We cross the bridge to the other side. The Ferryman, he walks with me. Tall and unwavering, his presence helps me keep my bearings.
There is a large crowd milling about. We stop at the base of the bridge, not wanting to be swallowed up in the crush. A woman standing in front of me moans softly and protects her arm in close to her belly. “You alright?” I ask.
“Burned,” she holds her arm out for me to see a blistering sore on the tender underside of her forearm.
“Oh!” I turn my body to shield her from the buffeting crowd, lift my hands and she rests her arm in them burn side up to the air. “How did it happen?”
She tells me a long story about soup in a pot and a crying child and a muddy dog and a man who lost his shoes and a neighbor who stares into her window and never smiles. And all the while I cradle her arm in my hands and blow softly on the burn to carry the heat away, between “Oh’s” and “Ah’s” when the story calls for them.
When she comes to the end, and the last word has fallen from her mouth and there are no more words behind it, she looks down at her arm and gives a small sigh. “I didn’t realize you were a healer,” she says. “Thank you.”
“No but I—”
“It hardly hurts at all now. You’re very good.”
“No really, I—”
But already the man just beyond her has turned and is thrusting his open hand at me. “I knew this was going to be my lucky day,” he exclaims, waving his palm in front of my face like it was a winning lottery ticket. I catch it in my own hands, just to stop the waving about. There is a ragged gash across the pad of his thumb, starting to heal, but still angry.
“Ouch. That looks like it hurts.”
“Only when I laugh,” he says, which doesn’t make any sense and so makes us both laugh.
“How did you do this?” I ask, and he launches into a story involving two sisters, a man named Fred, his friend named Charley and Charley’s brother, also named Fred. There was a ballgame which somebody won but only at the last minute and some people thought it was a triumph and other people weren’t so happy about it. And there were shenanigans at a neighborhood bar, which the bartender didn’t cotton to and so it all moved outside, but the neighbors weren’t happy about the noise and some older woman, who nobody could identify for certain, dropped a flower pot down onto the heads of the revelers which pretty much put a stop to that as far as he could tell, but that’s what got the cat upset and he had to catch the cat, of course.
“Of course. So it was the cat did this?”
“No. Never did catch the cat.”
Behind me the Ferryman laughs. The man gets a surprised look on his face like he can’t believe he’d come to the end of his story and had nowhere else to go with it. He looks down at his hand which I’m still holding, mostly in self defense. “I knew this was going to be my lucky day,” he declares again. “You’ve done a bang up job on this.” He hands me a small foam ball emblazoned with the name of a team that either did or did not win. I don’t bother to protest. I take the ball and grin at him. He nods, winks and dives into the crowd.
The day goes on like that for a long time, holding people’s injuries and listening to them tell their pain away.
I drink in these vignettes like a parched traveler. They’re draughts of nourishment. Thank you, Healer.
You got the Ferryman grinning.
He sends you an apple. I had one myself. It was cool and crisp and biting. I hope you like it.