The Cacti Won't Serve Me Tequila (Con't)

He found his was to his locker, and then to the door of room 216.

Mrs. Haymaker didn't make him explain himself. Rather, she muttered a curt remark as he slipped into his seat without turning from the board. He had missed half of a lecture on the hazards and problems inherent with nuclear technology. No great loss, the subject was not new to him and Vincent thought that he should have stayed at the stoplight a little longer to see if anything else actually would occur. Invariably his eyes drew out the window.

And centered on Tommy.

Vincent didn't blink or rub his eyes in disbelief. It was perfectly possible that Mike could have gotten away from Mr. Stevens, although the need to escape was incompatible with Mr. Stevens' simplistic and kindhearted attitude towards life. Perhaps he just let him go. Was that so much of a stretch to believe? No more than Tommy being on the run from a man who's one pride in life was never having a spill on aisle 4.

Tommy hadn't changed out of his morning apparel, although the cloth was now pulled up and over his shoulder and he was no longer sweating. Vincent admired his face, particularly because it had a look of such serenity and sadness he would not have thought Tommy capable of. Then his lips pursed and he could've spoken or just mouthed the word, Vincent couldn't tell twenty feet up and a pane of glass apart, but they brought every thought back that should have stayed buried, like digging a time capsule up early only to find it infested with black widow spiders.

The word was shangri-la.


To say that Vincent was Tommy's only friend in his early years would be a lie. Tommy had done something with every one of the Cosavo kids at least once, and most enough things to be called a friend by them, but he never spoke about shangri-la to any of them. Only to Vincent, and always to Vincent. Vincent never spoke of it to anyone else either, not feeling it his place to do so. It was just Tommy's thing, being a prodigy and having a destiny.

"No they got the name right but that's about it," he told Vincent once while out on his porch when the weather had just begun to cool off. Vincent had raised the issue that shangri-la wasn't real, and even if it was he didn't know what destiny it could offer, and Tommy had kindly pointed out that the historian's had no idea what they were talking about.

"Oh it's beautiful all right, but it's not even in the mountains! At least I don't think it is," his voice faded as he watched the moths and flies mindlessly barraging the lantern hanging just by his old screen door with the hole in the bottom mesh from his forward roll when he thought the house was on fire.

"How do you know if you've never been?"
"Because it's my destiny."
"Why can't your destiny be in the mountains?"
"It could be, but it isn't."
"How do you know it's not in the mountains then?"
"Because it's my destiny."

Frequently Vincent would just give up fishing for a deeper answer and just let Tommy watch the lantern. Other times he would go into the conversation determined to give Tommy a new destiny, one that would get him out of Cosavo and get him happy. It wouldn't be that difficult if Tommy would just play for the right people. He was a prodigy because like all good prodigies he did something easier and quicker than eveyone else who had to spend years leaning the trade. Tommy's thing turned out to be the oboe. He could do the whole playing-after-one-listen thing, and he could sight read flawlessly, but his real standout talent came out in his original pieces, which he never wrote down and never played twice. Of course his parents had pursued his gift mercilessly, but not without a staggeringly difficult problem. Tommy absolutely refused to play for any man in a suit who came by to hear him. Then, he stopped playing for any man who came by in normal clothes bought from a store Cosavo didn't have. Finally he just stopped playing for anyone who wanted him to, and every time a note sounded through the house there would be a mad scrambling to find and start taperecorders to prove his ability. And it wouldn't be hard to write his own ticket either, as apparently the last generation had produced a dazzlingly low number of professional oboists. Of course Tommy had a very simplistic reason for dashing his parents hopes of making their son and their name famous.

"That's not my destiny. You know that."
"Why can't it be your destiny though?"
"Because it isn't."
"You just don't want to succeed."
"What is success?"
"Success is doing what you love and being happy and hopefully making enough money to cover all that."
"How could I be happy if I didn't follow my destiny?"
"Well you're happy when you play, aren't you?"
"Of course."
"Then why wouldn't you be happy playing later?"
"I would be, but that's not my destiny."
"You're insufferable."
"Then why are you still here?"
"Because it's my destiny."

No matter how many times Vincent ended the conversation with that, Tommy always laughed. And the laugh was always different than his laugh at other jokes, and yet consistantly different. Vincent played it as just one more mysterious facet of Tommy Womack.

If this was all that Tommy and Vincent had said about Tommy's destiny, then there would be no jump in Vincent seeing the shape of the words again. Unfortunately, it wasn't. He quickly produced a sharpie from his backpack and scribbled a large blog, then brought the blob to his nose and stared at the preexisting blue lines on the paper.

"Excuse me, Vincent, but why is it that you simply cannot wait to get high until after my class?"

His eyes peeked over the top of the paper, then he crumpled it and stuffed it deep in his pack. The lecture resumed and the sharpie idea had failed. The forgotten smell permeated his thoughts now and forced him to remember.

He remembered the sound of powdered ground under his feet, which was unusual because he had never thought about it before. His whole life had been on dry, dead, thirsty ground. He remembered the wind forcing his hair down into his eyes, and his terrible need of a haircut, but all of his shirts were dirty and he didn't want to be itchy for an entire weekend. Tommy hadn't come to school that morning, and Vincent had been en route to see him when there he was, a full two miles from his house. He was standing with his back to Vincent, and his head was bowed. Vincent altered his course to meet him but before he did Tommy took off around a corner. Vincent ran after him, but Tommy was fast when he wanted to be. Out of breath, Vincent decided to wait for him at his house. Actually, Tommy had beaten him there and was facing his house, propped up with his forehead against the peeling siding. Vincent approached him cautiously this time, but he was stoic. He lightly touched Tommy on the shoulder, and he at first stayed as he was, then whirled around and fell with his back smacking the building. In his hand he held a dead bird. It was small enough to fit in his palm, and its head was absent. Blood filled Tommy's left hand and was now forming a small bruise on the ground. Tears were streaming down his face as he struggled to speak.

"I-it was still a-a-live when I saw you, so I had to run. I couldn't do it with you there, I couldn't!" His head fell to his chest and he lifted both of his hands up to Vincent as if offering him the dead thing. He noticed that the missing bird's head had been in Tommy's right hand, its black eyes casting no glare from the sun. He was speechless. And he couldn't look away from those eyes. So gone. So empty.

"I had to do it!" he screamed at Vincent, "I had to!"
"I had to!"
"But wh-"
"I HAD TO!" his head dropped again as the sun started to drop and the first of the moths began to appear around the lantern. No one said anything. Then:

"I had to be comfortable with death. It is my destiny. I am sorry for the bird, but I have to be okay with this."


Vincent spent that night with Tommy. They buried the bird where he had caught it, and Tommy washed his hands and the spot by his house before his parents came home. Tommy's room was panted the shade of navy that he felt was closest to the sky at night, and for his last birthday he had requested a skylight. He almost never spoke after the night fully came down around them, and just lay listening to the stars converse. Vincent's eyes were almost permanantly shut when Tommy said to no one in particular.

"I think I killed her."
"Killed who?"
"My sister."

If the world was a perfect place full of uncrushed violets and white wedding gowns, Tommy would have been the Womack's second child. As God willed it he wasn't. Stacy Womack came out of her mother's womb and onto this earth as cold as the waiting room her father paced around and around in.

"You didn't kill her."
"Yeah, I think I did."
"How could you?"
"I think she had to die so that I could go to shangri-la."
"That doesn't make sense."
"I think God asked her if she wouldn't mind and she died."
"It wasn't your fault."
"I hope I can make it and prove her right."

It was the first time Vincent had ever heard Tommy express anything but certainty about his destiny, and also his last because when he turned his head Tommy was fast asleep and somewhere else.

-----chapter 3 under constuction-------

Wish #388

Maybe one day

I will get to see her eyes

Up close

Before I close mine

After Rose

Take a gun,
To the battlefield,
March for fun,
Show off that gun you wield,
Take a bow,
When you are good and healed,
And for those that aren't,
And those that won't,
I will write you rose after rose,
After rose.


Who I am,
Can't see,
Can't hear,
Can't speak,
About anything,
With and degree of certainty,
Who I am,
Has no idea,
Of even my own thought patterns,
Misleading me,
Cursed under a ship while the waves rock,
The lightning,
Make me rise,
Clenched willpower,
Misleading me,
To believe I am strong,
I am strong,
To take on You,
In your own ship and crew,
I'm sure you wouldn't tell me that,
We are mapless and forlorn,
Spread about but do you,

I imagine it,
You close,
Then swept away,
Apathy spiking drinks,
Secretes up through the earth,
Her own gift to ease man with his heavens,
His passions and loves,
Misleading me,
But it's easy,
It's so easy,
To believe in it,
All spent on a park bench,
Can you stand it?
Can you swim?
With the earth,
The fireflies and judges,
To make right,
Misleading me,
To null that,
Please never me,
To sink ships with deceitful lighthouses.