“You see the picture?” my brother, Sean, asked in a text
“Yep,” I texted.
“Whatcha going to do about it?” he asked.
“Me? Nothing. What about you?” I asked.
“Ha! What would I say, and to who?” he answered.
“That’s ‘to whom’,” I texted. He usually took every opportunity to try to prove to me that he knew more as a high school junior than I did as college freshmen. This was a bit of payback.
“What? Anyway, I got to go. Later,” he said.
“Later.” I put my phone away.
I didn’t ask what picture he was talking about. I didn’t have to. It was a recent picture of our cousin, Devon. Only Devon had been dead for seven years.
When I thought back those seven years the first thing that always came to mind was little six year old Jason Stone’s death. I didn’t just think about it, I had nightmares.
It was one of those awful things that shouldn’t have happened. Devon immediately blamed the boy and later the police agreed with him. That didn’t mean he had to stand there yelling at the poor kid as he bled to death. He never tried to help at all, he didn’t even call for help until after I had arrived.
I came across the accident a couple of minutes after it had happened. I saw them from the far side of a large field, barely making out Jason’s cries for help. It seemed as if Devon was mostly ignoring him, occasionally yelling at the boy to shut up. Once I saw them and realized what had happened I ran as fast as I could, but Jason’s cries were silenced by the time I got there. I tried to stop the bleeding and mostly succeeded. But it was too late. He woke for a moment and opened his eyes. His little face, pleading for me to help him, is forever etched in my mind. He tried to say something and froze, his eyes went unblinking, his mouth open. If only I were a little faster I’m sure I could have saved him. If only Devon had at least tried, perhaps Jason would still be with us. If only…
I tried to resurrect him. I knew a little first aid and had seen it on films. I tried. Of course Devin told me I was wasting my effort. He said the boy was an idiot and had caused the whole thing, that he had won himself a grand prize in the Darwin Awards. It’s a small town and we all knew each other. Jason came from a poor family that Devon always referred to as “stupid rabble”. Devon said they were poor because they were all stupid. As I worked on the limp body, trying to get it to breath, Devon kept telling me that Jason was better off dead, he was so stupid and ugly that there wasn’t any room in this world for him.
If I had been even a year older I would have gotten up and clocked Devon, but at 20 he out massed my 14 year old frame by a good 50 lbs. At that moment I may have even felt better knowing that Devon would be dead within a week.
It was called a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That the bank gave way while he was there was just a fluke. Some people call this type of accident an “act of God”, but the family didn’t like the term. My brother Sean, who was both teased unmercilessly by Devon and a good friend of Jason’s brother, called it Karma. Coming on the heels of the episode with Jason, I was pretty shaken up. Besides our differences, I usually looked up to my older cousin. I knew I’d miss seeing him. I had lived just around the corner from my cousin my entire life and he was suddenly gone forever.
Or so I thought.
The first time I saw Devon after his funeral was during my sophomore year at high school. I had just gotten my license and was driving on a highway alone for the first time. My car suddenly swerved sharply onto the shoulder. Before I could react a big truck crashed through the medium barrier and missed striking my car by inches. I came to a stop. There was a shadow in the passenger seat. For a second I thought I saw Devon, and then he was gone.
Sean thought I was crazy. “Devon was a mean bastard, why would he save you?” he asked. “Your reflexes were just in hyper-mode and you needed a reason you were able to get out of the way in time.”
I couldn’t answer. Maybe he was right.
But I saw Devon a few more times, each time when I needed help the most. They were typical things, like the bully or the icy road, nothing life threatening. Every time I saw him, in my head I asked for him to go help those who were really in need. He always smiled before fading away.
A few weeks ago there was a fire in a rundown tenant house in my home town. A young man came out of the fire carrying a 6 year old boy. He handed the boy off to his mother and then disappeared into the crowd. Many people thought it was me, yet I was 150 miles away sitting in a college classroom. I knew it was Devon, finally doing something bigger than tripping a bully and in part making up for his treatment of Jason.
A few days later the main suspect of the fire died in a freak accident. It seemed to be coincidence. I wasn’t sure.
Yesterday a series of phone pictures taken of the accident as it was happening showed up on social media. In one of the pictures a young man could be seen. It was sent to me quite a few times because the person looked a lot like me. But it wasn’t. It was Devon. He was in only one frame. He wasn’t in any of the other pictures.
“Was he now in the vengeance business?” I asked myself.
After the call from Sean I went out for a walk. I hadn’t been out long before I could feel a presence beside me. I didn’t hear or see anything, but I knew it was a goodbye.
For a split second I saw him, the 20 year old Devon looking like my twin now that I was almost 19. But it wasn’t just him. Spirits were everywhere. Some were watching out for people, some doing good deeds, some playing mischief. And some were taking vengeance on the evil.
The vision was gone and I was alone once more.
Only I now knew I would never be alone.
For as I walked back to my dorm a felt a little hand in mine. Devon was gone, but Jason had come to watch over me.
I had never felt safer.