Jerome bought a jewel-encrusted scepter at the Army-Navy store. It cost eight dollars.
The scepter was in a special bin—actually; just a cardboard box with the lid cut off—located in a dim corner at the rear of the Army-Navy store, near the rack of Big & Tall Camouflage Fashions. The cardboard box had a wooden paint stirrer stapled to it and stapled to the paint stirrer was a hand-written sign: DISCONTINUED DAMAGED ONE OF A KIND.
The raw words of his novel depicted an eloquent, haunting, funny story that started on that fateful day in September that changed all of our lives. “He’s late for work and she misses her flight, but that morning, with the world shattered by grief, they each think the other’s dead and each is secretly delighted. They’re both soon disappointed, of course…”
I’m watching the speedometer climbing
And the curvy gray ribbon of back road
Bound for the pet-packed home and bedtime of
My most precious cargo in the back seat.
His earnest little voice chatters on about
In exchange for books of thirsty grids stamped S&H,
a glossy toaster popped up in Momma’s kitchen,
a marvel unlike the one whose silver wings flapped
flat singeing fingers and scorching toast
To Aunt Susannah’s brood in Kilcoo, Momma sent
Become your chosen blooms.
Seduced by an absence of scent
you buy bundles
If you find a city of steel
mountains shading sleepy luncheonettes
Know that I walked here
If you find a night of neon
kisses, in a garden of saxophones
Know that I loved here
It is this way sometimes on winter nights,
when ears expect the rhythmic crunch
of homebound walkers in the sugar-crust
of snow. You think you know the footfalls.
He told me about his war wounds. I recounted my masturbation injuries. We bonded.
Then came winter.
“See here, Klugstein,” he said. “There’s no need to raise the thermostat above 45. If the pipes won’t freeze, then neither will you.”
Inspired, I replied, “Righty-O!” and reached for the Echinacea.
The New Year brought the worst ice storm on record. The roads were impassable. The supermarkets closed. He ate my cat.
The summer she and I were twelve, Alexandra Metcalf became my best friend only hours after she moved onto our block. I was sitting on my front stoop, hugging my knees, listening to the bees’ late summer panic as my parents carted sod back and forth. They were planting the evergreen that would eventually tower over the house, and surrounding it with chrysanthemums. Alexandra’s blond head bobbed past our honeysuckle hedge and she stopped to wave at me as if she weren’t thinking twice about it.
Say I’m easily lost. Say it’s mid-June, Harrisburg. The man will leave as he came, hazy spot on the proverbial horizon, speck on an otherwise relatively clean record. Why record this? And why love? Say the man is a shy songwriter gone addicted. Or, skip the introduction and cut to the chase. Say there are three