This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any actual resemblance to persons or historical persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Hooper characters, settings, locales, ect. are owned by other entities who have not endorsed this fic nor have they given express permission for the character's use. Author makes not claims to these characters and is not making any profit from their use.

All original characters are the property of the author.

© Copyright: 2001-2004. Lisa Philbrick

 

 

"I have been asked if I ever get the DTs; I don't know; it's hard to tell where Hollywood ends and the DTs begin." - W. C. Fields

Chapter Three
September 28, 1983

Wednesday morning, Cully dropped Gwen off at the elementary school and drove in her Caprice to the bank to get a bank check for the $150.00. He sat in the car in the parking lot, filled out the check and the ticket, sealed up the envelope and then drove to the post office to mail it. He paused after letting the envelope slip into the mail box and sighed. He was now out of debt to the state of California...but still in debt to Sonny, despite what Sonny told him.

Cully returned to the ranch and called the garage in Mission Viejo. The mechanic said they were half way done on the car and Cully cringed.

“I was callin’ to tell ya to forget fixin’ it because I can’t afford to pay for it right now.”

“Oh.” The mechanic paused. “That’s pretty discouraging to hear.”

“Listen, I ain’t gonna hassle with ya,” Cully said. “I can pay for the towing charge but I can’t pay for the repairs. I realize that I’m pretty much forfeitin’ my car to ya seein’ you’ve already started fixin’ it. Is there any way I can clean my stuff out of it before you either sell it or junk it?”

“Well, we ain’t gonna junk it. The car’s perfectly fine, just needs some TLC. You sure you can’t afford to pay? Ain’t never had anyone be so easy on loosin’ their car.”

“I’m sure. Things are a little rough right now, and tho’ having wheels is important it’s not high on my priorities.”

“Hmm, well, you can come in any time and take your stuff. Sorry to hear things ain’t so great right now. I hope things work out for ya.”

“Thanks. I’ll be down later.”

So on his way to San Diego, Cully stopped at the garage. He paid the towing charge with the last 50 dollar bill from Sonny and shoved the twenty-five dollars in change into his pocket. He then removed his personal belongings from the Brat and put them in the trunk of the Caprice. The half full beer can was already gone from the front floor.

Cully removed the folded title to the car from his denim jacket pocket and left it on the seat. He then stared at the clutter free floor in thought. Random thoughts of his drinking, his past, his current situation, Leeah....everything all kind of collided together.

“We threw it out the other day.”

Cully snapped out of his stare and looked over towards the driver window. It was the mechanic he had spoken with on the phone. “I figured,” he replied. He stepped out of the car and closed the door.

“I think I’ve got everything,” Cully said.

The mechanic nodded. “Listen, I don’t sell too many cars from here. If things work out for ya, give me a call, I may still have the old girl and we can probably work out a deal.”

Cully nodded. “Awright. Thanks.”

“Take care of yourself.”

Cully turned and walked back to the Caprice. He drove to the end of the lot and spotted the Brat in the rearview mirror as he waited for a break in the traffic. Damn that little car... It was almost like leaving an old friend behind. Cully sighed and turned into traffic, back to the highway and south to San Diego.

He turned the volume on Gwen’s CB radio down, not in the mood to listen to the trucker chatter or the obnoxious conversations from morons that clogged the CB radio airwaves. Instead, he turned on the radio looking for good driving music. He clicked over the classical music, was in no mood to listen to talk radio and immediately skipped over “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton. He rolled his eyes. How that song ever went to number one, and why after eight years anybody was still playing it on the radio, he didn’t know. He, for one, couldn’t stand it.

He found a country station and things were now right with the world. He listened to the tail end of Kenny Rogers and Dottie West singing “Everytime Two Fools Collide.” The song faded into the Oak Ridge Boys with “Come On In.” Cully had a finger or two tapping on the steering wheel and the Caprice cruised along.

With each song that played, Cully was reminded of something of Leeah. Either a line spoke to him or it was a tune that she had always enjoyed listening to. He realized he was really missing being with her, holding her and loving her. One thing he had begun to realize while being separated from her was that she was so much a part of him it was like there was gaping hole in his soul now, unable to be filled by anything except her return to him. And he had so much to do before she would come back. He sighed as the song faded out and the next one played.

“Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world? And if ya did, was she cryin’? Cryin’.... Hey, if you happen to see the most beautiful girl that walked out on me...tell her I’m sorry. Tell her I need my baby...ohh won’t you tell her, that I love her...”

That did it. They just had to play Charlie Rich didn’t they? Cully didn’t change the station though. He listened to the song, identified with it, even softly sang along with it as the lyrics and music touched his soul, opened the wound, and made him feel bad and determined at the same time.

When the song ended, Cully took reprieve in the commercials. It was a long drive to San Diego and arriving in a sappy emotional state probably wasn’t going to go over too well. He reached and clicked the knob to find another station.

“....I’ve made my mind up that it’s meant to be....someday lady you’ll accomp’ny me...”

Cully recognized the song from Leeah’s song library. He preferred country music and the swing and big band music from his youth but he had grown accustomed to Leeah’s rock-n-roll and even admittedly liked some of it. Of course, listening to it only
made him think of her more.

“People say that loves a losing a game...you start with fire but you lose the flame. The ashes smolder and the warmth’s soon gone, you end up cold and lonely on your own...”

Cully realized that almost no matter what song he was going to hear on the radio during his drive, he was going to think of Leeah and nothing else.

“...someday lady you’ll accomp’ny me....”

Cully kept cruising along, periodically changing stations when the rock got to be too much, the country music too sappy or the commercials bored him. No matter what, he didn’t turn the radio off, knowing that the sound of tires against the pavement would do nothing to drown out all of his other thoughts and memories. Changing the radio stations every so often kept him alert.

With less than a mile to the exit into San Diego, he flipped back to the rock station.

“...paid my dues...playin’ in a rockin’ band. Hey momma! Look at me! I’m on my way to the promised laannnnnd.......I’m on the Hiiiighwaay to Hell!”

Cully couldn’t help it, but started laughing once he recognized the song. The boys of AC/DC accompanied him to the exit and into the suburbs of San Diego. He wondered if anyone would find it strange to see a man his age, driving a indiscreet grey ‘78 Caprice listening to such music? He grinned and nudged the volume up just a bit more.

* * *

“Momma? Can I sit here?” Casey stood next to the rusted open door of Leeah’s green Firebird and looked towards her mother who was under the hood of the Pontiac.

Leeah looked up. She hesitated and then nodded. “Okay. Just don’t touch anything okay?”

“I won’t.” Casey pushed her doll up on the seat and then climbed up into the car, grabbing the steering wheel to pull herself up in. She settled into the seat and held on to her doll, liking the feeling of sitting in the one spot in the car that was reserved strictly for adults. Casey felt pretty special at that moment and the little girl grinned.

Leeah peeked through the opening between the hood and chassis and saw Casey sitting there. She smiled to herself and resumed turning her socket wrench. As she finished up her own shade tree tune up of the ‘bird’s engine, Leeah occasionally looked at the rusted driver door ruefully. She had Bondo, she had sand paper, and she had paint that didn’t exactly match the metallic green of the Firebird. But was she willing to try to patch the door herself and end up having the ‘bird look like Cheech and Chong’s low rider from their Up in Smoke movie?

She shook her head. No. One thing she was not was an autobody expert, yet she couldn’t decide which was worse. Leaving the rust exposed, or having a mondo-Bondo patch job that was uneven with the rest of the door panel and stuck out just as bad as the rust spot did.

Leeah sighed and realized that in the grand scheme of things at the moment, a rusted door was the least of her troubles. But thinking about it kept her mind off her other troubles.

She glanced at her watch and wondered if Cully was on his way. He had said around one o’clock and it was close to one-thirty. She glanced towards the house, wondering briefly if Sherry got a call from Cully and if her friend was purposely not running right out to tell her. Leeah had started to get the feeling that Sherry was determined to see to it that Leeah didn’t go back to Cully eventually.

What the hell does she know? Where the hell was she when Jason was trying to turn me into a friggin’ hood ornament? Leeah knew Sherry meant well, but she was sure her friend didn’t know what the expression “butt out” meant.

Leeah sighed and finished her adjustment. She then wiped her hands on a rag and walked from the front of the car to the driver’s seat.

“Can ya scoot over a bit so mommy can get in?”

Casey obliged and moved over. She watched her mother get into the car and start it up.

“Are we going somewhere?” Casey asked.

Leeah smiled. “No, I’m just making sure I fixed it right. In case we do have to go somewhere.”

“Oh.” Casey listened to the car. “Didja fix it?”

“Yup. For now.” She shut the engine off and removed the key.

“When’s Daddy comin’?”

“Should be soon.” Leeah looked at her watch again. The hands were still hanging around the one-thirty mark. She got out of the car and returned to the front of the Firebird to put the hood down.

“That’s loud, Momma!!”

Leeah chuckled. “It’s a heavy hood.”

Casey giggled.

Leeah glanced towards the road in time to watch Gwen’s grey Caprice pull into the drive. Casey scooted back over in the seat and peaked out the open doorway. The Chevy’s transmission clicked into park and Cully shut the engine off without bothering to turn the radio off first. He got out of the car with a smile a mile wide.

“Ta da! I’m here!”

Casey was scrambling out of the Firebird. “Daddy!”

He met up with Casey in the middle of the drive way and scooped her up into his arms. “There’s my girl. Now don’t tell me Momma’s teachin’ you how to drive already?

Leeah laughed and stepped up to her husband. “She asked to sit behind the wheel.”

“Oh.” Cully feigned a shudder. “I ain’t ready for her to grow up that fast.”

Leeah put a reassuring hand on his arm. “I’m not either.”

Cully glanced towards the house, catching Sherry watching from the window. He turned slightly to Leeah.

“You know someplace we can go without her watching us?”

“There’s an ice cream place a couple blocks away.”

“Ice cream??” Casey said. “Are we going for ice cream???”

Leeah laughed. “Yeah, we are.”

“Wanna take your car?” Cully asked.

“Sure.”

As they walked to the green Firebird, Sherry stepped back from the window.

A few minutes later, the Dawson family sat a picnic table just beyond the parking lot of the Dairy Queen. Casey was immediately occupied with her small hot fudge sundae, giggling as she swirled the fudge in with the whipped topping. Before the afternoon was done, she would end up wearing most of it.

Cully and Leeah sat across from each other, each with their own small dishes of ice cream. Leeah with coffee ice cream, Cully with Rocky Road. He stirred it with his spoon and then looked up at his wife.

“Guess what song I heard on the radio on the way down here?”

“What?”

“Guess.”

“Cully...”

He grinned. “One of yer favorite tunes. Highway to Hell.”

Leeah laughed. “And you listened to the whole song?”

“I did. Thought of you through the whole thing. Infact, dang near every song I heard while drivin’ down here made me think of you.”

She smiled, but it was shaded with trouble. “I’ve thought of you too. After Sherry told me you had broke down when trying to get here I worried about ya.” She stopped suddenly and looked at his face, noticing the faint black and blue on his jaw. “Cully...what happened?” She reached and touched a finger lightly to his bruise.

“Oh...” He snickered. “I was in a fight.”

“With who?”

“Ski.”

Leeah rolled her eyes and laughed despite herself. “Cully...”

“He started it. Well...after I taunted him enough.”

“Aw man...” Leeah buried her face in her hand but still laughed.

“Hey, I didn’t win but it felt good to get at least one good hit in.”

She looked at him and shook her head. “He’s still actin’ like a jerk?”

“Everyday.”

“Man...I dunno what happened to him.”

“I’ll tell ya what happened to him. He’s developed a case of High-atus Mighty-us. He just thinks he’s better than everyone else.”

“When they started callin’ him the Greatest Stuntman Alive it all went to his head. Shoot, Sonny never acted like that.”

Cully shook his head. “Nope.”

“You seen Sonny lately?”

“All the time. I’ve been stayin’ at his place.”

Leeah blinked. “You have?? Cully, I didn’t know that. Were you there Saturday night?”

He nodded.

“Well, that explains why you didn’t answer the phone at the apartment when I tried to call.”

“Aw, Leeah I’m sorry. I probably shoulda told ya I was staying there.”

“No, it’s okay. At least now I know you were there and not out drinking. I honestly thought you were out drinking.”

“I ain’t had a drop since you left. Not that the temptation ain’t been there, but I haven’t had a drop.”

She nodded. “It’s probably a good thing you’re stayin’ with Sonny and Gwen.”

“Why?”

Leeah paused. “We haven’t paid the rent in three months.”

Cully sighed. “It just keeps getting better don’t it?” He looked down at the table with a disgusted look. “When I screw up, I really royally screw up don’t I?”

“Cully, don’t blame yourself--”

“Who else is there to blame?” he asked, looking back up at her. “I just...I don’t know what happened, Leeah. All I know now is that I’m very quickly losing everything I’ve ever had.”

“Cully...” Leeah put her hand out to him. She knew what had happened and figured now was the time that he had to start confronting it. Once his hand was in hers, she looked him in the eye.

“What happened when Vic died?”

He looked away and shook his head. “No...I don’t wanna talk about that...”

“You have to, Cully.” She squeezed his hand to keep him from pulling it away. “What happened to Vic has been eating you up inside. You gotta get it out, let it go. You never talked to me about it, you went and buried yourself in a bottle of beer. Cully, this is why we’re here now. We’re out of our home, we’re out of money. Please....just talk to me.”

Cully hesitated and looked over at Casey. She was preoccupied with her sundae but glanced up momentarily at him and grinned. He looked at Leeah and shook his head. “Not now. I can’t talk about it now.”

Leeah sighed. “Okay,” she said, seeing Cully’s point. But it didn’t let him off the hook completely. “At some point you gotta talk to me. I don’t want you slippin’ back into the bottle again.”

“I know, and I ain’t gonna.” He made a face. “Of course, ain’t got no money to buy beer anyway.” He sighed again, and had another spoonful of ice cream. “I suppose yer gonna stay here for awhile longer huh?”

“Not by choice,” she said. “Sherry’s a good friend but, I dunno. Sometimes I wish she would stop giving me advice.”

“What kind of advice? That you shouldn’t come back to me?”

Leeah nodded.

“Shit,” he said softly. “You ain’t listenin’ to it, are you? I mean, Leeah...”

“I’m not listenin’ to it. She don’t know you, certainly not like I do.” She squeezed his hand. “I know you’re a good man, Cully. That’s why I married ya.” She smiled and then looked at him seriously. “She doesn’t understand why you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing. Granted, there were times I didn’t really fully understand either. But Cully, I want this to work out. And I know you do too.”

“Then come home.”

“Where are we gonna go? If we go back to that apartment, we could be evicted the next day. Then what do we do?”

Cully sighed. “I dunno...” He looked at Casey. “I guess, at least with y’all here, Casey’s in a safe place.”

Leeah nodded.

“But I miss you, Leeah. I miss both of you. I just wish I could bring the both of ya home with me.”

“You know we’d go in a heartbeat.”

Cully smiled now. “That’s good to hear.” He chuckled sadly. “Any idea how we’re gonna pull together twenty-four hundred dollars?”

Leeah shook her head. “Could always sell the Firebird I suppose.”

“One of us has to have wheels,” Cully countered. “Especially now that I ain’t got the Brat anymore. I had to give it up.”

Leeah sighed and looked at Cully with sympathy. “I always liked that little piece of crap.”

Cully snorted. “I did too.”

Leeah scraped the bottom of her ice cream cup. “Well, look, before we get ourselves into a bleak malaise here why don’t we go over to the park and forget about some of our troubles for awhile?”

Cully agreed. “Sounds good to me.” He looked at Casey. “Whattya say, sweetheart? Wanna go to the park?”

Casey looked up at her folks with a hot fudge ring around her mouth. “Oh boy!”

They laughed and then Leeah offered the terms. “Finish yer ice cream there and we’ll go.”

Casey responded by turning back to her dish and finishing the last few spoonfuls. “Okay, I’m ready!” She turned on the picnic bench and jumped off, making a beeline to the Firebird that was parked a few short feet from the table.

Cully laughed, grabbed a handful of napkins and chased after his daughter. “Wait up, Case!”

* * *

Cully returned to LA with his spirits a little more uplifted, but the fact that his situation hadn’t changed and was still daunting to have to face, nagged at him. He knew it would until he managed to get his head above water. The tough part was trying to figure out just how the hell he was going to do that.

He parked Gwen’s Caprice and returned inside the ranch. The house was empty. Gwen was at the school, Sonny was gaffing his picture. Tyler was being babysat by a lady just down the street. It didn’t leave much for an aging stuntman to do.

Cully shuffled into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, figuring to have a drink of soda. Big mistake. Instead what caught his eye was the familiar cream colored Coors can, in this case three of them, standing next to each other on the bottom shelf of the door. He stared at the cans and then snapped out of it and closed the door.

No. No, no, no and no, he told himself.

I don’t want you slippin’ back into the bottle again...

Cully leaned against the refrigerator door and closed his eyes, trying to summon what ever he had left of will power. You don’t need it...you drink it now you’ll really blow everything.

Just one?

NO.

He opened his eyes and stared blankly at the cabinets. What the fuck? Twenty-four hundred dollars in debt, I’ve lost my car, my wife, my kid, my home. Is one beer going to make that much of a difference now?

YES.

He opened the door again and grabbed one of the beers. He held it in his hand, looked at it, read the label, listened to the liquid gently slap against the metal inside. He kept staring at it as he closed the door and leaned against it again.

You’ll screw up everything.

How can it get any worse? He turned the can in his hand so the ring was facing the right way to pop the tab.

His faltering will power called to battle the rest of his demons. You’ve already screwed up everything. It’s too late to fix anything. It’s over. You should have insisted on a few things over a year ago. You should have been more vigilant, fought harder. So what if the director thought you were playin’ it too safe? So what if Ski thinks you play it too safe? Vic probably would still be alive today if they had listened to you...but only if you had spoken up louder.

“Make it go away...” he whispered to no one there. His eyes never left the can. “Somebody please make it go away....”

Have a beer. That’ll make it go away...for a little while. Then you’ll have to drink more. Keep drinking it away. You’ll feel better when you stop feeling the pain. When you stop feeling anything...

Cully’s hands started to shake. He hooked his finger through the ring of the pull tab.

Leeah will kill you. You’ll never see her again. You’ll never see Casey again...

“Cully??” Sonny’s voice echoed from the other side of the house. “Hey, Cully, you here?”

“Sonny...” Cully whispered, snapping out of his trance. He hadn’t heard the door...

“Cully, you--” Footsteps stopped at the kitchen doorway.

Cully looked up at his friend, a silent minute passing between them. Sonny walked into the kitchen, his expression more concerned than scolding. Cully looked down at the can of beer in his hand and softly and sadly chuckled.

“What are you doin’, Cully?”

Cully was quiet for a moment and then he handed the can to Sonny. “I dunno...” he sighed. He avoided Sonny’s gaze and stepped over towards the sink and stared out the window.

Sonny looked at the unopened can and then at Cully. “What happened?”

Cully shook his head. “Nothin’.” He drew in a troubled breath. “Nothin’ no worse than all the shit that’s already been dumped on me.”

Sonny put the beer back in the refrigerator. “Something happen with you and Leeah?”

“No.”

“You didn’t get another ticket, didja?”

Cully snorted. “No.” He sighed. “No, I just found out that I’m more in debt, that’s all.” He stepped away from the sink and looked at Sonny and shook his head before Sonny could even ask.

“No, not this time, Sonny. I can’t have you payin’ every last debt I got. I only end up in debt to you. It don’t change nothin’.”

“It buys you time.”

“I’m already on borrowed time, it seems. Look, what I need is a job. You said you’d try to see if there was something I could do with the picture you’re gaffing. Is there?”

“I’ve got a meeting with the producer on Monday to see if he’ll let me hire ya. Until then, I can’t do nothin’ more. He’s out of town.”

Cully nodded. “Awright.”

Sonny stepped up next to his friend. “Besides finding more debt, did everything else go okay in San Diego?”

Cully’s expression softened and he smiled a little. “Yeah. I wish I could bring ‘em back home tho’.”

Sonny patted his shoulder. “You will. Soon enough.”


September 29, 1983

Thursday morning, Cully borrowed Sonny’s truck and went to pay a visit to the landlord. An explanation was not necessary, as the landlord knew of what had been happening. Unfortunately, his good faith credit in the Dawson family was about to expire.

“I’m sorry, Cully, but I told Leeah that come the fall I couldn’t let things slide anymore. I need something from you guys by the first of November or I got no choice.”

Cully sighed. “I understand.”

The landlord looked sympathetic but business was business. “Sorry.”

“S’awright. I can’t make any promises to ya, Sil, but I’m gonna see that someday I get that back rent paid to ya.”

Sil wasn’t sure to believe that but, he nodded anyway. “Okay, Cully.”

Cully turned away and left the office. As he walked to the truck he knew, deep down that there was no way he would have anything to pay come November 1st. Not a dollar, not a penny. And the twenty-four hundred dollars they owed, plus the $800 for October seemed like such a huge amount, Cully felt like he was drowning just thinking about it.

Although November first was over thirty days away, Cully figured that he and Leeah would most likely be evicted, so he drove the truck around the corner and down the street to his apartment building. He parked, got out, opened the tailgate and then walked into the apartment building and up the stairs to the apartment.

He spent the rest of the morning there, going through the apartment, finding a few boxes to pack up things in. He carefully gathered a few of Casey’s toys and dolls, packed them neatly into a box, put his and Leeah’s LP records together along with the turntable, found several family photo albums, personal papers, and various not-so-important yet sentimentally valued items and loaded them into the back of Sonny’s truck. After his third trip down to the truck and back, a couple of his neighbors took notice and came out of their apartments.

The first was Mrs. Bader, a widowed woman who lived with her two cats. She often reminded Cully of Ant Bee from the Andy Griffith Show. It had seemed she had unofficially adopted the Dawson family, stopping by every so often to say hello, sometimes with a fresh baked homemade apple pie. Back when Cully was still working, she volunteered to watch over Casey once in awhile whenever Leeah had to run an errand, giving her a chance to be alone for a bit.

There was no doubt that Mrs. Bader knew what had been going on in the past year. No doubt she had heard Cully when he came in drunk and heard Leeah when she spoke forcefully to him, or cried. Cully figured that explained the cautious yet curious look on the older woman’s face as she peered out from behind her apartment door.

The other neighbor to notice was Moses John, a twenty-something black man who had dreams of being an actor. The occasional hallway chat with Cully would leave Moses star struck, but Cully would always remind him with a grin, “I can’t make ya an actor. I can make ya stunt man if you’re ever interested.”

Moses knew something had been wrong for the past year too. And he too now looked out into the hallway and watched Cully with curiosity.

Cully paused in the doorway of his apartment when he felt he was being watched. He slowly turned to see Moses and Mrs. Bader. He smiled at them.

“Hey, Cully,” Moses said.

“We haven’t seen you for awhile,” Mrs. Bader added.

“I know,” Cully said. He looked at the two of them and knew he didn’t have to explain things. “Things hit the fan a few days ago.”

“I noticed you’re packing things up,” Moses said. “You ain’t moving are ya?”

“Um...not exactly. But Leeah and I may not be here come the first of November tho’.” Cully turned and went into his apartment.

“They’re throwin’ you out?” Moses asked.

“Oh Cully,” Mrs. Bader said. The two neighbors came to stand at Cully’s doorway.

“They’re gonna, yeah,” Cully replied. “Unless I come up with a lot of money by then.”

“Where’s Leeah and Casey now?” Mrs. Bader asked.

“They’re in San Diego stayin’ with a friend.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Moses asked.

“I don’t think so.”

“Where are you taking all your things to?” Mrs. Bader asked.

Cully paused. “I dunno,” he said softly. “Ain’t thought that far ahead.” He looked at them. “I know a couple people who might be able to hold on to some of it for me. I hope...”

“Well, I got some room,” Moses said. “I could hold some stuff for ya.”

Mrs. Bader concurred and Cully looked at his two neighbors with appreciation. He agreed and a few remaining personal effects of the Dawson family were split between Moses and Mrs. Bader’s apartments. Furniture and a few other items remained in the apartment, but Cully figured if the landlord decided to evict before November 1st, there would be less stuff that would have to be moved.

Cully thanked his neighbors for their help and their offer to hold stuff until he could get his family back into a home again. He didn’t let on that his one of his deepest fears was that he wouldn’t be able to do it and that they would end up holding on to the stuff for years, possibly to the point they would forget it was his to begin with. Instead he gave them a smile and told them he would be back for it soon.

Cully noted the mid afternoon hour on the dash of Sonny’s truck as he drove away from the apartment complex. He glanced back at the load, thought of an old friend who might hold on to all of it for him and pointed the truck north.


When Cully returned to the ranch, the truck was empty except for one box filled with things that Cully couldn’t part with for an undetermined length of time. He phoned Leeah and told her what he had done.

Although it saddened Leeah, she knew it was for the better. It would save them from having to pack everything up at the end of the month if they didn’t manage to pull something together by then.

If they didn’t pull something together....

This thought stayed with Leeah even after she had hung up the phone. She had left LA to get Cully’s attention, which apparently worked. Sherry was a good friend for letting her and Casey stay, but Leeah realized that there was quite a distance between San Diego and LA...and it didn’t allow her to help Cully now in fixing their situation. Leeah started thinking of going back, if Sonny and Gwen didn’t mind having one more guest.

She could see that Cully was trying to get things straight. Now it was time for her to help him the rest of the way....somehow. After all, the marriage vows said for better or for worse. They would get through this, and they would do it together...

October 3, 1983

When he wasn’t visiting Leeah and Casey in San Diego, Cully spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday puttering around the ranch, doing various odd jobs for Gwen and taking care of Dancer and the stall. He didn’t mind, certainly not. He was more than eager to earn his keep since Sonny and Gwen were letting him stay with them until he got things going again. But time ticked slowly. It seemed like things weren’t ever going to get going again. He had to get money, and to get money he had to get a job and he didn’t even know where to start to get a job. When Sonny left Monday morning, Cully hoped his friend would be able to find something for him with the picture, even it was just shoveling horse shit, he’d take it. But if nothing came from that, what was he going to do next?

Flip burgers, scoop ice cream, play Santa Claus at the local mall....Jesus Cully, you’re 60 years old. What the hell kinda jobs do you think there are out there for people your age?

He looked down at the shovel he held.

Shoveling horse shit maybe?

Truthfully, the prospects were bleak. Everything looked bleak. Leeah was still in San Diego. Things were never going to get going again.

He looked at his hand at he took it away from the grip of the shovel. His fingers trembled and he had that feeling again, like he was too loaded on caffine. He had started to feel it Friday afternoon, shakey and restless, but he dismissed it all. Just as he dismissed his increasingly sour mood through the weekend as just a by product of his current circumstances. He apologized to Gwen and Sonny already for being short and found himself holding back. Sometimes he would even get mad at Dancer, although the horse did nothing to provoke anything. He would then turn around and apologize directly to the animal.

Dancer neighed to him from the pasture. He looked up, seeing the mare’s dark coat shining in the late afternoon sun and the horse seemed to be striking a pose.

“Yes, Dancer, yer a pretty girl,” Cully chuckled. He put the shovel away and walked out into the pasture, grinning. “Yer also full of shit, as evidence by that pile over there...”

Dancer’s tail flipped back and forth. When Cully got to the horse, he grabbed the lead rope and lead Dancer back to the barn.

When Sonny pulled up to the ranch, he saw Cully riding Dancer around at a gait. He sighed. He had talked to the producer of the movie he was working on, but wasn’t given the go ahead to bring aboard any new people. Therefore, he couldn’t get Cully a job.

There was no sense in putting the bad news off, but Sonny wished there was an easier way to deliver it. He knew his friend had little to get his hopes up for and what little hope he had for getting a hob were about to be dashed.

Sonny walked through the barn and stood watching horse and rider. Before Cully noticed he was being watched, Sonny saw the preoccupied look on his friend’s face. The troubles just seemed to be snowballing.

Cully pointed Dancer towards the barn and saw Sonny standing there. Sonny tried to keep his expression neutral but Cully had a feeling. There was no job.

Dancer came to a stop and whinnied a greeting to Sonny. Sonny grabbed the bridle and grinned. He led the horse into the barn, with Cully still on it’s back.

“Any luck?” Cully asked.

Sonny looked up and shook his head. “They won’t let me bring any new people on.”

Cully dismounted and sighed. “Well, I appreciate it anyway.”

“I’m sorry, Cully.”

“Yeah, it’s okay.” The bitterness was edging in.

“There’s lots of productions in this town, I’m sure there’s something out there.”

Cully snorted. “Probably not.”

“Really,” Sonny continued, trying to keep Cully’s encouragement up. “Don’t give up yet. Talk to some of the guys.”

“Yeah, I will.” Cully said quickly and then took a deep breath to keep his anger back.

Sonny watched as Cully fought to keep his emotions in check. He looked at Cully until he made eye contact.

“I will,” Cully repeated softly. Sonny was right, ther were tons of productions in town, Cully just had to get in contact with the right people.

Dancer nickered in ascent.

Later in the afternoon, on the urging of Sonny, Cully made a few phone calls to some old buddies. Inquires were made and promises of follow ups were offered, but Cully wondered how long he could stand playing the waiting game.

Tending to Dancer kept him occupied. Driving to San Diego kept him focused on the objective. He told Leeah the prospects he had but by the time of the nightly phone call to her, he would tell her which ones fell through. As the week passed slowly, he visited nearly every studio in town, talked to producers and stunt people alike, movies and tv shows, multi-million dollar productions and low budget, bad scripted B films. Action adventure, sci-fi and westerns. From one end of the spectrum to the other.

But nobody would hire him. They would bullshit about the old times, about this movie and that movie and all the great work that he had done...but they wouldn’t hire him now. They already had a stunt staff in place, they told him. His expertise wasn’t what the film or TV show was looking for. And above all that, he was too old.

Well, they didn’t tell him that. Not directly anyway. But he knew.

He even tried to get a job with the picture Ski was working on. The young stunt man just laughed at him.

With each passing day and each soft spoken rejection, Cully felt more dejected. His voice held dwindling hope when he talked to Leeah at night and it was palpable through the phone. Although he didn’t snap at Leeah, his voice also had an edge to it that made Leeah cautious. She offered what encouragement she could and burned to tell him she was thinking of coming back. But she stopped each time. She didn’t expect Gwen and Sonny to welcome another unemployed house guest and she had a hard time gaging Cully’s mood. Sometimes Leeah felt that telling him would not be well received.

After Cully’s Friday night phone call, Sherry asked the same question she’d been asking all week.

“So, Cully got a job yet?”

Leeah held back her retort, as she had all week. She really wondered what Sherry’s game was with bad mouthing Cully all the time. If it was supposed to convince Leeah that he was worthless it wasn’t working. It only served to fuel her determination that things were going to work out.

She appreciated Sherry’s hospitality and all that she had done for the past few weeks and Leeah expressed this many times but it was never issued as confirmation for Sherry to have to belittle Cully. The past couple of days Leeah had been short with Sherry and had asked, nicely, to knock off the put downs.

Spirited discussion would then ensue. Sherry’s argument was that Leeah was trying to hang on to the past too much and for all intents and purposes, Cully was no good. Leeah shot back with the obvious, “I know him better than you do. I’ve been married to him for four years. I happen to have faith that he’s going to get back on his feet.”

Sherry thought Leeah was foolish. Leeah would then remind Sherry that she was single and had been for awhile, which was all find and dandy that was Sherry’s choice, but it was pretty hypocritical of her to be offering advice on marital issues.

Leeah’s desire to return to LA intensified with each shot from Sherry.

She turned to Sherry standing in the door way. “No he hasn’t yet. And I’m not getting into this discussion again with you tonight. So please just leave me alone.”

Sherry shrugged. “You married him,” she said before departing from the doorway.

Leeah bit her tongue. Yeah I did, best damn decision I ever made!

And it was about time to be making another decision...

 

October 8, 1983

Gwen walked through the kitchen with an armful of laundry. She glanced out the window and saw Cully standing by Dancer, giving a command and the horse reared up. Dancer came back to all fours and crooked one front leg under, bowing. Cully awarded her with a sugar cube. Gwen smiled and turned away from the window, depositing the laundry on the table and started folding shirts.

A couple moments later, Dancer’s neighing sounded distressed. Gwen placed a just folded shirt aside and turned back to look out the window.

Cully was on the ground. Dancer was a few feet away from Cully, snorting and neighing and stomping her hoof on the ground. The horse turned toward the house and took a few jumpy steps forward, hollering.

“Oh my Lord...” Gwen disappeared from the window and ran out the back door and across the yard.

“Cully! Cully!” Gwen slowed and kneeled down to Cully. He was face down and she touched her hand to his shoulder. She saw he was moving a little. “Cully?”

She watched him, a bad feeling gripping in the pit of her stomach. His movements looked liked convulsions. She turned him onto his back and he seemed to flinch at her grip. His jerky movements continued.

“Oh Cully...oh my god...” Gwen quickly got to her feet and ran back to the house. She went straight to the phone in the kitchen, nearly dropping it as she lifted it from the cradle. The numbers were punched quickly and the phone rested against her ear, her other hand coming to her forehead, pushing her hair back as she waited to be connected.


It was a few minutes later when Gwen saw Sonny's truck coming down the road to the ranch. As he was pulling into the drive she immediately headed towards the house. He was no more than stepping out of the truck when Gwen came running out the front door.

“Sonny!”

He immediately saw her face was stricken and her eyes were still red from tears.

“What? Gwen, what’s the matter??”

“It’s Cully. I think he had a seizure or something!” She pulled his arm. "C'mon..." They hurried into the house. “I called for an ambulance,” she continued. “Oh Sonny, he’s been so irritable for the past few days and he’s had the shakes, I’ve seen him. The medic on the phone said it sounded like the DT’s. They asked me if he drank and I said yes but that he’d been off it for two weeks. Two weeks, Sonny! Today was the two week mark!”

“I know, I know,” Sonny said gently. They quickly crossed the yard and came to where Cully still lay. Sonny knelt down.

“Cully? Cully, can ya hear me?”

Cully’s eyes were closed but his faced scrunched up, like Sonny’s voice had been painful to hear. He made a noise, a weak cry and his head turned from side to side.

“Oh God...” Gwen put her hand over her mouth, fresh tears forming. A siren wailed in the distance.

Sonny looked at her, gravely. “Gwen, go call Leeah. Tell her to get here as fast as she can...”


Leeah had her few bags and Casey packed into the Firebird in no time flat. She hardly gave Sherry an explanation as to her hasty departure and the green Formula squealed out of the drive way and beat a path to LA, screaming up I-85. Leeah’s hand was shaky on the wheel, her foot was jammed to the floor and she hardly paid attention to her speedometer. The DT’s? Christ, I’ve heard that before but just what exactly is the DT’s? What happens to somebody? I’ve heard of the shakes and stuff but....is Cully gonna be the same again? Oh God....

She caught a glimpse of Casey in the rearview mirror. The little girl was watching the scenery go zipping by them, seemingly oblivious to the troubles that swirled around in her mother’s head, but nonetheless subdued. She knew something wasn’t right. Leeah sighed. When was the nightmare going to end?

In a little under two hours, the Firebird left the highway and arrived in LA. It took another 45 minutes just to get across the city and to the hospital Cully had been taken to.

Sonny and Gwen were waiting in the ER waiting area with Tyler. When Cully started to come out of the effects of the seizure, his withdrawal induced state, compounded by his confusion as to where he was, led to him being combative with the ER staff and out of control. He hollered and yelled and in the waiting area Sonny and Gwen, along with the few people that were in the waiting area at that time, could hear him. Sonny and Gwen looked at each other but a word was never spoken. None needed to be.

It took a team of six people, three of them big burly hospital security guards to get Cully under control and strapped to a gurny. From there the ER staff sedated him. Cully yanked on the straps and cursed loudly, the straps biting into his skin and scraping him. His arms and legs would show bruises later from the outward battle with the ER staff, but his body would continue to be ravaged by the inner turmoil and final expulsion of the demons that ruled him, for several more hours.

Once he settled down enough, Cully had been moved from the ER to another room and placed under constant watch. The ER doctor told Sonny and Gwen where he’d been moved to, so they could tell Leeah, and explained the effects of the DT’s on Cully so far. It would be about 72 hours before he would return to a normal state. He’d remember none of it when he finally came around. They thanked the doctor and turned to leave the waiting room for fresh air. Both were numbly quiet. Cully may not remember any of it, but they certainly would.

* * *

They’re gonna git ya Cully! Stop ‘em, they’re gonna git ya!!

A chopper thundered in his ears. Faces came out of the darkness and disappeared in a fog. They’re gonna git ya! A beautiful woman, hazel green eyes boring through his soul walked toward him....and vanished.

Confusion. Darkness. Pain...

A child. His child. Smiling, laughing. Daddy!

Pain...

The chopper thundered closer, buzzing over head. Grass huts exploded in the background. Fire. Death. Destruction.

The beautiful woman held the child. His woman. His wife. His child.

Fire. Death. Destruction.

The huge beast in the sky roared. Fire consumed it. It arched, tilted, falling, burning...

Faces came at him again. Familiar faces. Vic... Leeah....Casey....Sonny...

They’re gonna git ya, Cully, they warned. Droned. Monotone.

Confusion. Pain...

Death.

The child’s laughter echoed. Daddy! The chopper crashed with a horrible roar.

Fire spread. Screams pierced the darkness...

Fire. Death. Destruction.

Pain...

The beautiful woman with child was surrounded by fire, death and destruction.

Confusion. Darkness. A bottomless pit. A horrible ache, a terrible void.

Death.

Vic.

Darkness. Low rumbling thunder.

Leeah....help me...

Woman and child were beside him. He reached to them...but his hand went through them.

Confusion. Fear. Pain...

Help me....

“You’re not doing this to me! To us! You’re not going there again tonight! Cully! CULLY!!”

Pain. Make it stop....help me....please dear God, make it all stop....

“If you do this again I’m leaving Cully. I swear it!!”

Pain. No....please, Leeah, no...help me... Darkness.

Confusion. Sorrow....

Leeah...

* * *

When Leeah got to the hospital, the three of them with Tyler and Casey rode the elevator up to the fifth floor. Gwen and Sonny told Leeah what they knew and Leeah seemed on the edge of tears but she somehow held it all back.

After stepping out of the elevator, Sonny stayed in the waiting area with Tyler and Casey as Gwen, as moral support, went with Leeah to see Cully.

The nurse led them to a room and Gwen hung back as Leeah went in. The first bed in the room was empty and the curtain was drawn part way around the bed that was near the window. Gwen didn’t walk in any further. She couldn’t see Cully’s face but could see his hands and feet that were moving despite the straps around them that kept him confined to the bed.

“He was a little combative in the ER, that’s why the restraints,” the nurse explained. “He’s sedated so he’s a little out of it but he’s responding to his name, even tho’ he doesn’t know where he is.”

Leeah nodded and disappeared around the curtain. The nurse spoke to Cully.

“Cully? Cully, your wife’s here.”

He moved a little more and Gwen heard him say something.

“What?” Leeah said.

“Wha...what’s the matter?” Cully asked.

“What’s the matter? You’re asking me what’s the matter?”

Cully tried to move to get up. “No, no...” Leeah said gently. The nurse spoke too, telling Cully to relax.

“Probably be better if I just leave,” Leeah said to the nurse.

“You don’t have to.”

“No, I probably better. I don’t want to upset him...” Leeah came back around the curtain and then suddenly hitched with a sob, bringing her hand to her face.

Gwen’s eyes weren't dry either and she watched in a blur as the nurse put an arm around Leeah. “It’s okay,” she said, “he’s going to be okay. This is what happens when they come down off the heavy drinking.”

Leeah nodded.

Gwen turned to leave the room, wiping her tears. The nurse and Leeah followed behind.

“You can always call to see how he’s doing,” the nurse said. “It usually takes about 72 hours for everything to take it’s course. He’ll be confused as to where he is but once he finally comes out of it he won’t remember having gone through this.”

Leeah nodded and thanked the nurse. She and Gwen walked down the hall back to the waiting area. Sonny saw both of them had tears in their eyes. Casey immediately ran to her mother.

Leeah scooped the child up in her arms. “Why are you cryin’, momma? Is daddy sick again?”

“Yeah, daddy’s sick again,” Leeah sniffled. “But it’s gonna be the last time sweetheart. He’s gonna be better after this.”

Sonny looked at Gwen. “You okay?”

Gwen nodded and wiped a tear. “I’m awright. They...they have him in restraints and Leeah started to cry, which got me cryin’...” her voice drifted off and Sonny put his arm around her.

“It’s okay,” he whispered. He looked over at Leeah. “Do you want to stay?”

She shook her head. “There’s nothing I can do for him, Sonny. This is something that has to take it’s own course. I’ll come back up tomorrow tho’.”

“Ok. And you’re welcome to stay with us, instead of drivin’ back n’ forth to San Diego.”

“Yeah,” Gwen concurred. “Cully’s going to need you when he comes out of it. I think you should just stay with us from now on.”

“You wouldn’t mind?” Leeah asked. “I was thinkin’ of coming back before and figured I’d stay at the apartment...”

“Until they throw you out,” Sonny said. “And then where would you go?”

“I dunno...” She looked at them. “I just don’t want to impose. I mean, Cully’s unemployed, I’m unemployed. The last thing ya need is a couple of freeloaders at your house.”

“Nonsense,” Gwen said. “You wouldn’t be imposing and you and Cully are certainly not freeloaders! We want to help you guys in anyway we can. And you both need a place to stay so you’re staying with us.”

“And that settles it,” Sonny said. He grinned. “Sorry, Leeah, you’re out voted, 2 to 1.”

Leeah smiled, despite the renewed mist in her eyes. “Awright....thank you...”

Gwen put a reassuring arm around Leeah’s shoulders. She and Sonny silently let her know that she wasn’t in this alone.

* * *

Self destructive neurotic...

The words echoed, dropped like stones. Mabel...goddamn you...

She stood before him, platinum blonde hair, curvaceous figure, Hollywood bombshell....

You’re gonna kill yerself, that’s why! I’m not staying here for that....

The smell of whiskey was strong in the air. A reflection in the mirror, the young man with dark hair and blue eyes a cross between fire and ice. Then leave...go...get the hell out of here... I guess we both made a mistake. A stupid, drunken mistake...

She was gone...

Darkness. Emptiness.

I’ll never do that again. No woman will ever do that to me again. No commitments. No marriage. Never....

Cloak the heart, hide the wound, drown the sorrow. Drown, drown, drown...

Pain...

Drown it. Beer. Whiskey. Tequila. Drown it all...

Heartache. Drown it. Physical pain, scrapes, bruises. Drown it all...

Darkness. Fading....


October 9, 1983

Seeing Cully over the next couple of days was hard. The first day, Leeah went up with Sonny. The restraints were off but Cully was now curled up like a little kid in the hospital bed. He was still under sedation and only stirred a little when the nurse tried to wake him up for Leeah.

“He was awake a little bit earlier, he was talking but it was incoherent,” the nurse said. “They took the restraints off him early this morning and he hasn’t been combative. He’s doing okay. You can sit with him as long as you like, he may come back around again for you.”

“Okay,” Leeah said with a nod. “Thank you.”

The nurse nodded and gave a caring smile before leaving the room.

Leeah stood by the bed and looked down at Cully as he slept. Sonny walked around the other side, looking at his friend. Cully was pale, his face drawn, his hair a mess of black and silver tousled in every which direction. He looked like hell. He looked frail, scared and tormented. He looked so old...

Leeah slowly sat down in a chair next to the bed, never taking her eyes off her husband. “Cully?”

His head moved slightly.

“Cully, can you hear me? It’s Leeah.”

He tilted his head back, as if he was listening for something. Leeah spoke again, telling him she was there with Sonny. Cully murmured something and Leeah asked him what he said, but he spoke no more. His head moved back down and he appeared to be drifting away again.

Leeah sighed. She reached out and touched Cully’s hand, his fingers barely moving to grasp hers. He didn’t murmur or mumble anything. He was too far gone in sleep.

After several minutes, Leeah gently let go of Cully’s hand and slowly stood up. Sonny saw her wipe a tear away as she turned and he came around the bed to stand next to her.

“You okay?”

She stood silent for a long moment and then looked up at Sonny. Her eyes shined with tears and she could do nothing more but leaned into his shoulder and cry.


Cully was on his knees in the middle of the Indian Dunes park. Blackened grass huts surrounded him, the chopper lay wrecked on the ground. Silence hung heavy, along with the smoke and the fog. He was alone, his head hung low.

“Cully?”

He tilted his head up, staring into the fog in front of him. “Leeah...” he whispered.

“Cully, can you hear me? It’s Leeah.”

He looked up into the black night sky. “Leeah!” He got to his feet, looking around frantically. “Leeah, where are you??”

He heard her voice again, but it was fading.

“No...you gotta git me outta here! Leeah, don’t leave me here like this!!”

Silence. Something tickled in the palm of his hand. He moved his fingers to grasp it but there was nothing there. He turned and looked behind him. There was nothing there, but he suddenly felt some kind of energy go through him.

He wasn’t alone...

Sometime later, Cully woke up but hardly comprehended his surroundings. Somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered where he was and at the same time realized he must have been in a hospital. The fleeting thought of death crossed his foggy mind. He wondered if he was dying...

“Look at you.”

Cully opened his eyes again. He didn’t notice anybody being near him a minute ago. He looked up at who had spoken.

“You took it all too hard,” the man continued.

Cully recognized the face. Somewhere in his mind he knew it couldn’t be, but at the same time he didn’t seem bothered by it. “Vic?”

Victor Morrow smiled. “Heard you were having some trouble.”

“A little.”

“Don’t worry about it. There was nothing you could have done that would have changed it.”

Cully looked at him. No, Vic you’re dead. I killed ya...it was my fault... “But...”

Vic shook his head. “No, Cully. There was nothing more you could have done.”

Cully’s protest was weak. “But...I coulda...”

“No. Nothing you could have done would have changed the outcome.” Vic paused. “Nothing.”

Cully was quiet. There was nothing he could say. He fought the urge to sleep.

“Get some rest, Cully. Let it go...”

 

October 10, 1983

"He's been sleeping most of the day," the nurse told Leeah when she came to visit. "He's getting there. He knows who he is and he knows something happened to him, he's just not sure what. He asks where he is and what happened to him."

Leeah nodded. The nurse gave Leeah a smile before Leeah stepped into Cully's room.

Cully lay sleeping, on his back, his head tilted slightly to the side. Leeah studied him for a moment. His face was shadowed with three day old stubble, but he looked a little better. He had a little more color and he looked more peaceful in his sleep, not tormented by Lord knows what that played out behind his eyes.

She stepped closer to the bed. "Cully?"

Cully opened his eyes and looked up at Leeah. Despite his groggy look, his eyes brightened at seeing her. He tried to speak her name but nothing came out.. He swallowed and tried to clear his throat, managing to half whisper her name.

She smiled and took a hold of his hand. "It's okay, Cully. I realize this is a stupid question but how do you feel?"

"Awful," he croaked. "I wanna go home."

"I know you do. It'll be soon. Once you're well enough."

He drew in a ragged breath. "Leeah...what happened to me?"

She squeezed his hand and hesitated. "You're...going through withdrawal," she said.

"Withdrawal? From what?"

Leeah pressed her lips together, wondering if she should really be saying anything to him where he was still kind of 'out of it'. But she couldn't lie to him. "Alcohol," she said softly.

He looked at her for a moment then slowly blinked and then looked away. "Oh."

Leeah watched him. "Cully, you're gonna be okay..."

He nodded and Leeah noticed a tear drop escape the corner of his eye.

"Oh Cully..." Leeah leaned forward and keep his hand in hers, while brushing his hair back from his forehead with the other. "It's okay, you're gonna be okay..."

He shut his eyes, the tears silently seeping out and he nodded. Let the nightmare be over, he prayed. Please.

Leeah stayed with him until, after some groggy conversation, he fell back to sleep.

She gently took her hand from his and left a soft kiss on his forehead. "I love you, Cully. You'll be home soon..."


October 11, 1983

Cully opened his eyes. He looked straight at the ceiling and then slowly looked around the room.

It was a hospital room, that much he knew. The calendar on the wall said it was October 11.

That can’t be right... Last he knew it was the 8th, a Sunday. He had been exercising Dancer.

Dancer. The last thing he remembered was the horse. What the hell happened? How did he end up here? Where exactly was here?

He looked around the room again, realizing he wasn’t alone. The bed next to him behind the curtain was occupied and he could hear voices. He felt like hell. His whole body ached. He looked at his arms and saw the bruises, the scrapes and the abrasions on his wrists. Christ, what the hell happened to me? Did Dancer kick me or something?

A nurse came around the curtain and looked at him. She smiled. “Hello, Mr. Dawson. How do you feel?”

Cully cleared his throat. “Terrible,” he croaked. Even his voice sounded like hell.

“You’ve had a rough couple of days.”

“What happened to me? Where am I?”

“You’re in Los Angeles Memorial Hospital. I’m going to go get Dr. Maurais to come talk to you, okay?”

Cully nodded. Must be pretty bad if the Doc himself has to tell me...

“Would you like anything to eat or drink?”

Cully paused. He was hungry. “Steak and cheese torpedo, side of onion rings and a large Coke.”

The nurse chuckled. “How about some soup and some juice to start?”

Cully smiled. “You talked me into it.”

The nurse smiled and left the room.

Fifteen minutes later a young light haired doctor came into the room. He smiled at Cully. “Hi, I’m Doctor Maurais.”

Cully gave a nod. “Howdy Doc.”

“How do you feel?”

“Terrible. What the hell happened to me? How’d I get here?”

“Before I get to that, let me ask you a couple of questions. What’s your name?”

Cully looked at the doctor for a moment. Odd question... “Cully.”

“Your last name?”

“Dawson.”

“Where are you from?”

“What is this, twenty questions?”

The doctor smiled. “I’ve only asked you three. Tell me where you’re from.”

Cully sighed. “I was born and raised in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. On...July 16, 1923. Shall I tell you my whole life story?”

The doctor chuckled. “No, that’s fine. I just wanted to make sure you know who you are. Do you know where you are?”

“Los Angeles Memorial Hospital. I asked the nurse that question when I woke up.”

The doctor nodded.

“Would you like to know my blood type and shoe size?”

The doctor chuckled. “No.”

“Will you tell me now, please, what happened to me?”

The doctor nodded and pulled up the near by chair, sitting down. “Cully,” he said. “Have you ever heard of the DT’s?”

Cully stared at the doctor. His joking around earlier faded away and he suddenly looked away. “Aw shit...” He was quiet for a moment, looking down at the bruises on his arms. “I went nuts didn’t I?”

“Well...you were combative with the ER staff. It did take several people to hold you down...”

“Aw Jeezus...”

The doctor paused. “You’ve drank for a long time haven’t you, Cully?”

Cully nodded. His eyes brimmed with tears. “Too long...” he whispered.

“Heavily...?”

Cully nodded again.

“What made you stop cold after all this time?”

Cully took a deep breath and look up at the doctor, a tear drop escaping. “Leeah,” he said.

“Who’s Leeah?”

“My wife...and my little girl, Casey. I stopped for them.” Cully paused and sighed, closing his eyes. “Aww, doc, I shoulda known. When I started havin’ the shakes I shoulda known something was wrong. I shoulda known quitin’ cold turkey would damn near kill me.”

“Well, the good news is it didn’t. You’ve made it through, Cully. The thing now is to make sure you don’t go back to drinking.”

The doctor paused as Cully’s lunch tray was delivered. Cully thanked the nurse and after she left, he looked at the doctor. “What makes you think I’d want to deliberately go back to drinking after what I’ve been through?”

“I’m not saying you would want to drink again. But you could get the urge to need a drink. Or you may not. This whole experience may scare you right out of the temptation. And if your wife and daughter could make you stop after years and years of drinking, that says something right there.”

Cully paused and slowly nodded. “Yeah, it does.” He stared down at the bed sheet, thinking of Leeah and Casey. They were his reasons for living...his salvation. “It says a lot,” he said, looking back up at the doctor.

The doctor smiled. “You’re going to be okay, Cully,” he said. “You’re going to be okay...”

* * *

Cully was watching McClintock! on the television up on the wall of his hospital room when Leeah walked in. She came in just at the point when John Wayne picked up Maureen O’Hara and carries her over his shoulder. Cully grinned watching the scene and already knowing what was going to happen next, having seen the film more than a dozen times.

Leeah couldn’t believe the change in twenty-four hours. There Cully sat, straight up in the bed, his hair cleaned and combed, his grin from ear to ear. Leeah was so struck by it she just stood in the door way staring.

Cully eyes had immediately turned from the TV to Leeah and they looked at each other for a long moment. She smiled at him and wanted to cry at the same time, not because she was sad but because she was relieved. Relieved to see him sitting there looking like his old self again.

As she stepped into the room he opened his arm out to her. She walked to him and into his embrace neither of them saying a word to one another. When she backed away after a moment, just enough to look at him, the tears had escaped but she smiled as she wiped them away.

He smiled too and brushed away a stray tear drop from her cheek. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said.

“I’m glad you’re lookin’ better,” she replied.

His smile faded a little bit. “Yeah, the doc told me what happened to me. I guess I went through hell the past couple of days....” He paused, looking at her, wondering.

She nodded. “I’ve been here for most of it.”

“I seem to vaguely remember you being here yesterday.” He sighed. “God, Leeah, I’m sorry. For everything. For all I’ve put you through. But I can’t help but wonder what else is gonna go wrong.”

“Nothing,” she said. “This is where it turns around, Cully.”

“Ya think so?”

“It has to. In fact...” her smiled started to come back. “I think it’s already starting.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, when they let you out of the hospital here and you get back to Sonny’s place, you’re gonna find you have two new roommates.”

Cully brightened. “Yer stayin’...?”

She nodded. “It’s gonna be a little crowded in that guest bedroom but I think we can manage.”

“Manage? Oh you bet we can! But I don’t plan on stayin’ there for long.” He shook his head. “Once they let me out of here I’m looking for work and start gettin’ this thing turned around.” He looked at her. “And may I never, ever, cross this way again.”

“You won’t,” she said, brushing some of his hair back with her fingers. “Ever again...”



Chapter Four