NO SUCH LUCK

85f0e7c6b656ea011782cc6c26697d79

My father’s become a giant baby. That’s not a metaphor.

Right now we’re gathering old bed sheets as swaddling. Turning jungle gyms into cribs. Swimming pool inner tubes to pacifiers. Should hold him till his next growth spurt, but you never know. My brother’s been taking off work just to change his diapers. Each load’s a couple shovels full.

He’s been teething on bald tires, babbling insensate and thrashing branches off trees. I’ve been trying to get him to say his new first word, but I’ve had no such luck.

On Saturday nights I load him into the back of a rented pickup and revisit old haunts. Last week was fishing at Busse Lake. Made a game of jiggling babyfat with mudstomps that sent up ripples. He swallowed a walleye whole, along with my pole. We don’t fish much anymore.

Doctor has terms. Physical abreaction. Recursive physiognomy. Maladaptive hyperthyroidic temporal stasis and/or reversal. Says he might go back to normal, or it might be terminal. Only time will tell.

Responds to nostalgic stimuli. Give him a keg and he’ll crack it open canwise, plop down right where his treetrunk babylegs stand and guzzle freely. Start screaming at you too, but it’s only babbling for now. Who knows what the future will bring.

Keeps me up most nights with his crying. I live down the street. Rattles jungle gym crib bars till I coo and shush and burp, which requires boxing gloves and some well-placed spinal jabs. Cross. Uppercut. One two. Haymaker. Barely shakes him. Used to shake me.

Show him VHS home movies and disposables sometimes. Have conversations like we used to, with baby silence to swap out the adult kind. I tell him he’s a fuck and he needs to stop growing. He laughs when I say fuck. Latent memory.

We’ve looked at homes. Most facilities are wanting, so they say. Not that they wouldn’t love to have him, but they’re just… wanting.

I’ve weighed the options. Adoption wouldn’t be too bad. There’s got to be someone out there who wants a sixty-seven-year-old giant baby. I’ll troll forums.

* * *

Something in him knew. Gave me a look as I fit him into his parachute onesie. Wasn’t a hint of baby in that look. A man’s look. Even opened his mouth to say something. Thought better of it, or else didn’t think at all.

* * *

Gave him a party before the adoption. Gallons of Gerber. Fridge-sized cake. Party hat that could double as a traffic cone. Couldn’t call him Dad. He was Baby. Baby he was when I signed him over, and Baby he is now. Just Baby.

Lot of space now. Plenty space.

Quiet, too. Plenty quiet.

button

Advertisements

PERSISTENCE IS KEY…

perseverance

…because it only takes one.

My short story “Marly Marbles’ Shingles” is now forthcoming in Apocrypha and Abstractions! Pub date’s a little while off, but links will be provided as soon as they arrive! To all of you who support me with a read, a like, or a subscription… thank you. It means the world to me.

button

SOMETHING LIKE A GLOW

Xu Lizhi

For Xu Lizhi.

The alley where the old man caught the jumpers was pebble-lined and puddle-shorn, with vestiges of pre-SEZ flora twiddling tentatively past cracks to smoggy sun. The windows phosphoresced right before a jump. Something like a glow. Juniper leaves on hoof-trodden hills came up and out of windows emptied of purpose and panes. Bodies hung no less fixed than his constellation of six in a sky coal gray and washed of natural light.

Shenzhen’s adverts screamed their insistence as masked faces moved and cars coughed and the old man stood apart from them, his gilded robe catching garbage water and his beard of white flowing beneath eyes like tired sickles, catching the phosphorescence of the windows before someone else would jump.

Another screw coming loose, another nail swallowed and put back into the machine’s cogs as a worker of words sat in a rented room, a room devoid of air and space, a room with no windows and yet with a view to the other side.

There were bodies clothed in garb no longer relegated to the western, minds consumed with figures and wages and hours and output. The smog came from many places.

Something like.

Dreams of a life set free from the humdrum repetition of the factory floor flitted past like insistent flies in the village back home, where the hills dipped lazily and the paddies stretched into the past with days spent watching rain gather and coalesce into vertical streams on windowpanes that would remain intact. Pages of print sat stacked in voided room’s corner, where he composed the nails and screws into neat rows for others to see.

His mother and father waited patiently for childhood’s wages, the yuan tallied and calculated down to the last. The old heroes and figures were sold to the highest bidder and divested of the robes that the old man still clung to down below, in the cloying light of a thousand generations come to pass.

Past the concrete sprouts that choke and squelch the green, the plasticine land held in place with mandates and dictates and acetate water gurgling in fetid streams. He looked out of his room with no windows, his room with a view, and saw it all.

Just one more to compose before time card’s last punch would be recorded and sent, one more thought in a brain meant to be cleansed of them.

Something like.

His words came out like jagged splinters on supple skin, the lines limned in light piercing through summer smog and winter’s too. Words that he couldn’t believe in because to believe was to speak and to speak was to die long before your heart stopped a beat kept counted and calculated to the second. A day’s wages for another beat, hours spent to watch mental landscapes erode and rebuild.

And there were the words of the poets and the bards streaming in from times kept boxed and stacked in another corner, history subjugated to the minds of those kept boxed and stacked in homes. A dragon of computer chips and unknown consequences, with a trajectory set for the sun and climbing against its better judgment.

Windowless room’s window was opened nimbly and gently to particulate wind. No jagged splinters of glass here. Only of words. Waves crested and fell beneath, limbed waves with places to go and people to see. Only the old man watched.

Descent slowed to a gentle lull in life’s last verse. Body held weightless and hovering over arms strong for their age. They phosphoresced as they went away together.

Something like a glow.

button

GOD’S HONEST

I met a guy in September heat whose mouth wouldn’t quite close on the bicuspids he’d had rearranged in his lower jaw. Like an un-WD-40’d hinge, he’d say. I didn’t laugh with him. He put jewels on each cheek, said they’d glow when moonlight hit them. His father caught muskies and STDs and used to give a few to him. He’d ramble on about how his boss was only vaguely mammalian and do things like send postcards with nothing on them to addresses he’d dreamt of. He dreamt in addresses and vehemently corrected those who said dreamed. Said the one thing he wanted was a great big stein of O-Ke-Doke popcorn that he’d never share. Always had to share with his muskiedad as a kid.

Re: your latest inquiry into the longitudinal whereabouts of so-called lost skippers at sea and repeated insistence as to the feasibility of wharf/barge micronations off the Adriatic, a representative will be with you shortly.

He always shat in baskets or basket-resembling objects. Woven was a priority. Handcrafted preferred.

But we went to town square but were stopped by I-don’t-know-whose Finest but our collective metaphorical license was bad but he had a farm in Oakley and’d let us off if we looked at Instagrammed pics of rutabagas and gave our God’s Honest.

button

GRAM’S DRAGON

“Tell another, Gram. Please?”

The window beside Gram’s bed opened on a summer sunset, the last of the sun’s rays glinting off machine displays and diffusing in little golden snakes that George made a game of watching slide up and down the tubes that the doctors put in Gram’s nose. Scoot this way and the snakes slide up. Scoot that way and they slide back down.

“All right. Just one more, Curious George.”

His and hers matching smiles. Hers tired, his ecstatic.

“And it’s a true story now, so you better listen close.”

George unconsciously scooted closer in his chair, tiny legs dangling well over a foot from the floor.

“Who’s in it?”

“Well, me. Me and a dragon.”

“A dragon?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Come on, Gram. There’s no such thing as dragons.”

“Maybe there aren’t any dragons now, but there were plenty when I was a little girl. And believe it or not, your old gram fought one. That’s right. Trying to catch the rain with your mouth open like that?”

“Sorry. Where does the story start?”

“The only place a good spooky story can start. In the cellar.”

A child’s dress of paisley print catches the lone strip of dusky light filtering in through dingy house’s main windowpane. A tiny buckled shoe mounts creaky cellar stairs. Tentative steps down and into the dark, a pause at each creak so as not to be heard. Fumbling in the dark as she swings her tiny hand blindly, searching for the string. Catches it and yanks it down, bringing light from a flickering bulb.

The cellar’s dirt floor scuffs up dainty buckled shoes, then paisley print dress as miniature Gram takes a seat and begins her excavation.

Tiny hands soon make purchase with something smooth. Dirt under carefully kept nails as she goes to work unearthing her find. It’s a clear, empty bottle caked with clinging dirt. Delicate fingers clear away what they can, and are given “Jim Beam” for their efforts. The dig continues, and more of Jim’s fellows are found. She piles the bottles neatly at her feet.

“They were real dragon eggs?”

“That’s right, Georgie. Real dragon eggs.”

She reaches the last one–it’s especially delicate. As she works at clearing off the label, the fragile bottle’s neck breaks away in little Gram’s hands. Bottle strikes pile’s top and begins a bottle avalanche. Partially shatters as the others clink loudly. Breath is held. Body is frozen. Name is called from upstairs. Bellowed is more like it. She doesn’t answer. Bootsteps overhead. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Shadowed form at stairs’ top.

“So help me God, if you’re down in that cellar…”

Little Gram looks around. Hiding options are few. Her eyes settle on the musty, dusty workbench on the other side of the room. She scrambles and hides under it as heavy boots stress cellar steps. Her father reaches the final step and looks at the neat pile of bottles for a moment. Studies it.

“And the dragon caught you stealing the eggs?”

“Mmhmm.”

An inarticulate yell. A steel-toed boot kicks the pile and shatters a few against the far wall. Tiny Gram shakes involuntarily as her father sways on his feet and booms her name.

George was actually at seat’s edge, his eyes wide and expectant. His tiny chest rose and fell quickly as Gram took her time with the story.

“And what happened next?”

The sun was nearly set on the horizon now. Gram looked very tired. Her machine beeped steadily; slowly.

“The dragon came peering into my cave. It was so close I could practically feel the heat of its firebreath on my skin.”

Gram’s father drops to his knees and crawls past the clutter that surrounds his workbench. Glassy eyes peer into deep shadow. Tiny Gram scoots back as far as she can, squeezes herself against the wall to avoid the light that spills against the floor and threatens her darkened hiding place. Her father’s beer breath makes her eyes water. She plugs her nose and tries to hold her breath.

“The dragon had me trapped. There was no way out.”

Dirty, thick hands clutch and grab mere inches from little Gram’s face. Fingertips graze errant bangs that have since slipped past hair ties. Bulky shoulders eclipse bulblight and threaten to close up her last remaining escape route.

She scurries out before they can and runs for the cellar steps. Her father wheels around and catches her hair in a painful handful. Pulls her back into the dirt with a slam.

All light had nearly faded from the hospital room’s windowed view. Gram seemed on the verge of sleep–or something else.

“What’d you do then, Gram?”

A defiant smile lit her weary face. Made it glow.

“I did the only thing I could. I fought.”

Little Gram scrambles to her feet, tears threatening her eyes. Three objects appear in her bleary vision: her father’s hulking form, the cellar steps, and the ruined bottle pile. She runs for the pile and grabs the first bottle she can find. Its jagged neck slices her fingers, but she raises the bottle anyway. Throws it at her father’s head. Grabs another before his shock can wear off. Throws that one too. A glittering barrage strikes from every angle, till his arms are up at face level and his screams sound more pained than angry.

When the last bottle goes, she scrambles up the steps and out the front door. The screen door slams and rattles as she clears the precipice and kicks up dirt behind her in a thick cloud. She’ll find no bottles buried beneath this dirt.

The machine’s beeps slowed their song then, display’s lines dipped and swayed lazily as George stared awe into his Gram.

“And that’s how…”

A deep, labored breath.

“…how your old gram beat the dragon.”

A weary, knowing smile. She took George’s tiny hand in her own and closed her tired eyes for the last time.

button