Page 29


A icmip-,icr ot -t -ho resourcc-; ,Ipt .tho human Tirir,” \oo a novel tr MERRILL B*1 t> , Beauty. Sleeping Beauty, whose incredibly perfect story he had heard on his tape player at home many times, had also taken a journey. It was a clear-cut one, its course set at birth because her parents didn’t want to invite the Bad Fairy to Sleeping Beauty’s christening. Because they couldn’t put up with a little trouble and inconveniencea weakness, he thought, similar to the one his own parents sometimes had Sleeping Beauty had a destiny. That’s what the tape called it. A destiny: at the age of sixteen, she would fall into a deep sleep from the prick of a needle on a spinning wheel. Now. Here was the deal \(Riley put out his hand flat to ward off any comno matter what Sleeping Beauty’s parents did to prevent her from meeting her destiny, she was drawn to that needle like nobody’s business. There is no way to get around a destinyRiley narrowed his almost sleeping eyes and whispered out loud, sounding just like the cackling Bad Fairy on the tape. The emphasis on that remark was for his parents who, Riley was sure, probably didn’t see things the way he did. He was sure they had tried to prevent his destiny just like Sleeping Beauty’s parents had tried to prevent hers: told him a hundred times not to play with matches, told him a hundred times that fire was dangerous, kept matches and gasoline hidden away in the garage. But it hadn’t done any good. The fire had called him, just as sure a thing as the needle on Sleeping Beauty’s spinning wheelthe match was lit and the journey began. Out he went, no questions asked, coming to Galveston by plane, arriving at the hospital in an ambulanceswollen, wrapped in bandages, carried high on a stretcher into the Acute Ward by two black men he had never seen before in his lifetime, the same black men who turned out to be his friends, the tub men, Jackson and Johnson. And the hospital was a new country, as dark and foreign as any Treasure Island Jim Hawkins had ever sailed to, full of noises and crying like nothing he’d dreamed of beforea secret harbor of pain where his ship had surely dropped anchor. And because he was now one of its citizens, Riley, when he began to get better, explored every inch of it. He knew the Acute Ward intimately, its fifteen bedssome full, some not. He knew every person who was therewhen they came, how they’d gotten burned, how long they were going to stay, and when they left. A baby had died in Room 315 just the week beforeher mother had put her in a tub of scalding water. While she was dying all the kids had to go down to the playroom and stay until the doctors had done everything they couldit gave him the willies just thinking about it. He knew what the doctor said about each kid and what their parents were likethe mother of the boy in Room 317 took drugsParker’s mother said so. That very day Mr. Loflin had told him about a new girl who they put continued on page 28 MAY 19, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25