Tools, Songs, Funeral Objects, Weapons, Boats, Jewelry & Utensils
Second Place in Construction Literary Magazine’s Summer Contest
It’s kindergarten and the diabetic girl’s what approaches me. She hands me an Xmas present.
“I got you this,” she states.
“Well, I didn’t get you nuthin, so…”
And there was a silence, and there was also that true-myth kid who ran away from home for a single day and came back that same evening. Dinner was being prepared in all calmness as he crossed the threshold. And he was mad–alas, he was really quite upset: no one missed him. No crosshairs.
Went through the first leg of his life like that, the bitter taste of a choke cherry somewhere in the back of his eye, coloring and coloring autonomously. He was incomplete, until he got stomped and mangled literally half-to-death beneath the reverberating chuff and chop of a mosh pit. It was a well-attended event and it was an accident. Metalheads are notoriously considerate people, and anyone with hair that long is obviously commitment oriented and evenly appreciative of the byproducts of life.
After the paralysis, bubbling up from the saggy water of his up-pinned legs and vertebrae, the true-myth kid was always smiling. The kid in the wheelchair. The kid who was never missed, smiling like the glare off the North Pole, perma-smiling, really. Until one day he disappeared, again, and people missed him immediately on this occasion. That morning, wheelchair just gone with him, upgraded, didn’t need the stanchionation of the homefront anymore, didn’t need himself.
Sometimes you can catch him around the Walmarts, if you can catch him, y’know? He has a good clip about him. He has what one might call a sightline.
The girl with diabetes didn’t look happy or giddy when she tried to endow me with the Xmas present. She didn’t look sad or defeated. Or even deflated. She wasn’t erect or supine, nor begging nor haughty. The diabetic girl had a firm stare and flat lips, like the seamless flaps of envelopes put together by a corporate-hub printer. It was a perfect flatness, world-round in its unity.
You hear that Walmart lets travelers who are pushing through with a car stay the night in their parking lots? No cops. No charges. Forlorn travelers, haunched, the Waltons letting them stay the night, or maybe even a few nights, in the parking lot; but you have to own at least a car. No itinerants w/o a combustible engine are tolerated. Imagine that, the pandering sympathy inherent in that one dynamic:
At least a car.
It’s policy. And they’ve specifically installed fluorescents for diffusion.
There’s the realization, really: I’ve never seen an empty parking lot at Walmart. And I know you’ve never seen an unavailability of mechanical shopping carts, either. Neither have I met a helpful customer service agent, but I’ve never really needed actual help–just self-patience in a world where assistance is a slight, a necessity, or a simplified concept of availability. The trick is to not go back home when it gets dark; go to the Waltons. They allow three colors of emotions beyond those automated thresholds.
I was never clean. Everyone knew that and a few loved me anyway.
My dentist was God, holding my mouth like a cave to etch and paint in, and talking. Talking while operating a scaler or curette, a saliva extractor, a drill. The dentist opined openly, told me carefully what to think, stitching and filling into my teeth, talking downwards while I was swallowing in large gulps. The posters of oral health, sun-dyed, my laminated heaven overhead pouring into my watering eyes, held aloft by thumbtacks that didn’t color-match.
The diabetic girl’s legs were overhemmed by a yellow lick of her yellow skirt. Fat, proud calves, like she could jump over the entirety of the world. Her legs were stronger than the tendril’s numbness. And the diabetic girl’s mother homemade her skirts, and we sensed that her outfits were ugly, or at least different, but didn’t that make sense? Didn’t it fit? Everyone gathered once, literally once, gathered on-court for an ‘Assembly’ in the gym. The sound system was set up and the diabetic girl in the ugly dress sang through perforations. It was her assembly. It was her prism refracting. And her singing was terrible sounding, but we didn’t seem to notice, and we all clapped.
Clapping as a bleat.
And I think through the clapping and, y’know, the diabetes and the ugly dresses and her mother’s true-myth love, the diabetic girl felt the wool of the world.
And it was wet and heavy.
Empirically speaking, wool is a snarer of vitamin D.
There’s also historic note that spices were implemented to disguise rotten food. I’m serious. I learned this from the school texts and my mother. Call it apocryphal. But from proximity I learned that people wear kindness like a scent, like a body odor, like a secondary sexual characteristic, like Dior. My mother wore kindness and my father pulled out one feather, just one feather, per wing per month.
“Duck, duck. Pluck, pluck.”
Until her slung wings were just gooseflesh, shivering and grey, sprouting drops of blood from the prickholes.
My father could sew, can you believe that? Couldn’t cook, had no taste buds, overused every spice, but–
We had some heavenly pillows in my house growing up: always went back to shape no matter what kind of beating your dreams gave out.
The diabetic girl displayed my Xmas present in her left hand, and in the other palm she had a “BB Bats Banana Bar” in case she had an episode; the candy she was rarely allowed might just save her in an emergency, regulate the blood and the sugars. That’s what they believed then. Ain’t that how it works? Doesn’t everything break down into sugars?
We lived in a small town. We lived where the dogs knew every kid, every palm offered, and the dogs also knew well the habit of skirting sideways at the odor of whiskey. You didn’t need diabetes to need sweets.
And you didn’t need to be diabetic to be bruised, triceptual blooming, that time of the wash cycle, the jaundiced skin perimetered with purple.
Remember that day? Sky overcast and bright. Little Hickory Jane’s window was left wide and we vaulted the trailer sill to break into her home. Our hands were dirty as we picked through her exposed room, picked her brushed-steel lockbox with a bobby pin we stole from my mother.
Little Hickory Jane was the marble queen of Robertson, and her box was full of glass globes, all cat’s eyes. Jane was so good she shot hypnosis, tension-cocked between her index and thumb and always hit the blood vessels in your testicles. We didn’t like her kind of cutbank.
Jane’s window, Jane’s lockbox, Jane’s shooters, Jane’s cat’s eyes. Grime lodged in our cuticles and brown-dirt crescents in our fingernails, our fingers humming, pre-flexed to flick, her marbles gripped in our whorls.
The perfect day when we stole Little Hickory Jane’s marbles, the yellow clouds like the whole sky was made up of one sun, like a single bulging quiltline on the underside of a cooking egg.
Hawking marble after marble along the space between the bitumen & curbwall, cat-eyed orb’s rotation of colors in a whirl of suspended animation, slipping into the gutter grate’s void. We filled that subterranean waterway with everything that Jane had. Jane’d never think again.
And remember our town’s Little Troll? The Bridge Troll because her abode was directly after the bridge on Hotsprings Blvd? Our town had ‘Bridge Kids’ and ‘Kool-Aid Sluts,’ remember? Little Troll’s father was from Boston, or anyway his accent was from Boston, but it felt overly obligated and all ensconcing, the whole thing, just like his drinking. His posture with wide shoulders, the up-jut of his rime lips, the father of Little Troll. Little Troll, because she was diminutive, her nose always ran, and her lips were always glistening like old movie-star vaseline.
Sometimes if Little Troll’d been bad, her father would lock her outside of the house, in the winter with bare red legs, bare feet. Troll’d be clad in once-white undies with swathes of mothy perforation and a bare chest with those tiny nipples that seemed underneath to embay a great pressure. The tidepools of snow and sleet in a circle around the domicile like a bull’s eye.
And Troll’d stand there waiting, getting redder, rud hemmed by white, waiting and running her nose as we passed by in the backseat of our parent’s car. Us behind them, he behind her. Never crying.
I gave Troll a marble once. Don’t know why.
“I got you nuthin,” I said again to the diabetic one, avoided her eyes again, snatched her present and took the crosswalk towards home.
I recall the time when my brother informed me that musicians sometimes call their guitars axes, as an extension of themselves and ability. I thought about how many vehicles need keys and about how some vehicles needed more than one key, how on any given Sunday cars are immobility devices, that when you enter a church the car transmogrified into a practice of immolation, a burning of meaning and movement, a stanchion for their owners, whose bodies sag into the cud of presence, the cud of direction. Ain’t that the way with legs?
Some nouns necessitate axes, too.
And as I opened the diabetic’s package, I found a box of giant crayons, each as thick as a cornstalk, giant color sticks, each either a primary or secondary hue, unwieldy to be certain. In fact, I had to use my whole closed fist to operate proper leverage on the cyclopean color-sticks and leave a definite streak. Yet those crayons were hauntingly effective as I used them as a firehose to cover the world.
Now, you’d be wrong, but imagine in detail the first cave, the first cell, the origin of self. Think of the edges of a thing as its defining ability to protect itself from homeostasis, from inward leaks and transformations. Imagine the first noun in promontory form, the dream of ambulance against a trammeling ocean of blank matter, the fallow rains uncounted preceding it. What would you do? Conceptualize then the first carbon that shivered, reaching upwards for a shelf that was just slightly higher than its own idea of personhood. Where are you now? Running. Running and running and running.