Baldy spots two breasts floating in the water. Baldy, Country, Sarge, R.J., and I all line up along the water’s edge.
“Look at this,” Aftershock yells from downriver.
A torso propped up by a knotted rubber tree. Nervous laughter. Baldy throws up. Country points to another body, neck to belly, that surfaces near the first.
The scrubs are itchy and tight and he feels ridiculous with the stethoscope draped around his neck. He wonders if it is real but he would feel even more ridiculous putting it in his ears, pressing whatever the thing is called on his chest, listening for the soft bump of his own heartbeat. He wonders how much of his life has been spent in exactly this way, standing to the side, offstage, waiting for the Rabbit to show him up again.
A few days later, while sitting on the rocks that served as the front steps, avoiding work, Arturo, Leo, and Adriana saw their father coming up the mountain, and on his shoulders was a goat. Adriana let out a shriek that Arturo was sure had startled the goat, because he could see it jerking and thrashing on his father’s shoulders, attempting to get free.
My wife’s uncle lived in a county known for exporting glass, colored sand, and lung disease. When I said the time had come to export her uncle Clarence to a place where professionals could tend him, Misty threw a bronze statue of a cat at me. I ducked, and it demolished our mantlepiece display: a village of ceramic, Victorian houses with quaint, frock-coated residents. I swept up the shrapnel while Misty drew up the grocery list.
One of them had asked Cheryl once, “Do you like children?” Cheryl had chuckled. “Who doesn’t?” It was an easy, polite answer. And it was the right thing to say given the context. The real answer, though, was much more complicated. It wasn’t that Cheryl hated children. They simply didn’t interest her enough. What would she talk to them about? What did one talk about to someone who had lived for such a short time on this planet?
“You’ve never thought about going to a foreign country?” Jessica asked.
“I can’t believe that.”
“Jessica, right now I’m making ten dollars an hour seating people at IHOP..."
Trying to go back to envision my past life was like trying to walk on a slippery surface. You had the illusion of movement, but couldn’t make any real headway. The hotel elevator was almost always filled with Georgian men who stared at my cowboy boots and asked me for my room number. I knew that everything that went on in that hotel, everything that was said and done was being observed by some invisible eye hiding behind a mirror or a double wall.
Her gaze into his eyes was private; outside, she was all brisk new-mom business. She tucked him face-first against her chest on walks and at the grocery. She bought a car seat and a baby jogger; in motion, no one asked questions.