Lost Souls


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by R. David Lee

The thought struck me in the throes of self-gratification:

Blood and semen smell the same.

I pitched the tent where My Wife would have wanted. Big Meadows Campground. Peak of the mountain. Isolated. It meant a longer distance to haul my gear but that was a small price to pay for the seclusion.

As things began to dry, tugging the hairs around my navel, I bawled. I’m sure the other campers heard me but I didn’t care. I wailed like I’d lost the only person who ever meant anything to me. Even so, I tickled my frenulum – that sensitive fold of redundant skin where pipe becomes knob until . . .

Until I forgot I was all alone.

If I’d have brought a gun, or anything more deadly than garden shears, I’d have created a scene worthy of a lifetime of therapy for some poor park ranger. But I lacked that kind of foresight. So I beat my chest and screamed the name of My Wife until my larynx called it quits.

I suffocate emotion for a living. I’m an automaton who performs algorithms. Give me an input, and I’ll spew out the response most likely to keep a shingle over my door and least likely to provoke a lawsuit by a personal injury guru dying to build a Jacuzzi next to his swimming pool.

“We have a dual trauma code ETA five minutes.”

“You’re kidding,” I say because this kind of thing is unheard of on the reservation.

“Two drivers. One head-on collision.”

“Put them side-by-side in Room Two when they get here,” I reply even though this is the charge nurse’s only option.

In all of South Dakota (population: next to nothing) someone has had the rotten luck to veer across the double yellow line when the only other driver in a twenty-mile radius just so happened to be heading in the opposite direction. The only other driver in a twenty-mile radius just so happens to be My Wife.

In Room Two, gray matter spills from My Wife’s fractured scalp like yolk from an egg. I instantly pronounce her “dead on arrival” and get to work on the offending driver, an intoxicated American Indian teenager whose tribe I am here to serve. Though the girl’s cranium is nearly severed, I perform the motions of resuscitation like an artisan flaunting his talents at a county fair. I can sense her family in the next room and I’m aware that they have nothing to lose by forcing me before a jury of their peers if I expose even the slightest hint of nonchalance before pronouncing her death.

On the other hand, My Wife’s next of kin is not a litigious man so there will be no pointless performance for that poor bastard.

I remembered that the lantern was on and that the campfire was blazing. Still reeking, refusing to wipe myself with a tissue, I exited the tent, doused the fire and extinguished the Coleman lamp. Dismal specters of lantern light refused to leave the Virginia mountainside where I had proposed to My Wife way back before college.

I went back to bed. I ignored the stickiness that clung to my abdomen and to my sleeping bag. I imagined it was only blood.

I stare at the seventeen-year-old Indian who just killed my wife. She is nude, defiled by a catheter. An IV pierces her neck. I insert two tubes through incisions into her chest. I order drugs pumped into her bloodstream.

I can’t take my eyes off her naked breasts. Ample and full, waiting. Her unspoiled seventeen-year-old body.

I kiss her on the lips, praying she won’t mind. She moans and touches my face, caressing cheeks which have yet to meet a razor. My clothes fall in a pile on the floor as she eyes my nakedness. In spite of my embarrassment, the exhilaration makes it worth missing the homecoming dance. I hope my parents don’t come home early.

They say the first time just about kills a girl, and I’d rather die than hurt her. Carefully I inch my way into her. Her eyes pop open which scares me, but then she says “golly” and we both laugh like it’s the funniest thing. I can’t help myself now and nature takes over and in the tantric pinnacle that ensues I know we will be madly in love for the rest of our lives.

“It’s over,” a nurse tells me. She pulls me away from the Lakota-girl cadaver.

Tribal leaders and medicine men accompany the parents into Room Two. When the parents say good-bye to the girl who slaughtered my reason for living, no one notices My Wife covered in a sheet behind them.

“Doctor Redcliff is on his way,” one of the nurses tells me. “He’ll be relieving you for the rest of your shift.”

“He knows?” I ask.

“Yeah. He sure does.”

I leave as soon as Sam Redcliff arrives. I say good-bye to no one.

I get into my truck and drive twenty-four hours nonstop until I find myself in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia. I buy a tent and a sleeping bag and a lantern and all the gear I’ll need. I buy them right off the shelf, not at flea markets and yard sales like we did decades ago.

There was no one to share the moment with. There was no one to say “golly” and stare into my eyes and make me laugh when the earth moved.

What kind of man chooses onanism in a faraway state instead of remaining at his highschool sweetheart’s side? Despite my misery, I somehow managed to enjoy my frenulum. What would My Wife say?

“Do it, baby!” she screams so loudly I wonder if we’re waking the neighbors. “Do it right here!”

I see myself doing it at age sixty. Seventy. Eighty.


And then I make a mess in my sleeping bag thirteen hundred miles away from the emergency room where I should have remained.

“I’ve had mine,” she says. “Now it’s your turn.”

“Oh, God,” I say.

“Hand it over, Lover Boy.”

“But this isn’t right.”

“How can you say such a thing?” My Wife asks.

“I don’t know.”

“Hand it here, baby.”

“Sure you won’t be mad?”

“Trust me,” she says.

“You’re sure?”

“Trust me.”


“Just give it to me.”

“If you say so.”

“I say so,” she replies.

The tent is dark, bordering on cold. My sleeping bag offers nothing in the way of comfort. The pungent aroma is pervasive. The tackiness turns into a cement of sorts, caking into my navel. After eight or nine or ten or more Guinness beers (My Wife always said that anyone who can tolerate even one of those bitter dark stouts must, by definition, have a drinking problem, and then we’d laugh like David Letterman was in bed with us), I begin to flirt with peace. In the darkness of a tent at a secluded campsite in Big Meadows Campground, I catch myself dozing.

“I love you.”

“You, too,” she replies.

“You mean it? Or you just saying?”

“I suppose you want me to prove it now, don’t you?”

“Whatever do you mean?” I ask with a grin.

And then My Wife, unmindful of the bloody garden shears, does it the way I used to like best.

Copyright R. David Lee 2006

When not writing, R. David Lee is a country doctor in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Though best known for narrative nonfiction, David blurs the boundaries of horror fiction and medical fact in more recent works. He won the grand prize in the Medical Economics 2005 Doctor’s Writing Contest.

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