Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pigeon Man

He had four dollars left. He was hungry. His face was gaunt and weathered. He felt as if there was a hole right through him where his stomach used to be. The crumpled bills trembled in his hand; only four left. He wanted so much to just sit somewhere warm and slurp up a bowl of soup. He wanted a pair of pants that didn't constantly slide off his jagged hips. He wanted his brain to work like it used to. He wanted to remember the things he felt so nostalgic about. But mostly, he wanted the company of his friends. He thought of ordering a bowl of soup to-go, taking it with him and enjoying it surrounded by their soft chatter. How could he though? He imagined the puzzled looks on their faces as he reached his empty hand out to greet them. He couldn't do that, not to his friends. Wistfully, he looked up at the cafe's neon sign through the cataract that clouded one of his once brilliant blue eyes. He sighed a pained and shallow sigh and walked into the shop next door.

The bag was heavy under his arm. Knees throbbing, he made his way to his spot. A few of them were waiting for him. He slowly lowered himself to the grass and they cocked their heads in curiosity when they spotted the bag he set next to him. Word spread quickly of his arrival and soon he was surrounded by those expectant and familiar faces. He forgot about the soup and tore the top off the bag. They told him they were glad he came. He told them he was glad to be there. He reached an arm inside the bag, scooped a handful out and scattered it across his lap. They hopped around him, cooing their "thank yous". His dry lips cracked into a smile. He lay back and felt the cool grass tickle his neck. It felt nice to lay here with good company. He closed his eyes, felt around for the bag and pinched a little bit out of it. He pursed his lips tightly together and sprinkled the small pieces across his mouth. His closest friends surrounded his face and began to gently peck him with tiny kisses. Now his smile spread from ear to ear. He exhaled through his nose long and slow. His knees stopped throbbing, his hands lay still beside him and a few salty tears slipped from his creased eyes and streaked down into the grass.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Puzzling Death

I was bored and not feeling well. Most likely a kidney infection. I had swallowed my antibiotic and was drinking glass after glass of water. My back was tormenting me. It was a strange feeling, not like an everyday backache. I felt as if my organs were pulsing with infection and if you sliced me open you'd see a pus-filled chasm of sickness. I'm sure I'm exaggerating, but it hurt. I had been browsing the internet for about three hours. Time to do something else. I got up to pee for probably the sixteenth time and as I was walking back from the bathroom I passed the hall closet. I thought, I could play a game. Mancala? No, you need two people for that. Ah, there are puzzles in there.
I slid the door aside and unearthed the old box of puzzles. After refilling my water, I returned to my nest on the couch and put on some Chopin. The approaching autumn nudged me to choose the pile of cardboard that would resemble orange and yellow leaves when assembled. They tumbled out in front of me and I had to rescue of few pieces from the puffy lips of a curious feline. I sifted through the heap and beckoned the edge pieces to come to me. They gathered neatly in front of me. There were still some hiding under the middle pieces, snickering about their escape. But I felt I had most of them. I began.

Soon, my mind slipped, my eyes glazed, and I was maybe 6 years old. The room was warm, glowing amber and the wall behind me was a beautiful sunset of wallpaper. The woman next to me smelled of powder and lipstick. Her red lips smiled and welcoming wrinkles multiplied. We would have puzzle races. It wasn't very hard for an aged woman to snap together 12 pieces, but she never let me know that. I always thought, Oh no! She's catching up to me! She's fast! She would color with me too. I felt a certain reverence overcome me when she'd get out the crisp, clean box of 96 Crayola's. It had a built-in sharpener. She softened my grip on the sticks of color so they wouldn't break and taught me how to color inside the lines with small swirling motions. She was the best at coloring. Grandpa would sit near, sipping coffee.

The warm glow fades away, and now I'm 8 years old. I'm in a familiar hallway, one I walked down almost everyday of my life. There was a cold blueish hue seeping in through the front windows. Something had happened the night before. Mom had left in a hurry sometime in the dark. She was back now, in the hallway with me. We were all in the hallway. Dad was talking to my sisters. I didn't really understand what he was saying. Mom had this sad look on her face. I had never seen her look that way before and it frightened me. Then Dad leaned down to me and said, "Grandma Rae has passed away." Passed away? What did he mean? "Where did she go?" I asked. Dad made a sad face too. I think one of my sisters leaned over and said, "She's gone. She died." I felt my forehead and cheek muscles melt from confusion to understanding to...blank. I had to think about this. I walked away, down the stairs to my room.

A few days later I remember wanting to cry and not wanting to cry and pressing my lips against her cold, stiff powdered cheek and thinking Goodbye. She was the best at puzzles.

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