His hand didn’t work like a claw. But his feet did. There weren’t any shoes. It’s not
something you should reveal.
A lumpy embarrassing dream about a finger stuck in a bottle.
You see, I didn’t want to be a good boy. My dance kit was full and I was bearing
down like a block of ice on Bobo’s wheelchair.
Bobo was holding his elbow while waving franticly like a child who thinks he’s
been doing something too long. The bug killer was snapping like a tiny irresponsible sun,
the only one available. All I could see of Bobo was the reflecting glint off the spokes of
his wheelchair and the frantically waving arm with the cupped elbow holding it.
“Bobo?” Softly I said it, like I was showing respect because I realized the way I
came at him so fast could have been threatening. And because it’s hard to call a man in a
Safety came out of the house with a flashlight and shined it on Bobo. By then Bobo
was eating something, lifting it gently from his dead lap. He was eating pictures of
food. It scared me.
Safety was wearing a bathrobe. She was wrapping the cloth of her belt around her
wrist like a ragged old rope. She turned into the light from the screen door and hung the
robe across the porch rail. Now she was wearing a halter top. Just a halter top. She stood
there, undecided about something, her holstered breasts riding high above the bare
expanse below, mean little knots in the halter straps like clenched muscles.
I imagined I looked like a kid caught smelling his neighbor’s laundry basket. I
pulled at the hair above my knees. My shorts felt stiff and I thought about how they didn’t
move with my legs. I was thinking about that and I was pulling at the hair above my
knees. I saw this man in a window and I thought about grabbing him and saying, “Oh,
I’m so sorry.” I was afraid to move. I saw myself carrying a body around like a suitcase
so I didn’t move.
It’s not hard to know when a man’s afraid, but it’s hard to say what he’s afraid of.
Eventually I had to think about Safety again and she still wasn’t moving towards
me. A cat rubbed against Safety and she bent over at the waist to pet it. She could have
kneeled down, but she didn’t.
Bobo was waving again and I said his name louder. He didn’t stop waving. I said
his name again and he didn’t stop waving.
I said to myself, “Safety isn’t available.” I said it, but I didn’t believe it.
Right then I wanted to pet the cat. So I did. I stroked it carefully.
I still felt like a block of ice with its valves knocked off, but I was melting.
Bobo’s hand was working, but his feet weren’t going anywhere, hooked around
something in the air I couldn’t understand. It made me think about my body and I looked
at it in the window reflection, and it wasn’t my body anymore. I didn’t want anything to
do with it. We don’t expect ordinary things to happen at such times, but they do. Safety
knew that and she needed some ordinary. But she wasn’t acting very ordinary.
I took off my shoes and I felt the wet grass. I squeezed it and pinched it and looked for comfort with my toes.
Bobo was still waving. Bobo’s cat was purring. It’s not something you can keep to
yourself. It’s not something you can attend to without noticing the presence it implies.
I waited because it was what I knew how to do.
Safety was still a long way off.
It’s true that Bobo likes to refer to his pants as trousers to make them seem more
substantial. The man inside me would approve if I could find him. I’m beginning to think
he’s been seeing someone else.
Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.