Notes from my Knapsack – Granville Sentinel 8-1-13
A story on the way home
"I've got to get out of here."
Nelson didn't say that out loud, but it was as distinct a thought as he'd had for some time.
He was looking out across the evening landscape of Las Vegas, with the jagged tips of the surrounding mountains still catching the last of the day's light, and the streets around the hospital were filled with headlights and taillights heading either way from his second story window.
Across the adjoining block, the raised expressway was also filled with cars, and Nelson knew that beyond it was the northern end of the famous Strip. He'd looked at it without seeing, in the backseat of a cab from the airport up the neon canyon shining at full even at midnight, not a full day before.
His sister was dead. There was some thought he would make it before she died, but he knew just enough about how nurses talked, since his sister was – had been – one herself. They didn't think it was likely, but it was worth a try.
Especially since it had been thirty years since he'd last talked to her.
Thirty years might be a stretch; he'd spoken on the phone to her, and even seen her on FaceTime over a computer screen, but they hadn't been face to face for all of three decades. Since their mother died, father had vanished (again), and life pulled them in their respective directions, the currents of career and love and personal interests had never brought them to the same state, let alone same town.
Until now. And now was over.
Apparently she had been in a club in one of the Strip hotels; no doubt he could recall which one by pulling out of his pocket the card nervously thrust at him by some casino functionary who had greeted him in the lobby of the hospital when he arrived, the same one who rushed out to pay his cabbie. They were clearly concerned that he was going to sue them, and it didn't suit his temperament to tell them there was not the faintest chance he would do that. The snappy suit was out of place in the hospital surroundings, and the wearer of it, after presenting his card and a request that Nelson call him if there was "anything we can do to help you in this painful time, anything at all," made his nervous exit – to everyone's relief.
The hospital social worker had told him she was probably intoxicated, and probably had been bumped by a crowd coming out of the show, one of the singer/magic/acrobatic somethings common along Las Vegas Boulevard, and she ended up falling in front of a bus. Nelson was, obscurely, surprised that Las Vegas had buses, but they did.
And one had killed his sister. Or had been what killed her. He felt the need to be precise about his feelings, because he didn't care for what happened when he let his feelings run riot. That had happened before, a long time ago but recent in memory, and it wasn't going to happen again.
The paperwork from the other hospital where Sheryl had worked was rushed over, a sort of professional courtesy arranged by the social worker. When she (what was her name? another card in his pocket…) had handed him the sheaf of forms and documents, he noticed the top sheet was a standard employment document, with information like name, address (an apartment he'd already visited across town, nearly empty of personal materials, unsurprisingly since she'd only been in Las Vegas a few weeks), and next-of-kin info with his own name and address in Florida staring matter-of-factly back at him.
What surprised him was the name of the place she'd filled in for "Hometown." He'd never heard of it, nor did it make sense that she called it hers, since he was pretty sure she'd not lived there in her first twenty-plus years.
Nelson thought to himself, not out loud, but quite distinctly: I guess I need to go there.
(end of part one)
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think happens next at email@example.com, or @Knapsack on Twitter.