Read Along With The Author
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he one hundred year old lane was dark; the walls were crooked and coated in slime. A wind whipped down from the busy street and chilled Joseph Starling. Although he was wrapped in a thick army coat, he shivered. Joseph ran carefully on the grey-green cobblestones trying not to slip. He found a bright red door, like an entrance to the under- world on his left and he slid across the lane and disappeared. Inside, the dark hall was lined with more doors, the place smelled of damp clothes and smoke. Joseph moved down the hall until he found room number seven. He dashed into the room and stood silently in the near- est corner.
A woman lay in bed, her body tense as every vein stood out from her ivory skin. Her name was Jessica. She pushed her head back upon the pillow so hard the bed creaked. A man with curly hair, her hus- band, stood next to the bed staring down. He smoked a cigarette with one hand and the other pushed deep into his pocket. A fat woman stood next to him, her ample breasts and their close neighbor, her fat guts, struggled in a united push against her white dress. Every now and again she turned away and took a drink from a small brown bottle.
“She ain’t going too well now,” the fat woman said as she pushed the bottle into her front pocket. “But, she’s a strong one and she is likely to pull through in the morning.”
The man said nothing but put the cigarette to his lips and then made a loud sucking noise until the tip turned bright red, spewing enough smoke for all four people in the room to inhale.
Jessica opened her lips, moved her head away from the smoke and Joseph could see her teeth were clenched. He pulled himself deeper into his corner, shivered again and pulled his coat around his chin. I would take good care of her, he thought.
“We should get her to the hospital,” the man said and looked at his watch.
“She was never insured,” the fat woman said. “She don’t have the money for horsepital.”
“She was in the army for three years. She fought overseas, don’t they get a special benefit for health care?”
“You know,” the woman remarked, “I think they do.”
The man who spoke was chubby and pale, he sucked on his cig- arette again, touching the butt lightly to his lips. He looked up and saw Joseph standing in the corner. Joseph looked only at Jessica. The woman sweated while grinding her teeth in pain.
“You were in the army,” the man called across the room to him.
Joseph did not hear him, he watched Jessica twist in agony. The man dropped his cigarette on the ground and walked toward Joseph.
“You were in the army,” he repeated. Joseph looked up.
“Joe, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Joseph replied.
“You’re Jessica’s friend?”
“Yes. We were in the army together.”
“I’m Mathew Derrick, Jessie’s husband.”
Mathew held out his hand. Joseph looked down, released his grip 8
on his jacket and quickly shook it. Joseph’s hand felt cold like ice, Mathew’s was hot and damp.
“Do you get special health care, being a war veteran? You both fought overseas didn’t you? Jessica mentioned you once or twice.”
“Yes. We get free medical treatment. You have to take her to a hos- pital, she looks like she is dying.”
“She is not dying,” Mathew grinned and looked back at the woman lying in bed. A soft almost inaudible groan came from her. The fat woman again turned away from them, drinking from the small brown bottle.
“Does she have her army papers? Her medical card?” Joseph asked. “Her what?”
“Her army papers, the documents that show her service.”
“Not here, they’re not on her.”
“You’ll need them.”
“Do you have yours?”
Joseph reached into one of the huge pockets in his jacket and pulled out some dirty well-folded papers.
Mathew looked at them and then looked at Joseph.
“You don’t look too well yourself. You look like you have what she has.” Mathew waved a hand at Jessica. “Come over to the bed and look at her.”
Joseph came forward slowly, trying to suppress a painful cough that sat in his chest.
Mathew went to the side of the bed. “She’s cold and she is so stiff, all her muscles seem jarred. She is really pale, too, look at her.”
Mathew reached out his hand and roughly pulled her sheet back. He began to unbutton her shirt, exposing her throat and chest.
“What are you doing?” Joseph asked.
“She has a red mark on her chest.” He pointed at a red rash below her throat.
“She needs to go to the hospital.”
“Take her then. I don’t know where her papers are though and I can’t afford to pay for any medical treatment.” Mathew reached into
his pocket and lit another cigarette. “I gotta go to work now. Mary!” Mathew yelled at the nurse across the bed. “What do you think? Should we take Jessie to hospital?”
“Horsepitals never do much good but I s’pose they can have a look ‘it her.”
The fat nurse staggered and her hat slipped from her head. “Take her if you can get ‘er in free.”
“I gotta go to work,” Mathew repeated angrily and as he sucked hard on the cigarette, he made a whistling noise on the end of the butt.
“I’ll take her,” Joseph offered.
“There’s a good pal.” Mathew slapped him hard on the back. “And while you are there get them to take a look at you.” Mathew began to laugh and walked out. The nurse watched him go and looked with dis- dain at the thin man in the big coat.
“How you gonna get her to horspital? I hope you don’t think she’ll 10
walk?” The fat woman declared. “I’ll get a taxi.”
“What is she to you anyway? I ain’t seen you before.”
“She’s my friend.” Joseph began to cough and turned away. The pain in his chest throbbed.
Joseph calmed down, slowed his heavy breathing, went to the bed and bent down to Jessica.
“Jessica, can you hear me?” He touched her face. It felt neither cold nor warm.
“She carn’t hear you,” the fat nurse said. “Otherwise I’d have been talking to her.”
“Shut up, will you!” Joseph yelled at her.
“Well I cannot believe the rudeness of you,” the fat woman grunted. She stood back and clutched for the bottle in her pocket. She kept slinging insults in between drinks, but Joseph no longer listened to her.
“Jessica, I’m going to take you to the hospital. We have to make it out to the road so I can get a taxi. Can you move?”
Jessica rolled her head slightly toward him. Her arms were stiff and hard. Joseph tried to hold her hands but they were clenched like little stones.
Joseph put his arm around her and moved her from the bed. She was light and thin like some beautiful fairy. The nurse stood by and watched.
Jessica groaned. She wore a white shirt, grey singlet and white shorts, not enough to keep her warm. Joe held her in his arms; he struggled to hold her steady.
“Give me a blanket to wrap her in."
The nurse stood aside folding her arms, refusing to help.
Joe held Jessica across his right arm and whipped a blanket from the bed with such vigor the bed moved.
He wrapped the grey blanket around her and carried her from the bright room into the dark hall and out into the filthy alley. He turned left and stood on the busy main road where he watched a number of taxicabs pass by. He almost became hysterical waving at the passing cabs . The nurse, having followed to watched them leave, went back into the room and lay down on the bed Jessica had been in, put the brown glass bottle to her lips and began to slowly suck at the contents.
Joseph held Jessica by the side of the road. A bus flew by and whipped grit into Joseph’s eye.
Finally a taxi stopped. The driver looked at the passengers when they climbed in, Jessica lay across the back seat uncomfortably, Joseph watched him. The driver’s skin gleamed a beautiful honey brown, his dark hair was brushed across his head so that it stood up, his eyes were clear and he spoke extremely good English but with a hard foreign ac- cent.
“Where would you like to go?” he asked.
“To the hospital please, the nearest one, I think it is the Green Bay Medical.”
“That one is the closest,” the driver said.
The taxi pulled hard into traffic and drove toward the harbor.
Joseph pulled his coat tight around him and tried to hold Jessica so her head did not shake with the motion of the car.
Joseph Starling has returned from war and is trying his best to resettle into civilian life. In the midst of his struggles, anti war protests spring up around him, and in this violence he is once again forced to face his internal conflicts.
When Joseph discovers his best friend has been murdered he is offered a chance for revenge, and that revenge comes in the form of high explosive.
He doesn’t feel guilty, though, he only dialed a number. Right?
The Bomber is a journey of retribution and loss, set to the ticking of a very important countdown clock.