The Song of David
Author:Amy Harmon

“My brother, Henry, must have given them to him. He’s had this cassette player in his room forever. Henry used to pretend he was a sportscaster and create his own play-by-plays. He’d watch my dad’s games and speak into the recorder like he was Bob Costas or something. Before my mom died, she bought him a digital recorder. But Henry keeps everything. He must have given them to Tag.”

 

Tag likes the things he can touch. He and Millie have that in common. She needs to touch to see. He needs to touch to feel connected. I could picture him sticking the tapes in and talking away, taking forever to get to the point. Telling stories and laughing like this was all just a big joke. I tried to feel angry, but I knew the real reason he’d left them was because it was the only way he could leave a message for Millie. The only way to allow her the privacy of hearing whatever he had to say without an audience.

 

“You know how to use this, right?” I asked.

 

She nodded.

 

“I think these are for you, Millie,” I said.

 

“He’s labeled the tapes,” she whispered. “He’s labeled them so I would know which one to listen to first.”

 

“The sticker?”

 

She nodded again. “Yes. I have them on all my clothes and I keep a little box full of them in my bedroom. Numbers, letters, words. I guess he was paying attention when I showed him.”

 

“Tag always pays attention. You don’t think he does because he’s restless. He fidgets. But he doesn’t miss anything.”

 

Millie’s mouth started to tremble and tears leaked out beneath her lashes. I looked away, even though I didn’t need to.

 

I heard her fumbling with a tape, heard her slide it home and push the play button. I listened until Tag’s voice filled the silence, making me flinch and smile simultaneously, unable to decide whether I was pissed at him or scared for him. Regardless of which, I didn’t think Tag wanted me to hear what he had to say to Millie, and I opened the door of the office, preparing to leave her alone. The tape clicked off immediately, interrupting Tag as he told Millie about his bar. I knew all about his businesses and didn’t need to hear more. But Millie had other ideas.

 

“Moses? Please don’t leave. I want you to listen with me. You know him best. You know him the way I want to know him. And you love him too. I need you to listen with me, so that I don’t miss anything. And then I need you to help me find him.”

 

 

 

 

 

I MET DAVID Taggert in a psych ward when I was eighteen years old. Montlake Psychiatric Hospital. I’d met his gaze for the first time across a counseling circle, seen his dead sister hovering at his shoulder, and asked him if he knew who Molly was. That was her name. Molly. His dead sister. He’d flown into a rage, flying across the space and knocking me onto the floor. He had his hands wrapped around my throat, demanding answers, before the psych techs could pull him off of me.

 

Not an especially promising beginning to a friendship.

 

We were there for different reasons. I’d been committed by people who were afraid of me, and Tag had been committed by people who loved him. I saw dead people, and he wanted to die. We were young, we were lonely, we were lost, and I didn’t want to be found. I wanted to run to the ends of the earth and make the dead chase me.

 

Tag just wanted to figure the world out.

 

Maybe it was our youth. Maybe it was the fact that we were both in a psychiatric facility and neither of us especially wanted to leave. Or maybe it was just that Tag, with his exaggerated twang and his cowboy persona, was nothing like me. Whatever the reason, we fell into a sort of friendship. Maybe it was because he believed me. Without hesitation. Without reservation. Without judgment. He believed me. And he never stopped.

 

Tag and I had been put in isolation for three days due to the slug-fest in the counseling session, and neither of us were allowed out of our rooms. On the third day of isolation, Tag sprinted into my room and shut the door.

 

I’d stared at him balefully. I was kind of under the impression the door had been locked. I hadn’t even checked to see, and I felt stupid for sitting in a room for three days behind an unlocked door.

 

“They stroll the hall every few minutes. But that’s all. That was ridiculously easy. I should have come sooner,” he had said, and sat down on my bed. “I’m David Taggert, by the way. But you can call me Tag.” He didn’t apologize for choking me, and he didn’t act like he wanted to do it again, which was disappointing.

 

If he didn’t want to fight, I wanted him to leave. I immediately went back to the picture I was working on. I felt his sister there, just beyond my sight, her image flickering through my walls, and I sighed heavily. I was weary of Molly, and I didn’t like her brother. Both were incredibly stubborn and obnoxious.

 

“You’re a crazy son-of-a-bitch,” he stated without preamble.

 

I didn’t even raise my head from the picture I was drawing with the nub of a grease pencil. I was trying to make my supplies last. I was going through them too fast.

 

“That’s what people say, don’t they? They say you’re crazy. But I don’t buy it, man. Not anymore. You’re not crazy. You’ve got skills. Mad skills.”