Chapter 5: Melon Head
Fleetwood’s footsteps mingled with the officer’s echoing down the hospital hall. This was the second sibling who had to come to this place because of him, he thought, a sense of remorse overcoming his initial panic. Well, at least this time he was indirectly to blame. Last time was an accident, true, but he was reminded of it every time he looked at Creedence.
It had happened on a hot summer day a year prior. The boys had been given permission, not really, they had just started digging up the area between their house and the neighbor’s on the carport side.
Through some birthday gift money and sticky fingers, the brothers had amassed a hot wheels collection that was the envy of the neighborhood. They, along with several neighbor kids, spent hours digging tunnels and creating tracks for their toys. They had raided Gonzo’s tool shed and come out with small and large shovels, rakes, a pick, which no one could lift well enough to use, and a garden hoe.
This was more than just a hole in the ground, it was a city, made up of roads and bridges, caves, over and underpasses, which Creedence had argued successfully with Santana, were the exact same thing as bridges, at least where cars are concerned. They had spent two full days excavating an amazing testament to childhood ingenuity and imagination.
The third morning was Saturday, which meant Gonzo was home, although not functional. He had worked long hard days in the oilfield all week and performed the night before in Odessa, the “big” city in the area.
On summer weekdays, Palito Joe would “keep an eye” on the kids. Which meant he would amble over multiple times a day, and make lunch for the children and himself, usually bologna or pimento sandwiches. Santana was partial to pimento, and Creedence favored bologna as long as it was heated on the stove’s burner.
Wood was the project manager in charge of excavation and heavy tools. He had decided to enlarge the west end of the site, adding another bridge (overpass, demanded a brother). As he crawled out of the hole, he chose the garden hoe from the tools leaning against the house.
“All right,” he said, “everybody move back! I’m gonna take a giant swing.”
The kids all scrambled to a safe distance. Creedence scooted backwards, his lap full of cars and trucks in anticipation of “actually using the darn thing, already.”
He had moved until his back rested against one of the carport posts. His brother grabbed the hoe by the very end and dramatically raised it over his head and let the tip touch the ground behind him.
“One. Two. Three.”
He swung the hoe with all of his nine year old might. All eyes were on the head of the tool as it made a perfect arc, their excited expressions, however, quickly changed to horror.
It sounded just like a melon. The world stopped, there was a collective gasp as Creedence’s forehead literally spewed blood, like a terrible, hollow, bloody melon fountain. His head slumped forward, as he was momentarily rendered unconcious by the blow, and then he was on his feet, albeit wobbly, and running, with his small blood covered hands on his head. He emitted a strange low wail as he tottered forward.
A chorus of shouts and screams brought Gonzo, barefoot, wearing cutoff jeans and a white undershirt, running. He kicked the screen door open and saw Creedence staggering around the yard, his upper body awash in blood. Blood everywhere.
He ran back into the house, grabbed a roll of paper towels and car keys. As he ran back outside he unwound the paper, chased Creedence down the sidewalk, a trail of small bloody footprints drying in the summer sun. Creedence later told him he had no idea where he was going, but he needed to get there fast.
“Palito Joe! Palito Joe!” He yelled frantically until the old man opened his front door, “Watch the kids, watch the kids!”
He overtook his son and scooped him up in one arm and covered his head with the paper. He had no idea what happened or where the wound even was to apply pressure, so he just covered his whole head.
He ran to the car and set Creedence on the seat. Wood jumped in, crying and apologizing incoherently.
“Here,” his father said, “keep these towels on him, press down to stop the bleeding.” The tires squealed as he reversed out of the driveway. He blew through the stop sign as he turned onto Fourth street, the engine roaring, giving voice to his anxiety.