Order of Restraint

by Werling Maisse © 2001

It was dark as I crawled through the thick cover, dirt and moldy wood shifting quietly beneath me. The scent was strong. I could taste it. It was bitter. A weak vibration allowed me to correct my course while stiff branches scraped my back and sides. My eyes were useless, so I protected them by keeping them closed. A thorn bush nearly stopped me altogether. But I crawled on.

The vibration grew stronger. A pattern emerged: A single thump followed by two quick ones. I was close; a solid object lay ahead. I sensed it. When I reached out I touched something cold. Little bits of it rolled away, lodged under my nails. It was concrete. I moved closer and snuggled up to the foundation. My hand wandered over the formed rock while I rested on my back for a moment. And then suddenly the low pulsing stopped. I rolled over onto one side and waited. The beat began again evenly. I wallowed in relative comfort, taking advantage of a nearby faucet.

I spit out a bug and continued. I moved freely now through a narrow channel between the foundation and shrubbery, using my elbows and knees more. A soft light filtered downward through the bushes up ahead. It taunted me, guided me. A cricket stopped chirping when I passed it. I hate that.

I'd almost forgotten about those tattered denim cutoffs of Dawn's -- You'd think she were a pauper. The top was new, though. So was the dance. I knew she had an inny . . . .

We met in a grocery store. It was a Sunday. I couldn't buy alcohol. Dawn was so nice, though -- I didn't realize how nice until she bent over and put the six-pack under the cashier's counter, spared me the embarrassment of putting it back on the shelf. Well, at least the potato chips were legal. That green smock really brought out her eyes. They don't like the cashiers to fraternize with customers . . . .

Whatever, I had produced my mother's cell phone, and was about to give Dawn a call when a car pulled into the driveway. I felt lightheaded and cold. Sometimes it's the short, high-pitched squeal of new disc brakes or the muffled squawk of a two-way radio that makes the blood run from my face. But on this particular night a solid door slam told me that a big Ford sedan was in the area. I really surprised myself, though; I didn't think I could ball up so tightly and roll into a basement window well like that. I heard the doorbell chime from deep within the house.

Those cops were so sweet to Dawn. They usually knock with their batons. I could feel them gawking at her long limbs, tan from all those visits to the salon on Tuesdays from eight to eight-thirty. And I just about thought she'd invite them in for coffee and honey-dips or who knows what else any second. But by then Dawn's father had joined them, rattling like an old diesel truck. Between puffs on his sour pipe he intimated how certain people ought to be locked up, key thrown away and what not. Dawn chimed in, calling me a scum ball. What a mouth. I didn't really mind, though. That's just Dawn.

I was about to smile, but abandoned the idea abruptly on account of the low-toned cop said they'd have a look around as long as they were there. I almost wished Dawn had invited them inside or something. Just for refreshments, I mean. I needed a little time. But they'd already turned and were headed down the stairs. Dirt ground into the concrete under their shoes, popping like droplets of water in hot oil.

They split up at the bottom. The rubbery squeak of hard soles on wet grass assaulted my sanity. A twig snapped. They were honing in on me. I could feel it. And then the phone rang. You jackass! I instinctively felt for the switch and turned the ringer off. All I could do now was wait for their focused beams to fall on my quivering flesh. Stories whizzed through my mind: I lost my puppy, someone sprinkled angel dust on my onion rings.

But the brief chirping sound met with little concern. The high-toned cop said it was a cricket, possibly two singing in unison. Low-tone maintained that idea was idiotic, that nothing other than a spectacled tree frog had made that noise. I became aware of a faint pulsing. A familiar pattern waxed in intensity.

I peeked through the leafy filth that covered me and saw Low-tone elbow his giggling partner in the light of Dawn's window and move his hips a few times quickly, then look around to see if anyone else had seen. No wonder they call them pigs. Still, by the time those fellows hopped in their squad car and zoomed away my relief had blossomed. In fact I felt a sort of kinship with them. I hate that.

But they were gone. I whispered the word several times. It rhymed with Dawn . I sat up and stretched my back, massaged my neck a little. Then I held the phone close to my body and pressed a button. Her number still burned in the illuminated display. My hands were greenish, washed in the glow.

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