The Story of Flying Robert
Peter told me he lost his parents at an early age. Define an early age? I asked,
wondering why he didn’t specify the exact age. Well, I was between
ages—just on the precipice of ten. If I were ten when they died it
wouldn’t have been such a tragedy. Ten is the golden age; you twaddle
into adulthood, arms out and lips puckered and that’s the rub; the
gravy, the thick cotton candy in the throat.
I was blinded by a tornado, he told me, a wiry, furry funnel trailing after
me, a wicked wind gathering moss and homes, cows and tennis rackets and the
rest of the mishmash we all contribute to. And my parents—god bless their
souls—were never weather people, “How’s the weather there,
George?” never crossed their lips, so buried down in books and radio
and heads turned to the comforts of the inside.
So, my Father steps out to fetch dear mother some sugar for her coffee and
he skips to town, decides on walking, for the sky was bright and big and caught
him off guard in its beauty. My the world looks big, he thought, so
concave and constructive, he sighed, and didn’t feel any of the bits
of hail that sailed over him, the gruelly combs of ice that flew past him,
sashes of something spinning nearby.
How do you know what he thought or said, I asked Peter, you weren’t there.
No, no, I wasn’t but I know his mind. We Baskers all have the same mind.
Naive with a layer of sludge but it’s a grand sludge—delirious
and imaginative and you can always trust it.
I wasn’t so sure of that. Peter was hardly trustful but it was true that
he never noticed his surroundings, and I could imagine him lost in the woods,
circling the pecan trees looking for home. The wind whipped around and lifted
struck forth its dark fingers and carried him off. We never saw him
again. We did find my mother later after the tornado had gone. She was sitting
in her armchair, still reading her poetry, the house collapsed around her.
Her last words were:
What a wind! oh! how it whistles
Through the trees and flowers and thistles!
That’s a sad story, I told Peter. Storm stories aren’t reassuring.
Storm stories are the kindest, he said, bring in the woes, the misfortune,
but one can always withhold the actual mess. And where were you during the
Writing my treatise on life in the basement. I knew the storm was coming and
I tried to warn them but they always had their heads in the clouds—those
folks, those willful roamers. We roam from city to city, from pretty girl to
pretty man and we never stop. But what will we do when the world ends. When
the world ends?
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