Anthony dreamt he was laid out on a battlefield. He could hear the thudding booms of cannons in the distance, and the scent of them filled his head as the smoke wafted downwind. The ground was cold and hard. He shivered. His face felt wet. There was a pounding in his head, possibly the result of a bullet or bayonet. He felt like he wanted to cry out, but as often happens in dreams, he was frozen and impotent.
Then he felt a shadow— a very strange shadow, since it cast a warmth and not a chill across his supine body. He couldn’t see properly; maybe the blood from the wound impaired his vision. He imagined the blood streaming down his face. But he knew the shadow was a woman, an angel, beautiful and shimmering as angels tend to be. Not an angel of death, thank god! No, this angel covered him in feathers; they rained down on him like a million falling stars. He felt such a perfect warmth that the pain went away, and he wanted to thank her but felt himself drifting into a welcome, relaxing nothingness.
Anthony awoke at about eleven o’clock. He was on the floor near the couch, he might have slipped off. The empty bottle of Schnapps lay within reaching distance. He felt drool caked all around his mouth, his tongue felt dry and swollen.
Nothing new here.
He was covered in a blanket, the ratty grey wool one that was usually tossed over the back of the sofa. It smelled of cigarette smoke. He lurched to his feet and went to see what there was to drink in the fridge.
There was one hotdog bun in a zip-lock bag, an open can of Schweppe’s tonic water, a brown banana, and a small carton of cold milk. Milk?
There was something on a plate covered in plastic wrap. It was brown. He opened it and found a square slice of cake, with chocolate icing and sprinkles, and a blue candle laid on its side. There was a note scribbled on the back of a liquor store receipt. Happy birthday dad, it said.
Anthony took the cake and the carton of milk, found a fork, and sat at the table. The cake was very cold, and so was the milk. It was whole milk, and tasted like cream.
It was good.