The night was less kind to Manny. Ambivalent to his pain, he collected himself on the icy sidewalk. Regaining his feet he clutched the front of his coat in a panic, and felt the reassuring folds of his secret letter tucked inside the liner. All day he followed the bus route asking strangers if they remembered her, helpless and forlorn thirty feet below the world. Her cries distraught, but oh the life in her! Those mewling shrieks calling to every citizen of the nation, the entire world, and to the night stars millions of light years above Oklahoma. A child himself at the time, seventeen years before his accident, his awakening, the crash of great clarity that revealed his purpose in the universe.
Dear Mrs. (Baby) Evelyn,
What song did you sing from the bottom of the well? Can you remember? The news said you cried mostly, and your mother could hear you. All of us, everyone, could also hear you. You did not want to be in that well one minute longer. Get me out of this well! You commanded. Late in the night you were silent. Oh what we would have done to hear that defiant cry! Then, better than the obstinate yelp of your dissatisfaction, you sang to us. Do you remember the tune, or even a note? I would sing it without ceasing. I bet the rathole driller dug hard at the throttle when he heard your song. I bet he remembers it still.
I trust that you are well, and understand you have a family of your own. I am so deeply regretful to intrude upon the very life all of humanity once prayed would be your fate. It is for the hope of your family, and all families, that I write.
If we are to find our way back to that hopeful night when our prayers were answered, you must do it. Return to the well. To the strong-throated infant that cried from the well, the whole wide world will listen. Return to the well and deliver a message of peace.
Yours in humble service,
As Duane and June dozed wakeful and safe on Duane’s bed, Manny walked west on Belshaw Rd. towards Marble City, Oklahoma. With some rides he could make it in a few days, or if he walked the whole way, a week. The fold of his cap glowed with a ring of ice growing and melting down onto Manny’s shoulders, but that letter and the promise of it kept him warm until he crawled to the top of an underpass on I-290 W and slept as the sun rinsed across the grey hawkish clouds and the sickly aura of Chicago faded into morning.