Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Which I Post Bad Fiction And Apologize Later

I thought we'd make our hands like Playmobil hands, little round beige cups and we'd hold things like jousting poles and ski poles and other poles and probably swords and things that are used to save people, to save people's lives on mountain tops and in helicopters. And the bus was tiring and tinny though the sun set beautifully as we barreled into and out of Connecticut. If I ever wondered what Christmas felt like from far away, when I was older maybe and could not quite remember beyond coffee and mail piled up, I could think of us then, as we headed out and away, leaving Boston, dust and snow, slushy grime, behind us. Crystal said something about Emily and how she sewed a tutu to herself and had to pull a pair of sweatpants over it and went to class and we laughed like it was the first time anyone had ever laughed on a bus, taken this quiet journey and made it round and silly.

When the cat died my parents said they found him in the basement, in a laundry basket, rigor mortis had set in, my mother said, and I pictured him stiff and curled, like a necklace or a logo, a snake eating its own tail. He who was so alone for his life, and only found us when he was skinny, a sack of bones (like when they are kittens), and slept by the stove and begged for food because he was starving.

I don't know if the story starts here or if it started much earlier, maybe days or months or even years. Maybe it started when someone held a bottle in their small hand; popped, guzzled, glanced. And then I was born, small and wet and gooey and warm. Truth is, I don't know where stories start, but they do. The cat was a pet that died on Christmas eve and Crystal is a friend who rode the bus with me. We talked about about old people, old stories, about boys who are beery and sloppy in their love for each other, girls who disappeared into the abstract, ties that bound and later unknotted, letting us go.

Mona died seven Tuesdays ago, and I picture her body now, hardening and cold, the coffin not cushion but merely vessel or time machine. The future, brown and already forgotten, being laid out for her like a map of the country, a giant E framing Kentucky. I don't know if Mona curled the way the cat did, but she slowed and went in much the same way. Roger and I found ourselves in the hospital room one day and he was lovely and comforting and held my hand while I held hers and I talked to her, I really think I did, about Christmas and about plans. I did not talk to her about the pets or about the flower boxes that I suspected would go unwatered and would die. She had cared so much about them when she could, when her skin was still so brown and tight, the sun seeming sometimes to be her greatest friend. Mona who fed off of the planet's dim twirling and bobbed her head, like sparrows, in thanks for all of its working.

At the funeral, which was snowy and sad, I held something close to my chest. It was something hard and rocky, a tangible thing, and I promised myself that I would never let anything else die this way. That nothing would ever go missing again. The priest, or pastor, or minister, said some lovely words and we left her there, to be given back to the earth. You look good, so much older my aunt said as she piled herself into her black car and drove away.

I'd like to move to Pittsburgh or San Diego, let a new place warp its way around me. I think I'd maybe go to school or maybe I would simply live. in the cab on the way home from the cemetery I noticed the lock on the back door. Its plastic had been worn away and all that stood was metal. I pictured other passengers, led astray by this driver, led to back alleys and empty lots, clawing at the lock, praying for it to release and let them out. But O's their faces would make as they died at this murderer's hand. I pictured this in the cab and did not feel frightened, only quietly curious. Broadly relieved.

And I thought about time, on the bus and in the cemetery. I thought about malls and about snow, how it made an otherworldly mist as it melted and lifted itself up and away. There was a couple in the parking lot, walking from their car. And she held his hand and he held it back, but not the same. A simple, limp weight. But they were probably in love. And they would probably buy nice things for each other and all the common magic of being two people would fall into place and the planet would rest back on its haunches, everything perfectly ready for right now.

And I wondered what it would be like if we had hands that all of these things could snap perfectly into. If we could grip them and hold them. If we could ask time to forgive us. I'd like hands that could do this. I'd like us all to be strong. We wouldn't let go, until they could explain something, tell us a secret. Until these moments, these little bits, could save someone. In an ambulance or in a helicopter, as it chopped through the air, held aloft by people and places, evaporating below us.

12 comments:

CodePink said...

don't you dare apologize, sir!
i am so happy that i am getting to know your brain.

Andy 3000 said...

That was uplifting in a sad sort of way. Well done.

PimpMyCouch said...

That was excellent. If you and I had been in the same writing classes in university, I would secretly loathe you for being far more talented than I. Never apologize!

PimpMyCouch said...

Also, forgive my ignorance, but who is the dashing man in your front page photo? It cracks me up every time I see it. Happy 2008!

tony said...

yes that was lovely. you certainly know your way around a meditation on memory and loss, but i have to tell you this is the second time that tears have started shooting from my eyes thinking about your cat curling up someplace warm to die alone. oooh. now i'm welling up again.
****
hey do you know the book 'chicken' by david henry sterry? you might enjoy it.
happy new year!

Sara said...

Very good! Best wishes for a happy new year. So sorry to hear about your cat.

Hez said...

Elements of that were positively Joycean. (The Dead is one of my favourite stories.) Short fiction is a fucking beast and God bless the writer who can tame it. Props.

Lee said...

Fine work, sir.

htotheomo said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

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Lizz said...

You kind of complete me. Can we go get Louis G's sometime and throw popcorn at the fat children in Prospect Park?

Blix said...

Wow! I really enjoyed that. Thank you for posting it.