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Baltimore 1978.

The pump regulated his breathing, almost in sync with the split-leaves of the alarm-clock, life companions alongside the yellowish round metal panel filled with rubber, which locked him from the neck down, flat, inside an iron lung.

The mirror above his face granted full view of the bedroom, but Jerry preferred the maps from around the world, his father had hung on the walls.

Thru a pane of square glasses he saw a bluebird on an oak tree, which in twenty years had outgrown his immobility and the main frame of the window. The plumage's dim color entailed a female, he thought, although bluebirds were not common in Baltimore.

After sunset, the bird flew away, leaving him asleep, whilst the whispery wind pushed the rain against the glass.

Three minutes passed midnight, a ray of moonlight found its way over two small hands massaging Jerry's forehead.

"Thanks mom," he murmured, half asleep. "Every night, I look forward to this moment."

The fingers moved to the back of the head, gently rubbing it, when suddenly, pulled Jerry's hair. He tried to open his eyes, but the eyelids didn't move. Heavy breathing landed over his face, and a smell of smoke and garlic entered the nostrils, down the stomach. The machine pushed the chest, intensifying the congestion of the esophagus and causing a regurgitation, which the supine position and the two hands holding the head still made impossible to cough out.

The hands released his head, and he sensed air back in the lungs. He kept his eyes shut, pretending to be in the middle of a bad dream. When he opened them, he saw a bald Dwarf with black gums, hanging from the mirror, upside down over his head.

"I will steal your breath and kill you little by little," the Dwarf giggled, his lips trembling with resentment. "By dawn, your soul will be mine, and your body stiff as a tombstone, even more than what you got used to," the creature threatened, cursing through missing teeth and laughing at Jerry's impossibility to move.

The gruesome midget's skin turned into red fire, his eyes blackened, matching the color of the mouth, in the shape of a skull. An evil laugh echoed, and Jerry was left alone, in the middle of the room, inside the pumping machine, immobilized.

Out of the window, a crow flew over the oak tree, tweeting Schubert's Ave Maria, revised as a ridiculing dirge at his expense; until the bluebird returned, forced the crow to leave, and reprised the melody in its classical version.

Jerry felt blood running through the veins, his muscles reinvigorated, and he began breathing without having to follow the pace of the pump. The bluebird's eyes, locked on him, had become a pair of woman's eyes, whose glance cracked the machine and crushed the metal into pieces in a matter of seconds, providing Jerry an unprecedented strength and a compelling craving to move.

His bare feet touched the carpeted floor, and he realized he was at least 6.2 foot tall. Looking at everything from a vertical angle was more destabilizing than the actual lack of balance on his feet. His muscles were well defined throughout the body, under a pajama of the Houston Oilers the team had given to him as a gift, a few months earlier.

The team's chaplain, Father Luigi Contini, a longtime family friend, used to pay frequent visits to Jerry and his family every time he was on the East coast. That year, the Oilers played against the Colts a charity off season away game, and Father Contini thought it was a terrific opportunity to salute Jerry.

Jerry himself had grown some sort of stardom status and was often featured in the local and national news because many organizations favored being associated with him.

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