Reuben and Rosemary
He introduced her to slant rhymes, for orange and porridge, and she wondered at first if it was enough that her menus nearly rhymed, if burger and bulgar truly inclined to each other naturally or if it were forced upon them, until one day it didn't matter, when beans and steamed met, slanted, like ham steak and pancake, radish and sandwich, the waitress who loved rhyme with her toast and the man at the counter who loved her almost.
* * *
He came home from the bar mitzvah with a hickey. His parents noticed it right off. They told him about their own bar mitzvah childhoods, doing the Bump and pretending the grape juice worked like Manischewitz. They said they hoped they didn't think this gave him a passport to other things. He didnt know what the other things were. He didnt even know what the it referred to. The hickey? The party? He wanted to tell them the truth, of how in the closet, they twisted the skin of their own necks, how she giggled and he pretended to. His parents asked him if hed heard of Kangaroo, something they read somewhere, a game kids played with sleeping bags and marshmallows. He said he was tired. He said he didnt know about Kangaroo.
* * *
She loved words like prophet and profit, prey and pray, and she herself had two names, one who taught childrens lit, the other who wrote scripts for adult movies. They need scripts? I ask. Everyone needs scripts, she says. So its really a praying mantis, I ask. Well, that depends.
* * *
A praying mantis, not a robin, came that spring, an elongated alien, ready for worship. We contemplated one another that afternoon until we were both in shadow. I knew a lot about mantises, fascinated with them since childhood. In folk tales, they direct lost children back home. Id never seen one, except in books, until now.
* * *
The optometrist mentioned his divorce during her screening. Out of his office, she fiddled with frames. They ended up, that first Friday, at a gallery in Old City. She couldnt see what he saw in the canvas. Every time she picked up another glass of wine, he said, If you give a mouse a cookie
At Blue, he had his drink. A Grey Goose cocktail, with juice and maybe Triple Sec. He had big eyes. She took to calling him Dr. Eckleberg, and he never asked why. She wanted to explain that it came from Gatsby, that his billboard looked over an ash heap, that the Dutch sailors came upon the green breast of a new world, full of white wonder, and now look! Look at whats become of things!
And this became their thing, these first Fridays, the galleries and cocktails and abstract paintings and the give a mouse a cookie line and the Good night, Dr.Eckleberg, and her hoping hed wonder why, just once.
* * *
(133 words )
The lightning struck my grandfather, then down his graphite fly rod. I could hear the sizzle of veins, the boil of blood. He held the charge, pointed the rod at the dark clouds, urged the lightning back from someplace central, as if his insides huddled together, determined to win. He let out a Hail Mary. The bolt shot from his rod; the sky cracked. The heavens shattered, fell like hail. My grandfather swished the rod and the fly settled on the roiling water. Watch it, he said to me. The tiny fly amid the greatest of upheavals. The mouth came from above, rather than below, swallowed the fly and leapt back to stars. Let go, I yelled, but nothing. I reached for his heel, but it slipped away, leaving me with the echo.
* * *
He shoved the branch between the gates of Eden, leaning on it with all his new-found weight, as if the gates could be unframed. He pushed harder until the stick snapped like bones.
Serpents! he cried out.
Its lost, she said.
He had written a poem. Maybe orange and oriole had rhyming mates then. A poem written in a world full of unborn desire. It mustve been a very Eastern poem, describing the world as it is rather than what it might mean. Hed written it upon a leaf that held fast to the tree and could not fall.
Forget it, he said. He tossed the stick to the ground.
It held something, she said.
I said forget it. Lets go. He pulled at her, bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh.
In the distance, a meteor scorched the sky. She stood fast in her new clothes, her skirt like a balloon.
* * *
Bounce, Wheels, Battery, Silver, Cart
He bought it with the $100 bill his grandfather willed to him, the battery too, silver paint. He stole tires off the abandoned wheelbarrows. Down the hill, toward the water, he bounced. First at night, then always, he saw death. He neared the flooded creek, hand on the brake. In the painting over his grandfathers desk, Charon wielded his oar like a cluband everyone cowered as if alive. The boy yanked on the handle and the cart spun, tossing him out. The cart floated, then sank.