52|250's Third Quarter Review

Week # 34 – Floating away

Father and Son by Eryck Wenziak
Goodbye, Little by Greg Dybec 

When little Harry passed, his parents wrapped him in green cloth and carried him down to the edge of the riverbank. Harry’s father brought rope, and for hours they gathered driftwood and twigs, tying and assembling, starting over and assembling again. Finally there was a makeshift canoe, more like a raft, resembling a misshapen bed, all brown, knotted, and disjointed, but it would do.

His mother yanked the green cloth aside, exposing Harry’s forehead, cold and milky, not much different from the day he was born. She kissed it, teary-eyed and heaving, before passing him to the father.

They wrapped Harry up tightly and lowered him into the raft, placing next to him his favorite stuffed bear and a full bottle of formula. Together the mother and father cast their son off, and he floated calmly away into the black womb of the gentle water and screaming crickets.

They said things like, That’s the proper way and His great escape was soothing. They held each other. For a moment they felt full, staring off into the distant twilight.

The flashing lights behind them lit the river like a midnight carnival; reds and blues bounced off the water’s slow ripples, illuminating the shore. Harry’s raft hadn’t made it very far. It had veered left and crashed up onto the bank, spilling his bottle and bear and unraveling the green cloth around his body. The cops poured down the hill to join the festivities.

Five Oranges by Virginia Watkins 

It wasn’t until it was too late that I noticed that I was undeniably floating away. And, since I was already floating, it made sense to just sort of go with it. I don’t know. What could I do? My husband was clearly tethered – to his jobs: work, children, bank accounts. To hold me there, he would have to let go of something. My children might have come along, if I’d let them, but I didn’t know until it was too late. I reached for them, but it looked halfhearted – I could see it in their faces – my own relief, gratitude. To be taking off. To be floating away. Without them. My fingers reached across, over the edge, but the basket was so small, and it only held five oranges. How long would five oranges keep them happy? They ignored my weak attempt, tried to reach farther, past me to the basket, itself. But I pretended not to see them. Took the idea of them, heavy in my hand, and set it on the basket floor. And saw at once that an idea has no heat, no weight, no noise, no mess. And as fast as I had pulled my fingers back, I reached for them again. As quickly as I’d looked away, I searched for their faces, getting smaller by the second, by the inch. Five oranges was more than enough. Grab on! Too late. I was floating away and began dropping the oranges. Softly. One at a time.

My Man’s Voice by Michelle McEwen 

You ever hear you some singing on the radio on one of those a.m. AM stations with a lot of static? You ever hear all that static, but you hear this singing coming right through all clear? My man’s voice is like that— rough but sweet, barbwire and roses. When he picks up the phone, folks, even kin who should know better, on the other end always got something to say about his voice — especially if it’s someone with the wrong number. The other day, some wrong-number-woman called and my man picked up. He said hello and his hello was like a whole soul song floating across the line; the woman tried to keep him on. She asked what he was made of— honey? “You must be with a voice like that.” I heard her ‘cause I was right up under him. I told him to hang up, but he just smiled and kept talking like he knew her from way back. I heard her laughing at everything my man said, so I snatched the phone out his hand and hung up. My man gave me his what-you-wants-to-do-that-for face and I told him it didn’t make sense for him to be talking to that woman when she had the wrong number. I stared at him then — whisk in hand and ready to use it on him — and said, “She had the wrong number, right?” He aw-baby’d me and said, “Yeah.” And upstairs he flew to wait on his dinner.

The Approximate Feeling of Being Ten by Martin Brick 

The idea was to party with Angela, but she got angry because I spent Sunday watching football with my dad. But she burned a whole day shopping with her sister. It snowballed from there: I don’t call enough, doesn’t like my college friends… Next thing you know it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m single.

Mom and Dad invite me to the Wolski’s with them, but I’d be the only person without an AARP card.

Home alone with beers, until midnight approaches and I consider champagne. I go to the wine cellar, but get sidetracked among my old stuff in the basement. There’s my old runner-sled. Way too inviting. I suit up and hit the hill out back. The snow is compacted, so I fly. And laugh like I haven’t in years; pure elation.

At the bottom of the hill I spy the river. It’s quiet. The center is slow-moving water, the edges, thick ice. The river doesn’t know arbitrary markers like New Year’s, that say you’re supposed to be with a crowd, people to affirm your happiness, someone to kiss at midnight. The river is kid-me, throwing sticks just to watch them float, oblivious to the politics of pleasing others.

Which is probably why I walk to the edge of the ice and hammer with my sled until a chunk breaks off. Large enough to ride raft-like, slow down the silent river, me and the cold and the winter constellations and the silence and the approximate feeling of being ten.

Monologue by Chelsea Biondolillo 

Some girls remember their first time in all kinds of detail: like what song was on the radio and if the guy was wearing cologne and what underwear they had on. I hear them talking in the locker room while they put their eyeshadow back on after PE and recurl their hair.

You know, I can’t get my hair to curl right no matter how much hairspray I use? I’ve tried, and it always falls flat by second period. I don’t get foundation either. It looks too thick on me. So when they’re at the mirrors, I don’t have anything ‘constructive to contribute,’ as Mr. Taske says.

When they start blabbing about their boyfriends, I just get dressed and hustle out behind the art building for a quick smoke before English. What am I supposed to say when those Barbie girls start gushing about how they finally “went all the way” with some dumb football player?

Someday I might just blurt out, “I think mine’s name was Cary, and he pushed me down in the woods.” Wouldn’t that shut them up? I’d like to tell them that: tell them what it feels like to float away while a thing’s done to you, so you don’t have to really remember it. I’d like to watch them turn away from the mirror for a second and see something other than their own glassy eyes. But that’s what Mr. Taske would say is ‘disruptive social behavior.’ It’s not helpful, he says.

H2O by Dorothee Lang 

She clears the snow, once more. Her shoes are drained already, her arms are tired. The snow keeps falling since days. She tries to see it as just what it is: a structure of H2O. Strings of molecules, the base of life.

“The rain that falls, the water we drink, it’s the same water that was home to the first fish, that quenched the thirst of the first mammals,” a scientist explained on TV.

She imagines them, all those drops of water that keep moving through time, in different states of being, once being a river, once a cup of coffee, once being used for the laundry, and then falling again, as rain, as snow. The circular thought brings on images of the streets of laundry she has ironed in her life, of the armies of dishes she has washed, of all those days she has woken up to, to fall asleep again at their end.

She keeps clearing the snow, and can’t help it: her thoughts are with Sisyphus now, and she tries to see him, again, as a happy person.

Back to Wk #33 – Spontaneous combustion
Forward to Wk #35 – Loose connections

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