Message from a friend who was a storyteller in Texas schools.
I’m boring some of you, because I can’t seem to post about anything but Uvalde right now. You’ll have to get over it, because this school shooting punched me right in the gut. You see, early in my storytelling career I told stories in Uvalde…probably to the parents of some of the beautiful faces you see on your television screen.
I remember children rolling on the floor laughing at the antics of Lazy Jack, and howling, like Coyote, at the moon with me. That’s what I see in my mind’s eye when those faces come on the screen … but I see something more.
But, Uvalde brought all that back when the news reports said that DNA was required to identify some of the bodies. I knew then exactly what the first responders saw. I knew what had happened to those precious children.
Many years ago, in almost another lifetime, I cleaned up after a suicide. I was the second person on the scene when my neighbor blew his brains out with a handgun in the bathroom of his home. I called 911. I met his wife at the door when she rushed home from work and tried to shield her from seeing what was left of her husband. But she had to look, and, of course, it was devastating.
When the body was removed, she started for the house to clean up the scene, but I wouldn’t let her. I didn’t want that to be one of her memories of her husband. I made neighbors take her away, while I (pregnant, with a belly as big as a barn) went in with buckets and rags.
On my knees, I mopped up blood that had pooled beneath the crinkled linoleum. I climbed up on the tub to wipe brains from the ceiling. I scooped up tissue and gristle and teeth. It was the teeth that got to me.
Healthy, grown men stood outside and wouldn’t enter the room with me (the cowards), while I carried out buckets of blood and gore and dumped them in our burn barrel. I was told that what I saw was worse than some saw in Viet Nam. It was the stuff of nightmares, but I try not to think about it.
Now, every time I close my eyes, I wake trembling. In my dreams the faces of those babies morph into the gore I saw on that bathroom floor. I wish that our illustrious lawmakers had to clean up the gore at a scene. Maybe then they could find it in their stone cold hearts to enact some legislation to put a stop to this. So, don’t expect me to stop talking about Uvalde, and other school shootings any time soon. I’m a little worked up about it.
Shelly Cumbie Tucker