What It Is
FiveSeven writers, each contributing five hundred words once a week, for every day of the week. Beyond that, we'll just have to wait and see what evolves.
Who It Is
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Monthly Archives: December 2010
Thanks so much for your most kind invitation
to come and ring in the New Year.
I must submit this grave reservation
and admit I am staying right here.
It’s not that I don’t find you all a delight;
please don’t take my refusal that way.
It’s just that my history with this very night
is one of despair and dismay.
Take the night I was at an event where the shtick
was the “Stooge-a-thon” on the t.v.
Pick a Stooge, take a drink when your pick
takes a hit. This did not end well for me.
One year I made plans with my sweetheart du jour
I waited and waited all night.
The next day I got a big load of manure
how he’d fallen asleep. (I know – right?!)
I’ve been stood up, been passed out, and hit by a cork.
So tonight I am in with my mate.
I’ll watch that big ball drop in good ol’ New York
provided I stay up that late.
We made ourselves a Snowman
Rolled from cold and silent white,
Scarf, carrot nose, stick arms, top hat,
Coal eyes and smile that shone delight.
He stood proud guard upon our lawn,
Twig-fingers tickling in the bluster.
We’d have him in for cocoa (he makes
Fantastic company) if he could stay the night.
“The heat,” he says “is killing me,
I must return outside.”
His branch hand slid the latch and chain, not
Noticing the grate. “The furnace!”
We both shouted, “move, get, scram, shoo!”
Our friend had looked too late.
“What do we do!? Who saw? – Wait,
Slow. Stay quiet now, just wait.”
That night we built his brother, cloaked in
Hand-me-downs for clothes,
Same hat, same scarf, same wooden arm,
Same carrot for a nose. Today
We thought he squinted
As our mug-steam caught his eye,
Now that we’re pretty sure he knows,
He might not last the night.
Part 2 (Ending of part 1 revised a bit)
“Hey!” His father stands at the base of the tree, waving his arms above his head, looking smaller than all those birds together above him. Some of them stare down at him as though trying to interpret his dance, but most of them ignore him, their calls drowning out his curses.
Reynold watches as his father’s arms slow their paddling. The desperation eases and turns into slow sporadic movements. It looks for a moment as though he is just swatting at a bee flying too close. Reynold has seen people give up before – the recognizable stoop of the shoulders as though something has been placed atop, the almost visible effort behind each step and subsequent motion trailing behind like a dust cloud in a cartoon. That is what he sees in his father as he aborts his mission and returns to his pickup. The engine screeches; Reynold remembers a mention of a new starter, remembers ignoring it, and watches the pickup drive down the street away from him.
The birds, emboldened by their victory, seem to get louder in the moments Reynold remains on his twin bed with his head against the window. The glass, cold and dirty, fogs with his breath, turning the mass of crows into a gray rain cloud.
“Renny.” His mother has to say his name three times before he hears her. She won’t open the door until he invites her to, and he pretends that he’s still asleep. She says his name again and the way it sounds against the calls of the birds, he feels guilty for his lie.
“Yes?” He almost has to yell.
She opens the door barely an inch, as though she’s afraid the mass of birds with their noise is waiting for her on the other side. She opens the door the rest of the way and stands there holding her gray robe against her small frame. Reynold wonders how she ever carried him around for nine months, let alone after he was born and growing.
“Go out and help your father, will you?” she asks, scratching her ankle with the toes on the opposite foot. She adjusts the sock so they are uneven and something about the way she looks like that keeps Reynold from telling her that his father’s already left.
“Yeah,” he says. She smiles at him the same way she smiled when he told her he was moving out, the same way she smiled when he showed up the first night Jenny was gone, the same way she smiles when his father says something unintentionally mean to her.
“Thanks,” she says. “I don’t want him out there yelling, waking up all the neighbors.”
Reynold pulls his coat on over the sweatpants and sweatshirt set his mother gave him for Christmas. The clothes aren’t particularly warm, but they are soft, which is its own comfort in the cold. His father’s newer work boots that he refuses to wear until his old work boots disintegrate where he stands stand guard near the front door. Reynold steps into them, his toes scrunching against the curved front of the boot that comes just a half size too soon.
The front door is unlocked, and he takes care to not slam it behind him. The crows’ yelps and caws are another presence in the yard. He wonders why no one else has come to see how to get rid of them, and the task feels much too big for him all of a sudden.
There they are before him, roughly equidistant from his ears, but they inhabit all of the distances, volumes and ranges he feels capable of hearing. There is a steady background cawing that reminds him of what his mother still believes is the ocean in the conch shell from Florida that she bought at a yard sale. It says Daytona in multiple florescent shades on it, and he’s caught her several times just sitting in her chair with the shell pressed up against her cheek with her eyes closed.
That is just the background noise of them. In the middle there is a heartbeat of caws, and he can feel the ebb, the overlapping of where a group of calls end and the next begins. Then there is the front sound, the percussion, the drum major with his perfect rhythmic marking of the full and half beats. Reynold remembers ROTC, the feel of the wooden stick in his hand shaved down to look like a rifle, painted white like the ones the girls in the color guard threw into the air during half time. Reynold had wanted to quit the ROTC the year after Brian Golden shot the better part of his ear off with his gun and the school district voted to immediately replace the real guns with their just as heavy but humiliating equivalents. His father, shaken by Reynold’s mother’s insistence that that boy was trying to kill himself, wouldn’t hear of it, and Reynold had to march around the school’s gymnasium with that harmless piece of tree.
And acknowledges their differences,
beginning with the fact that, from the start,
Spain never truly liked Mexico all
that much. All wonder and illusion of early
pursuits has long faded into disuse,
their once great relationship reduced to
spite and uniforms stomping through the dust.
And Mexico admires Spain, and its
hope that all remain well between the two.
Treaties and international peaces
can be administered despite the breach;
so much can be forgotten over time.
And although one stole the other’s language
(read: heart), they still share spices, soccer, god.
I see her saunter down the aisle like a bridesmaid, beautiful, proud, and ignored. Of course, she’s wearing the pajama pants I bought her last Christmas, so it’s not like she’s actually trying to impress anyway. But she looks just as angelic as she always does, especially with that smile that says there’s snow outside. By the size of it, I’m guessing it’s the first snow of the season.
It feels just like the first time that we met; she dazzles under awful lighting, while I hang back on a shelf of some kind praying that she’ll notice me. That was six years ago, at a dive bar downtown; this time it’s at TARGET and I’m nothing but a box of LIFE Cereal left over the holiday past its expiration date. Still, I’ve probably got more going for me now than I did then, what with the lightly sweetened whole grain oats and low sodium. Six years ago, I couldn’t even afford to buy her a drink, and we still connected. Now, I can at least offer her a healthy and delicious start to her day, but somehow our relationship might be changed.
Did Jesus ever resurrect as an inanimate object? Maybe a cane, or donkey shit? I wonder if I’m eaten, will I resurrect again as something else, will I wake in heaven, where I can look down on her until she’s ready to join me? And what if no one eats me — what if one of these ignorant TARGET employees notices the expiration date on my side, and throws me in the trash? Will I rot, and die, and resurrect again, maybe as a box of Lucky Charms?
I try to wriggle, or move, or shake, something to make her take notice of me. Some way to make her take me home. But even my box is dull and nondescript, hardly the kind of thing that could excite a child, let alone an adult.
I wonder if this is punishment of some kind, purgatory for the wrongs I did in life. But the car accident that killed me wasn’t my fault — the other guy ran a light, well over the speed limit, and I just happened to be passing through the intersection. Is this God’s way of giving me another chance at life, perhaps? In my former life, I died too young (at least, in my opinion). This time, I’ve already outlived my own expiration date — but it still doesn’t feel like enough.
My thoughts stop racing just long enough for me to notice that she’s stopped in front of me, swiftly scanning through the shelves with her wide, multicolored eyes. She peruses so quickly when she’s shopping — I was never able to keep up with her. She makes her down from the top; she always scans top to bottom, right to left.
Finally, we make eye contact. Or at least I think we do, and she’s looking at the name on the front of my box. She purses her lips and smiles, and whispers to herself, “This was always his favorite breakfast.” For just one moment, I’m back in her arms again, held tightly against her warm chest; it seems to last a lifetime, and when I resurrect, I’m still a box of LIFE cereal, but now I’m sitting at the bottom of a grocery basket, going home with the woman of my dreams.
It’s Tuesday, the three-
with a blood-
rays, as a
drop of tomato
soup from my spoon
as it brims the edge
recoagulates in tiny
rivulets to drop, light
detours like a zip-line
clung to our floating
orb, to reform as
I know this will probably ruin your Christmas, but Part 2 of “There Are Too Many” will have to wait until next week. Despite receiving my first flu shot in about ten years, I have something slightly resembling the flu. Guh. Merry Christmas.