Between Heaven and Hell


Tommy bid his step-mother Jere’ good-bye and turned his truck north out of Muskogee for the long journey home to Reno. He drove all day and deep into the night, finally stopping just after midnight about an hour beyond Cheyenne, Wyoming.

He pulled his truck off the highway and down the long dirt road into the Wedavoo Wilderness area. It was an area he was familiar with because he had been stationed to Warren Air Force Base several years before in Cheyenne and had spent as much of his free time hiking and riding his horse Hardtack out in the region as possible.

Tommy parked near a set of rocks that he recalled very well and pulled his sleeping bag from behind his seat. He fished out the fire starting kit he had tuck inside the center of the rolled up bag.

Then he got out of his truck and walked up the hillside to where he used to camp. To him it looked very much the same, just a bit more over grown. Within minutes he discovered an old burn pit.

“Perhaps,” he thought, “this is my old pit.”

However the ashes looked to be to new so he dismissed the idea. Within minutes he had established himself a small flame, nothing too extreme to be seen from great distances. It was just enough to light the immediate area and warm his hands.

He looked down the hill and could see his truck Tommy sat down, cross legged and let his mind wonder. He had been on the move for the last seven days and had just now thought of relaxing.

“Dear God,” he said as he looked up towards the sky full of stars,” please hear my prayers…”

He continued to pray for a great length of time unknown to him. Soon his little fire was nearly died out so Tommy decided to add more wood to it. It instantly jumped to life, thankful for the second chance.

Somewhere in the distance a wild cat screamed and it made Tommy stop cold. He concluded that he should add more wood to the fire.

Standing next to the flames, Tommy felt an urge to return to his long forgotten past. He had grown up around Indians people who were now called Native Americans and he had been to a number of pow-wows. Tommy’s grandmother had native blood herself as did Tommy’s uncle though Tommy never claimed it.

He raised his arms level with his shoulders and started chanting in a singsong voice, lifting one foot then the other in a shuffle. Soon he was lost in the moment spinning and twirling, hopping and diving, swooping and climbing as he sang while dancing around the burning campfire.

Before he realized it the sun was breaking to the east and Tommy was covered in sweat from his exertion. His fire had died out and he found he was exhausted, so he stumbled down the hill and pulled the sleeping bag from his truck and climbed into the back of his trucks bed and fell asleep.

As Tommy lay there sleeping he dreamed.

In his dream he saw a grizzly bear surrounded by seven flaming pyres. It had its leg trapped in a steel trap and as it struggled, the worse the flames got.

When Tommy woke up from the dream he found that the clear sky had clouded over and it was lightly drizzling. He and his sleeping bag were soaked clear through. He quickly climbed into the cab of his truck and continued to drive westward.

As he drove he thought very little about his dream.

“Just another weird one,” he told himself.

By midnight he had arrived in Reno and was able to sleep in a bed for the first time in over eight days.

Within a week Tommy found himself in the same emotional vessel he had been in before only this time it seemed worse to him as he did not have any one to talk too. He found he could not stay with Mary or with Kathi because of his mixed up feeling so he stayed at Janice’s where he was at least able to get some peace and quiet.

He rented a room from her for fifty bucks a week. One night as Tommy walked his rounds in the hotel of the Reno Hilton, Kathi somehow managed to find him.

She confronted him on the 14th floor. He was not prepared for her and what she was wearing or what she had to say. She had cut him to the bone then left.

Devastated and depressed the remainder of the night, Tommy realized that she was right. He decided to drink her off his mind and the end of his shift he headed straight for the gift shop and purchased a fifth of whiskey.

“I’ll go home and pass out after guzzling it,” he thought to himself.

He sat there on the edge of his bed letting the sadness he felt overwhelm him. He looked around the room. There was not much to his miserable life.

“I might as well end it,” he whispered.

Tommy got up and pulled out a plastic garment bag from the close. He knew Janice had several of these hanging up. He also knew he had some duct tape in the cardboard box under the bed. He dug that out as well.

He sat there and cried as he sipped a little whiskey.

“Are you okay?” It was Janice asking.

“I’m fine,” he answered,” just a little sad.” Then he thought to add, “Don’t worry.”

Suddenly Tommy wiped his face and turned the bottle upside down, chugging its content. He picked the piece of plastic up and wrapped it over his head and then wound the tape about his neck.

He felt the room spinning wildly as he forced himself to lay back. His stomach and throat burned he breathed as deep as he could. The air in the plastic cover was growing warmer and mistier and heavy with each breathe. Then there was blackness.

Tommy blinked three maybe four times before he could really begin to focus. The room was still spinning.

“It’s a different room,” he said to himself as he attempted to look around. Then he added, “Is this what hell looks like?”

Suddenly the door to his right opened up and a woman came in. “Oh good,” she said in a happy tone, “You’re awake.”

She felt Tommy’s head and held to his wrist for half a minute.

Tommy asked, “Where in Hell am I?”

“Still not quite with it, huh,” she answered which Tommy found to be no answer at all so he asked again.

This time the woman replied, “Well, you continue to rest until you’re fully yourself.”

She turned and left. Tommy laid his head down feeling frustrated and defeated. That’s when he realized he was restrained.

He looked down and saw that both his wrists were strapped down as was his right leg and there was a large leather belt buckled across his mid section. He suddenly felt panicked.

Tommy knew that he had committed suicide and that for the crime of killing oneself the punishment was hell. However he had no idea that his punishment is form of Hell would be eternity spent restrained to a gurney.

Tommy immediately started crying in great wails for God to forgive him. “I don’t want to go through eternity like this,” he pled aloud.

Tommy sobbed and sobbed until he was exhausted and slipped into sleep. As he lay there strapped to the table with wheels Tommy again dreamed of the grizzly bear. This time it was no longer struggling against the steel trap that held its leg. It sat looking upward at the stars, surrounded by only five burning pyres and one was slowly burning out.

He was awakened from the dream by the sound of the door to his room opening. In stepped a man wearing a long white jacket.

“I understand you are having a little difficulty understanding what’s happening,” he said.

Tommy frowned, “I killed myself and I’ve gone to Hell, right?”

The man chuckled, “Well, some might say that, especially employees.” Then he paused, “You’re not dead,” the man said, “You’re at the VA Hospital. You’re room mate found you and called 911.”

Tommy sighed with great relief. He realized his prayers had been answered.

“So do you think you’re ready to sit up?” the man answered.

Tommy looked at him and answered, “Yes, I am ready.”

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