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Material Spirit
by Carl D. Schultz

NOTE: Carl D. Schultz was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1963. A graduate of Meridian High School, Meridian, Mississippi, in 1981, and Mississippi State University in 1986, Carl entered the Army as an Infantry Officer after receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science. He survived a traumatic brain injury that included a six-month coma on 31 October 1987 in a car wreck near Bamberg, West Germany.
Write Carl by clicking here.


"Other side, bloody-turd leg," the black-hat airborne instructor yells at the lieutenant. "Take charge; nobody else does."

"Take charge, Schultz," Lieutenant says to me. Sumn done day-in day-out, no matter the place or mess. "Take charge! Make sure you keep on a side and get rid . . . eye infect . . ."

I blink at my clock with a sudden worry that my troops gathered already--"5:16, you've gone more . . . days with nix sleep, leg."

Oh, come here, she whispers into my ear as I drowse.

"Don't, leg, all you do is make yourself worse. Get your cute leg ass down and go after Beijing!" The consciousness vanishes and gives room to a drum roll of horrid voices. "So you think you got it bad, huh, leg? You got it easy since you're a stick leader and a high-class infantry offsir. I even seen you reading shotgun Hemingway at the chow hall before a few pushups. If you think he ends sad, you hadn't worked yet--come here, Sergeant."

"Sergeant . . . Sergeant? Come look here." The black-hat instructor smirks and screams in delight as he gets others to gather.

"See them? Kiss some more earth, leg," loudly drawls the black-hat inches from my face once I recover from pushups.

"Wait, ain't those air assault wings on your garb, leg?" the black-hat screams as he notes in humor the hard earned badge on my chest.

"And ain't it so cute, Sarnt? Precious on him. I noted that pop-top on Sweet's garb back in ground week," yet one more black-hat chimes in to scream of the wing sight over a week ago.

Ooh, yes Carl, she erotically exclaims to signal fruition.

"So, because you're a offsir who slides down ropes out of choppers you're better, huh, leg? All I can say is you ain't seen a damn thing yet, leg on a rope. You're sorry? All of us could have told you that, non-airborne turd," the black-hat states in eloquence. "It looks like you want to be down here all damn day, huh, dope on a rope?"

"I didn't say you could get up yet," the black-hat screams while about ready to make me roll over to begin a leg-lift routine. "Member that car wreck, hung out to dry, leg?"

"Hurts, don't it? Good. If not, youd be swimming in the Nile, too." The black-hat tries to show crux of sumn other than a P.L.F. (Parachute Landing Fall) and pushups. "I sure in hell won't be here six damn months, but Ill do my most under my master Airborne auspices to put you in one more li'l coma. And I will lean down to tell you this in your real cute speak."

"We'll be back just for your dear li'l sweet britches," the black-hat whines.


"Wake-up, we're almost there." I lean over as I keep my eyes on the road and smell her fragrance.

Where are we, Carl? she angelically murmurs in response to my statement.

"Is this a trick question?" I respond.

Huh? She tests me on this rural drive.

"Awe, c'mon, I say, you almost sounded like it that time. Just push it out from your gut a li'l more." Im trying to show-up somebody whos attempting to sound Southern. "Sh . . . scuse me, I had to say that. I think the dern espresso is crashing." I admit Im tired since I just got back from my field duty a few hours before.

Trees, so many trees; it looks like we've gone deeper into the woods, she says after glancing through the windshield.

"Prob . . . heck, Ill stop here and knock it out," I answer with the satirical delve into synonyms.

I thought we were going to wait until Cades Cove to get in the woods, she says sensuously as she giggles.

"Well, that depends on you, I guess," I say, as I think wholly that most depends on her at this point.

Since it sounds like you're getting a little froggy, how far away are we from Cades Cove? She smiles.

"We've got a few minutes before we pass the Tennessee line about a hundred k.'s, then forty or so after that," I say, just as I realize that things should be in miles and not kilometers.

I still don't understand why we left so early . . . or was it so late? She laughs and questions as she puts me in a trance.

"Je croit que c'est la guerre froide, but once you see and smell a sunrise on the mountains I think you'll understand." I think I talk of the cold war properly in French.

Well, since that stuff is Greek, all I can say is Olympus is hard to beat, she says, causing me to stare.


She looks at me with a smile as she peeks through the shattered windshield which changed directions as a German Polizei auto-sedan wails and blips around the curve. With the rain fading a bit, the police and hearse finally see remnants of my car and carcass in the woods. She flutters away and leaves me to flounder in hope of that company command after leave as I downshift from fourth gear. Then, trying to unbutton the jacket of my dress blues, I shake my head with a smile. Gaudy Italian opera thoughts echo as the same conscience wildly swing-fights with what a gentleman should do for a wondrous scream.

"The most beautiful woman I know," blips and bursts and rumbles my head. Her glances coax as fitful screams of sensuous grins entice. Her smiling eyes make me slow to get on the near forsaken causeway. Her aroma, just her aroma, causes me not to mind the rain in this muggy dog-day Okatibbee bay evening.

In trying to spare myself, I wonder if they're still in that gray-brackish water.

Not worrying that eco folks might think Im destroying a habitat or sumn, its not awfully hard to stay slow and see the smutty mud-ducks jostle in stinky paper mill range. These smelly plants pump-out a reek so spoiled, so rotten, that you can almost taste the toilet paper they make. I don't know what to think yet. Suddenly I'm sure Okatibbee has seen its share of hurricanes. The plants are still there, but the ducks surely moved on to gray-brown water somewhere else. Also, I think an automatic transmission after the upcoming gunnery would be good. The most important thing is to hold a hand and not shift gears.

"One more sip," I think gruffly as I slowly put down the espresso with clear thoughts.

"If I open the air valve to that ball, the rest of her will go." I glance, aching, at the only other survivor in my car wreck, the beachball. She died right away and was supposed to be laid to rest nearly six months before I woke. The worst thing is that I woke while she didn't.

Then at Caf Brunhilde I saw a pretty lady order an "au lait" or an "ol," I don't know that stuff anymore. When she sat with her Oh, hell, it took a lot, but I didn't fall out of my seat. She has no silky black hair, green eyes and white complexion glow, but her long, perfumed hair makes her hold the golden blonde back when she takes a sip. She smells so good when I embrace her from behind. A time when I can bury my nose just behind her ear to make a quiet remark, yet silent suggestion, if I can figure that stuff right anymore. Now it is useful like sounds that drip and screech, her mumbles from that hole where the dirt smothered her so she can't undo the box.

When a lady who tidies my house asked me what to do with her slowly softening beachball, I sloughed it off gravely.

"In a li'l while the rest of her will surely go," I sprechen and guess that the dreary look is one of those Freudian slips likely taught in psycho classes--the type of class where you think you're there to learn, but in the end you judge yourself.

Never that weak or maybe that strong, I am naive but sad . . . unreal. With me comatose, way away, because of life support help I vomit and breathe. All the perfumed coffee smells of her, my no-good bumper car, stereo, wine, roses for her, and the ground with her, all grew. But her pure beachball tricked fate.

I guess I shouldn't think like this, though since I don't know much I can only wish it hadnt happened. That and my worry to keep from drowning.

Alone, I feel as if I am in a canoe that sinks in deep gray, man-eating waters. The kind of waters that magically change all things from bright eyes, sensuous smiles, coffee smells, and chocolate tastes to blood stain patches, toothless grins, sulfur rots, and steel bitter. All things and their like so gray with the look on a liquid abysmal texture with rotting eyes through the darknesses of the day. The dark causes look-ups at first for some guide. There has to be something frequent somewhere. Yet eyes fuse fast since all to be seen is gray. So it changes costumes to begin a garble and pound of the skull. It's a gray which causes the cicada that coolly murmurs in hot air to be surprised by the slapping windshield.

"It is the pulse in my head. Beethoven had . . . Beethoven has it right after all. It pulses in my head, it pulses," I assure myself over and over and over again.

Those crispy mud clods that sound and flounder, dully whacking and quivering finally quit. Minutes grow to years as decades inflate seconds as more days dye black. The black hints to get a bit more dim with red flaws. The red fumbles allow time to creepily fleet past as Mars pleads its case in the inbred dance that no mortal man knows.

When I finally wake, if I ever went to sleep, it is still hard and easy. I ought to just stay peculiar, but no, I try to conquer myself. That is real easy at first.

"Sit-ups, sit-ups, no pushups or running, read, read, I got a mind, I got a mind. A couple months. I ought to get my dress blues ready."

A couple months, a couple months, a couple more months.


"Okey, dokey, what room is Lieutenant Caerl Schultz in?" Father Frank says in a strong Irish accent.

"Oh, hey, Father. Hes the first door on the left. He'll be outta therapy in a li'l bit. If you wanna go there now, it'll be hard to miss his name on everydamnthing," says Emmy, a male nurse fresh from the Air Force.

"What is the problem, my son?"

"Excuse me, Father. I guess it has been a long double shift for me," Emmy says. He doesn't skip a beat when an excuse is needed.

"Then I will go to his room myself. Make sure you come to mass this Sunday," Father Frank says. "Its been the longest time since Ive seen you celebrate the Eucharist."

"I go to the chapel cause I been here at work on Sundays." Emmy again pushes out a half-truth. He did work Sundays.

"Remember, Emmanuel Lord God works in mysterious ways. So tell me of Caerl," Father Frank says, forthright in his mission.

"I guess its damn cut and dry. I'm sorry, Father." Emmy nearly whines.

"Worry not, I have been away from Irelin long enough to understand your long-winded talkin'," Father Frank says, perhaps misunderstanding Emmy's poor command of the English language.

"Sorry, Father. I guess I picked it up in the Air Force," Emmy says, of course blaming his weakness on sumn else.

"If you talk with that profanity, habits will be habits," Father Frank says, giving Emmy one more free excuse. "You are the only one who can truly mend it."

"Anyhow, I must forewarn you that he seems to be tad bitter about sumn. Despite him having the easy job officers get, I guess hes pissed off cause he can't run--sumn like that. I'm no brain doctor, so I don't really know," Emmy says, thinking hes an expert. "I'd try to call up his room, but he always takes the phone off the hook. Every morning, after he goes to all his therapies, a nurse straightens up his bed and hangs the phone back up."

"Is he back from therapy yet?" Father Frank says, looking straight into Emmy's eyes.

"He's due back in bout . . . Well, he's late now," Emmy says, caught mid-sentence.

"Hello, there," interrupts the therapist.

"Oh, hey, Gabe." Emmy nearly yells, startled since he has his back to the elevator. "Yuh snuck up on us."

"Hi, Emmy; hello, Father. How are you doing today? I'm Gabriella Sachs, a speech therapist here. Are you by chance here to see Chuck Schultz?"

"Yes, I hear it shall be intrestin as well," Father Frank says, surprised she knew he was to come.

"Chuck's dad called me up from Meridian and tells me you come," Gabriella says with a hint of joy in her voice.

"I do not wish to sound ignorant, but why did he call you?" Father Frank asks. "Is there some problem?"

"He wanted to tell you he'll be late, so he asked me to hint you on a few things," Gabriella says in a rosy tone.

"Well, I do know that Caerl is a bit old for bein' an altar boy again," Father Frank says, opening the door to see the surprise that waits.

"Hey, Gabe. How Do Day?" I say without the move of a lip.

"Hi, Chuck, what do you do now?" Gabriella says, acting as if nothing is wrong.

"Try Writesgoodfer Me in Mind Pastpomsalli Do Now," I answer, yet to realize how bad I am.

"Take it slowly, cut out your Bohemian, and repeat," Gabriella says to me.

"I Sayonemore Temps I Wontrpeat. Iamnot in Art Butin Open," I say with words that won't separate. "I Try To Scrawl." Im saying Ive tried to write again.

"Someone is here to see you. Remember to be syllabic and keep your mouth closed," Gabriella says--sumn shes restated endlessly.

"Hello, Caerl, it's good to see that you are all here," Father Frank says, surprised at the seriousness of my injury.

"Ich souhaitequ'oui ja ja," I say. Im so confused that I blindly mix French and German.

"Now, Chuck, we cannot understand your French and German mixed up," Gabriella says, but she knows what I mean.

"I am sorry, Caerl, but I'm Iresh--not in the SS." Father Frank chimes in to change Carl's attention.

"Rad Er Call. Did Yuh Bing Her?" I angrily reply as I continue to stare at the wall.

"No, Chuck, I merely walked up here with him," Gabriella says.

"No Gab Her," I say.

"I'm sorry, Chuck, but you have a male nurse," Gabriella says. "No Her," I say harshly.

"I'm sorry Harold I'm sorry," I pray, "Harold be thy name."

"So, Chuck, it looks like we get the silent treatment," says Gabriella with slight concern. "You couldn't put a lid on it this morning."

"Quell Schultz quell Schultz quell Schultz," I think. "I No," I say.

"She went off duty right after you came to see me this morning," Gabriella speaks of a happy female nurse.

"Not Her Hey Fotter," I change my gaze from the wall to Father Frank.

"I am surprised you recall, Caerl." Father Frank speaks slowly.

"Fotter Sullivan Nest Pals?" I say, assuring Father Frank I am here.

"That's good, Caerl, you remember," Father Frank says, surprised.

I'm brain injured, not brain dead.

"Your mention of nestles reminds me to get some at the grocery store for the office," Gabriella comments.

"Getsomecupstoo," I continue with my want with no delay.

"Slow it down, Chuck," Gabriella says.

"Get Those Cups Too," I say again slowly.

"Now, Caerl, that is no way to talk with a lady present," Father Frank says with what, I think, is humor.

I will take lessons from you

"What was that, Chuck?" Gabriella notices a near murmur uttered by me that I thought I did not do.

"Yuh No Cups Yum." I slip on the context when I answer Gabriella's comment of Nestles rather than the intended n'est-ce pas.

"Yes, you know I will," Gabriella answers about the candy. "He talks of those peanut butter cups, Father. He's a chocolate fiend now."

"Gute to See Yuh Fotter I Mus Derm Now." I need to sleep. Six-months of sleep causes me to want more sleep now.

"I enjoy seein' you too, Caerl. Since it is your nap time, we will have a prayer and blessin.' Bow your head."


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