Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Port-a-Potty Fiction - Part 10

I went to work on Monday and saw my regular patient load. A week passed with me striving for normalcy as best I could. I drew people's dysfunctions out of their dreams into the light of day knowing full well that the relief they felt at the end of our 45 minutes together wouldn't last through the afternoon. They'd return  the following week with their fragile hopes obscured by the same exact obstacles of the weeks and weeks and weeks before. Real progress, if any occurred, always seemed to be glacial.

After the past weekend, I had no patience for anything glacial. My mind raced and picked through the jumbled details of everything I'd seen and learned, trying to make sense of it all. My heart rate felt constantly jacked-up by adrenaline that never seemed to leave my system. Every noise and sudden movement caused me to tense, ready for some unknown threat.

On that Sunday of my first trip, Mr. Custos had gathered together all the Bainvoige Construction Corp. employees with potty-porting privileges for an informal ceremony/celebration to induct me into their fold.  I was the first person outside the company to be allowed access to the system and he knew there would be a risk of dissent if something wasn't done right away to make me "one of them".  The champagne drenched my hair as I slumped against the plastic bathroom, shaking. I clung, white-knuckled, to the backpack I'd ripped from the tree on my retreat from the beach campground.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Step back! Step back. Give 'er some room. Somethin's not right. Eve?" Mr. Custos swept an arc of space around me and reached to help me up. I let go of the backpack with one hand, it itched where the creases of heavy pack cloth had left deep indentations in my skin. He pulled me to my feet and led me to the trailer office where I rested - eyes open, body numb - on the bench seat couch. Eventually I described everything I'd seen: the occupied camp site, the chase, the fall, the head bounce, the dead guy, the backpack I grabbed on my escape.

"I took it so that maybe we could report this to the police out there if we had some useful information. That's what went through my mind when I saw the bag hanging there within reach as I ran through the camp site."  I said. Mr. Custos paused for a minute with a strange look on his face. He opened his mouth to say something, it seemed, but just sucked air in through his teeth and remained silent.  The faded, red backpack smelled like wood smoke, damp ashes, bug spray and hiker sweat. Mr. Custos suggested we open the pack together.

Mr. Custos  pulled some questionably-clean extra layers and a partially full bear canister out of the main compartment and then the trailer phone jangled loudly and I yelped in surprise. He went to his desk -  his back to me - to answer the phone.

"Custos here."
"Yes, Boss, I know it's unconventional. I didn't really have a choice. She'd figured things out already. Better to have her on the inside, right?" Awkward chuckle.
"I gave her one of my coordinates, that's how."
"Yeah. That one. How'd you....?"
"Aw, shit. You have to be kidding me, Boss. Why the hell didn't you give me the heads up about this?"
"I can't do that. I won't. Boss, just give me a little time. I'll figure something out. We've got the kid's back pack here. Yeah, she grabbed it out of his campsite. Yeah, she is resourceful, for sure." Another awkward chuckle.

When my hand closed around the unmistakable form of a phone and then a small notebook, I grabbed both and with an acid lump of fear in my throat, stuffed them into the inside pocket of my vest. I zipped it closed. The phone conversation ended as abruptly as it began.  Mr. Custos cradled the phone, cleared his throat and turned a new, more intense attention back to me.

"I need to go home and lie down, Mr. Custos." I put my hand on my forehead and stood slowly.

"Sure. Of course. Why don't you leave the pack here with me. I'll look through the rest of it, see if I can find any clues and I'll talk to you tomorrow. It's Monday. Back to work, right?"  He forced something like a laugh and offered to walk me to my car. I declined. When I got out into the air I wanted to run all the way to my car, speed home, lock myself in my house and find out who this phone belonged to. But I walked, slowly and deliberately not wanting to raise any suspicion. I turned once to look back at the trailer. Mr. Custos peered at me through the blinds but quickly pulled away when our eyes met.

I shivered and stuck my hands in my pockets. I could feel the shape of the phone and the notebook pressing back against my hand from the inside pocket.