Krista Genevieve Farris
During the day he’d sit nude in the corner on a patch of bare dirt, with his hands holding his head, laughing a silent crazy laugh. When She went inside or turned for a moment, he’d wiggle the chain around his feet. It was attached to a ring that loosely encircled his right big toe and gave the illusion of holding him down- but was attached to nothing. At night he’d slip off the ring and sneak through the four ‘o clocks that had retreated for the night, roam around the forest of cone flower stems, spearmint brushing his legs, and make his way east through the backyard to the front porch to say “hey hey” to the other guys around the house- grumpies with frozen wings. Maybe he’d pull a bit of poison ivy off of one. That stuff seemed to grow an inch an hour in the July humidity. And while it didn’t irritate concrete skin, it just felt right to peel it off his elders. He was the new guy in the yard. He still had the energy and will to haul his concrete butt off the earth and roam. He had so many questions no one seemed interested in answering. He knew enough to return to the corner.
Staying put at times wasn‘t all bad. She usually wore shorts on summer mornings, cotton ones with a loose crotch and no underwear. She’d squat in front of him and pull the weeds from around him. Once She rested her forearm on his shoulder to get a good grip on a volunteer Siberian elm seedling growing behind him. When She yanked hard, he almost lost it- almost gave himself away. But, it seemed ridiculous to just sit there and wait for such moments. He needed to know how to create his own.
One night, a baby rabbit smacked right into him. It wasn’t raining. The moon was bright. There was no fog, no distractions. It was a clear waxing gibbous summer night. There was jasmine in the air and a mosquito-clearing breeze. It came bolting from the alley, gained speed on the downhill into the garden, and bam! Hit him on his right side. He thought it was sweet, and so fell asleep with the silky bunny at his feet. When he cracked his eyes open in the morning, the rabbit was still there. Dead.
She came by with her coffee to pull some morning weeds, squatted in front of him and rose just as quickly when She saw the rabbit. There wasn’t any blood. The rabbit was wide-eyed. A clueless crime. But, somehow he thought She knew. He could swear She looked at him with disgust. The worse thing was, he liked the bunny and he didn’t have anyone with whom to discuss the accidental death.
She lifted the rabbit with a sharp shovel and carried it somewhere into the alley. He couldn’t see past the fence and didn’t dare move, really couldn’t move in the sunlight anyway. He heard some scratching, some digging, some patting and that was that. She came back to the garden, but avoided his corner for the full and the waning gibbous- let the ripe red currents fall and rain around him, let the clover finger its shallow roots into the soil around his toes. Was there peace in solitary?
He sat still, sinking into the amended soil, hosting ants in his armpit, a bee in his ear, that chain to nothing hooked on his toe. That whole time, he continued to hold his head and feign the silent laugh. But the more he sank, the heavier he became, though his mass wasn’t gaining.
Quite the opposite. With each passing day the sand of his concrete quietly eroded and dropped in specks. Naked to the eye, but it was happening- this withering away. He’d hear her make her rounds around the tomatoes and cucumbers or shaking loose the coriander seeds from the now leggy and spent cilantro. Each time he held his breath and waited. Just waited.
As if nothing had ever happened, She came today and pulled grass from His corner. She was persistent and slow, teasing the roots from under his behind, his base. It tickled. She stroked his arm, pinched off a sweat bee, squatted in front of him, squeezed his concrete and winked. He held His head and there was the faintest breath of a hidden gasping laugh.
Church got to be too much, the screaming on Sunday mornings and racing down I-81 across the state line to find the more liberal priest. What a difference 7 miles makes when it comes to diocese. But, he was all about football and the spirit of the Hail Mary references were lost on us. We should have known it was a futile, two anthropologists seeking a priest. So we stopped and started collecting trash on our street- believed the effort and the forgiving nods to the prostitutes and the familiar faces from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry would be Jesus’ dream.
I hand my kids latex gloves and send their cloud of chaos north with my husband. I head south, toward Old Town where there’s sushi, pizza, more churches, and a young George Washington’s outhouse. I usually only make it a block and a half- at which point at which my bag is full of cigarette pack cellophane, discarded dollar store receipts, torn mail, and bottles of what could be Mountain Dew, beer or pee. It’s here that the Victorian firehouse-turned bicycle shop-turned Narcotics Anonymous Meeting Hall stands and the pavement is so carpeted with cigarette butts, spit and men leaning on city owned trash cans that I usually turn around. Sometimes when I’m walking the dog, I hang on to my Pomeranian’s baggie of tiny turds and toss it in one of those trash cans just to see if the men will lift their elbows off the cans. They never do.
But today no one’s leaning. And the NA-ers are off the sidewalk and in the hall drinking in their Sunday confessions and coffee. I have room in my trash bag and I’m feeling brave or numb or giving. I’m not sure which. I keep bending and picking. The knee wall in front of the parking garage, surprisingly, is vacant. I cross the street.
I pick-up a soggy paper plate of chicken bones and a styrofoam cup with a lid- someone’s punched the “diet, tea, root beer, and cola” domes on the top. And there’s a pile of poop and some smeared underwear. And I think, yeah, that makes sense and leave it.
I start to formulate the conversation I’ll have with the head of the Parking Authority to suggest some spikes be placed on that brick wall to deal with the butts. My bag is heavy and leaks. Something sharp has poked out and scrapes my leg and I think about hepatitis, which makes me think about the poop again. An old man named “Pappy” and his drug-dealing son say hello. The son says he likes my biceps.
I look down at the curb and drag the bag. Think I’m going quickly now, but I’m pretty sure I’ve slowed. My ankle rolls and crap, the bag is heavy. I lean over to touch my foot. It’s forgotten when I see the most brilliant cobalt glass glowing deep, wedged in the brick sidewalk. I don’t notice when I completely tear a nail trying to get a grasp. I pull the glass up out of the dirt and moss and tuck it in my pocket. The lump is warm.
My brood walks toward me. I leave the bag in front of our house. We go inside. The boys are young- all three have baths. I wait for them to finish so I can shower. I look in the mirror and see blue eyes and wrinkles. I dig in my pocket, then pull off my jeans. It takes a while to scrub the bowl of the glass pipe. The dirt washes easily. The tar does not. I scrub to translucence.
I wrap it in a wash cloth we never use and decide I’ll stash it in one of my closed-toe dress shoes, the ones I bought for the fancy D.C. job I’ve never had. Put it upstairs where it can rest, tucked away like a forbidden dream.
It is pretty
How pretty it is.
About the author:
Krista Genevieve Farris likes to dig in the dirt, run, and subject her husband and sons to rough drafts of all sorts. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Social Change from Indiana University and a BA in English and Anthropology from Albion College. Her poetry, essays and stories have recently appeared in The Rain, Party and Disaster Society, The Literary Bohemian, Literary Mama, Brain-Child Magazine, Tribeca Poetry Review, Cactus Heart, The Piedmont Virginian, and Right Hand Pointing. She lives in Winchester, Virginia. Links to Krista’s work can be found at her author’s website here.