The days are long—congruously slow. They blend into one another. The present is fragmented with what lies ahead, or inevitably does not, or what could have, skewing my abbreviated notion of time and space, past and future.
I can hear the head tumbling as I turn onto Texas. She was a kind woman, everyone used to say even when she was alive, the kindness that impresses cats, all tarot readings and exotic cigarettes. She saw the flinch at the heart of you but lied and shook out stories instead.
The wind troubled the gap between her coat top and neck. She shifted the box to her left hip, fingers white and numb from the tight hold. Using her right elbow, she knocked on the driver’s window, her hand still clutching a coffee cup from the drive. A black Audi, he had told her. Two …
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?