Carson was dead. He died at 2:34pm and the doctor told us he went peacefully. Bullshit, I said. He had been fighting this since he was a teen, and just because you went to a university and earned a degree doesn't award you the right to lie to me. Keep your peace to yourself, doc, I know how Carson left this planet and I'm here to tell that story.
When we were little, Carson and I would stand outside the Whiskey Mart on downtown 2nd St. He was 17, I was 19, and we would smoke cigarettes and toss rocks at car tires, betting on who could get the closest without touching rubber. Most often, he would win and I'd owe him a nickel bag of weed or a sixer, whichever. But sometimes I would be on my mark and rack up quite the winnings, but ol' Carson would just nod and say, "Yeah man, you got me that time."
He was a good human being, he'd run up to the main entrance and hold the door for all women with children. And if it was just a woman, he'd still hold the door, but he'd be sure to work that angle and come back with a number or a name. I loved that guy, he was one of a kind. And he was damn good at getting those numbers too! I remember the Whiskey Mart manager, Dennis, came out one day and told us we couldn't hang out there anymore, something about new store policy and ownership exchange. Carson was like, okay no problem, we'll relocate, but I was beyond reason and wanted to jump that little twitch after his shift ended. He talked me down and we started tossing rocks over at Bennigan's instead. It was pretty much the same, our good times continued.
I remember it was a Thursday and Kim was working her tables, and Carson said he wanted to show me something around back. I had the hots for Kim and he motioned for her to join us on her break. We all went out back and smoked a joint together, it was the first time I had the chance to actually talk to her, and she was something else, man. We made jokes about the store owner and how he would frequent the local titty bars and toss hundred dollar bills onto the stage, and all the local strippers knew him by name. "That's a player move" I would say as the J was passed between us. We'd all nod in agreement and toss rocks at car tires. Things were so simple back then.
And then one day he told me he was sick and the doctors gave him a couple years to live. I told him how my younger brother and I would tie an aluminum can on either end of a string and talk to each other through the trees on my parents property in West Virginia. Carson seemed to like that story, so I told it over & over again, sometimes embellishing details and making it out to be something more than it was. I told him my brother and I could use the stringed cans to communicate with the deceased, and sometimes if the atmosphere was perfect, we could even talk with aliens. This would put a huge smile on his face, and i would spin my story even deeper.
About a week ago Carson called me from the hospital and had me bring two tin cans and 150 yards of string. He kept his end at his hospital bed and I wound my end down the hall and out into the parking lot. I hid my end behind a dumpster and tucked the string inside all the nooks & crannies i could find.. We had a plan, and it was to be our coveted secret. I assured him nobody would discover our plans to communicate in the afterlife. And nobody did. At 2:07 Cameron reached me via tin can and string wire:
I could hear static and frantic voices saying, "We need 64 milligrams of disiptromene STAT! Orderly, contact the patient's next of kin!" I closed my eyes and pictured Carson lying there on one of those flattened hospital gurneys, being rushed at from every angle by doctors and nurses. I grasped my tin can in my hands and whispered, "Hey buddy, can you hear me?"
He answered, "Fuck yeah, man, I read you loud and clear. These things work great, I'm so glad we did this." The nurse was prepping his arm for another I.V. and I heard him grunt at the intrusion.
"Hey, you doing alright?" I asked through the tin can wire that lead to his room.
"Yep, doing fine." he replied.
I adjusted my wire so that it lay next to me while I leaned over and reached for the water bottle that rest upon the dumpster. It smelled like wet dogs and lavender wash detergents and I could feel myself go somewhat dizzy.
"I'm minutes away, bro, just so you know." Carson said.
"Alright, bud, I'm ready for it." I replied nervously.
And suddenly I heard all the horrible sounds a hospital room makes when a patient is failing. Nurses and doctors in a mad rush of saving lives, tampered alarms, doorways swooshing open. And through all of that i heard Carson say, "Hey man, this actually ain't so bad... I think you're gonna like it over here.." And the sound of the flatline machine could be heard through the tin can string line as I pictured Carson's energy floating out past the confines of the hospital and his voice telling me, "Yep, shit's pretty cool on this end, mate. I'll be waiting for ya, brother."
And at that, I dropped my tin can to the ground and reached into my shirt pocket for a smoke.