Potter of the souls a s.., p.1
Potter of the Souls--A Short Story, p.1Tabatha Deans
Potter of the Souls
A Short Story
By Tabatha Deans
Copyright 2014 Tabatha Deans
POTTER OF THE SOULS
Luke sat in the doorway of his room and watched the bustle of dinnertime. He could hear dishes clanking and glasses rattling in the kitchen as the staff prepared the evening’s meal. The dinner smelled good to Luke, he thought it smelled like pot roast. He inhaled the scent and took a moment to enjoy it. This was the best part of dinner for him, and he greeted the other residents as they were wheeled down to the cafeteria.
Luke’s stomach reminded him how hungry he was. He sniffed the air again hoping to catch a last scent of the pot roast. The scent in the air was now that of antiseptic and hot steam coming from the kitchen door. He wheeled himself back into his room and shut the door.
He looked around his living space, trying to decide what to do to pass the time. The nurse wouldn’t be down for a few minutes with his dinner, and he hated to sit still for very long. He looked at the newspaper on his bed and thought about reading it, but he could never concentrate long enough when he was hungry. He hadn’t eaten solid food for months, and he was too antsy to sit still and read.
Luke wheeled across the room and picked up the remote control. Maybe some noise from the television would help. Noise helped keep his mind busy. He turned the channel to Jeopardy, that was usually good for a half hour of distraction. Luke was hungry and he was tired, but he was afraid to go to sleep. So he sat under the television and waited for the nurse to come tend to his feeding tube.
His mealtime had been replaced with changing bandages and a nurse with a droid-like personality that was always cheerful but began her duty with “what’ll it be today Luke, steak and lobster or Italian?” as she was hooking up his feeding tube. She knocked on the door as if on cue. Luke smiled at her and waved slightly as she put her tray on his stand.
“Steak please.” He said before she got the chance to pose the question.
“Coming right up,” she smiled as she withdrew the needle from the plastic bag it was sealed in. Luke turned back to the television and tried to tune her out.
He tried to jump into the program with his mind, but the scent of reality wouldn’t let him escape. He could smell the needles and the tubes. He wasn’t sure what to call their scent, but it was a dark smell. One that reached his soul and fueled his fear. He shuddered as he felt the nurse poke him with a needle. He closed his eyes as the liquid nourishment began draining into his body. He listened to the sounds of the home around him. Some patients were eating, some were being fed, some were resisting. The noise became deafening to him and he took a deep breath.
After dinner was cleaned up and the other patients were put to bed, the staff retired to the back patio to have a break. Luke waited for them to leave then wheeled himself out the side door to the lawn. He didn’t want company tonight, and if they had seen him leave they would have offered to assist him. So he wheeled himself back in the shadows against the house and watched the moon.
The moon was full and bright, and Luke made it a point in life never to miss gazing upon a full moon. He had never needed a lot of sleep, and he was convinced that standing still too long was not good for you. He had spent most of his life on the go, and he still wasn’t used to the confinement of his body that was no longer much good.
So he spent most of his nights watching the moon cross the sky. The twilight soothed his soul and made him feel a little better. Luke thought there was something different in the smell of the air that night. He looked around as the smell of burning herbs penetrated his senses. Farther along the house, also tucked in the shadows, was a nurse’s aide, smoking. He looked at Luke briefly, then went back to studying the stars. Luke inhaled deeply and reveled in the feelings that the scent brought back to him.
The feeling started in the pit of his stomach and spread up to his chest. He felt warm as he remembered the last time he smelled that scent. His beloved had lain dying, and he held her in his arms. They had never married but their souls had mated. She was an Indian and a wild soul, which is probably why they were destined to meet. Honeysuckle was her trademark scent, and he remembered smelling her hair as he stroked her head.
Luke had taken her to the mountains of her ancestors. He prepared the ceremony that would help the spirits find her and guide her to the other side. He kept a small fire burning and fed it with different herbs and plants to create the smoke that the spirits of the other world came on. Luke watched as his soul mate communed with the spirits, and he held her body as she crossed over. He watched her spirit join the smoke from the fire and float high above the earth, then disappear into the twilight.
Luke replayed the memory in his mind over and over. He hadn’t felt this good inside for a long time. He folded his arms across his chest and thought for a moment he could feel her body as he hugged her. He fell asleep outside and dreamed of walking up their favorite mountain. He walked all the way to the top until there was no place higher to go. She was there waiting for him.
Each night Luke retired to the shadows after dark, and each night the aide joined him. They never spoke to each other, and Luke never saw his face. They sat silently, the aide smoking, Luke riding the smoke to his dream world. Luke watched as the summer turned into fall. The leaves fell from the trees and layered the ground, insulating it from the freezing winter to come. The skies were clear and crisp as the temperature dropped. Someone had donated some nice quilts to the home for the holidays, and Luke was thankful for their generosity when he bundled up to go outside at night. The staff had discovered his nightly journeys, and they were kind enough to let him fall asleep outside before they brought him back to his bed. He smiled when he was sleeping.
It was Christmas Eve and the festivities had started at the home. The nurses and aides were dressed up as elves, and they served green and red Jello in the shape of Santa. The Brownie Scouts came in the afternoon and helped them make cookies. Then they gave each patient a nicely wrapped gift to open later. Family members had come to visit during the day, then returned home to their own festivities. Luke didn’t have any family who knew where he was, so the nurses made an effort to pay more attention to him.
The festivities wrapped up early as the staff were anxious to get home to their families. Luke waited until the last aide left and the head nurse was in her office charting. He wheeled himself outside and settled in against the building. It was colder than he had expected and he breathed deep as the chill of winter passed through him. The air was crisp and the stars were closer than he had ever seen. The moon lit up the entire sky and the night was silent.
Luke saluted the moon and marveled at the transformation of the yard under the moonlight. The freezing wind blew his blanket off his lap and it fell to the ground. His legs felt alive and strong as they were wrapped in the freezing night air, the wind sending a kindred shiver through his soul. He watched as his blanket was blown farther away by the wind.
He reached down and grabbed the wheels of his chair to wheel himself over to it. His cold hands lost their grip and he fell forward onto the pavement. He felt the searing pain when his hip hit the ground. His side went numb and Luke lay still for a moment trying to catch his breath. Although there wasn’t snow on the ground, the pavement was as cold as ice. Luke tried to put his right hand down and brace himself to get up. His right arm wouldn’t move. He tried again but his brain wasn’t getting the right signal to his body.
His right side was paralyzed, and he thought he must have broken something in his back when he fell. His cold, frail hands weren’t much help trying to get up. He struggled for a while before he was too exhausted to try any more. He called for help but his frag
The left side of his body was soon as numb as his right side, and Luke thanked his lord for the mercy of not being able to feel. His body passed numb and became tingling hot. The heat radiated inward and became overwhelming. Luke could see the rays of heat in his mind. The feeling was painfully comfortable. Luke couldn’t breathe and he laid his head on the cold cement. The heat began to retreat and he could feel the crisp blanket of winter wrap itself around him.
Luke laid back and looked up at the moon. It was so big in the sky that if he could have moved his hand upward he could have touched it. Luke took a deep breath as he looked up at the moon’s grandness, and his heart skipped a beat when he smelled honeysuckle and herbs. Tears stung his eyes as smoke circled his face. When the tears faded and he could see again the mysterious aide was standing above him.
He knelt beside Luke and placed a large boiling pan on the cement. Inside he had shredded newspaper and kindling from the fireplace. He looked at Luke as he put the wood in the pan, then lit the fire with an old butane lighter, fanning the flame until the wood caught. The aide reached into his pocket and pulled out a small leather pouch.
Luke was amazed to see him pull a handful of dried herbs out of the pouch. He put the first handful on the fire and the dried herbs caught quickly. A cloud of smoke drifted above Luke. Luke’s mind relaxed when he smelled the scent of familiar herbs on the trail of smoke. He watched the smoke float in the direction of the moon, floating with it in his mind. He felt his heart go with them higher and higher.
Luke was watching the moon when the aide put another handful of herbs on the fire. He inhaled deeply again and this time he smelled honeysuckle. He closed his eyes and prayed a silent prayer, then opened his eyes to watch the smoke that he knew would take his spirit to the next world. His beloved appeared in the smoke and knelt next to him. She took his hand and held it in hers, and with the other she placed more herbs on the fire.
The smoke surrounded her beautiful face and dark hair, and she laid Luke’s head in her lap. He could feel her warm hands on his face and the cold winter night on his body. She stroked his hair and tickled his ear. Her warmth was spreading to him, and while his body was numb his soul came alive. She hummed in his ear, and he closed his eyes as the deep sound of her voice reverberated in his chest. She began chanting and he felt his heart beating to the sound of her tune.
He looked at the aide one last time, and they smiled at each other. Luke closed his eyes and felt his beloved lifting him away, the smell of sterility and frightened death being left behind. He smiled as he allowed his true love to carry him on the smoke to eternity.
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