Deliverance is protean. It cannot be made to fit any procrustean bed because it arrives in all forms. It is perhaps not the same as salvation but as the man in the movie said, when you’re facing a loaded gun what’s the difference?
The rain has washed the color from the hardwoods scattered fractally among the ugly second growth pine and the Dog River is a slurry of human and industrial waste on its way to the Chattahoochee and the Gulf. The slurry is full of leaves that mix oddly with beer cans and gray clots of matter. Condoms sail down the river like giant flukes or tapeworms. Wood smoke and windy rain and clear late autumn days. It’s finally down in the 80s but it’s so humid it feels like midsummer.
I’m sitting on the screened in front porch wondering what i’ll do next for money. I have a toothache and a constant mild sore throat. I’ve eaten very well for the last two days and have actually stopped losing weight.
The mailman stops and puts a letter in the box. I’m not expecting anything so there’s no reason to go out and get the mail but I do. I struggle up from the glider where i’m sitting and into the steam pudding air. I’m out of shape in the way that only the poor and hungry know. I open the mailbox.
And I recognize the writing on the envelope of very expensive stationery. Inside is a handwritten note wrapped around a wad of hundred dollar bills. My eyes water. It’s almost enough to get through the winter. The note is in her neat, high school girl handwriting.
It says, Michael, call me now!
I start laughing hysterically. When the paroxysm is over I see that Squarehead next door is watching me while pretending to rake leaves. When she looks at me I make a very obscene gesture and laugh all the way to the house.
When I look at the letter my hands shake so violently I almost drop it. Then I get so dizzy I almost fall. I can barely hold the letter in my hands.
Well. At least she didn’t draw a smiley face on it.
They’d turned off the land line about the same time they turned off the gas for non payment. So she couldn’t call me since I have no cell phone. And this neighborhood is so bad she didn’t want to come over here because it scares her. Hell, it scares me.
I walk down the street to a neighbor who will let me shower and shave. I put on the cleanest clothes I have that will almost fit, a pair of cut offs and a sleeveless t shirt. But i still need a safety pin to keep my pants up.
You see, now there’s no way I can not see her.
Sometimes deliverance keeps blowing in your face like an idiot wind and you don’t even know what it is. But if it’s handed to you on a platter and you don’t have the sense to take it you don’t deserve to survive.
It’s well after school lets out and I walk slowly through the humid air, a scarecrow against the sullen sky, thin and filthy as a street addict.
She opens the door after the first knock. She doesn’t say anything for a moment. Then she says, Don’t you ever disappear on me like that again.
She smiles at me like you would at an abused child and takes my hand and leads me to the living room and we sit on the sofa. No one else is in the house. My arm is around her and she is lying against me. We sit there without words for the longest time like an old married couple while the sun makes shadows on the door and windows.
Tomorrow we’ll get you some clothes that fit, she says.
I can get them myself, I say.
She says, Oh, no. I’m not letting you out of my sight again.
And it’s a wonderful world as long as she is in it with me.