Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Two

a sympathetic tone. Although. What? “You know my,” he begins, but, having made a checkmark in the book, the man slams it shut, and interrupts, “Anything else with you?” “My. Uh.” “Yes, yes,” the man says, waving off Bernie’s attempt to speak. He steps from behind the counter and puts an arm around Bernie’s shoulders. A big old fashioned key on a necklace sized ring swings from the man’s hand. His rumpled robe, Bernie notices, pressed against it as he finds himself, smells much worn, but strangely comforting. The smell under a hen may be gamey, but you couldn’t be

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-One

nose softens some when he yawns. His teeth are yellow and crooked, but they’re all there. Scratching his cheek, the man flips through a canvas bound ledger he’s flopped open on the wooden counter. “You Went?” says the man, frowning at the page. “Came?” says Bernie. “Came?” The man echoes the word, mystified. “Went! Your name! Went!” “Oh! Oh, yes. Yes. Went. That’s me. Bern. Bernard. Bernard Went.” Bernie thinks the warmth has calmed the shivering, but a sudden violent shake suggests it was just the surprise. “Didn’t dress for the desert,” observes the man with what Bernie hopes is

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty

swings out with the quietest creak. He touches the knob of the wooden door. The voice inside, is it inviting him in? The knob turns and Bernie pushes, the warmth and light reminding him how cold he is. He steps into a shabby lobby. A slouching couch, a shag rug of tangled orange, a dusty floor lamp with a cracked shade, a wooden counter worn three colors. “Close the door!” says the voice which Bernie sees belongs to a man with a long black beard, two precise gray stripes framing the chin. A deep scowl line striking up from his

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Nineteen

followed in following the first. This makes Bernie feel better. The sudden revelation of the porch and the yellow light bathing the two steps up to it, those help, too. He picks up the pace, huffing up the drive. A bell pull hangs just to the left of the light. He tugs it. And is rewarded with a jingle. It sounds cute. It makes him laugh. He tugs it again, gently. Jingle. He hears a voice calling out from within. He leans forward. Listens. He reaches again for the pull, then changes his mind and tries the screen door. It

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Eighteen

lost track of his goal. “Serious hypothermia is cozy. You feel all relaxed and comfortable and unmotivated, and who would want not to feel so nice. You sit down and smile and congratulate yourself on finding your way to the frozen waste that will creep into your bones, loving you, taking your life in its fine white hands.” Bernie isn’t even listening to himself by this time, but talking keeps his teeth from banging together in violent shivers. Then he notices that he hasn’t had to step around anything, that one foot is able to follow the line the other

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Seventeen

here. I bet it winds safely through the prickly bushes and skirts the rattlesnakes and if there’s a big crevasse at the bottom of which lurk sharp rocks, the path takes you to a tidily constructed steel bridge. I bet when day comes it will be obvious and I’ll kick myself for not seeing it. For not seeing it at all.” Having to detour around murky threats increases the sense that the yellow light is not getting closer. Bernie has to keep his eyes low; when he looks up to reorient himself there are times he is sure he has

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Sixteen

them. His hands, not really warmed, grip the grate and he rocks it back into place. Then he rubs his hands together again. They are starting to ache. “OK, dog,” Bernie says, as the wind picks up and the blobs thrusting up here and there over the paler soil quake and sway. His jaw quivers, he tightens his thin sport coat around himself, and, shoving his hands under his armpits, he tries to trot, but gives that up for a brisk shuffle after kicking a cactus and tearing a pant cuff on a spiny twig. “I bet there’s a trail

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifteen

aside. Bernie pops his head out and takes deep breaths, gives the grate one more shove, then scrambles free of the earth. It’s dark up top. Except for a night sky blasted with stars. No moon. You only know a cloud by the way it hides stars. And in the distance one light, yellow and weak, loomed over by humps of shadow. Could be trees, a porchlight. Bernie looks back down at the grate and the hole. Should he put it back? He really thinks about it. Nobody to say he has to. He rubs his hands together to warm

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fourteen

and the lights in his brain fade to an ache. “Shit!” He rubs his head. “I’m not bleeding. For once. Get a nice bump, maybe.” Bernie tips his head back and sees the shape of the grill covering the hole. “You better not be locked, you fucker.” He eases himself up, pushes with a hand. Nothing. So he moves closer, maneuvers his shoulder against the grill, takes a deep breath, and heaves with legs and back. And the grill shifts. Half clinging to the grill, Bernie feels around until he finds the new gap. He heaves again and lid grinds

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirteen

better be, cuz I have fuck all my wallet, at least I have my wallet, unless it fell out in that scramble through the bushes and, I wonder if hell takes American Express, oh these rungs are whew are cold. Up we go. Hell’s supposed to be hot. Damn, it’s. Cold. Shit. This wind is blowing right down my shirt. Blowing. Down.” Bernie pauses and sniffs the air. Smells like the great outside world. So he climbs faster. A faint glow shows him his hands. Then, staggered, he almost loses his grip. Gasping, he rests his chin on the rung

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twelve

guess he’s sure.” Bernie reaches up, he can’t see anything up there, so he flails a bit, and panics, and finds the next rung, and feels how sweaty his hand’s gotten, he lets go the rung and wipes his hand on his shirt, and thinks he’s probably getting a big smudge of rust on his shirt, and he reaches up again and there’s the rung where he left it, no problem, and he raises a foot and puts it on a higher rung and pushes himself up. “Well, Bernie, here we go. Here we go to hell, all expenses paid,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Eleven

from the bottom and looks at Bernie. “Uh. You want a boost?” Bernie starts to crouch to hoist the dog up, but the dog ducks around him and butts him with a hard yellow head. “Hey! OK! The sign said. But you say. No carrying dog, right?” Bernie puts a hand on a rung and a foot. He lifts himself up. The dog claps his jaws together under Bernie’s ass; thus encouraged Bernie mounts higher. Higher. He looks down. The dog is watching. “Are you sure?” Bernie asks. The dog drops his head and trots on into the darkness. “I

Thousand: Four Hundred Ten

hands to climb. He looks down at the dog in question, who seems uninterested in Bernie’s internal debate. Bernie heaves a sigh. “Well,” he says, “let’s give it a try.” He kneels beside the dog and reaches his arms around the dog’s body to lift him up. But the dog backs away. “I gotta carry you. The sign says.” The dog settles once again on his haunches so Bernie crawls closer to attempt the lift. But again the dog avoids him, this time going around to stand under the green bulb. The dog puts a forepaw on the rung second

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Nine

have to carry the dog.” Ladder. Yes. Metal rungs protrude from the wall. The rungs proceed into the upper darkness. Dog. Yes. Bernie imagines the kind of ladder that is more like stairs. A dog could do that. Maybe? He doesn’t think a dog could do this totally vertical thing. So the carrying is. The only way. Really. He tries to picture ways of balancing a big yellow dog across his arms or chest. Over the shoulder? When he raises one hand he sees the dog slipping to one side. He raises the other and. And. You kinda need both

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Eight

foot as it turned. There is a light in the darkness. So tiny and so like the cold sparks of his optic nerve that Bernie tells himself it’s not there. Until, step by careful step, it gets nearer. Although he keeps hoping it is the end of the tunnel until long past realistic, now that he faces the dull green bulb and the credit card sized metal sign it illuminates, he feels a little bit better. LADDER. Under that is taped a yellow note. Bernie holds down a curling corner with a finger as he squints at the scrawl. “You’ll

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Seven

nudge into his shoe. It tickled but it wasn’t uncomfortable. There was plenty of room. “I’m getting out,” crooned the sky boy in the earth boy’s ear. “I’m getting out,” agreed the earth boy, wanting to giggle, “the ice cream.” “Aye aye aye yeah yeah yesk reeeeeeeeemmmm!” they sang together, using one tongue, one strong throat. One boy dropped from the tree’s lowest limb, wearing the earth boy’s clothes. And bounced. Oh he could bounce right back up to heaven, couldn’t he! But he didn’t. He did a little spin, arms out, eyes closed, the soft earth obligingly holding each

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Six

the ice cream,” the mother said. The two boys sat up and began to work their way down the tree. Where one put a hand, the other put his hand just above. Where one put a foot, the other put his foot next to it. Until hand covered hand gripping branch and foot lay atop foot as it touched down. The sky boy slid an arm under the earth boy’s shirt and it glided out the right sleeve and right hand and right hand interwove fingers. The earth boy felt the sky boy’s naked foot wriggling down his pantleg, then

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Five

on the branch so steep and wobbly that one boy had felt daring leaning there, a foot hooked under another branch to keep his balance. “When the bough breaks,” murmured the earth boy. “When the boy breaks. When the boy leaps. The fate of us all. Down will come. Down will come.” The sky boy hummed along. “Bernie!” called a mother’s voice. “Bernie! Your friend Emily brought over a pie.” He heard the back door’s squeal. “Mom!” the two boys called out. “I’m up the tree!” continued the earth boy. “Down will come!” finished the sky boy. “I’m getting out

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Four

press themselves against the bars. The sky boy sniffed the earth boy’s ear, which brought on another shiver. He laid his fingers on the earth boy’s hair, spread it, and sniffed the scalp. “What are you doing?” asked the earth boy. Then the sky boy began to crowd onto the earth boy’s branch. “Hey! Hey! I’m falling off!” But he wasn’t. The sky boy was under him, wrapping the earth boy in his arms and whispering into his hair. “I’m falling falling falling.” It was like a song. “I’m falling falling falling,” the earth boy sang along. They lay together

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Three

He shivered. And a warmth spread through him. He opened his eyes. Had he closed them? Looking down into those now open eyes others, gray as rain clouds, gray in white, blinked gold eyelashes. Above him lips broke into a smile, which lit the face like a night’s first lamp. The lips drew nearer and the boy felt the air move. A breath could send a seed away. In his chest he felt the press of distant rain. The weeds would have to grow. The gutters would have to run and leaves would have to hurry to the grates and

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Two

earth sat up. Had the sky boy shimmied all the way down? He leaned out so he could look around the trunk, which didn’t look quite thick enough to hide a whole boy. Nobody there. He leaned around in the other direction. “Hello? Are you still here?” When he sat back, he bit his lip. Was he dreaming? Cool air blew on his neck and he shivered. Then a tickle on his ear made him scratch. Then, “Hello? Are you here?” whispered along the back of his neck, a cadence far softer and sweeter than his own squeaky, uncertain voice.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred One

The boy watched a face come down from the cloud, lowering toward the finger. It was a boy’s face. The turned up little nose touched the twig and the hand whipped away, both arms spreading wide in a grand Ta Dah! “Wow,” said the boy. He wanted to applaud. So he did. The boy from the sky grinned, grabbed the twig in both fists and swung into the tree. Down he scrambled. As he got to where the boy from the earth was sitting, the boy from the sky swirled around the trunk and seemed to disappear. The boy from

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred

holding the weight. It’s only a foot, the boy thought to himself. If it were a whole body that would be harder. Then a hand appeared and scratched the exposed ankle. Must be itchy, thought the boy. Another foot descended from the cloud and rested on a twig slightly lower. The first foot moved to a twig slightly lower. Then a hand, slender and pale, slid down between the feet, index finger extended, the twig it touched bending less than under the tiniest of sparrows. The arm showed all the way up to the elbow. It began to angle. “Oh!”

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Nine

finger. “When I get to heaven, first thing I’ll do,” he hummed to himself, “get me a horn and blow f’rol’ blue.” He drew one way up around, yup, then if you cross over and, uh huh, supposing a ledge were just there. The boy had closed one eye, the better to sight along his finger, his tongue protruding just a bit as he concentrated. Something stirred behind his finger. He moved it. A foot. There was a foot right above the tip of the highest twig. The big toe of the foot was touching the twig. The twig was

Monday, June 06, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Eight

a tree. It was, as far as he was concerned, the tree that touched heaven. That the twigs tickling the angels’ toes were too delicate to stand up to the weight of a boy was further proof that their job was finer than flesh. That the tree graciously allowed the boy so close kept his hopes from falling to earth. On an overcast morning in July the boy did not climb as high as he could. One day he would and, reclining on a branch that swayed if he scratched his nose, the boy scouted possible routes with a pointing

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Seven

Gratefully, Bernie grasps the tail and the dog moves on, setting a pace that doesn’t deprive his charge of footing or hold. It is not long before sounds from the world above dwindle and all there is to hear is stirred by feet and breath. Though the tunnel is without light, it is not true that Bernie sees nothing, for internal lights swirl before and around him. Nor is the dog’s progress tentative. Footfall after footfall, his hand sweating in the hair of the dog, Bernie walks on in reverie. Once upon a time there was a boy who climbed

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Six

on in, Bernie takes a shaky breath. The air feels unfamiliar in his lungs. Smells like a locker room. Sweat, rank and fresh. Just as he steps out of the day he glances back and sees a great muscular question mark raised against the sky, clenched in its curve the shabby crunkle of the roof of the truck’s cobalt blue cab. So many questions, he thinks as he notices again the soreness in his ankle and drags one hand along the wall, extending the other in front. He bumps against the dog who grunts and whaps him with his tail.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Five

question. He feels his mouth move and. But he doesn’t hear his own voice. Maybe it’s just too noisy with the demolition going on. And the screaming. The dog wriggles out from under him and trots across the gully to the cave. The soft opening has been considerably widened by the passage of something large and rough. Or many things. There are round indented prints all around the cave, as though a ball has been pounded on the sand. He looks closer, it’s more an oblong, and here on a sharp stone long hairs have caught. As the dog goes

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Four

dog’s eyes dilate. Something is reflected across the curve of the wet surface. The dog tenses but doesn’t move. Bernie watches the thing reflected in the dog’s eyes as it expands. He listens to the strange whuffling thumps that might be footfalls. Gasps and grunts at every thump as though there were faces being punched. Then two shotgun blasts. A scream. Is that his name again? The engine chokes then roars. Glass breaking, metal squealing. Gigantic tires gripping, spinning. The engine goes from roar to shriek. The dog lifts his head, ears perked. Bernie thinks he asks the dog a

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Three

him, but those brown eyes are looking out at something. Bernie wants to ask the dog who that guy is, the one who called his name, wants to ask what they’re going to do, you are the guide on this adventure, dog, this round trip adventure. Bernie’s mind seems to be holding onto some assurance of survival, though otherwise his mind has come down to the two brown eyes of a dog and the rumble of a tremendous motor. “Fucking Went!” A shotgun fires. “I ain’t fuckin’ kidding, Went! Get out where I can see you!” The pupils in the