Return By – Novel


As a child of the ’70s, Dwight “Dewey” Sampson spent every rainy Saturday afternoon glued to his parent’s television. Channel 11 was guaranteed to run some war movie or another. Countless hours were lost, enthralled by “The Guns of Navarone” or “Midway.”

Hundreds of plastic army men waged reenacted elaborate jungle campaigns within the thick tangles of the Kelly green shag carpeting his parents favored. Inevitably, someone stepped on the ubiquitous lost soldier knotted in the vibrant green nylon waves with bare feet and yelped loud enough to wake the neighbors. 

Dewey inserted himself into the battlefield. His imagination ran wild as he dodged vicious machine-gun fire from hidden gun emplacements or the watchful eye of an unseen sniper. Like his television heroes, he got winged at some point. A sniper’s shot clipped an arm. Brave Dewey urged his comrades to, “Go on without me,” as he smoked a cigarette and bandaged himself up. 

Young Dewey didn’t comprehend the reality of getting hit by a .50 caliber bullet. After the pinkish spray of flesh in the air, there wouldn’t be anything left to bandage. In the movies when you were shot, you either died in a dramatic fashion or were bandaged up by a wisecracking medic who fed you a steady stream of pilfered whiskey while chain-smoking.

Which is what made Dewey’s present situation all the more confounding. 

He had been shot. 

He saw the flash. Heard the crack of the rifle above the rock concert level of crowd noise. 

He attempted to put his arms out to break his fall as he crumbled. The synapses had short circuited and the brain ignored the arms request for protective maneuvers. Dewey felt like he was falling forever. At the rate he fell, he wasn’t going to get hurt.

Dewey laughed as he thought about those cheesy army movies; when the hero was shot, he never felt pain. Art imitated life.

He didn’t feel anything. 

This was no Zen Buddhist level higher awareness, shit. Even if he was at peace and achieved all he wanted- perhaps beyond his wildest dreams- he felt nothing.

The resounding thud of his head hitting the ground sounded like a coconut being dropped onto concrete. Dewey was temporarily blinded and an ear-shattering ringing in his head wouldn’t cease.

“Get your head together champ,” he told himself. 

He was a prizefighter who just caught an uppercut to his jaw and he hit the canvas. Hard.

“That’s it,” he thought. “Let the ref run the count up a little. Take a moment to get your head straight. The crowd is still cheering for you.”  

He could hear them:

“Dewey! Dewey! Dewey!”

Screamed from all directions. Exhorting him to rise. 

His name.

Dewey focused on his breathing. His heart raced and skipped. Adrenaline surged, but he remained at peace.

It wasn’t an altogether unpleasant experience. A blinding whiteness enveloped him as he struggled to focus, yet he was acutely aware of the early summer sun and its mild sting on his skin.

Shadows overtook him; familiar and welcoming. Dewey wanted to talk; assure them he was fine. It would have been the ideal time to get up and show them. Maybe someone could give him a cigarette or a sip of whiskey.

The sensation of flying overwhelmed him. His body floated and hovered above the ground. It reminded him of when he and his son Max had ziplined high about the New England tree line. It was the closest he had ever come to true flight. Max’s young voice thrilled with unbridled glee.

“We’re flying, Daddy! We’re flying!”

“He was right,” Dewey thought. He echoed Max’s sentiment.

“I’m flying, buddy! I’m flying!”

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