* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *
-Jason. Wake up.-
I sit up, still dreaming, my wife asleep at my side. They are arrayed at the foot of our bed, the women sitting, the men standing behind them. They are five in number, a little family – although I remember later that only three of them are actually related. The teenage Girl sits to the left of me, a strawberry blonde in a black t-shirt under a denim vest. She is scrawny and kind of trashy but she has a very pretty, vulnerable smile. She also has a deep gouge in her forehead and a thin red line dug into her throat where she was strangled. Katie says, -You did a pretty good job of explaining the Heads and the Punks. I guess it was pretty silly in retrospect.-
I smile. –Yeah.- I didn’t think Katie Hoehner would be the type to use the word ‘retrospect’ in a sentence. Donna must’ve done right by her.
-But you didn’t get it right about the poem. It didn’t mean any of those things.-
I’m taken aback for a moment, then I realize the opportunity I have here. –What did it mean, Katie. Who were the cats, the rats. What were you trying to tell Donna.-
She squinches up her face. –It wasn’t...I wasn’t trying to tell Donna. It was for...it could’ve been anyone, you know.- Her face falls. She doesn’t speak again.
I press on. –When was it that night, Katie. When did you know that it had gone bad. That it wasn’t going to get better again. That this was the end.-
She looks up at me, her lower lip quivering, and I think for a moment that she is going to cry. But she’s not sad, she’s angry. Katie Hoehner is a lot tougher than I gave her credit for.
-Not until the end. The absolute end. I was a little drunk, a little stoned. I thought it was a joke. Then it turned into not-a-joke. But I was still sure I was going to get out of Snakeland. But then it got worse, and then I knew, and then I didn’t get out.-
I wince. –So it all went down in Snakeland.-
-And he...they...put your body on the railroad tracks.-
I try to lead her but she doesn’t take the bait, just nods again. She looks as if she is about to say something, stops, then speaks again.
-They took my body out, but I never really left Snakeland.-
I don’t ask Katie anything else.