The Curve

1
A long slender branch
cut across your cheek
Saturday.
It left a swollen scratch.
Luminous pink with tiny beads of blood.

I traced your outline
on the pavement
with chalk.
You let your eyes go flat.
I let my mind go blank.

We filled your space with leaves
and clover flowers.
I snapped the branch and placed it
where your cheek was cut.
The curve of a short smile.

The second bus
goes across town.
It takes us past the shipyard
where your grandfather worked.
It takes us home.

Georgie and Cherrie

ice tree

“Are you ready?” Cherrie was standing in the doorway to his room with her arms folded. He glanced at her face to see that she looked irritated. Normal, he thought.

“What are you doing?” she asked. Her voice always sounds the same, he thought. She always sounds like someone’s trying to crawl up her pant leg.

“I need you to walk Georgie to his friend’s house,” their mother had said while getting ready for work.

“What for?”

“I won’t be home in time. After school, take him to get a birthday present.” She gave Cherrie some money. “It’s a sleepover.”

“Boys have sleepovers? Will they be doing each other’s hair and makeup?”

Georgie was sitting in a chair facing his dresser. Cherrie was standing in the doorway getting more impatient. “Really, hurry up. We still need to go get a present.”

He reached down beside him and picked up a backpack. He stood and opened the second drawer of the dresser. He moved the top two articles of clothing and pulled out a pair of pyjamas. He was very pleased with himself.

“Are you finished?”

He put the pyjamas in the backpack and walked out past Cherrie. “I’m ready.”

Early morning, the day before, he opened the blind on his window and watched the trees appear in the darkness just before the rising sun. He kept his light off. While he stared, he noticed that the trees were never exactly indistinguishable but that they were a distinct form against a background. The background is the same colour as the trees, he thought.

After the sun was up, all the colours were filled in. He wondered how he could draw something that changed colour with the light.

Early the next morning, he set up a camera to take pictures of the darkened trees. He had spent the rest of the morning staring at the black images but could see nothing. Tomorrow, he thought, I’ll take the camera outside and see if I can get something. He wondered if there was some way to turn off the steetlights.

“What do you want to get him?”

They were in the toy section of a department store. The bust ride had been short. Cherrie had spent the entire trip staring at her phone and muttering. He hadn’t been listening to what she was saying.. He was watching an old woman sitting in one of the sideways seats with her grocery bags and purse. The grocery bags were in the seat next to her, the purse was in her lap. She was wearing a large wool sweater with some odd pattern around the hem and cuffs. It also had a large collar that curled slightly as it flopped over. The sweater is grey, he thought.

He watched the old woman watching the floor at her feet. She regularly looked toward the front of the bus but he could see she was uncomfortable staying in that position. He tried to see the items in her bags. In one, he could count the number of cans that were visible through the thin plastic, but the other one was shapeless. He decided it held bread.

He stared at the grinning stuffed bears before him. He momentarily thought they would look better once dirtied and torn.

“What about Lego?” she asked. “Don’t boys like Lego? How about a Transformer?”

He picked up a pop-eyed stuffed something. It had a shocked expression on its bizarrely elongated face. It also had a tail almost as long as its body. He recognized it from a cartoon. “This.”

“That?”

“This,” he nodded.

“Whatever,” she said. “Come on, then. I need to get some stuff, too.”

They walked through the kitchenware department and into the women’s clothing department. He liked the displays of knives and other kitchen utensils; he liked the pots and frying pans, too.

Cherrie walked to the section with underwear. She started taking bras off a display and holding them up.

“Your sister has big tits,” Brandon K. had said. They were playing softball, standing in the dugout, Cherrie was sitting on a bench by home plate with their mother. He looked over at her. She was staring at her phone and slouching over it to block the glare of the sun.

“No,” he said, and resumed watching the batter. “It just looks that way.”

“Where does it have the size on this goddamn thing,” she muttered. He watched her turn it around and around before giving up and pulling another off the rack.

“Are your tits getting big?”

He heard a giggle from someone a couple of racks away.

He watched her face return to its normal pale hue. She scowled and grabbed his arm. “Let’s go.”

“Excuse me, miss,” said a man at the exit. “I need to check the boy’s backpack.”

“What? Why?”

“Please,” he said. His voice was serious. Georgie looked up at the man’s face. He wasn’t exactly looking at either of them. His hand was out for the bag.

“Give it to him, Georgie. You think we’re thieves just because we’re young?”

“Store policy, miss. Backpacks are to be left at the door.” He opened the bag and looked inside. He shook it and tilted it. He doesn’t want to put his hand in, Georgie thought.

“Here you go,” he handed the bag back to Georgie without closing it. “Next time, use the cubbies.”

“Fucking asshole,” she muttered, “He should stick to beating off watching the security cameras, dipshit. God!”

The night before, he’d watched the sun go down. The colours drained out of the things on the earth and drifted away in the sky toward the setting sun. But the dark that came was not the dark of a settled night. It was colder.

The night before that, it had been cloudy. The sunset was an unimpressive greying of the world.

The woman had got off the bus two stops before the shopping mall. He watched her slowly pick up her things and get ready to stand after she signalled for the stop. He watched her ease herself down the steps and walk off toward an apartment building. Then she was gone.

“We forgot a gift bag,” he said to his sister when they were back on the bus.

“Who cares?” she said.

Georgie

The boy thought less of her than she thought. Not that he thought badly of her, but more that she was never a consideration. She would have been hurt if she knew how little he cared.

However, she never did anything for him – or not that he could remember. He, for his part, continued to do his best to ignore her.

“Cherrie, put these dishes away,” his mother called from the kitchen. The sound faintly impressed him and he almost wanted to turn and look over his shoulder. But he wanted to miss nothing, so he stayed very still.

“What is that supposed to be?” Rhea had asked him. He was been drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. “Is that a pee-pee?”

He glanced up at her. He guessed that expression was supposed to be disgust but it looked more like she was trying to not fart.

“It’s a penis.”

“Why are you drawing that?”

“It’s art.”

“It’s sick.”

“Fuck off,” he muttered.

“I’m telling!”

He felt vaguely uncomfortable but kept rubbing the purple chalk stick on the sidewalk. He had carefully studied himself in the bathroom earlier and was trying to get it exactly right. But he was much smaller than the enormous rendition before him. He decided to stand back and get a better perspective on it.

From the steps of the house, it looked rather good – in his opinion. The girl was waving her arms and still saying something about telling on him. He turned the sound of her voice off in his head. Or he thought he did. Or he wanted to. He wished he could send her away.

She turned and ran across the street and up her own driveway. He felt a little concerned that a parent was going to appear but nothing like that happened. He walked down the steps and tried to select a more appropriate colour from the rather limited selection of chalk when he saw Rhea appear around the corner of her own house.

“I am sick of him never doing anything.” He could hear Cherrie’s voice over the sound from the television. He heard his mother speak much more quietly. He could hear her voice but not the words. “All he does is sit there. Why don’t you make him put shit away?”

“Watch your mouth,” he heard very plainly, then more subdued vocalization from his mother. He resisted the urge to get up and go closer to the kitchen.

“Fine, then, whatever,” he heard his sister say. He then stopped listening. More important things were happening, anyway.

“I’m having a birthday party on Saturday,” Joey said, “and everyone that comes can sleepover. So bring your sleeping bag. You can sleepover, right? You’ll come, right?”

“I dunno.”

“Ask your mom. It’s just at my house.” He had a big nervous smile.

“My dad has a gun,” he heard someone say. That caught his attention. He recognized the voice – it was Brandon K. He was telling some girl and Brandon D who were actually playing tic-tac-toe on the floor of the classroom. It was raining out.

“What kind of gun?” asked Georgie.

“It’s black.”

Purple was not the right colour for the drawing, but he had nothing more appropriate. Pink seemed wrong. Brown was not right. The purple was at least light purple. He noticed Rhea walking back across the street.  She was listing. She was carrying something heavy.

He bent over and picked up his box of chalk and watched her approach. She was struggling and breathing heavily but smiling and she said, “You’re a pig.”

She took the watering can she’d brought from her house and watered his penis off the sidewalk.

He didn’t know what to think.

He wondered what Joey would like for his birthday. That reminded him he had to go ask his mother if he could go.

{ This is directly related to https://donbeekeeper.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/cherrie/ and https://donbeekeeper.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/george/ }

Tinder

the oldest shaving burns like paper

I recall how Francie took the bark and rolled it in the dirt.

“Let’s get the truth imbibed in this.”

My movements are weak against the weight of the wood
I hold back the boughs as the tree bears down
but I am not strong enough to stop its motion,
and I know –

the oldest shaving burns like paper

Her eyes glistened. I loved to see her bent that way,
so oddly graceful down in the sawdust infested gravel
her hands pressing down into the dirt.

Shapes are the most beautiful things in the world
I love the shape of love.

I am feeling the moment grow more urgent
The sharp end of the trunk, now horizontal,
sweeps away and then harshly back toward me,
and I know –

the oldest shaving burns like paper

I recall how Francie held the cloth to my head

“Let’s get the truth imbibed in this.”

My eyes stare forward through and try to pass
the light from wherever light can be to my numbed senses
I am wild inside but the cage won’t forgive
and I know –

the oldest shaving burns like paper

Her smile warmed me. Like blood that you suddenly feel fires desire
and I reached for her without question
she slipped into the swirl of my being

Shapes are the most beautiful things in the world.
I love the shape of love.

And as still as the sound of something not there
I release myself into the moment.
My being is not fraught with pain or horror
but imbibed with truth.