After mother’s death, I wasn’t certain how I would hold up against all the Judge’s absurdities, but as the weeks went by both he and I realized despite it all, those old men really did need me to keep the VA from completely falling apart. That only was what helped he and I maintain a truce. That was until the man appeared.
Chapter Four – The Man
As dusk approached, so too did the Man. His features were concealed. Below his sharp angled blue eyes was a long deep red cloth wrapped secure veiling his face like a bandana would. He wore steel toed boots and a long duster unbuttoned. You could see his was armed. I don’t know much about guns, but he wore at least two of them and a belt full of bullets.
I was just inside the VA’s entrance when I saw him standing in the stone garden in front of the building. He was staring straight and vacant toward the building. I stepped outside. As I walked toward him, he did not turn to look at me. This was a surprise to me. Being a seventeen year old and the only female in a world of dying old men, I’m used to everyone turning to look at me. I don’t say that to brag. It just is. So when the first truly tall young man, the first man who might seem like he could actually do something with a woman, when you don’t capture his attention it skewers your reason. Reality does a cartwheel. It confused me. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I slowed down, and gave him every opportunity to snap to it, to a steal a gaze, but nothing doing. He stared straight and vacant toward the building. I know it’s silly, but I even turned around and walked a full circle around the man
Mother – Trying to bait him to take a stab at that ass with his eyes
I am embarrassed to admit it, but I needed something from this man. I did. I needed his…attention. I needed it to confirm something. I don’t know…In order to feel that everything was as it should be.
Mother – They are worser things girlie
Suddenly he slumped. Instinct made me leap towards him. He was cold and hard to get a hold off. I dropped my shoulder into the crevasse of his armpit to stable him. That was when I found his wound. Those ribs were a mess, not so much blood, but you could tell he flinched so at contact. I slowly attempted to spin us, and the wind caught his duster and it flew up into our faces. I could see nothing, but had us facing the entrance of the VA. Then the breeze fell and the jacket’s length dropped away from our faces. I saw a dozen of them octogenarians blockading the entrance. They were welding an assortment of blunt objects, walking canes, broken table legs, a pool cue. I jerked my head to one side, gesturing for them to get out of my way, but they held ground.
“I have an injured man here.”
They shook their heads in unison and a finger pointed up towards a fifth floor window. There perched the Judge. He was as worked up as I had seen him.
Mother – Till that point.
Judge – My dear!!!
His bellow was as thunderous and it was condescending. He was using the rec room karaoke machine to project his voice.
Judge – We will have no desert Bedouins within these walls!
Daughter – But he is injured
Judge – These veterans didn’t survive the desert wars so that we would suffer Bedouins!
Daughter - I have an obligation to care for anyone in need
Judge – Then do so. Anywhere but within these walls!
Daughter – Judge! Be reasonable!
He then took his nerve mallet and smashed it against an empty bed pan in gavel fashion. The karaoke machine’s disco echo effect sustained the sound for minutes, during which a number of the Judge’s most ardent howled like coyotes.
The man was coming back to consciousness, now his fingers slid to my elbow and softly squeezed so as to brace himself. He leaned onto me, and with me as his crutch, we staggered back toward Mother’s hut.