- The Linkage of Bone
Terrance's accident made the local papers. He was working on a circuit breaker forty feet off the ground between the Chevrolet dealer's show lot and the Pizza Factory in Kalispell. He had rerouted the power grid so he could work on the local transformer. There was a checklist of things he'd gone through and marked with a red Bic pen before he climbed the steel ladder to the high retention wires. He had done everything right, too. Alberta-Montana Power Company would check it all several times afterward. It was someone at the main power switchboard, thinking that the diversion was a mistake, who put it back to its normal current flow. Terrance had already started working when the power got sent back toward him. He heard a humming. It got louder, bigger, and the few fine hairs above his knuckles on his right hand stood straight up before everything crested into him. [End Page 170]
He felt as if he'd been sliced into millions of thin biopsy cuts that were manically rattling against each other, until everything inside his body pushed against everything on the outside. His eyes bulged like overfilled balloons, and his world went teal blue-then red from his blood rushing to his head as he hung upside down from a harness. Then everything went black when he passed out.
The head of his hammer pressing against the outside of his lower thigh got so hot it burned the shape of itself through his thermal Carhartt pants and into his skin. The dealership filed a claim because his screwdriver shot fifty feet out of his tool belt and punctured the passenger's-side door of a new gunmetal-gray Tahoe truck in the lot. A witness was quoted in The Hungry Horse News, saying he looked like an "epileptic fish flopping above the road."
He wasn't sure for how long, but for a while before he woke up, he was conscious of who he was but not of his body. He felt the bones in the top of his right foot first. They were just floating there by themselves like the bare spines of a Chinese hand fan. Then he felt how those bones connected to his ankle, and there was only his one foot. He felt it wholly, as if it supported the weight of the world. When he started to think about his leg, his shinbone ached, then his knee. In this way, as if he were the god of himself, creating one small piece at a time, he reassembled his body until he became aware of being in the hospital bed. He felt holy. Except for the sharp pain in his groin, gravity did not apply to him, and he was ascending to something.
The room was empty when he woke. His left leg was in a stirrup. It felt like something was resting on the outside of his skin-a teal-blue fear trying to get in-or the outer layer of himself had been burned off and everything was nerve-end sensitive.
Helen walked in five minutes later with a cup of coffee and a bag of yogurt covered pretzels. She didn't look up at him until he asked, "Am I okay?"
She made a guttural "Ogh" sound and dropped the coffee on the floor. The puffed-up, subtle bruise-colored skin around her eyes made them so squinty that she looked like a haggard version of herself. She had stopped sleeping several weeks before, after she'd lost her job as a secretary to the high school principal. For some reason she had torn every sheet of paper she had filed away in half, and she'd never answered Terrance's or the principal's questions about why she had done that.
When she dropped the coffee, Terrance wanted to touch her face the way a blind person would, with hungry fingers trying to find something. [End Page 172] He wanted to push the stray strands of her bangs behind her ear, but all her hair fell loose as she leaned over the bed and sank her...