Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Carver And The Nothing Canvas

James parked his rusty Ford Festiva behind the mall where he worked. He cursed as the automatic shoulder-belt arm scraped his shoulder when he opened the door. The latch had put a small tear in his shirt. James cursed again, went behind his car and opened the trunk. He rummaged in the clutter and came out with a slightly rumpled sport coat. Thinking it would be better to look a little disheveled then come in with torn apparel, he put the coat on. James straightened his tie. He would be doing this most of the day since he never got the knot quite right. The knot in his tie always turned a bit inward making the two strands of his tie splay sideways. The effect didn’t add to his neatness one bit. James closed his eyes and rubbed his face. It was going to be a long day.

James got to look forward to another day spent as a customer service representative at the Northrange Savings Bank. Customer service representative was a fancy name for teller. He was basically a clerk. His job was to do the basic functions that a machine could probably do more accurately. James thought that his main function was as a sounding board for customer complaints. His face sometimes being the only one a customer would see when doing business. Customer service is a rough enough job, let alone when a person dealt with another’s money. James tried to rub a wrinkle out of his sport coat. Thinking about the irony of how they expected their workers to dress when they were paid slightly more than minimum wage.

James closed the trunk and went to work.

After work James walked back to his car. The lot behind the mall was empty for this part of the evening. Tonight it was not. There were three men standing in the lot, leaning against one of the parked cars. James thought about going back into work but he kept walking. He cursed himself for being afraid when there was nothing to be afraid of. He became lost in his thoughts as he got to his car and unlocked it. He jumped when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to see he was surrounded by the men. James didn’t look the men. He looked at the gun on of them had pointed at his chest.

“Give me you money, bitch,” The man with the gun said. “Do anything else and I’ll fucking kill you.”

James’ hands trembled as he pleaded and took out his wallet. He opened it up and saw nothing. The wallet was empty.

“I don’t have any money,” James said. It was at that moment when he remembered a conversation he had with his father years ago. He was smoking a pipe with his dad on the front porch when somehow the topic of debit cards came up.

“Soon you won’t have to use paper money anymore,” James said, letting a long stream of smoke float into the night sky. “Money will be nothing but numbers changing into other numbers. Nothing tangible.”

“I can see that,” His father said, “But you should always have some money on you. I try and carry twenty bucks at all times.”


“In case you’re mugged,” His father said, “Then you have something to give the mugger. It’s either that or they take their money another way.”

“Twenty bucks, huh?” James said.

“It’s sound advice,” His father said.

James looked at his empty wallet, surrounded by three men, and began a pitiful litany of “I don’t have any money” and “Please don’t hurt me.” He thought of his father’s words. It was then that he felt the smack of metal against his nose as the revolver cracked him across the bridge. The pain blinded him. He almost blacked out but was pulled to his feet by two of the men. His shirt tore. James tried to struggle but stopped when the third man pressed the gun to his face.

“Move and I’ll kill you,” the man said.

James didn’t move.

He was hit from behind by one of the men that held him. James landed on the concrete and covered up as best he could when the kicking started. The beating seemed to go on for a long time. The stop was sudden. James lay on the floor for a long time, curled up into himself. Waiting. After what seemed like a long time had passed his opened his eyes. He felt his nose. He sat up and took off his sport coat and rubbed the blood off his face. He got in his Ford and drove home.

When James got home he walked past his roommates and grabbed a bottle of cheap whiskey from the kitchen. They asked what happened to him. He began to cry when he told them. His roommates didn’t know what to say and seemed embarrassed with his tears. So James stopped talking. He went to his room. His roommates went back to their video game. James finished the bottle.

Later James took a shower.

James let the water from the shower run searing hot. He was sobbing quietly. His head was pressed against the wall under the shower faucet. The water hit him between the shoulder blades. He turned the water hotter still. He wanted to burn right through his skin. He wanted to melt. He wanted to die. In his hand there was a knife. There was nothing James felt he could do in this world but fail. He failed as a son to his parents. He failed in school. He failed in life. James notched each day off with nothing to show for it. Nothing that would last beyond the moment. There was just nothing there.

James carved the F in his inner forearm. His blood, thinned by alcohol and flushed with hot water, flowed freely. The knife was only partially sharpened requiring him to slice and slice again to create the letter. He cut the A thinking only about his pain. There was nothing else. He cut the I-L-U thinking about the beating those men gave him behind the mall that evening. They were going to kill him for nothing. They must have known. James had been beaten down by so many people in so many different ways all his life that he knew he was marked. There must have been something everyone else could see about him that he couldn’t see himself. They knew they could beat him. They knew they could hurt him. They knew he was nothing.

James stopped cutting himself and looked at his work. He was tired. He was so tired and lost. He cut the R-E into his arm, not as deeply as the rest. The lines were almost faint for the last two letters. More of a scratch than a cut. James dropped the knife. He sat down in the shower and put his head in his hands. He sobbed. He was nothing. A failure. He tried over and over again to find himself but there was just nothing there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Provider - Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Jim had a hard time keeping his mind on his work. He had hidden his feelings of rage over someone harming his son. What he wanted to do was find the boy and tear him apart, then find his father and tear him apart. There was no way to keep the world from harming his son, but he could rage against it for trying. He felt himself obsessing over the fact that his feelings in no way would come to direct action. He remembered what it was like to be a boy and get into fights. Having his father come to his rescue would only make matters worse. When the chips were down he really didn’t know what to do. He would have to play things by ear and try to keep his temper under control. There was no easier way to rile a man than to attack his son. His mind churned on the day’s events as he went about his work. He was more brusque with the customers than usual. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist in general and tonight found him almost completely non-verbal. Even the regular clicking of the bored cover charge girl’s fingers on the door ledge didn’t bother him. After a time he felt his anger meld into a period of self-loathing so intolerable he cursed out loud.
“Got a problem with something?” The cover charge girl asked.
“No,” Jim said. She sighed and continued her endless finger drumming. Jim felt his stomach knot with inner rage. Rage he turned upon himself. He couldn’t keep his son safe if he wanted too. He didn’t even have what it took to keep the boy’s mother around. His wife left because he was no good. That he didn’t make enough money and couldn’t find a stable job were her main reasons. Jim thought her absence was mostly due to the disparity of the life she thought she should have and the one she actually ended up with. Successful business women ended up with successful men, not men like Jim. Even during their brightest days Jim would be lying if inside he didn’t feel this would happen. He was so very much in love with her. Since their relationship began Jim always had a fear that she would see him for what he really was. A loser. He knew that if the rose colored glasses were removed she would come to her senses and leave him. In the end he was right. Self-fulfilling prophecy. God only knows how deep the scars on his child were because of the absence of his mother. Jim remembered the nights and tears in the early days of her departure. Daniel blamed himself. Jim told the boy it was her choice to leave, that it didn’t have anything to do with him. But how could you know if he believed him? Jim looked at his watch and cursed aloud again. He still had a long night ahead of him. Looking down the club hallway he shook his head. Why did the economy have to go bad? There weren’t any good jobs available. Because he couldn’t land a day job he had to leave his son alone in the house all night long. What if something happened to him? Jim would have to carry that blame too. Some protector. Some provider. Some fucking father. Jim clenched his hands into fists. His inner disquiet boiled over into another curse.
“Do you have fucking Tourettes or something? What’s your fucking problem?” The cover charge girl leaned back as Jim turned his face to her with red vengeance in his eyes.
“I’m just having a bad night. Okay?” Jim said.
“Yeah, it’s okay.” She stayed still as Jim turned back around.
“Oh and you may want to skim a little less out of the till. The owner is getting suspicious,” Jim said.
“What are you talking about? I would never…” She mocked incredulous. Jim cut her off.
“Just don’t okay. Just don’t.”

Later in the evening the crowd in the club was picking up steam. Jim heard the alarm on his radio go off. One of the floor bouncers was at the door in an instant to take his place.
“Where is the problem?” Jim asked.
“Men’s bathroom,” The bouncer replied. “You better hurry.”
Jim worked his way through the club as quickly as possible. He turned sideways and pushed his way through the crowds, finally making it to the bathroom a couple moments later. He met the VIP backdoor bouncer on the way.
“What’s going on?” Jim asked.
“Some girls were taking shit about the long line to get in the bathroom. I told them there’s never a line for the men’s,” The bouncer smirked.
“They went in the men’s bathroom?” Jim sighed.
“Yeah. They’ve been in there awhile so I beeped you.” Jim went in the men’s bathroom. The girls couldn’t have been older than twenty five. They were sitting on the sink ledge, surrounded by six guys. The girls were laughing but you couldn’t mistake the nervous looks in their eyes.
“You can use the bathroom if you show us your tits.” The guys laughed and leaned against each other making a wall. The girls shook their heads and plastered crooked smiles on their faces, masking fear.
“Guys,” Jim said. Their heads turned. “Let the girls out of the bathroom. Come on.”
“Just a second man,” Their faces turned sour. “We’ve got something going on here.”
“Come on ladies.” Jim held out his hand and one of the girls gratefully took it. Jim pulled them through the yielding phalanx and to the other side. One of the guys slapped a girl on the backside as she passed. She yelped in surprise and pain. The guys laughed.
“Do you want to press charges?” Jim asked the girl. The guys laughed louder. The girl shook her head. “Bad things happen to girls in men’s bathrooms,” Jim said. “Don’t do this again.” They left.
Jim turned to the guys. “Is everything okay in here?”
“Are you a fucking faggot or something? You don’t like tits?” They laughed.
“I don’t like club patrons being sexually assaulted in the bathroom. It’s bad press,” Jim said. He stepped close to the guy would first mouthed off to him.
“Okay. Sorry, Okay? Now what?” The guy backed down.
“Now you guys wash your hands go back out to the club and have a good time,” Jim said. He turned to leave. He could hear them laughing as he walked out. He went over to the VIP bouncer. He was intently focused on a couple blonds dancing on the club floor.
“Watching women isn’t a part of your job. You need to keep you head on a swivel at all times,” Jim said.
“Whatever. How did the bathroom thing work out?” The bouncer did not take his eyes off the dance floor.

“Just fine. We got pretty lucky this time.”
“You get too uptight.” The bouncer picked his nose and flicked what he found into a dark corner.
“You’re damn right I do,” Jim said. The other bouncer shook his head.
“What is your problem?”
“I need this job,” Jim took a step closer to the bouncer.
“Sorry man,” The bouncer said. “I don’t see what that has to do with me.” Jim clenched his jaw. His head throbbed at the temples. He snapped. Jim grabbed the other bouncer by the shirt and slammed him up against the wall.
“You tell another dumb girl to go into the guy’s bathroom and I will beat the shit out of you. You will get her beaten, raped and left for dead. Is that something you want?” Jim could felt saliva spew from his words and land on the bouncer’s face. The bouncer winced and tried to push Jim off.
“No man. Shit, let go of me.”
“I need this fucking job.” Jim tightened his grip.
“I get you. I get you.” The bouncer said. Jim shoved him backward against the wall. The bouncer pulled his shirt back into place and looked at Jim with red venom.
“I have more riding on this work than you can ever imagine,” Jim raged. “I don’t need some back door asshole with shit for brains who can’t keep his eyes off the whores on the dance floor fucking this up for me. You keep your eyes moving. You keep the customers safe and do your job.”
“Okay. I fucked up. Sorry. Shit.” The bouncer spat on the floor. Jim shook his head.
“I’m going back to the front.” Jim turned and walked back to his post.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Provider - Chapter 9

Chapter - 9

Jim was cleaned up and ready by the time his son arrived home from school. He was about to light up his pipe when he heard his son enter the house crying. Jim ran to the front door and held his son which only escalated the boy’s sobbing. Jim broke off the hug and dropped to one knee and looked into Daniel’s tear streaked face.
“What happened?” Jim said. His son continued to whimper. He shook him a little and repeated louder. “Daniel, what happened?”
“I got beat up,” Daniel looked the picture of shame. He wiped his sleeve across his face, smearing mucus over his right cheek.
“Who did this to you?” Jim felt anger well up inside.
“Some kids from school.” Daniel dropped his backpack and Jim saw the urine stains on his pants. Jim’s fury drained instantly and he walked his son to the bathroom. He drew a bath and helped his son strip down. Both saying nothing. Daniel stepped into the bath and put his hands over his face. Jim splashed some water down his back from a pitcher and put a hand on his shoulder. His eyes searched his boy over for signs of abuse. After awhile he spoke.
“Are you hurt?” Jim asked.
“No,” Daniel’s voice was barely a whisper.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Jim prodded.
“No,” Daniel kept his hands over his face. Jim didn’t know what to say to him. He didn’t know how to get him to open up. Daniel’s body shook with humiliation. He thought again of Daniel’s mother, his wife, she would know what to say. Jim felt a wave of anger at her for her absence but let it go. There was nothing to be done about it.
“It will be okay buddy,” Jim said. He scooped another pitcher of water and washed the day from his young son’s shoulders, the weight of which seemed heavy on his own. There was no protection from a hard world. Boys should stay small, Jim thought, the bigger they get the bigger come their problems.
“I’m nothing,” Daniel said.
“You’re not nothing. You’re my boy. I love you,” Jim said. Inside he felt like the pot calling the kettle black. One nothing trying to lift up another.
“I’m nothing and I want to die,” Daniel said softly. Jim felt his soul squeeze as if in a vice.
“You don’t mean that,” Jim said. “Don’t say that.”
“I want to die. I hate myself. I’m nothing.” Daniel began to cry. It was an unearthed sobbing that came slow and spent itself long and hollow.
“You’re my boy,” Jim said. “I love you.” Jim dropped the pitcher and hugged his son.
“I want to die. I want to die. I want to die.” Daniel let the litany rise and fall with the rocking of his body. Jim had never felt so powerless. “Fuck you mother,” Jim thought with deep hatred. “Fuck that bitch for leaving us. She’s the one that should die. Not my boy. Not my son.”
Jim rocked holding Daniel in the bathtub. One reeling in sorrow, one with anger. Neither thinking about the other. Lost in themselves and their own miseries.

The evening came quickly. “Do you want me to drive you to school tomorrow?” Jim asked. “I could also pick you up at the end of the day. Save your legs from all that walking.” Daniel shook his head.
“Is there anything I can do?” Jim asked. He felt a little helpless.
“No. I’m okay.” Daniel shut him out again.
“I have to go to work now,” Jim said. He looked at Daniel. He searched his face to see if the boy would be alright with him leaving tonight.
“I know.”
Jim stood up. “Don’t stay up too late.” Daniel nodded.
“Goodbye buddy.”
“Bye, Dad.” Jim left his son sitting at the table.
“Don’t worry about the dishes. I’ll do them when I get home.”
“Okay,” Daniel said. With one last look, Jim walked out into the darkening sky.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thanking the Damned

“Your mother asked me to stop by,” the pastor said. “Is it okay?”

“There’s nobody else here now,” The man said. “I don’t mind the company.”

The pastor looked at the middle-aged man in lying in a hospital bed. It was late, but the pastor was given a little lee-way from the nurses since the man he was seeing was dying. The man recently had a massive heart attack. There would be no recovery.

“You have everything you need?” The pastor said.

“I don’t need much now,” The man said. “Was going to play golf this weekend. I don’t think that’s going to happen.” The man didn’t move except for his mouth. He was too weak. His words came out of cadence.

“Your mother wanted me to talk to you,” The pastor said.

“I always knew she would outlive me,” The man said. “She trying to get you to convert me?”

“I think she just wants to know where you are with God,” The pastor said.

“She’s worried,” The man said.

“She’s your mom,” The pastor said. “It comes with the territory.”

“She doesn’t have to worry,” The man said.

“You’re saved then? You’re alright with God?”

“No,” The man said. “God and I are far from okay.”

“That’s why your mother is worried.” The pastor said.

“I know why she’s worried,” the man said. “I said she doesn’t have too. It’s her choice.”

“That’s a little bit of a harsh stance against the people who care for you,” the pastor said. “She doesn’t want this to be the last time she sees you.”

“You’re talking about heaven and hell. She wants to make sure I’m in.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” The pastor said. “God forgives everything. He even forgives a stubborn heart against him. You will rest in heaven. That’s a promise.”

The man raise his eyebrows.

“How many theology classes do you have under your belt?” The man said. “You and I don’t see eye-to-eye on your understanding of free will.”

“You have free will,” The pastor said, “But God can see into your heart and knows what you really want. He knows what’s best for you and that’s an everlasting life with him.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” the man said.

“What doesn’t make sense?”

“Here’s the thing,” The man said. “I don’t see how this can go both ways. I don’t see how everyone can get into heaven. The whole thing wouldn’t make sense. God has promised me free will. If he automatically forgives me and lets me into heaven, then I don’t have free will. I don’t have a choice. I’m choosing to hold God to his promise.”

“You don’t believe in grace?” The pastor said.

“I didn’t say that,” The man said. “I said I was exercising my choice. I don’t want God‘s grace. God gave me free will and I‘m holding him to it. I want nothing to do with him.”

“You don’t mean that,” The pastor said.

“You mean God won’t let me ‘mean that.’ He has too. If he doesn’t, than I don’t have free will.”

“For once in my life I really don’t know what to say,” The pastor said.

“You may as well say ‘thank you’,” The man said. “For the same reason I can say no to God, you can say yes. “

The pastor got up to leave. He hesitated at the door.

“One more thing,” The pastor said. “Why should I thank you for something that is really a gift from God?”

“Well,” The man said, “If everyone did the same thing, you wouldn’t really know if free will existed. How can there be free will if all outcomes are the same? I will be your proof. My ability to say no proves you can say yes. My damnation - your salvation.”

“I just don’t understand your choice.”

“That’s the whole point,” The man said. “You don’t have to understand. It’s my choice. I find myself suddenly minding company. Go away.”

And the pastor did.

The Provider - Chapter 8

Chapter - 8

Jim and Daniel washed the dishes. Jim smoked away at his pipe and hummed a tune. He felt good. His son was looking at him sideways, but he felt too good to allow Daniel to peer pressure him into being dignified.
“I think I’ll look for some day work,” Jim said. He handed over a pot for Daniel to dry.
“Think you’ll find anything?” Daniel asked. His tone a dead match for the last hundred times they had this same conversation.
“You never know. Today could be my day,” Jim said “You and I could be driving matching red Corvettes and drinking Dom Perignon by the gallon in a month.”
“Yeah right. I have to get to school”.
“Are things going okay at school? You don’t talk about it much,” Jim said.
“Yeah. It’s okay.”
“I don’t know whether that means you’re making straight A’s or joining a suicide cult,” Jim said.
“It’s fine,” Daniel said. Jim knew this conversation was over and didn’t push is further.
“Okay,” Jim said. “Have a good day.” He watched his son go out the front door.
“I love you Dad,” Daniel called over his shoulder. The words hit Jim like a thunder clap.
“I love you too son,” Jim said. He turned to the sink and finished up the dishes.

Later that day Daniel was in his history class. The teacher was handing out their latest graded tests. The teacher had the interesting habit of laying their tests face down on their owner’s desks for confidentiality while at the same time, making loud public comments about their scores. When he approached Daniel’s desk and laid his test down the teacher looked at him and sighed.
“Another C. Mr. Average strikes again. Your predictability keeps me sane. Keep it up and I’m sure you’ll be a great used car salesman someday.” Daniel heard the snickers from the other students. He willed it not too, but Daniel could feel his face flushing at the attention. The teacher sensed his discomfort and moved on.
“Mr. George,” The teacher mockingly bowed to the boy sitting in the desk directly in front of his. “You seem to want to grace us with yet another year of your presence. You must love this class to want to take it two years in a row. Would you like me to save this desk for you?” The class laughed but none as loudly as Daniel heard coming from his own mouth. Stepping directly on the heels of his embarrassment, Daniel’s laughter tripped to a higher decibel level than his peers making his voice ring clear amongst his classmates. George turned around.
“What do you think is so funny?” George said.
“Oh, Shush,” The teacher said to George. “Your scores are laughable. If you don’t like being laughed at I suggest opening your book and study.” The teacher walked to the next desk. When he was done handing out the tests he walked to the front of the classroom and began the next chapter’s lesson.
“Hey laughing boy.” Daniel looked up to see George hissing words at him through clenched teeth. “I am going to kick the shit out of you after school.” He turned, looked at the clock and turned back around. “You have five hours until then. I’m going to knock your fucking teeth out.”

Daniel left school at a fast trot. He neither looked right nor left, just picked his legs up and put them down. The rest of his day at school was a half remembered dream. His anxiety rose with each passing hour. When the final bell rang, Daniel found himself almost running out the door. Sheer panic of the coming fight battled against the anvil like middle school peer pressure to look cool and not stand out. It was all for naught anyway as he almost ran right into George before he saw him. George had four of his friends with him making a veritable wall that pinned Daniel to his position. Daniel didn’t run. He felt his mind race at light speed while his frame stayed nailed in place. His body drawn, hands in pockets, under the sneers of George and his friends.
“Well. Look who’s trying to run home. Couldn’t back up your fucking mouth?” George’s friends laughed.
“I don’t want to fight,” Daniel said quietly.
“You don’t have a choice.” George pushed Daniel backwards. His hard and awkward fall was cushioned by his backpack. Daniel lay prone on the ground, frozen in fear.
“Get the fuck up you coward,” George yelled at him. Daniel’s submissive figure only seemed to enrage his attacker. George kicked him in the side. Daniel moaned and rolled on his stomach. George felt the excitement wane from his friends at Daniel’s lack of fighting spirit. He ripped open Daniels backpack and chucked his papers and books out into the street.
“You fucking asshole! Get up and fight me! Damn it!” George roughly turned Daniel over and saw he was crying.
“Please stop. Please don’t hit me again,” Daniel sobbed. George cupped his hand over Daniel’s nose and mouth. Daniel struggled and choked. George looked up at his friends who all looked really uncomfortable. He released Daniel, stood up and spit in his face.
“Pussy,” George said. He walked away with his friends.
Daniel slowly got up from the ground crying and coughing. He gathered up his papers and books from the street. Other children from the school walked past him. Not helping him. Not looking at him. Daniel felt the indignity of the assaulted. Fighting is accepted as a part of youth and the young get away with things adults would be imprisoned for. His broken spirit was accentuated by the uncomfortable wetness and stain widening on the front of his jeans. He held his backpack in front of him as he walked home. At some point during the fight, he had wet himself.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Provider - Chapter 7

Chapter 7

The morning found Jim in his car looking down at his worn shoes. Jolting his body into action, he dug into his pocket and brought out the rumpled twenties. He opened the window and dropped the bills onto the pavement. “I don’t need your fucking charity. You’re the loser.” He said with vehemence. Dignity slightly restored, Jim put the car into drive. His son would be waking up soon and would be hungry for breakfast.

Jim cleaned up in his bathroom. Looking at his face in the mirror revealed more of the same dark and grim countenance he had begun to regard as normal. He shaved off his wiry stubble, rinsed his hands and drew them wet through his peppered grey hair and brushed it into place. He ran the water ice cold and splashed it aggressively on his face. He looked at himself in the mirror. The face looking back at him was clean, clear and not unhandsome. Feeling like a new man, Jim went back into the kitchen and prepared breakfast. He cracked a couple extra eggs and laid our a few more strips of bacon than normal. Today he was going to eat breakfast with his boy. The sun was beginning to rise. The smell of crisping bacon wafted in the air. Jim put on a pot of coffee and lit up his pipe. Fragrant vanilla flavored smoke filled the air. As he turned the eggs in the skillet he smiled.

“Hi dad,” Daniel said. He looked at the spread on the table and moved into his chair.
“Hey buddy,” Jim said.
“Are we having company for breakfast or something?”
“Not unless you have one of your girlfriends in there,” Jim said. Daniel laughed and the father felt his heart surge with delight. How long has it been since he heard the boy laugh? He thought. Weeks. It had been weeks. He sat down across from his son and dug into his eggs. His son was eating too. Bacon first, then onto the eggs. He ate his food one section at a time. Nothing like his father who didn‘t care if his foods mixed. No, the boy was more like his mother this way. Thinking of her made his stomach knot and he lost his hunger. He shoved the pain deep and forced himself to take another bite of toast. This morning was going too well to allow his illogical crave of her presence to waste it.
“You’re hungry today,” Jim remarked, wrenching his thoughts back to his boy.
“Yeah. The food is good,” Daniel stared a moment into his plate. He stuttered and suddenly blurted out “I know you work all night and are probably really tired by now. You don’t have to cook me breakfast everyday. I could just eat a bowl of cereal or something.” Daniel’s eyes darted up and met his father’s for a moment, then looked back down.
“I like to cook for you,” Jim said.
“I know,” Daniel said. “I just don’t want to add any more pressure.” The boy trailed off and dropped his fork on his plate. His countenance darkened.
“The only pressure cooking eggs is that they might burn,” The father joked.
“I’m serious. You don’t have too!” Daniel said. Jim saw the earnestness on Daniel’s face. He couldn’t help himself, he was a bit giddy from being tired and he kept joking.
“But I’ve seen you cook. It’s downright scary,” Jim regretted it as soon as he said it. His jest seemed to sting Daniel.
“Listen to me!” Daniel yelled. “I know you work all night and look for work during the day. You don’t sleep. You don’t need to do this for me.”
“Okay. Sorry. Okay. Seriously, it’s not hard for me to make you breakfast,” Jim said. “I feel a little guilty having to leave you alone every night and it’s really one of the only times I get to see you. It’s for my benefit really. I just like spending the morning with you. Okay?”
Daniel sat sullen for a moment. “Okay,” He said and picked up his fork. They resumed in silence.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

These Four Walls

I've never done good thingsI've never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue
Want an axe to break the ice
Want to come down right now

It all comes down to Cheerios and those four walls. He was awake. He would rub his fingers over the mesh of his port-a-crib. Faster and faster, he would rub until his fingers burned from the friction and his senses ran into overdrive. He would hesitate for a moment and let those feelings pass, then rub again, over and over and over. If he stopped rubbing everything would stop. There was nobody to talk to him. There was nothing in the crib except a soiled blanket. There used to be a yellow and pink stuffed bear as well. Like the ones won at a carnival. But he had thrown that out days ago and nobody had placed it back in the crib with him. The silence was too much of a void so he would rub and rub and rub. The mesh wove patterns of light as his fingers raced back and forth. Millions of rays played a frantic game of light and shadow. Sometimes he would get lost in them. He could get so involved that he would just stare at the little holes. Those were the best times. It was like he wasn’t even there.

A girl my age went off her head, hit some tiny children
If the black hadn't a-pulled her off, I think she would have killed them
A soldier with a broken arm, fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac
A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest, and a queer threw up at the sight of that

Sometimes he would scream. There was delicious times where he found his voice. He would sound loud and louder. The air would expel from his lungs. His muscles would tense with the joy of it all. It wasn’t for any sort of purpose. Just to sound was enough. The volume was ecstasy in his ears. He could push everything else away with the sound. He would close his eyes tight and a torrent of white and black spots would dance in the darkness behind his eyes. The sound would sometimes bring something else. Something beautiful or painful. It was only a matter of time. It all comes down to Cheerios and those four walls.

I'm an alligator, I'm a mama-papa coming for you
I'm the space invader, I'll be a rock 'n' rollin' bitch for you
Keep your mouth shut, you're squawking like a big monkey bird
And I'm busting up my brains for the words

Sometimes she would come. Staggering with eyes closed from light and pain. Heavy hands would land on the frayed edges of his port-a-crib. She would regard him and he her. If only he could stop screaming for a moment. But he found that he could not. He could just scream and scream. Sometimes she would tell him to shut the fuck up. Sometimes she would hit him. It made no difference. The screams would come from somewhere inside of him. They were as regular as breathing and as normal as his beating heart. There were the moments of silence. Sometimes a hit would come so hard that screaming was impossible from the incredible jar of the strike and the spots in his vision would become swirling stars and dazzling explosions of sharp pain. After, there was a tingling numbness as he sucked in air, Though not enough for another scream. Focus came back as often as it did not. When it did, she was gone. It all comes down to Cheerios and these four walls.

We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more

Sometimes when she came it was different. She would coo and pick him up. His body would tense against her touch. So much in his little body wanted to press into her. To feel her skin. To be close to her. There was something in her touch that repelled him as much as it drew him. He found himself fighting against her, pulling at her hair, biting her. Sometimes she would throw him back into the crib and be gone again. Sometimes she would place him on the ground on his back. She would take off his foul and dripping diaper, clean him and put on a new one. She would tell him that he smelled like shit. She would say he was disgusting. She would tell him she wished he was dead. He couldn’t look into her eyes. There was so much he didn’t like to see there. He would lay on the floor, let her clean him, avoid her eyes and concentrate on the touch. It all comes down to Cheerios and these four walls.

So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

Sometimes he would drop. Legs just didn’t work after awhile. He would lay very still and look toward the ceiling as it spun and spun and spun. She would lounge on the couch and pick her nose. Sometimes she would forget to take the needle out of her arm and it would bob with the motion of her hands. She stared and stared, smiling all the time, nothing behind her eyes. He would cry sometimes. The pain would make him cry. There was something missing. She would drift off the couch and move to the kitchen as if in a dream. She would get the yellow box and float back toward him. Then the rain would come. Small tan circles poured into the crib, bouncing off his face, arms and body. He would open his mouth and some would drop in. They crunched when he worked his jaw. Delicious. Salvation. He would crawl through his stained and foul crib and eat every one he found. Sometimes she would only drop in a little. The best times where when the yellow box would fall from her fingers completely and it would all be his. He would sleep after eating. When he awoke, he found his legs worked again and he could stand up.

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same

“I have to shit,” She said. “Oh, man I have to shit so bad. Where’s the fucking bathroom? I have to get to the fucking bathroom.” She stood up and wobbled grotesquely, bumping against the wall as she staggered to the bathroom. “Shut the fuck up,” The man would say. “You’re just coming unplugged from all that shit you do. It has to happen sometime.” The man laughed and laughed. The child rubbed my fingers over the mesh and watched her. “Go and get some more shit,” She said. “I think I will,” The man said. “I don’t want to be around when you take a super dump anyway.” He walked out of the house and closed the door. She pulled her pants down and slumped onto the toilet and shuddered. The child rubbed the mesh on the port-a-crib. The child tried to leave and get lost in the light, but it wouldn’t let him. He had to watch. He had to be there. “Oh, shit. Holy shit,” She said. She lifted her body off the toilet and it tensed as her body shoved forward. A baby dropped from her vagina, cradled in a wet weave of afterbirth. The tiny body thumped on the bathroom tile. She stood there looking down at the baby. The umbilical cord snaked into her. She pulled on it like it could be unplugged from her body. The tiny baby cried. So did she. All of a sudden the flickering light from the mesh caught The child’s eye and he was lost in the sparkling light. He could feel the heat from his fingers rubbing back and forth, faster and faster. It all comes down to Cheerios and these four walls.

Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget