized that this old man was about as helpless as she was. She knew how she got there, but wondered why he would be there – next to a dumpster on a cold night. Wondered why he wasn’t up there in the ‘happy haven’ she had just escaped from. Perhaps he had been there as well once.

“It’s awfully cold out here,” she said. “Would you like part of my blanket? I’ll share.” “Thanks,” he said, looking her over carefully. “It is indeed rather cold tonight,” he said, sliding toward her. The warmth felt good – wasn’t really used to it. (Isn’t that what friends are for…)

They talked long into the night. She kept thinking they would come to get her – but they didn’t, and she was glad. Leaning back against the dumpster, a meteor shower caught their eyes. Dozens of streaks filled the heavens, blazing then fading across the night sky. The absence of street lights opened to them a world they had not been aware of, and they were transfixed by it. A world of distance, quietness, and darkness; yet also of beauty, wonder and light. (And look how far the light came …)

“I have a little food – would you like some,” she offered. “It’s not much, just some bread,” she said, pulling it from her purse, and handing it to him. “Thank-you” he said as he reached out his hand to receive it. “I’ve got some wine, if you’d like some,” he said offering her the bottle. “Thank-you,” she said as he handed it to her. And there under the stars the two of them shared the bread and the wine in silence. And their hearts were warmed. (Lord of the Starfields, ancient of days…O love that fires the sun, keep me burning. Keep me burning.)

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth Muehlhausen 07 Dec 2005
I enjoyed this! I found myself following the "-ing words" - brooding, laying, moving, flying, talking, thinking, leaning, blazing, fading, pulling, handing, offering. From brooding....all the way to handing and offering to each other. Quite a transition! I like the fantastic quality of "the bed ride from h---" mixed with deeper realities. Makes this enjoyable while also forcing me to think. The 5 comments in parentheses tell a story in themselves - a story of hope. I liked those interjections.
Pat Guy  07 Dec 2005
Wow Tim! wWat has kept you so long from writing and submitting? Is there a part two? I kept expecting her to wake up in her own bed at her own home! Good work!
Jess Godwin 07 Dec 2005
Hi! Wow, this was definitely different than other things I've read, but it caught me from the very beginning. You've got a great active voice. I think you're onto something here! J.
Mitzi Busby 07 Dec 2005
Tim, you have a nack for telling a vivid story. Please, keep the writing coming. There are deep undertones in your story beyond the surface. Keep up the great work.


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