Day 162: Reese’s Journal Entry 7: Riding with Bertha

It’s been a while since I’ve written a journal. Time seems funny here, Helen. Remember in my last entry when I mentioned that I couldn’t steal a bike in order to leave Möbius town, and I hadn’t earned enough yet to buy my own wheels? Well, there are jobs here. I guess it would make sense, because without work people aren’t their best.

I had to get another job. You see, working with people as a Cultural Translator, day in and day out, made it harder to ignore you not being here. I’d see someone else alone, missing their mate, or worse I’d see a couple reunited, sometimes whole families all happy as can be. It just got to be too much.

So I’m a driver. Kind of funny, but remember I was working a delivery truck for a living when we met. Now I drive a horse-drawn wagon.

The people at the resurrectorium called me yesterday and said some guy named Wayne could use another driver and Wayne sent me to see Sam today. Sam runs the stable in the middle of town. I could smell hay and horses long before I entered. It was nice and cool inside. Someone at the back was turning over hay to air it out.

“Are you Sam?” I asked.

The boy chuckled. He must have been all of fifteen. Fleshy but muscled underneath. And he had Downs.

“Sam is my father,” he said. “He will be back very soon. Do you need to borrow a horse?”

“I’m supposed to work for your dad.”

“We can always use help with the horses,” he said. “But you have to be nice to them. They’ll be nice to you.”

“I’m sure they will.”

“Hello!” someone called. I turned to see a man with a broad straw hat at the door of the stable. “I see you met Charley,” he said, extending a hand. Solid handshake. I could feel the calluses. “I’m Sam.” Sam was old for a guy who’d been resurrected. Most resurrectees are in their twenties. Sam was at least mid-thirties, maybe early forties. Some wrinkles. Sun-aged skin. “Charley, Reese is going to drive a wagon. I think Bertha would be good for him.”

Charley smiled. “Bertha is always good for everybody.”

“Come on in the office, Reese, and I’ll give you your route and some instructions. Ever drive a wagon?”

In the office, Sam picked up a clipboard, pulled a pile of bills of lading and a map from a corner of the desk and, clipping them to the board handed it to me.

“Go ahead and ask,” he said.

“The papers aren’t self-explanatory?”

“About Charley. You were wondering about Charley.”

It was true. It was Charley who wasn’t self-explanatory.

“I’m glad your son is here with you,” I said.

“But…” Sam continued for me.

“Okay. But why does he have Down syndrome? I thought all that was supposed to be fixed when we’re resurrected.”

“It’s what he wanted.”

“It’s what he wanted?”

Sam must have seen the look on my face a thousand times. “In heaven, Jesus asked him. And Charley said he liked who he was just fine.”

“But he’s…”

“Retarded?” Charley said.

He’d been listening in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, Charley, I didn’t mean…”

“I told Jesus in heaven that my heart is not retarded. He smiled at me. I told him ‘make me the same again. I don’t want to have a retarded heart.’ So, here I am. And pop and I are okay. Right pop?”

“Right, Charley,” Sam said.

He handed me the clipboard. I looked at his sunburned hand. I didn’t pry further, but I’m guessing Sam is the same age he was when Charley knew him best, back in the world that was.

“Martha knows the way to the loading stops,” Sam said. “Hardware, feed store… After that, follow the list and the map. Charley, is it okay if we send Tickle along with Reese today?”

“Tickle?” I asked.

“My pigeon!” Charley said. “She doesn’t need a cage any more. She stays on the wagon until she comes home. If you have trouble, just say ‘Help, Tickle.’ We will come get you, Pop and me and Tickle.”

So, Bertha and I headed out. One light flick of the reigns so she’d know I was ready, and we were off. Tickle, too, sitting on the bench next to me or sometimes pacing. She flew off after my first few deliveries, came back later, then was off and back all day.

So, Helen, let me tell you about the job.

A horse-drawn wagon is like a self-driving truck, or nearly so. Bertha only drives herself home at the end of the day, but that’s when you most appreciate it. We did fine right off the bat. Not bad for a guy who never rode a horse. I drive the wagon back and forth across town, meet nice people, and get exercise unloading it. I like it. It’s usually sunny… I didn’t tell you about that, did I? We had a thunderstorm the other day, and it blew down the big tree in the town square.

Some people got really upset about it. Not that it doesn’t rain. Sometimes we get a real soaker. It was that the storm did damage to something. One of them got mad at me when I said big thunderstorms are part of perfection. So the Zoës held a regional meeting to explain that storms are part of God’s order or something. I stopped listening after a few minutes. I just scanned the faces looking to see if you were there and my Zoë hadn’t told me.

But you weren’t there. You’re not working at any of the places I deliver to. You’re not walking down the sidewalk or in the lane, not looking out of any of the windows I pass. I’d recognize you, the way I recognized you back at that service station when we were first alive and still young. I know you remember that because we often talked about how we met in that snowstorm by chance, each not knowing the other was back in town. You said later you recognized me by the laugh lines around my eyes. You hugged me and left the scent of Cinnabar perfume on my coat. My partner on the run that day kept laughing. “You got it bad,” he’d say. “You got it bad.” And all I could do was smile, because he was right. All the rest of that day I couldn’t think of anything else but calling you up. My hand would go to the note with your phone number and I’d look at it and he would say “Yep. It’s happening.” And it was, even then. We left had town years before to our different destinies, and we parted friends. Somehow, I knew meeting you in the snowstorm that day there would be more. I wanted more. I wanted you.

I want you now. Here in this Resurrection. Where are you, babe?

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