Day 135: Too Much Time on My Hands

Originally here.

I’m really in my office. Thirty-four floors above the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, Colorado. I feel as if I am in a Polaroid from the 70’s. The blues faded, the reds indistinct, and the blacks turned a sickly green. The “Welcome Back Kotter” t-shirt I’m wearing is an iron-on and the collar isn’t the same color as the shirt. I have on that first round of Nikes: blue with a yellow trademark. For some reason I am on a wall. I’m twelve, but the look on my face is veteran. I’ve been effected by what I’m seeing, but I don’t care.

There is no such photograph.

In the memory that follows I don’t wear those clothes but pretend I do because they are the only ones I can recall from that era.

[a whole buncha stuff here]

From that summer there is a single recording of me. Its corners rounded in the style of the day; it’s format clearly 110. I’m on the back of a motorcycle, t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and a helmet–“Gotta protect your head.”

My boredom drove me to the most dangerous spot I could find. The made-to-look-like-adobe cinder block wall I am sitting atop is too tall to have climbed directly. At first I’d expected my Uncle to return quickly so I just sat on the tailgate and swung my legs. Later I decided he’d be longer. I hopped from the bed of the pick-up to the wall and walked it like a tightrope to the end. Sword-leafed yuccas and some taller but equally daunting plants lined the outside of the wall. If I missed them when I fell, I’d still get a mouthful of sand and a couple of scrapes from something. You can’t fall here in the High Desert and not get at least that.

Probably the adult look on my face comes from staring out at the desert wondering how these people determine which parts are good for putting a house on and which parts aren’t or discerning where the highway we rode in on disappears into the hills and where it goes after that. Puzzles a kid won’t solve quickly. I’m sure my thoughts devolved to something that happened the Saturday before. I awoke early to find my Aunt and Uncle up already–him still up from the night before? His animated conversation and smokey clothes didn’t distract me from the bag of doughnuts nor the pile of unorganized cash on the kitchen counter. He pulled more out of his front pockets while I stood there and added it to the wad of treasure. It was just ones and few quarters.

Here on the wall Tuesday drifts to a close. Maybe Wednesday drifts–in Summer, who knows.

Word count: 286

Day 131: Marrow’s Next Step

Originally here. All posts with the marrow tag.

I’m pressing the crescant to his neck and he’s saying words like magic. Words that feel like they could unbreak a jar, maybe raise the dead.

“The best waters are swift and shallow.” He’s trembling as he chants, “The best waters are swift and shallow.” I realize he doesn’t believe the words, doesn’t trust their power. This makes me angry.

I gave up my daughters and ruined my wife. I burned my parent’s home and salted their orchard. I eat the same meal and swallow the same wine. Every day I guard this gate from nothing and no one comes. I even cut my hair. And he doesn’t believe. I did all of this and he still fears these words have no meaning. He rakes at might unyielding arm. He pleads again, “Please, please. The best waters are swift and shallow.”

In an instant I decide answering this coward is not worth the trades I made. I’m going to release this crux, let the prophesy fail, go back to my cold hearth. He must know his death is next because I feel him swallow through the contact of my weapon on his flesh. His tremors subside. He makes his final breath. He’ll beg for his life of course.

Then I feel like I am falling, like something I can’t explain has happened, like soon this something will hurt very much, but for now I just know something I can’t stop is coming. He’s kicked me in the groin and I am on the ground inhaling air, but unable to exhale.

“I said, ‘The best waters are swift and shallow!’ I’ll be inside when you are ready to complete the couplet.”

Eventually I’ll smile at my son’s return, but for now I’ll just puke.


“If you thirst, quench your spirit. Your body will wait.” My forearms lean on the lentil of the low door. I’m adjusting to the light and being upright.

“Is it true,” he asks.

“You cannot know the key and not know the truth.”

“I’m a skeptic, not a coward.”

“There’s a difference?”

I shuffle into my small home, surprised his presence doesn’t feel intrusive. After this many years alone I expected some annoyance. I motion to the barrel and the dipper; he waves a no. Zealot. “When I’m thirsty I don’t kneel.” I dip out two cups and force his into his hands. “Drink it and wait.”

Word count: 143

Day 125: A Son’s Father’s Love

From Day 117: Conner’s Son’s Father

Conner’s Son thought his father was foolish for leading them to this dilapidated oasis on the open prairie.  Surely the beast that tracked them would turn it’s attention here–even if he didn’t think they were that stupid.  A flock of crows startled at their unstealthy approach, rose like a flare, then dove back to their perches and cawed loudly.  Nothing Conner’s son could imagine would announce their location more plainly.  He hoped that in his death book they wrote, “Not the crows nor the beast that killed Conner’s Son but Conner’s Son’s Father.”

Conner’s Son’s Father, Conner, smiled at the crows.  “There’s been just enough rain that this should work.  Follow the trail along the stream like you are hiding.  Make sure you cross through the water several times.  Come back when you hear my call.  Come back through the stream only.  Not on the path.”

Conner’s Son nodded.

As soon as Conner’s Son was away Conner began meticulously uncovering the entrance to a cave.  Stone by stone he exposed the slim hole.  Each stone within arms reach of the entrance and neatly laid to avoid disturbing the secret over much.

“Son!  Come back quickly.”

Conner made a hasty and obvious trail opposite his son’s that ended in an expanse of rock and hard scrabble earth to obscure his path.  He removed his boots and turned back to the hidden escape walking swiftly but with as much craft as he could to conceal his trail.

The beast would arrive soon [but].  Conner’s Son had not returned.

Conner was bad at farming; his son good at reminding him.  Since the first delicate sign of the beast Conner ceased farming and became a warrior again.  It filled him with joy to be hunted.  He didn’t regret thinking that the boy would need to fend for himself for not returning quickly enough–that was a warrior’s instinct–he regretted that it took him so long to resist the urge to leave him behind.

“Protection; not punishment.”  He repeated his wife’s dying words.  He’d spoken them out loud so often as a reminder in these past three years his son taunted him with them when they’d get into a fight.  “The things I fucking do for you.”

Conner sprinted down the ravine in the direction of his son.

Rounding two bends of the stream he came upon his son hobbled by a twisted ankle.  Tears streamed down Conner’s Son’s face as he stumbled over the wet stones.  He sobbed as quietly as any fallen compatriot Conner had ever heard.  Pride calmed his panting heart, but did not inspire his tongue: “Shit, Son.  Now you’ve fucked us.”

Immediately he wanted to apologize.  Immediately he wanted to rend the beast by hand and eat it whole to show his love.  Instead simply knelt in the running water in front of his son and said, “Get on.  Grab my neck.”

Pile some more on them; but not tonight.

Word count: 235