As a child of the ’70s, 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,” “Midway,” or “The Battle of the Bulge.” Intricate reenactments were made of his favorite battles with hundreds of plastic army men composed of the American and German forces. Elaborate jungle campaigns were waged within the thick tangles of the Kelly green shag carpeting his parents favored. They didn’t appreciate, stepping on the ubiquitous lost soldier knotted in the vibrant green nylon waves with barefoot.
It was inevitable.
As was the sound of the ancient Hoover vacuum’s gears whining in protest as the occasional AWOL soldier met his untimely in the canister.
Dewey inserted himself into the battlefield. His imagination ran wild as he dodged vicious machine-gun fire from hidden gun emplacements. Or navigated treacherous territory behind enemy lines under the watchful eye of some unseen sniper. Just like his television heroes.
He would get winged at some point. The overlooked sniper getting a shot off that barely clipped a shoulder or arm. Bravely, he urged his comrades to, “Go on without him,” as he smoked a cigarette and bandaged himself up.
Young Dewey had no cognizance of the reality of getting hit by a .50 caliber bullet from a distance. There wouldn’t be much left to bandage. There were two simple truths about being shot in the movies; you died instantly in some dramatic fashion or were bandaged up by some 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 in fact, been shot.
He saw the flash. Maybe even heard the crack of the rifle above the feverish rock concert level din of the crowd.
Falling to the ground in slow motion, instinctively he intended to put his arms out to brace the fall. Unfortunately, the synapses weren’t firing up properly. The brain ignored the arms request for protective maneuvers. It didn’t seem to matter; Dewey was falling forever. At the rate he fell, he wasn’t going to get hurt.
Dewey laughed thinking about the cheesier army movies. When the hero was shot, he rarely felt pain. Clearly, art imitated life. He didn’t feel any pain.
Didn’t feel much of anything actually.
It wasn’t like he attained some Zen Buddhist level of higher awareness. He was at peace after all. Dewey achieved exactly what he wanted. Perhaps even beyond his wildest dreams.
The resounding thud of his head hitting the ground sounded like a coconut being dropped onto concrete. Dewey was temporarily blinded. It was accompanied by an ear-shattering ringing in his head that he couldn’t shake. Attempts to push himself up off the ground were met in failure.
“Get your head together champ,” he told himself.
He was a prizefighter who just got knocked down.
“That’s it,” he thought. “Let the ref run the count up a little. Take a few extra moments to get your head straight. The crowd is still cheering for you.”
He could hear them; “Dewey! Dewey! Dewey!” was being screamed from all directions, exhorting him to rise.
Despite his best efforts, Dewey decided to lie still and focus on his breathing. His heart raced and skipped and bubbled. Adrenaline surged but he was at peace oddly enough.
It wasn’t an entirely altogether unpleasant experience. He focused on the sun as it teased his skin with a mild burning kiss. A blinding whiteness enveloped him as he struggled to get his vision back. Staring at the sun wasn’t helping, but his eyes didn’t burn.
Shadows overtook him; familiar and welcoming. His brain reeled attempting to recognize them. Dewey wanted to talk; assure them he was fine. Now would be 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. Hovered above the ground. Wholly disorienting, yet not an unwelcome feeling. It reminded him of the time he and Max had gone on the zip line at Foxwoods high about the New England tree line. It was the closest he had ever come to actually flying. 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!”